|US Army Officer Candidate School|
|Active||1941 – 19/20 December 1949|
1951 – present
|Branch||United States Army|
|Role||Train and commission U.S. Army Officers|
|Part of||Training and Doctrine Command|
U.S. Army Infantry School
|Garrison/HQ||Fort Benning, Georgia|
|Motto(s)||"Standards, No Compromise"|
|March||OCS Alma Mater|
|LTC Ryan Davis|
The United States Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS) is an officer candidate school located at Fort Benning, Georgia, that trains, assesses, and evaluates potential commissioned officers of the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. Officer candidates are former enlisted members (E-4 to E-7), warrant officers, inter-service transfers, or civilian college graduates who enlist for the "OCS Option" after they complete Basic Combat Training (BCT). The latter are often referred to as college ops.
OCS is a 12-week course designed to train, assess, evaluate, and develop second lieutenants for the U.S. Army. It is the only commissioning source that can be responsive to the U.S. Army's changing personnel requirements due to its short length, compared to other commissioning programs and their requirements. Completing OCS is one of several ways of becoming a U.S. Army commissioned officer. The other methods are:
The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School is organizationally designated as 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 199th Infantry Brigade. It was redesignated from the 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment in June 2007. It is a subordinate unit of the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) also headquartered at Fort Benning. As of July 2014 the battalion has five training companies and a Headquarters Company in operation, designated HHC, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo, each of which can conduct one class at a time, with a maximum of 160 candidates being trained in each class. Generally, only Alpha thru Delta are used, but if there are sufficient numbers of students, Echo company will be opened-up as well. HHC serves as the "holding" company for brand new candidates going thru their in-processing or for injured candidates who are recuperating from their injuries. Those who recuperate from injury are often "recycled" into the next class. Every three weeks a class graduates and another one is started.
Historically, OCS has provided the means by which the U.S. Army could generate large numbers of junior officers during periods of increasing personnel requirements, typically during wars. Prior to 1973, OCS was branch-specific, at one time there being eight separate schools; by 1968, the Army had consolidated OCS. Candidates being commissioned in the combat support branches were sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and would be trained as Combat Engineer Officers. Upon graduation, they would be commissioned in their assigned branch and sent to an officer's basic course. Candidates being commissioned in the combat arms branches would be sent to Infantry OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia or possibly Artillery OCS at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. At that time, OCS consisted of twenty-two weeks of classroom and field training. The Vietnam war brought a significant expansion of the program. In 1973, OCS was made branch immaterial and was consolidated into two courses taught at Ft. Benning, and another at Fort McClellan, Alabama for female officer candidates; the course length was reduced to 14-weeks. In 1976, the OCS at Ft. Benning integrated female candidates and became the only OCS left in the active Army, with the closure of the WAC School. The term "90-day wonders", both as a pejorative and term of affection, has been intermittently applied to junior officers commissioned through OCS since World War II.
Officer Candidate School was first proposed in June 1938, as the Army began expanding in anticipation of hostilities when a plan for an officer-training program was submitted to the Chief of Infantry by Brigadier General Asa L. Singleton, Commandant of the Infantry School. No action was taken until July 1940, however, when Brig. Gen. Courtney Hodges, Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School, presented a revised plan to (then) Brig. Gen. Omar Bradley, Commandant of the Infantry School. In July 1941, the OCS stood up as the Infantry, Field Artillery, and Coastal Artillery Officer Candidate Schools, each respectively located at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, and Fort Monroe, Virginia.
In addition to the aforementioned programs, there were Officer Candidate Schools stood up for other branches, in particular, the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Due to the rapid creation of these programs because of wartime necessity, and then the rapid closures or restructuring soon after the end of the war, historical records were not always created or adequately maintained and little is known about some of these branch specific commissioning courses. The Signal Corps however has a full list of records going back to its very first class, which graduated 336 Officers on 30 September 1941. The records are maintained by the U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS Association, which is actively collecting and archiving the personal history of many of the over 27,000 Signal Corps OCS graduates that went through its WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War programs. The Signal Corps website includes a list of every U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS graduate, the date of their graduation, as well as all TAC Officers, training school CO's, and most enlisted men who served the Signal Corps' OCS training programs. In addition to the Signal Corps, several other units have alumni organizations that have maintained informal records and preserved documentation of the courses.
On 27 September 1941, the first Infantry OCS class graduated 171 second lieutenants; 204 men started the 17-week course in July. Testament to the ability of OCS to produce new second lieutenants quickly can be found in War Department decision that ROTC could not fulfill the national demand for officers; so in May 1943, the advanced course in ROTC was suspended and basic course graduates were immediately sent to OCS so they could be commissioned sooner.
