OCS (Officers Candidate School) Quantico VA


I went to OCS in November 1968. My first humorous experience (now it is funny, not then) in OCS was that I knew that I wanted to simply hide in the background and get through this second boot camp as simply as possible. So I arrived early at OCS. Another nasty First Sergeant put me on 24 hour duty, which meant I would arrive 12 hours late for OCS. I complained to the First Sergeant, who enjoyed my problem. When I arrived 12 hours late to OCS I was tired and haggard from walking on duty all night.

Three Captains and a First Sergeant harassed me, spilling all my gear on the deck, searching all my gear and then ripping my stripes off my green uniform. One of the Captains asked me if I was scared sh__less. I replied “No Sir, this was what I expected.”

I spent the first week in OCS with a full head of hair since I had missed the bald haircut. I was thus easily recognizable to all the Drill Instructors. Each one had to have a heart to heart discussion with me about my long hair and prima donna ways. I had also missed the physical so could not work out with the other candidates. The Drill instructors quickly learned my name since I stood out.  They knew that I was former enlisted and had me march the candidates all over the base. The other candidates did not know what to make of me. Was I some kind of spy, or junior Drill Instructor? I was very glad when the first week was over and I could get a bald OCS haircut, and blend back into obscurity.

We lived in large squad bays with about 50 to 80 candidates in a large room with bunk beds and about 2 feet between each bed, the same as in boot camp. A large head was located between two of the squad bays. A pleasant way to live.

OCS was pretty tough. We trained over the winter and were always wet and freezing. I got pretty sick, but kept going. A number of people gave up and dropped out, or were dropped by OCS.

My platoon was a good one. Commanded by Captain Moffett, the chicken bleep was kept to a minimum. It was different in our sister two platoons. One was led by SSgt Vendetta, the other by Sgt Savage. And they lived up to their names.  One time they made their Candidates tip over every wall locker and rack in the squad bay and bring in large quantities of water and sand and cover everything up. 

Another NCO from our sister platoon walked into our Squad Bay. We were all standing at attention in our skivie shorts. He walked up to Jim Kozak, a huge guy, and tore out a piece of his chest hair. Jim cocked his fists ready to fight. The Sgt was also ready.  Then he said "you want to kick my ass, don't you, candidate?"  Kozak said "Yes, Sergeant Instructor." "But you are not going to do it, are you?" said the Sergeant.  "No, Sergeant Instructor." said Jim sadly.

As a former enlisted man I knew a lot of tricks. One was that when you came back from the field, you could wash your rifle to quickly clean it up for inspection. I did so, but the inspection was very rushed, so when I dried the rifle I did not open up the gas cylinder and dry it. I figured the inspector would never check that.  The only rifle he looked at was mine, and he opened the cylinder and saw that it was wet. "Next time dry it out, Candidate." said the Major. Nothing else happened.

Most Officer Candidates go to OCS right after College. But because of Vietnam a large number of enlisted men also went to OCS. I was a little unusual because I had no college at all and was a bit younger then most of the men. I turned 21 in OCS. 

I could have chosen the Naval Academy or to attend a public college for four years at Government expense prior to becoming a Lieutenant. But I chose OCS where you became a Lieutenant after only 10 weeks. It might have been smarter to go the other route but I liked the idea of being a Commission Officer sooner rather then later.

The Officer Candidates  were older, bigger, and in better shape then the enlisted men. They provided a lot of competition for me. I of course knew a lot more about being a Marine, but they pushed me academically a lot more. In the first few weeks of OCS the college guys were exhausted and scared and looked pretty sad. But the first time I saw them in civilian clothes they looked a lot more impressive.

After OCS the Marine Corps Commissions it’s new Second Lieutenants. It then gives them another 4 to 5 months of Basic School, teaching them the basics of running a rifle platoon. The schools are much longer during peace time, but during war the need for warm bodies increases, so all the schools are shortened. You learn your trade and what you missed you pick up in on the job training in the combat zone.

We shot all kinds of weapons, learned to lead men, and practiced all kinds of combat formations. We were all nervous - how would we do in combat?  None of us wanted to screw up and kill our own men. And of course we were all concerned about how we would do. None of us wanted to be a coward or incompetent.

As an officer the Marine Corps actually considers your request about your job (MOS, Military Occupational Specialty). There was substantial pressure to choose infantry. Our Platoon Commanders were recently returned from Vietnam Lieutenants. They told us it was policy in the Divisions that all Lieutenants would serve their first 6 months in the infantry and then move to their chosen MOS for their final six months.

I had lost some enthusiasm for being a grunt by 1969. We were mired in a war that was very unpopular. People avoided young servicemen. Instead of being honored for our service we were considered baby killers. Most of us avoided wearing our uniforms when off base if possible. A short haircut in the late 60’s was way out of fashion. People would yell at you from their cars calling you idiots and baby killers. And the war was being fought stupidly and the communists were much more dedicated to their cause than our South Vietnam allies.

So I chose communications electronics for my MOS request. I thought I would serve my six months in the infantry and then if I made it I would go into the field that I knew and where I had served.

OCS and Basic School Training was tough.  We were in OCS from November 1968 through February 1969, and then the Basic School till July.  We trained very long hours and were often in the field, cold and wet. We saw two pilots crash - flying military aircraft is a dangerous job.

I attended the very large Peace Demonstration in Washington DC in November 1969. About 500,000 to 600,000 people were at the Mall in DC. I think this was the date and location for the Forest Gump scene. 

We four big strong Lieutenants with very short hair did not fit in very well with the anti war crowd, but everyone was polite and good natured. The National Guard was there, but relaxed - looked like a good time.

Going to the Demonstration was a spur of the moment thing - another Lieutenant suggested we go and the four us went. We did not have any agenda. I suppose we wanted peace as much as the demonstrators - we just had a different method for achieving the peace.