Future Marine Officers Get a Taste of OCS

Future Marine Officers Get a Taste of OCS

2ndLt Colleen Brown, a California State University of Long Beach graduate, explains the M16-A4 service rifle to United States Marine Corps officer candidates from Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego during Officer Candidate School Prep aboard the installation April 11. Candidates spent three days on Pendleton participating in hikes, classes and obstacle courses. Photo by Sgt Vanessa Jimenez.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (April 10, 2015) – More than 160 officer candidates from Marine Corps Recruiting Stations San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County traveled to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton April 10 for a three-day training event to prepare for Officer Candidates School.

Events included hikes, obstacle courses and essential classes such as weapons safety and handling, delivering five-paragraph orders and basic land navigation. Candidates were also exposed to the stress of drill instructors continuously throughout the weekend to simulate stress caused by sergeant instructors at OCS. 

"We spent around six months planning for this event," said SgtMaj William Carter, RS San Diego sergeant major. "The biggest thing we wanted to change from previous year's OCS prep events was to take the focus off of the Leadership Reaction Course, [which focuses primarily on problem solving and basic leadership] and focus more on what will be expected of them once they get to OCS such as [education] and physical fitness."

Marine instructors taught candidates how to read a map and plot a course, how to take apart and reassemble an M16-A4 service rifle for cleaning, as well as a variety of preparatory commands for drill movements. 

It's commonplace for candidates have difficulty with the rifle at OCS, as it is the first time many of them have handled a weapon. So this year, using a little bit more time during the armory class, lessons went into greater detail than before, explained Capt. Joshua Roberts, Officer Selection Officer for Officer Selection Team Riverside, Calif., RS San Diego.

High impact activities, such as hikes and obstacle courses, are often performed while candidates are physically and mentally fatigued to evaluate their weaknesses and strengths while under stress. 

"This is my second time attending OCS prep," said Candidate Daniel Urban, a student at California Baptist University. "This acted as a reminder for those things I need to work on. For me, it is my five paragraph order, and I need to train for exercises in boots to be prepared for the future, as I am not up to the standards I set for myself. Overall this year's was better, because we had the big packs ... and more stress from the drill instructors to push us [to the level we need to be]."

Although physical and mental preparations were key in training, leadership ability played the largest role over the course of the evolution. 

Prior to the candidates arriving, team leaders, platoon sergeants and platoon commanders were selected and designated by rank with red felt on their collar. Those individuals were selected strategically based on their performance observed by the officer selection officers at each station. Billet holders were chosen based upon who seemed most able to set an example and lead their peers. Later in the weekend those billets were rotated to participants who needed to strengthen their leadership skills with experience.

"I came out by invitation along with one of my very senior and experienced sergeant instructors, GySgt Erick Guzman, to observe the program, provide some feedback, as well as manage the candidates' expectations," said Maj Jason Goodale, Officer Candidate School training company commander. "The most beneficial aspect is the organizational structure. They created individual platoons based on RS but also gave them billets from team leaders up to officer billets. This is something I have not seen nor heard of before at these events. A lot of candidates today have never been in charge of someone else and it's difficult to do when you are immediately required to do so at OCS."

The primary purpose of OCS prep weekend is to better prepare candidates for what is expected of them during their time at officer candidate school. The event is not designed to weed out candidates or push them to their breaking point, as they already proved themselves to be leaders among their peers - OCS will fully evaluate if these candidates can move on to hold the title of Marine Officer. Each aspect of the three-day course is created to generate mentally and morally strong individuals to become future leaders. 

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