During the war, the Army's policy of racial segregation continued among enlisted members; Army training policy, however, provided that blacks and whites would train together in officer candidate schools (beginning in 1942). Officer Candidate School was the Army's first formal experiment with integration. Black and white candidates shared officer's quarters, with bunkmates assigned alphabetically, regardless of their race, and all of the candidates trained together. Despite this integrated training, in most instances, the graduates would go on to join racially segregated units.
General Bradley is credited with establishing the format, discipline, and code of honor still used in OCS today. Bradley emphasized rigorous training, strict discipline and efficient organization. These tenets remain the base values of today's Officer Candidate School. Between July 1941 and May 1947, over 100,000 candidates were enrolled in 448 Infantry OCS classes, of these approximately 67 percent completed the course to earn commissions. After World War II, Infantry OCS was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, as part of the Ground General School. Due to the post-war downsizing of the Army and the declining need for new Officers, all but Infantry OCS was closed. Finally, on 1 November 1947, it was deactivated. The final class graduated only 52 second lieutenants.
The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was created by an act of Congress on 14 May 1942, permitting them to serve, but not as Soldiers. At that time, women did not have military status and were not integrated into the Army. Their ranks, pay, and benefits were different from the Army, along with all administration. But, being a military organization that was modeled after, and parallel, to the Army, it required a way to train Officers; therefore it created its own WAAC OCS, which stood up on 20 July 1942 at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. The course was six-weeks long, its first-class consisting of 440 candidates. Upon graduation, the women were commissioned as third officers (equivalent to a second lieutenant). It is worth noting, that among the first candidates were 40 black women. Initially, black women were segregated, but in keeping with Army policies, integrating officer training, and with pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), by November 1942, they were being trained in integrated units.
With the outbreak of the Korean War, and the Army's rapid expansion in response, the shortage of on-hand officers, and projected commissions, caused the Department of the Army to re-open Infantry OCS at Ft. Benning on 18 February 1951. The course was lengthened from 17 to 22 weeks, as a result of lessons learned from WWII; thus permitting more instruction in Infantry tactics. The Infantry Officer Candidate School became the 1st Officer Candidate Battalion, 2nd Student Regiment. The strength of OCS rapidly increased. As one of eight branch programs, Infantry OCS included as many as 29 companies with a class graduating every week. During the Korean War, OCS commissioned approximately 7,000 Infantry officers.
In April 1949, the U.S. Army established the Women's Army Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Lee, Virginia. The WAC, an active component of the regular Army, a descendant of the WAAC, operated this OCS for female candidates seeking to enter the WAC Officer Corps. The "wash-out" rate was nearly identical to the men's programs, at roughly 37%, during its first four years; an alarming statistic to observers of both programs. By 1954 WAC OCS had been closed and merged with a commissioning program for female direct commissions, due to the low numbers of women attending the WAC OCS course, due in part to tightened standards for selection – in response to investigations of the washout rates.
On 4 August 1953, the Department of the Army reduced OCS from eight to three programs: Infantry, Artillery, and Engineer, finally closing Engineer OCS in July 1954, leaving only the Infantry and Field Artillery schools open. With the onset of the Vietnam War, however, the OCS program was again expanded with officer candidates undergoing a grueling 23-week program of instruction with an extremely high attrition rate which was designed to prepare young officers to be platoon leaders in a demanding Vietnam jungle environment. In September 1965, Engineer OCS reopened at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and before closing for good in 1971, over 10,000 Engineer Officers had been commissioned.
As the war in Korea edged into 1953, several classes of Infantry School OCS students were given the authorization to transfer to the Medical Service Corps upon graduation. These selected officers (with previous medical experience) were assigned to Korea (after a short training course at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas), with the explicit duty of trying to keep the direct inductee Medical Officers alive. This was necessary because of the shortage of medical officers and the lack of combat preparation training provided to them after their direct induction into the Army and their immediate assignment to Korea.
At the height of the Vietnam War, Infantry OCS produced 7,000 officers annually from five student battalions, all located at Ft. Benning. Also, during the war, a female OCS was once again established; it was stood up at Fort McClellan, Alabama, as part of the WAC Center and School. Other OCS programs were located at Fort Gordon, Georgia (Signal Corps); Fort Sill, Oklahoma (Artillery), Fort Lee, Virginia (Quarter Master), Fort Eustis, Virginia (Transportation), Fort Knox, Kentucky (Armor), Fort Belvoir, Virginia (Engineer) and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland (Ordnance). In April 1973, a branch immaterial OCS was established at Fort Benning, ending the Infantry and Field Artillery based courses. In 1976, with the end of the gender-separate Army, the women's OCS was merged with the branch immaterial male course, creating a program very similar to the modern OCS. The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, also admitted its first female cadets in 1976. However, due to the length of instruction there (4 years), the newly gender-integrated Officer Candidate School had the distinction of commissioning a female second lieutenant before USMA.
