Katherine Hass saw the recruiting videos for Officer Candidate School
and thought she knew what to expect. She was a little off.
The 21-year-old officer candidate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison , Wis. , joined nearly 200 other candidates at the 9th Marine Corps District’s OCS Preparatory Weekend April 11 at Fort McCoy, Wis. There, the sharp transition from civilian to officer became apparent.
“It was an eye opener,” Hass said.
The weekend was designed to give candidates a preview of OCS. Candidates got as much of a taste of OCS as they could in two days, from running a land navigation course to keeping their bearing three inches from the mouths of shouting platoon sergeants. The platoon sergeants were experienced drill instructors headed to take platoons of their own at OCS.
“The weekend is basically a quality check,” said Capt. Robert Carlson, district aviation assistant for officer procurement. In other words, the weekend reveals whether or not candidates are ready for OCS.
Providing the candidates a preview of their life at OCS, according Carlson, also minimizes the chance of a candidate being overly shocked and possibly dropping out of the class.
The weekend started Friday night after the candidates arrived with a basic class in land navigation and introductions and safety briefs from the staff. When the candidates were settled in, the platoon sergeants took over.
“Get on your feet right now!” the four instructors screamed in unison.
Candidates snapped to attention as the instructors ran through the room correcting the candidates and letting them know how serious the weekend should be taken.
“I was yelled at because I was smiling,” Hass said. “I was singled out. It was shocking and a very intense experience.”
After nearly 15 minutes of instructors screaming and flying through the room, jumping on the tables and getting into the faces of nearly every candidate, the DIs formed them into four platoons and rushed them to the barracks.
“I was very happy when they stopped yelling,” Hass said. “It was interesting to see that’s what they actually do. We’ve seen the videos, but it doesn’t quite hit you until you are actually standing in the room.”
With the first challenge of meeting their instructors finished, the candidates moved on to cleaning their barracks and making their racks for the night. At nearly 11 p.m., they were allowed to sleep and prepare for the next day.
Candidates woke up Saturday to freezing temperatures, snow and a physical fitness test. This was a fierce challenge for many of the candidates, but for some it was just another day of running.
“People from Missouri thought the run was tough, but I’m used to the cold,” Hass said. “There’s snow on the ground. What’s new?”
Running a PFT in the cold was just another indication of how much OCS will push candidates to their limits.
“We train period,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ilein Taipe, an OCS drill instructor who took charge of the female platoon for the weekend. “OCS doesn’t stop training because it’s cold or it snows or it’s too hot.”
For safety reasons, however, some training events were canceled. Pull-ups and arm-hangs were cut from the PFT since candidates wouldn’t be able to grasp the bar, and the icy obstacle course was canceled. Instead, candidates learned Marine Corps customs and courtesies and got an introduction to the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Candidates were then let loose on the land navigation course to test the knowledge they learned Friday.
Exhausted from a long day of running, freezing and getting lost, the candidates were allowed to have mentor time with their instructors to answer questions about OCS.
“They want to (quell) their fears and their doubts,” said Gunnery Sgt. Avery Cruz, drill instructor in charge of fourth platoon. “They’re just scared of what’s headed for them.”
Cruz added that after this weekend, the candidates shouldn’t have too much problem adapting to life at OCS.
“These kids will be one step ahead,” he said. “They just have to take it and run with it.”
“It was a good prep,” Hass said. “I was nervous when I first showed up. I didn’t know how I was going to handle people yelling in my face, but I’ve found that I can handle it, and that’s good to know going into 10 weeks of being yelled at.”
For more information on becoming a Marine Corps Officer, contact your nearest officer selection office, or visit www.marineofficer.com.