Mustang (military officer)
A Mustang is United States Military
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

Military slang
Military slang is an array of colloquial terminology used commonly by military personnel, including slang which is unique to or originates with the armed forces. It often takes the form of abbreviations/acronyms or derivations of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, or otherwise incorporates aspects of...

 for a commissioned officer who began his or her career as an enlisted service member. Mustangs are older and more experienced than their peers-in-grade who earned their commissions from one of the service academies (such as the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

, United States Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...

, or United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

), Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School or Officer Cadet School are institutions which train civilians and enlisted personnel in order for them to gain a commission as officers in the armed forces of a country....

, or the Reserve Officer Training Corps. During the Vietnam War, however, when some Army warrant officer pilots were offered a direct commission to 2nd or 1st Lieutenant, they were usually younger than 25 at the time of commission.

A United States Navy mustang can be a Chief Warrant Officer
Chief Warrant Officer
Chief warrant officer is a military rank used by the Canadian Forces and the Israel Defence Forces.-Canada:In the Canadian Forces, a chief warrant officer or CWO is the most senior non-commissioned member rank in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force...

, a Limited Duty Officer
Limited Duty Officer
A Limited Duty Officer is an officer in the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps who was selected for commissioning based on his/her skill and expertise, and is not required to have a bachelor's degree. They are employed in situations where it is desirable to have an officer with...

, a Staff Officer, a Restricted Line Officer
Restricted Line Officer
Restricted Line Officers in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve are line officers who are not eligible for Command at Sea. There are many different types and communities, including Engineering Duty Officers, Aerospace Engineering Duty Officers, Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officers, Naval...

 or an Unrestricted Line Officer
Unrestricted Line Officer
Unrestricted Line Officers are commissioned Officers of the Line in the United States Navy who are qualified to command at sea the Navy's warfighting combatant units such as warships, submarines, aviation squadrons and SEAL Teams...

, depending on their particular situation.

The original definition of a mustang was a military officer who had earned a battlefield commission; they were especially prevalent during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. Such notables include Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy
Audie Leon Murphy was a highly decorated and famous soldier. Through LIFE magazine's July 16, 1945 issue , he became one the most famous soldiers of World War II and widely regarded as the most decorated American soldier of the war...

 (World War II) and David Hackworth (Korean War).

A mustang is currently defined by a continuity in military service from enlisted to officer (i.e., no break in military service). Being a slang term, there is no precise definition or set of criteria to determine which officers can properly be called a "mustang"; however, generally accepted as mustangs are those who earned a Good Conduct Medal
Good Conduct Medal
The Good Conduct Medal is one of the oldest military awards of the United States military. The Navy Good Conduct Medal was first issued in 1869, followed by a Marine version in 1896. The Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal was issued in 1923 and the Army Good Conduct Medal in 1941. The Air Force was...

, or have completed 4 years of enlisted service prior to earning their commission.

The term "Mustang" is a relatively modern term, originating either just prior to, or during World War II. It is believed to be a naval term, although other service's officers are beginning to be described as mustangs.

It literally refers to the mustang horse, which is a wild animal and therefore not a thoroughbred. A mustang, after being captured, can be tamed and saddle broken but it always has a bit of wild streak, and can periodically revert to its old ways unexpectedly and therefore the owner needs to keep an eye on it at all times.

By the same token, however, since a mustang was formerly a wild and free animal, it may very well be smarter, more capable and have a better survival instinct than thoroughbreds.
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