A recent challenging experience thathas greatly impacted my development as a leader was attending—and passing—theUnited States Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School (OCS) in the Summer of2017. This experience was the culminationof three years of training as a Midshipman in the Naval Reserve Officers’Training Corps (NROTC) program. I attended a month-long training event in SanDiego, California in the Summer of 2015, as well as training at Marine CorpsMountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California during the Summer of2016.
In addition to these Summer training events, I have been participating inNROTC events and training during the regular Fall and Spring semesters—all inpreparation for the culminating test that is Officer Candidates School. The Marine Corps maintains itsOfficer Candidates School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, which is locatedin Virginia. I attended the 6-week Platoon Leaders Class, during which time Iwas tested on Marine Corps history, leadership, close order drill, weaponshandling, and physical fitness.
Physical training, small unit leadership,infantry tactics, and academics are all taught and tested under the stressfulconditions created by the ever-present Marine Corps Drill Instructors, known atOCS as “Sergeant Instructors”. In spite of all of the stress andconfusion created by the Sergeant Instructors, and the intensity of thephysical training; the most challenging part of OCS was, for me, the definitivenature of the course. If a Candidate is dropped for failing to meet thestandard, they are not afforded a second chance to become a Marine CorpsOfficer. This sense of finality was firmly implanted in my mind as we did ourdrilling, forced marches followed by combat patrols, and while the SergeantInstructors did their very best to create as much chaos as possible in ourliving quarters. That is not to say that the yelling, weapons, and obstaclecourse nightmare that is the stagnant water obstacle known as “The Quigley”,did nothing to challenge me—it was all very effective in doing just that. In a broad sense, I learned to beconfident in my abilities after I made it successfully through OCS.
Morespecifically, I learned a lot about leading a group of individuals, both smalland large in number, through adverse scenarios. My self-discipline wasdefinitely improved upon my graduation, as OCS forces you to rely on yourindividual will to overcome obstacles and succeed through the decisions thatyou make. If I had to do anything differently,I think that I would attempt to take more risks, rather than making somedecisions based upon safety and comfort.
That said, I believe that mygraduating OCS was due in large part to the kind of decisions that I did end upmaking, so it is hard to argue for any change that could change that outcome.