Army OCS: An Overview

The Army Officer Candidate Program, also known as Army OCS, has a long and proud history that dates back to 1941.

The purpose of the Army’s Officer Candidate School is to produce newly commissioned Second Lieutenants.

During OCS, candidates receive a wide variety of instruction to include military leadership, Warrior Tasks, Infantry Battle Drills, Land Navigation, Drill and Ceremony, Marksmanship, Physical Fitness, and much more.

In fact, a total of 71 tasks are taught and tested during Army OCS.

All classes are designed to help develop the Officer Candidate into a competent Army Officer.

During OCS, candidates must be prepared to experience mental and emotional stress.

In some ways, OCS is similar to Basic Training where the instructors “break you down” and mold you into a new person (i.e. Soldier/Officer).

Instead of having a Drill Sergeant, you will have TAC Officers who will shout at you, encourage you, motivate you, teach you and train you.

They will be your best friend and worst enemy!

The environment is fast paced and high stress.

Each day is highly structured.

You will wake up early; before the sun comes up; and you will work long hours.

You will have to operate on little sleep.

You will sweat.

You will experience stress and you will be out of your comfort zone.

OCS is designed to break you and see what you are made of.

Ultimately, your instructors are evaluating you in a high stress environment to see if you are officer material.

Simply put, Army OCS is tough.

It is designed to weed out the weak and develop new, competent leaders capable of leading Soldiers on the battlefield.

What I find fascinating about Army OCS is that it enables enlisted Soldiers the opportunity to earn their commission quickly.

From my 15 years of experience in the military, I’ve found some of the best Officers I ever served with were commissioned through Army OCS.

Army National Guard OCS Program

On Active Duty, all OCS candidates attend the full-time OCS program either at an Active Duty installation or at a Regional Training Institute in the Army National Guard.

In the Army National Guard, Army OCS is offered in two different formats.

The traditional Army OCS program is a 16-month course conducted from April to August and consists of four phases:

Phase 0: This phase consists of two drill weekends and is designed to prepare OCS candidates for the Army OCS program.

This phase gives candidates a taste of what the OCS program is like and weeds out many of the candidates who truly aren’t all that interested in completing the program.

Phase 1: This phase of the Army OCS program is a 15-day annual training, usually held in June.

Phase 2: This phase is a one-weekend-per-month phase for a period of 13-months.

Phase 3: This is a final 15-day Annual Training period, culminating with graduation and commissioning.

The Army National Guard also offers an accelerated Army OCS program for interested OCS candidates.

This phase is an 8-week, full-time program.

Upon successful completion of this 8-week training period, OCS candidates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants.

As a stipulation, these Officer Candidates must complete all phases of the Basic Officer Leaders Course within 12 months after graduating the course.

In addition, officers who are commissioned from this Army OCS program receive the same type of federally recognized commission as officers who graduate from the Active-Duty Army OCS program.

In my opinion, there are many reasons to attend the OCS program and become a Commissioned Officer.

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  4. Accelerated OCS: My Experience and Advice
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Top 10 Reasons to Attend Army OCS

1. To Serve Your Country: Serving as a commissioned officer is a great way to serve your country.

You get to lead troops, defend the Constitution and protect Americans.

You will participate in wars and conflicts when needed.

2. To Become a Leader: Officers are leaders.

If you are looking to develop your skills and become a better leader, you will learn these skills in the OCS Program, and in future job assignments.

3. The Challenge Yourself: OCS is a challenging program.

It’s not for the weak or indecisive. Serving as an officer is also a huge challenge.

Are you up for a challenge?

4. Personal Development: The Army OCS Program will definitely challenge you.

You will develop your skills and become a better person and leader.

You will grow and mature and become a fine leader and manager.

You will end up doing things you never even thought you were capable of doing.

5. Have a Fulfilling Career: If you plan on making the military a career, why not be an O=officer?

You will be challenged.

You will get some really tough jobs that stretch you out of your comfort zone.

6. Earn More Money: Money isn’t everything.

But why not earn more money while you serve?

This will improve your lifestyle and standard of living.

It will also lead to a larger pension when you retire.

7. Lead Soldiers: Leading Soldiers, especially in combat, is a great experience.

In fact, I can’t think of a higher honor than leading Soldiers in battle.Army OCS

8. Enjoy a Better Lifestyle: As an Army Officer, you will enjoy a better lifestyle.

You will get special privileges that many enlisted Soldiers do not get.

