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.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- Top 10 Famous Army OCS Graduates of All Time
- Army OCS Platoon Trainer & T.A.C. Officer: My Experience
- ARNG WOCS Program: Reasons to Pursue It
- Accelerated OCS: My Experience and Advice
- Do Previously Enlisted Soldiers Make Better Leaders As Officers?
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.
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.
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.
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.