Today, Officer Candidate School is offered in two ways. Active duty OCS is a 12-week-long school, taught "in residence" at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Its primary purpose is to commission second lieutenants into the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
The Army's Officer Candidate School is programmed to teach basic leadership and soldier tasks, using the infantry battle drills found in Army Field Manual 3–21.8 as a framework for instruction and evaluation of leadership potential. A total of 71 tasks are taught and tested while at OCS. A candidate should expect to be under constant observation and evaluation by their cadre. Mental and emotional stress is induced through a variety of controlled methods, to test problem-solving and moral resolve. Additionally, the course is meant to be physically demanding, with numerous tactical road marches, timed runs of varying distance from 2 miles to 5 miles, and Army Combatives training. Beginning with the first class of FY 2008, the calendar length of OCS was shortened from 14 weeks to 12 weeks, thus allowing for more classes to be conducted each fiscal year, thereby raising the maximum capacity of the school to train Second Lieutenants to meet future commissioning needs as the Army grows. The current capacity of each class that is conducted is limited to 160 officer candidates.
Officer Candidate School is conducted in three phases: Basic Phase, Intermediate Phase, and Senior phase. Students are referred to as either basic officer candidates (BOCs), intermediate officer candidates (IOCs), or senior officer candidates (SOCs) as their classes progress. Initially, upon arrival, the candidates will in-process with HHC and compete via physical fitness test to enter an OCS company. Candidates should expect to arrive at Ft. Benning in top physical condition as the cutoff has historically been an APFT score of 240–270. Once assigned to a class, the candidates have virtually no privileges and enter into a highly controlled environment similar to Basic Training, although they are expected to act like leaders and take charge and responsibility immediately. As they progress through the course, they may earn some limited privileges. Their bearing, deportment, and behavior, both individually and collectively, will affect the return of their privileges.
Basic officer candidates (BOCs) are identified by wearing a black ascot. The basic phase will test candidates academically as well as physically; all events are scored comprising the Order of Merit (OML) list used for branch selection. The Basic Officer phase culminates with branch selection and transition to the Intermediate phase. The intermediate officer candidates (IOCs) are identified with a light blue ascot. The intermediate phase continues with more difficult academic training as well as field and tactical instruction. Senior officer candidates (SOCs) are identified by wearing a white ascot. The senior phase consists of a field environment where students are graded on land navigation, tactics, and leadership; the last phase consists of final exams in academics, physical fitness, peer evaluations, final TAC (Training, Advising, and Counseling) Officer assessments, interviews, and preparation for graduation and follow-on basic officer branch courses. Sometimes, graduates are offered 'walk-on' slots in Fort Benning's Airborne or Air Assault schools since they are under the same higher training command as OCS.
In September 2010, OCS implemented a policy of total immersion. This system removes the possibility of candidates earning on- or off-post passes and using their vehicles during the first 6 weeks of school, restricts the consumption of alcohol to 2 designated days during the course, and prohibits students to carry cell phones while in uniform.
The programs at the Army National Guard Regional Training Institutes are offered in two different formats to accommodate reserve component soldiers. The "Traditional" OCS program is a 16-month course of instruction conducted from April to August of the following year and is broken down into four phases.
The Army National Guard also offers an "Accelerated" OCS program, which is a 56-day, full-time program. The accelerated program is the most physically and mentally demanding program and while the majority of candidates for the accelerated program are already enlisted soldiers, the failure rate is consistently over 40%.
Upon successful completion of either Army National Guard OCS program, graduates are eligible for commissioning as a second lieutenant pending federal recognition. This is normally the only possibility of attaining an officer's commission without the prerequisite of having a bachelor's degree. There are, however, requirements that allow basic qualification for entrance into Officer Candidate School for the Army Reserves. However, as the Army's needs for junior grade officers ebbs and flows, the requirement for a degree may be added as a temporary measure. This will be announced to the force via an Army G1 MILPER message. The Army Regulation (AR) that governs OCS is AR 350–51. These include having at least 90 credits from an accredited college, approval from the Officer Candidate School board, and falling in the age range of 18 to 41 years.