9. Be Part of a Proud Tradition: When you serve as an Army Officer (in any capacity), you will become part of a proud tradition, dating back hundreds of years.

10. The Responsibility: If you like responsibility, you will enjoy serving as an officer.

You will supervise lots of Soldiers and be personally responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment.

These are my top ten reasons to attend the Army OCS Program and join the Officer ranks.

How to Survive Army OCS: 7 Tips for Success

Listed below, I want to share seven tips on how to survive Army OCS.

Whether you are going through the accelerated program or the traditional one weekend a month OCS program, I have a few good pointers to help you out.

Tip # 1: Stay in Shape

My first tip to survive Army OCS is to get in shape.

Get in shape before you start OCS.

The program is physically demanding and it would be a shame to fail out of OCS because you can’t pass the APFT.

While you are there, keep working on your PT.

If you are struggling in one particular event with your APFT, work extra hard to improve it.

Being in shape will give you the added endurance you need to succeed.

Tip # 2: Practice Land Navigation Ahead of Time

Land Navigation is one of the biggest challenges for people in Army OCS.

Sure, some Soldiers are naturally good in this event, but most Soldiers struggle with it.

Study Land Navigation before you get to OCS.

Get out in the woods and practice as much as you can.

Have someone from your parent unit help you out.

Get with an experienced NCO and have them teach you the ropes.

Tip # 3: Don’t Volunteer for Anything

This tip is similar to what I tell Soldiers about to go to Basic Training.

Don’t volunteer for anything in OCS, unless it is a leadership opportunity.

Other than that, keep your head high and be a good candidate, but don’t try to be a hero!

Tip # 4: Realize it is 90% Mental

Getting through Army OCS is 90% mental.

Your instructors and TAC Officers are trying to break you down and reshape you into an Army Officer.

Please realize that you will get yelled at a lot.

Don’t take it personal.

Keep your emotions in check and don’t let anyone get the best of you.

Tip # 5: Be a Team Player

If you see a buddy struggling with something, help them out!

Be a team player.

Don’t think that the only way for you to look good is for you to make others look bad.

Do what you can to help your buddy whenever possible.

You are a team and you need to work together.

Tip # 6: Study for Every Test

You will take several tests throughout your time in Army OCS, so make sure you study for each test.

Normally, you get study time before the tests so make sure you use that time wisely.

Review your materials, ask your instructors any questions you might have and be prepared.

Tip # 7: Sleep When You Can

You won’t get much sleep in Army OCS, so whenever you get the chance to sleep, take advantage of it.

If you get a chance to “rack out” for 10 minutes, take advantage of it.

When it’s lights out at night time, get some sleep.

Your body and mind needs the rest.

army ocs

Learn more about the ARNG Accelerated OCS Program!

BONUS TIP:

If you’re struggling in one particular area, ask for help!

No one is good at everything.

Your instructors and TAC Officers want you to succeed, so leverage their expertise.

If you have a question, ASK!

That’s what they are there for.

The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, the Army OCS Program is a great way to earn your commission and become an Army Officer.

It’s not easy and not always fun, but it will stretch you out of your comfort zone and prepare you to be a leader.

Many of the Army’s most competent officers first served as enlisted Soldiers.

Their experience as a Soldier first gives them a unique perspective that most officers don’t have.

If you are currently enlisted, but are considering transitioning to the Army officer ranks, OCS is your best bet!

What are your thoughts?

If you attended OCS, I would love to hear about your experience.

Leave a comment below to tell us what you learned, what you liked and what you disliked.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Chuck Holmes

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

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23 thoughts on “Army OCS: An Overview

  1. John

    Don’t know if this is still being looked at or not, but I have a question anyway haha.

    I’m graduating college next year with a Business Administration degree, and was wondering if you had to be either enlisted, or in an ROTC program to becoming an officer in the Army National Guard.

    I assumed you could apply when you finished your Bachelor’s, but I’ve been looking at conflicting information.

