* Note * I am currently transcribing a series of letters that I wrote over the course of my stay at Officer Candidates School this past summer. This will be updated often until I get all the letters written, sorted, and correctly dated.
Me on Graduation Day
Here is a little background of what this page contains:
Ever since I became a Marine Option in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, I knew that before I could earn the title of “Marine” I would have to complete the rigorous 6 week long Bulldog program at Officer Candidates School (OCS) in Quantico, VA. Except for midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy, every Marine Corps officer no matter what path he or she took to become an officer (ROTC, PLC, or OCC) has completed at least six weeks of training in dreaded Quantico. To say that what I went through was challenging would be a gross understatement – OCS is far and away the most difficult officer screening and evaluation process in the entire military.
Here is a link to some pictures from OCS: http://www.ocs.usmc.mil/FamilyInformation/CurrentGallery.html?WC4
Here are some videos: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/class186/videos.php
Hey so we got about six hours of sleep last night which was ok but I have been falling asleep every time we sit down. We woke up and took the PFT (Physical Fitness Test) after we ate breakfast this morning (so around 6 AM). I did so well! Best PFT ever – 100 sit ups, 20 pull ups (even with 3 that they didn’t count!) and then a 21 minute 3 mile run (even though the course we run it on is 3.2 miles!). A few other people didn’t fare so well – about 3 from our platoon of 60 failed the PFT and are probably kicked out of OCS. So, that stinks for the, plus we probably lost a few more to medical disqualifications. They lost Sean’s (the other Cornellian) medical physical so he waited to get a new physical from 5:30 AM until 3:30 PM just sitting on the little uncomfortable stools they give us reading his candidate regulations. They also shaved all of our heads today. My gunnery sergeant rackmate (has the bottom bunk) is also a former drill instructor at Paris Island (where they train enlisted recuits). Anyways, tomorrow we get what is called “Picked up” which means there will be a lot of yelling, etc. So who knows when I will be able to write again, basically OCS really starts tomorrow. I also saw phones outside the barracks so if we can use them I might be able to call before the 3 week mark. The chaplain is talking right now, he seems really nice and I think I will definitely go to services.
Stuff sucks pretty bad here and I did not do well today at all. I got yelled at a ton and I realized that I do not know anything about anything. Everyone here already knows how to drill (march and do other movements) with the M16s we got issued except for me. I’m starting to get pretty worried now. We had a three mile run this morning which was OK I guess.
So we only get like 4 hours of sleep a night since we stay up marking our gear (with very specific 1″ white tape, stencils, and sharpies) and then I usually write to you right before finally hitting the rack. It is unbelievably hot here, on all military bases I have been on they follow a colored flag system starting with green flag. It has been green flag all week which is still hot enough to make you sweat buckets standing still in a tshirt (we wear full cammies and boots…). Today it went to yellow flag so we unbloused our boots (basically our trousers are always “bloused” into our boots which is sort of like tucking them into your boots) which let the air flow up our legs supposedly. Then it went to red flag so we took off our blouses (the shirt portion of our uniform). It didn’t hit black yet, but black flag is 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity and at that point we aren’t allowed to march in formation or do anything outside.
Today they showed us all the nasty stuff and injuries that people get. Like cellulitis (“cellulitis begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch, allowing bacteria to invade and spread, causing inflammation, which includes pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.”) growing up an entire person’s leg and eating away at it completely. They also showed up an x-ray in which a candidate had run so much that his femur had poked through the joint in his pelvis…
Well wish me luck here, I have no voice since I have been yelling so much. Also, we figured out that we definitely have the easiest set of instructors at OCS, which is good I suppose. It still hasn’t made anything easy here.
Hey so we randomly have some sort of free time right now while all the candidates who are getting commissioned after OCS graduation (So the guys who had to come back a second time because of injuries, etc.) are getting fitted for their commissioning uniforms. It is pretty bizarre like a private company called the Marine Shop comes in and gives a big sales pitch and the Naval Exchange gives their own sales pitch after which they instruct everyone to “pick a line” to get into. I think I am going to wait to get fitted with everything until next year since I am probably more skinny now than I will usually be.