In 2009, the Army streamlined the officer training pipeline by removing BOLC II and renaming BOLC I to BOLC-A and BOLC III to BOLC-B. Three weeks of training were added to BOLC-B which includes basic soldiering skills such as land navigation and weapons qualification. Thus, three separate schools were combined into two. Today's 'BOLC' was formerly known as the Officer Basic Course (OBC).
Officer candidates must pass a series of tests before being accepted into the Officer Candidate School. A prospective officer candidate will meet with a recruiter. After the initial interview, the recruiter will decide if the prospective officer candidate should move forward in the process. It is up to the individual recruiter to decide if a prospective officer candidate can pass the OCS program successfully and is worth the time and effort it takes to submit a packet for OCS.
After completing the initial interview the prospective officer candidate will take the ASVAB and need to make at least a 110 GT score. The prospective candidate then must complete a short essay about why they want to be an Army officer, provide identification (usually a birth certificate and Social Security card), pass a background check, provide a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation, and complete a physical medical exam.
After successful completion of these steps, the recruiter may then conduct the officer candidate through an Army Physical Fitness Test. Upon reaching a score on the test that the recruiter deems to be acceptable (usually in the range of 270 and above), the officer candidate will be scheduled to conduct an interview board. The interview board is conducted by three officers, usually two captains and headed by a major. Upon successfully passing the interview board the prospective officer candidate is accepted into the program and has a week to sign the contract.
The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Honor was established in 1958 to honor infantry officer graduates of the Officer Candidate School Program who distinguished themselves in military or civilian pursuits. In 2002, it was opened to graduates from all U.S. Army Officer Candidate Schools from across the history of the U.S. Army. It is hosted at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, which also hosts the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Honor.
Among the OCS Hall of Honor exhibits include the OCS Hall of Fame. It features over 2,000 inductees whose biographies and portraits can be explored in a digital kiosk.
Selection and induction into the Hall of Fame is not guaranteed and is based on several criteria. The inductee may be commissioned from any active component Army OCS program and must have accomplished at least one of the following:
There are over two thousand inductees; a few representative examples are listed here:
The United States Army Officer Candidate Schools Alumni Association (USAOCSAA) : is the alumni association for the United States Army Officer Candidate Schools (OCS) past, present, and future regardless of location and includes Army National Guard OCS. It is incorporated in the State of Georgia as a 501 C(19) not for profit, war veterans organization. It is led by 13 directors, all graduates, 5 of which form the executive committee. The executive committee is led by the president and chief executive officer, who acts as the executive director. The current president and chief executive officer is Colonel (Ret.) Frank L Harman III.
The mission of the association is to serve and honor the OCS program and its graduates; and its purpose is to further the ideals and promote the welfare of the Officer Candidate Schools, the Officer Corps and the US Army.
USAOCSAA supports the OCS Battalion and the OCS Program by sponsoring each OCS class with resources to assist with class events and graduation awards. USAOCSAA also sponsors major events, annual awards, and ceremonies and facilities on the OCS campus which include the Annual OCS Alumni Reunion, the Patterson Award, the OCS Hall of Fame, the OCS Memorial Walk and the OCS Heritage Center in Wigle Hall. USAOCSAA acknowledges and recognizes alumni and cadre with monuments in the OCS Memorial Walk, Decorating National War memorials in the National Mall and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Award of the Order of Saint Maurice, distinguished and honorary members of the 11th Infantry Regiment and the annual Colonel Robert Nett Award. USAOCSAA communicates with its members and educates the public on the vital role of OCS by operating the USAOCSAA Web Site, providing articles to national publications, publishing their Quarterly Newsletter, and a Bi-Weekly Email Updates to its members.
The purpose of the Nett Award is "to remember and continue to honor the service of Colonel Robert B. Nett to our country, the Army, and the OCS program" and "to recognize and honor annually an OCS Hall of Fame or OCS Alumni Association member or current and former cadre who has provided superior support and advocacy to the OCS program". The Nett Award is presented by the USAOCSAA president and the Senior Maneuver Center representative at the USAOCSAA alumni dinner.
The criterion is: "the nominee, through years of continued service, support, and action, best represents and has contributed to the OCS Alumni Association mission and purpose".
Recipients of the award are as follows:
The school's alma mater is:
Far across the Chattahoochee
To the Upatoi
OCS our Alma Mater
Benning’s pride and joy!
Forward ever backward never
Faithfully we strive
To the ports of embarkation
Follow me with pride.
When it's time and we are called
To guard our country's might
We'll be there with our heads held high
in peacetime and in fight.
Yearning ever, failing never
To guard the memory
The call is clear, we must meet the task
For freedom’s never free!