    Any information would be appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Greg Boudonck

      John, there are other ways to become an Officer. You can apply and be sent to Officer Candidate School. It does help to have ROTC under your belt, but since you will have a college degree, you will have a good chance of being accepted. I suggest you speak with a recruiter. Good luck, and if you have any more questions, just come back and ask, and you can also subscribe to the PT Commander Facebook page.

      Reply
      1. John

        I appreciate the swift reply!

        I thought at much, I was just worried because some resources I’ve looks at named:

        1. Rotc

        2. West Point

        and 3. Direct commissions as the primary way to actually become an officer.

        It’s good to know just applying is also an option. :)

        Reply
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  3. Jeff Ferry

    OCS is an excellent opportunity for top notch enlisted personnel to become officers. I've personally seen around ten people in my unit go from the enlisted ranks to become officers. One of them recently made major. Also, my first commander was former enlisted and had gone via OCS.
    Also, very good information on how the program actually runs, I must admit I wasn't familiar with the details of the program.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      That’s cool that you got to see some of your peers make it through the program and become officers. Not everyone makes it. But, many of the ones that do graduate from OCS turn out to be pretty good officers.

      Reply
  4. Greg Boudonck

    I have always believed the best leaders start at the bottom and work up the ladder. That is what this is all about. Someone that starts as a regular soldier, and then has the ambition to attend OCS to attain an officer rank will most likely be a great leader. I see many who are handed leadership without having to work for it and in many cases they are terrible leaders. OCS is a great program and thank you for explaining it to us.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      This is so true. When you start at the bottom and work your way up you have perspective. I think that good leaders can relate to the people that they lead because at some point or another, they were in the same position as their followers. This added perspective really helps out, especially when making tough decisions.

      Reply
  5. Candace Ginestar

    In contrast, my buddy did the traditional OCS. He said it sucked and the only reason he did it was because he was finishing college and other family reasons that needed him to be nearby. He said it was more work to do this version of OCS because you had to spend a lot of time prepping for each drill, instead of just rolling with it like at AOCS.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      Personally, I couldn’t imagine trying to do it over a 16 month period. That seems crazy to me. I would much rather do the 8 week OCS and be done with it!

      Reply
  6. Candace Ginestar

    OCS was an awesome course. I chose to do the 8 week course, which is more condensed than federal OCS, even. I am glad I did it that way, because I had just gotten home from Iraq and didn’t want to spread out my training. I just wanted to knock it out and be done with it. It’s not for everyone, but it worked best for me.

    Reply
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  8. Michelle

    Hi,

    I have a couple of questions. My boyfriend just left for phase I of OCS training about three days ago. First question, will he be able to communicate with me at all during the 15 days (phone, text, computer)? Secondly, what is the best way for me to support him during this time, especially when he gets back? Do I ask questions on how it went or let him bring up the conversation? Any advice or suggestions are welcome.
    I was there when he was in Afghanistan for one year, it feels a bit like that in regard to the communication part. Just want to know if for the entire 15 days to expect no contact.

    Thank you,
    Michelle

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      Michelle,

      My guess is that he won’t be able to contact you during the 15 days. If he doesn’t, please don’t think that he doesn’t love your or isn’t thinking about you. OCS is very busy and very structured and I know he will not have his cell phone and will probably not get access to it until he finishes the training. As far as the computer goes, I doubt he’ll have access to email either.

      To support him, you could write him a letter or two, or a postcard and mail it to him.

      When he gets back you can ask him about it. If he is willing to talk about it (he should) just listen and be supportive. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, just let it go.

      You sound like a really supportive girlfriend. I wish the two of you a long and happy relationship.

      Thanks for visiting my website.

      Chuck

      Reply
  9. Mark

    My cousin graduated from Army OCS and he told me that it was the hardest thing he ever did. He said it was mentally and physically challenging. I couldn’t imagine having people standing there shouting at you all the time and getting so little hours of sleep at night.

    Reply
      1. Rose

        I attended Army OCS with the Army Reserves in 1998. It was a tough and challenging experience, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.

        Reply
  10. Leslie

    Thank you for providing an over view of the Army OCS and identifying ten reasons to attend Army OCS. While money isn’t everything, there is nothing wrong with having more in your check – that’s for sure. The opportunity for personal development is important and will carry into the non-military aspects of your life and help you succeed.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      The added money and personal development are two great reasons to attend OCS and become an Officer. There is nothing wrong with wanting more out of life.

      Reply

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