This morning with did the FARTLEK course at 5:10 in the morning so I was running on about 5 hours of sleep. I will probably get only 3-4 hours of sleep tonight since I pulled firewatch duty (there are always two candidates on firewatch which means that they walk up and down the squadbay, where we sleep, and ensure that nothing is awry). Anyways, the FARTLEK is a 3 mile run but with calisthenics stations along the way (pushups, situps, start jumps, etc.). Also there was an uphill sprint halfway through and at the top was the Commanding Officer of OCS, Colonel Chase. He is quite an intimidating guy and most of us candidates are pretty scared of him. After the course we did “push-pulls” which is 8 pull ups then 25 push ups, then 10 pull ups and 30 push ups and then 12 pull ups and 35 push ups followed by max sets of situps in 2 minutes, 1 minute, and 30 seconds. After the push-pulls we did this thing, I forget the name of it, but it is basically all the candidates running around in a giant circle screaming while the instructors demonstrate a certain exercise (again like push ups, etc.) and then a whistle blows and it is our turn to do the exercise while the instructors run around the circle yelling at us to go faster and harder.
The rest of the day wasn’t so bad a lot of classes and stuff. We had introductions to our platoon commander which was interesting. He is pretty scary and told us that he will recommend for disenrollment anyone he is not comfortable with them being an officer. Well, tomorrow is a big test since we run the obstacle course and it is definitely something that I am a bit scared about performance wise. I am not at all comfortable with the rope but they do have a program called remedial ropes which is intended for people who have trouble with the ropes so maybe I will go to that.
Well today was probably the worst day of my life. I am literally on the verge of cracking. We went on a 4 mile run this morning with the middle part of the run straight uphill after doing our push-pulls. We left 2 minutes behind another squad (a squad has about 15 guys) and caught up to them since we were running so fast. I was in the top 1/3 of my squad the whole way. Then we did upper body exercises which are like a bunch of things with weights, carrying people around on our backs, and a bunch of other stuff. Our platoon commander did them with our squad. He yelled at me for not yelling out loud enough which number of each exercise I was on which I do admit I do a lot. I guess sometimes it is just hard for me to focus on screaming out each number loud enough while I am also in the middle of doing the exercise. So tonight he called me into his office and accused me of falling out of the run (falling behind the group). He also said I am never motivated and always slacking during PT (physical training). I was totally blindsided by this since I didn’t think I was doing bad at all. I told him that I most certainly did not fall out of the run and then he accused me of being an integrity violator. This is a big deal at OCS since integrity is paramount and any slight violation results in disenrollment. He informed me that if it turned out that I had fallen out of the run he would review board me and recommend disenrollment from OCS. So, it looks like I might be seeing you sooner than we planned. I also heard that we are not allowed to pay back the ROTC scholarship anymore so I will be getting enlisted I suppose for four years. I don’t really know what to say right now, I am at a total loss of words and can’t remember ever feeling this bad about anything. If this all goes away I think my platoon commander will still dislike me and always be watching me.
So, today was better I suppose. We ran the endurance course today which starts with running the obstacle course then putting on our “war gear” (two full canteens strapped to a belt along with an M16 rifle) running 2 miles then doing a ton of obstacles like cargo nets, commando crawls over ropes, etc. The final obstacle is called the “quigly” and it is a muddy, barbed-wire infested river with three underwater culverts (concrete tubes) which you need to literally kick your way through since they are quite narrow. It is super scary, you literally take a big breath and push for dear life and it’s very claustrophobic. They told us a candidate in the previous session had put the blank firing device (attached to the muzzle of our M16s) right through his eyelid. Ouch! The platoon commander ran with us today and I think he wanted to see if I would fall out. I didn’t fall out but he yelled at me twice first for my shirt being untucked and second for falling off the commando crawl rope obstacle (this is an obstacle where you pull yourself across a rope and the rope drags along your chest while you use your legs to balance yourself on the rope). I really am having a tough time with the commando crawl it is hard to get balanced. The platoon commander seems to really dislike me. I sounded off (yelled) loud all day, didn’t get any essays (which are given out for punishments, basically they are 300 words, no more no less, with every word over three letters underlined and numbered), and I still have no CHITS (negative counseling reports, for failing events). My shoulder hurt quite a bit today but luckily my knee felt good today and I am going to ice both of them tonight. Tomorrow is another tough day. On, I also forgot – today we did MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) and we also had Wednesday evening prayer and praise service with the chaplain which is fun. Today we had like 3 classes too and during one of them a Force Reconnaissance Marine just played videos the entire class of Marines kicking in doors in Fallujah to the theme of heavy metal while we were supposed to have a class on “safe weapons handling.”