Missouri National Guard officer candidates earn senior status
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard
Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 11:35 pm
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 16, 2009) — Ten soldiers in the Missouri National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Officer Candidate Class 47 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.
A blue ribbon will now be placed behind their officer candidate school insignia on their uniform 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 passing 10 written tests and multiple peer and leadership evaluations.
“It’s a point of reflection for the candidates for what they’ve accomplished,” said Capt. Joel Maxwell, one of the class instructors. “It allows them to celebrate in a very fun ceremony.”
The significance of the occasion made an impression on the candidates.
“This event here is a big sign to us that we’ve made progress,” said Officer Candidate Freddie Hill of the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau. “It’s really hard to judge progress every month you come to officer candidate school. They are pretty tough on us and the stress level is pretty high, so we expect it every month.
“But coming to this point and switching over to senior status, we know that we are just about there now. We can really look back over what we’ve done and appreciate what we’ve gone through and know that we’ve actually reached a point that is pushing us toward being newly commissioned second lieutenants.”
Officer Candidate Jeffrey Sogn, of the 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute, and Officer Candidate Karen Wilburn of 1140th Engineer agreed.
“This is a rite of passage for us — we’ve been waiting a long time for this so it means a lot to us. It signifies that we are turning the corner and going to the next level,” said Sogn, who lives in Kansas City.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Wilburn said. “We have completed our classroom time and it’s time to go into the field.”
“It’s our first celebration — a milestone in our training.”
Officer Candidate Anthony Traber of the 1035th Support Maintenance Company in St. Louis said he was taking the event in stride.
“This is some pomp and ceremony that lets us know that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Traber, of St. Louis. “It’s a morale thing. This is 13 months of a long, hard stretch. This is a small little token that says, ‘You are making it.’”
Traber said he knows he hasn’t completely accomplished anything yet and that despite the recognition, it will continue to be business as usual for him
“When I come back to work tomorrow, my life is all going to be the same,” he said. “Every drill weekend, I’ll have the same amount of motivation and dedication. We’ll go out to the field and it will just be a different set of challenges – none of this gets easy.
“Tonight’s ceremony just gives us a different colored patch to wear — a little push to let us know that it does get better. We’ve made it far enough that it’s relatively secure that as long as you stay committed, you will make it.”
In May, the class moves into the field for exercises where the senior candidates learn to work as a team along with troop-leading procedures.
Some of the basic warrior tasks and battle drills have already been introduced to the class.
“You have to know what you expect your troops to do,” Sogn said. “You have to be proficient in your warrior tasks.”
“That’s what keeps your soldiers alive. You lead troops into battle and the warrior task battle drills are the very basics,” said Wilburn, who lives in Jackson. “The more you practice those, the more they become second nature. Then you can move on to the situation at hand and be able to think of the other things because you already know them. Then you can build up to react to enemy contact and keep your soldiers alive.”
The class then shifts to its final phase of training July 17 through Aug. 2 at Fort Lewis, Wash., before a graduation is held during September at the Missouri state capitol rotunda in Jefferson City.
The officer candidate school’s mission at the 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 through its program at Fort Benning, Ga., requiring strict discipline, academic excellence and leadership development.