Officer Candidate School gives Guardsmen chance to achieve goals
By: Pfc. Elise Higgins/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Candidates waited in line to experience the disoriented high dive fall, where they were blindfolded and spun around three times before walking off the diving board into the pool as part of their water survival training.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 12, 2010) — Many Missouri National Guard soldiers want to reach and conquer the next level of achievement in the military and must overcome different obstacles and complete additional training to attain their goals.
Officer Candidate School or OCS is a chance for enlisted soldiers to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. The course is designed to train, evaluate, and develop future second lieutenants. All the candidates are volunteers hoping to expand their leadership qualities.
“OCS is about making sure that when they become officers they are prepared to make decisions in a hurry because the decisions they make are going to affect peoples lives,” said instructor Capt. Jason Kander.
“The candidates are expected to be able to pass a PT test, be in good shape, have at least 60 credit hours and be mentally prepared to become an officer,” he added.
The training is divided into four phases to properly prepare the candidates for their future careers.
“Training is enjoyable but challenging,” said Officer Candidate Clifford Tipton. “The instructors are very thorough and professional.”
The first phase, Phase Zero, is completed over two drill weekends and prepares the candidates for the training ahead of them.
During Phase Zero, soldiers are expected to pass several training scenarios including water survival. This training is a series of stations that include a walk off the high dive blindfolded and a 25 meter swim with a weapon in hand. The water survival training helps the candidates prepare for stressful situations.
“We can’t actually put them in combat situations, but what we can do is put a lot of stress on them,” Kander said. “We make sure to make them make 20 decisions a day under intense stress because that’s what they’re going to do in a combat environment.”
The next phase, Phase One, is where training really starts.
“Phase One is two weeks of the most intense training,” said Kander. “There is a lot of physical corrective training, like push-ups and running.”
The candidates are put in situations where they have to make quick decisions and learn how to plan in a hurry. Candidates are expected to learn fast and get ready for the responsibilities ahead of them in their careers as officers.
Phase Two is 17 months of training where the candidates spend a lot of time in the classroom. They learn tactics and the management tools involved with being an officer.
During the final phase, the candidates see extensive field time. In that phase, candidates apply what they’ve learned while they conduct missions and serve as squad leaders.
“We really want to give them the building blocks and the fundamentals in phase one. They learn those necessities so by the time they get to Phase Three they are applying those fundamentals.” said Kander. “Their job is to learn how to lead.”
The candidates who sign up for the program know they will have an important role in leading fellow soldiers. Tipton volunteered because he believes the Army needs good leaders and he wanted a challenge.
“If you want to face a challenge, this is the place to be,” Tipton said.
Though the soldiers are up for the challenge now, many candidates won’t make it to graduation.
“If 25 percent make it through that’s pretty good,” Kander said. “Between injuries, tough training and schedules, and people that we think are not ready to be officers, there’s a lot of stuff that weeds folks out.”
The next graduating class, which started with more than 40 soldiers, has only five candidates left. It is the responsibility of OCS to determine which soldiers are leaders and which ones are not ready to take on the responsibilities of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.