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Regional Training Institute officer candidates elevate to senior status
Regional Training Institute officer candidates elevate to senior status

Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate Perry Hoffman, of Rolla, rappels down the practice tower during a drill by the 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Officer Candidate School.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 1, 2010) — Six soldiers in the Missouri National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Officer Candidate Class 48 recently went through a Turning Blue ceremony.

The ceremony recognizes the classes’ elevation to senior officer candidates, which means they are two-thirds of the way finished with their 18-month Officer Candidate School program.

The candidates will now wear a blue ribbon on their uniform behind their officer candidate school insignia to symbolize this transition.

At this point, the candidates, who attend class one weekend a month, have met the demanding physical requirements of the officer candidate school, as well as its academic and leadership requirements that include the passing 10 written tests and multiple peer and leadership evaluations.

“The Turning Blue ceremony is their passage into senior officer candidate status,” said Capt. Chris Hoffman, senior platoon trainer for the regiment. “It’s recognizing that they are moving along in the process to the point they are getting some more privileges and one step closer to getting that gold bar. That’s their light at the end of the tunnel — the gold bar of the second lieutenant.”

The ceremony’s significance made an impression on the candidates.

“This is one more achievement, one more step, toward our ultimate goal, which is to become lieutenants in the Missouri National Guard,” said Officer Candidate Perry Hoffman, the class president, who is unrelated to Chris Hoffman. “It’s a stepping stone for me and it’s nice to receive the status. But we’re not to our ultimate goal yet, which is actually graduating.”

Hoffman, who lives in Rolla, said he’ll treat the promotion as ground gained in the right direction, but far from the end of the road.

“I’m not the type to think, ‘Oh, I’ve got it whipped now,’” said Hoffman, who is a member of the 1138th Engineer Company, of Farmington. “I know we’ve still have six more months of this. I like to take it day-by-day. My goal is graduation. Then I can say, ‘Yes, this is a great accomplishment.’ But I’m still happy to be here at this point.”

Officer Candidate Jason Ward, who lives in Ozark, was pleased with the change in status.

“I’m relieved and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment,” said Ward, who is a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin. “This is a proud moment, because it does represent the fact that we are nearly completed and for the most part, only have the final phase to finish at this time.”

Officer Candidate Andrew Lough, of St. James, called the ceremony meaningful because it represents a great deal of work and sacrifice.

“It feels like there is an end in site, finally — it’s been a long road,” said Lough, who is a member of the 249th Engineer Company, of Carthage. “The officer candidate school program is probably the greatest, most challenging thing I’ve ever taken on in my life. But it’s also the most rewarding and has presented me with the most growth. I’ve learned how to not only lead people, but how to develop people. I have a feeling it is something that will affect me for the rest of my life and help me be more successful in my job as an engineer.”

Lough has been in the Guard for two years and said he joined specifically to be an officer and contribute to his country.

“At 28 years old, I went to basic training,” Lough said. “My whole motivation for going into the Guard was that I just wanted to serve before I turned 30. I didn’t want my whole life to pass me by and look back someday at the age of 40 or 50 and wish I would have taken a small piece of my life and served.

“Every generation has to have people that step up and serve, and it’s my turn. I feel privileged to do it.”

At this point, the candidates, who attend the class one weekend a month, have met the demanding physical requirements of the officer candidate school, as well as its academic and leadership requirements.

In May, the class moves into the field for exercises where the senior candidates learn troop-leading procedures and to work as a team.

The class then shifts to its final phase of training July 24 through Aug. 8 at Fort Lewis, Wash., before a graduation is held Sept. 11 at the Missouri state capitol rotunda in Jefferson City.

The officer candidate school’s mission at the Regimental Training Institute is to provide qualified new lieutenants for the Missouri Army National Guard. The curriculum parallels the Program of Instruction conducted by the active Army program at Fort Benning, Ga., requiring strict discipline, academic excellence and leadership development.

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