Accelerated OCS: My Experience and Advice

I went to Army National Guard Accelerated OCS in the summer of 2010; shortly after I returned home from Iraq. There are a few locations we can go to, and most Oregonians go to South Dakota. However, since I had just gotten home from deployment, I needed to wait until the end of July to get everything squared away and my gear out of our ISU 90 containers. I am going to share with you what I learned and gained during my experiences at Camp Fretterd, MD and Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.

Accelerated OCS is the National Guard’s version of Federal OCS, except it is condensed into 8 weeks, and you get zero down time (very late nights and very early mornings 7 days a week). It is broken down into three phases. Phase one focuses on the land navigation course, and it is required to pass both day and night iterations to move on to phase two. Phase two has a lot of class time, operation order OPD, and your physical requirements of APFT and ruck marches; you also do a huge company defense in the field. Phase three is the culmination of your training; you will be evaluated on either a platoon or squad level opord – your receipt of it, digestion, and mission planning. You need to be sharp on your land nav skills and ability to do basic infantry tasks. We did a company mission at the very end, and we all enjoyed it a lot.

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Learn more about the ARNG Accelerated OCS Program!

Accelerated OCS is not for the faint of heart. While I felt well-prepared mentally and physically for the challenges of an 8 week intensive program, I saw how it affected people that did not show up in great shape or ready to have a lot of expectations placed on them under stress.  I was happy that I had spent so much time the year before running long distances, as it made my mind more sharp and able to focus through stress.

Accelerated OCS makes you understand how NCOs function in your unit. I learned more about being an NCO at OCS than being an officer. This is because we have to rotate between leadership positions every 1-2 days and get evaluated on them, and there are only a few officer positions in the company. This was easy for a lot of us that were former NCOs or had deployed. I would say about half of my company had deployed before, and 2/3 of that group came as NCOs. Most of us were SGTs, there were a few SSG and one SFC. I believe, while most of us did not have a problem functioning in the NCO positions, this was good for the junior enlisted to get a picture of what their NCOs actually do in each unit.

Accelerated OCS is fast and furious, and very physical. It is said that OCS produces field leaders, while ROTC produces officers who understand paperwork and doctrine. I would say, from my evaluation, that this is true. I feel very comfortable in the field, as most of our time was spent out there planning missions. While I could physically handle everything that happened there, I came home feeling much older and half broken. I probably shouldn’t have ruck marched the Portland Marathon a couple weeks later, but I did it anyway.

OCS produces your peers, make sure to network and stay in touch. I am still friends with many of the people I went to OCS with. We are all in the Guard all over our wonderful country, and many of us have a lot of contacts and can help each other out when needed. One of my friends was keeping his eye on the fed rec tracker for those of us in the same peer group to track when we all made 1LT last March/April time frame, and sent us continuous updates. The intensity of our training brought us very close together, especially those of us that went through all 8 weeks together.

Final Thoughts: I never would have done it any other way. Accelerated OCS is fast and furious, but better for people to immerse themselves and get it over with. Make sure you are in peak physical condition! I got my highest APFT score ever at OCS, but that was only because I showed up there in shape already.

Did you attend accelerated OCS? Tell us about your experience. If you have any comments or questions, please post those below. Thank you.

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Thanks for Your Service,

Chuck Holmes

SKYPE: mrchuckholmes
(352) 503-4816 home office
Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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10 thoughts on “Accelerated OCS: My Experience and Advice

  1. Josh

    Hey everyone. I am 37 years old and re enlisting after 15 years. I am in pretty good shape so the physical portion i am not really worried about. I have been advised that since I have been out so long that traditional would be a little easier in order to ensure that I finish higher in my class to get the job I want (MI). I have two degrees and high ASVAB and all that good stuff. How much prior knowledge of the material does one really need in order to be successful? Or can one make it through with what you learn while there?

    Reply
  2. Mark Scott

    I am on track to graduate on the 17th of this month with a degree in history. I went into the local office today and they told me (very quickly on the way out) with my GPA that I would not be eligible for OCS since it is very competitive. Paraphrasing the E-6 in question: “You’d have a better chance enlisting first, getting a couple years in, and then submitting your OCS packet.”
    Is what he is saying true or is he blowing smoke out of his ass? Thanks for your input.

    Reply
  3. Seth Leigh

    I went through with Candace, who was great. I completely agree with everything she said. The pace was pretty brutal. If you’re considering this course, start right now cranking on fitness and strive to be the fittest soldier in the class. There are a lot of things piled on top of an OCS candidate that they have to work on, struggle with, suffer through, etc. Fitness is a huge part of this, and the fittest soldier in the platoon will have a much different experience of OCS than the least fit soldier.I went through the accelerated course because I was too old for the traditional program (I was 41, commissioning deadline was 42nd birthday). I was also already worn out from all the exercising it took me to lose a lot of weight so I could re-enlist prior to my age deadline. Going into the accelerated OCS program already worn out, at the age of 41, was no bueno. I’m pretty sure that fitness influenced, if not totally dominated, what kind of OCS experience people had. In my case OCS was a butt-kicker. I’m convinced that if phase 1 had been three weeks instead of two, I wouldn’t have made it, and that I only finished phase 1 because I was too stubborn and determined not to quit.If you’re considering the accelerated OCS program, do it! But take fitness seriously for all the time you have before OCS starts, and set as your #1 goal to be the fittest soldier in your OCS platoon. It will make everything else way easier.

    Reply
  4. Justin Long

    Candace,

    You never mentioned a thing about the outstanding accommodations that FTIG provides its OCS candidates and other Soldiers… LOL

    Justin

    Reply
    1. Candace Ginestar Post author

      The DFAC was actually pretty decent! lol
      Since FIG is home to EAATS (which manages UH-60, CH-47 and UH-72 training courses), a lot of people in my old unit have gone there for training too! Ran into an NCO I used to work with while I was at OCS, he was at BNCOC…it was funny. He said I looked tired…well, no kidding.

      Reply
  5. Charles Holmes

    Candace,

    My last assignment with the Maryland Army National Guard was with the 70th Regiment. Our unit instructed your OCS Class in 2010. That was my last Annual Training with the ARNG. I wouldn’t be surprised if we crossed paths there during AT. Small world. At the time, I was the Regimental S4. I’m glad you made it through.

    Chuck

    Reply
    1. Candace Ginestar Post author

      That is proof of why the Army is the smallest large organization! Wow. Yeah, good times during phase 1. Didn’t 1SG Teslee just pass away within the last year? I enjoyed interacting with him. I liked my platoon cadre but some of the others were negotiable. =) I still talk to CPT Cushatt and CPT Spires on FB from time to time; I don’t remember everyone but I remember my NCO was awesome, not a yeller at all, quiet and a little older.
      I knew more people at Fort Indiantown Gap because my unit mobilized with 2-104th GSAB under the 28th CAB, I ran into the old battalion commander and CSM on post during my training, as well as a couple of joes I worked with at Fort Sill. I love the Army, there are so many connections!

      Reply
      1. Charles Holmes

        Yes, 1SG Telsee did pass away. He was a great NCO. I enjoyed working with him.

        I’m glad you made it through OCS and are enjoying yourself as a junior officer. Here’s to your success!

        Reply

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