It’s crazy to look back and consider everything I’ve learned in the past 5 weeks and all of the training we completed. I tried to keep track of everything and my thoughts about it along the way, so here are some basic summaries:
In-Processing: The first 5 days were spent sitting around while everyone got medically cleared, supply & gear issue and figuring out the daily grind of OCS. It was nice to get to know some of the other candidate before we were all stressed out.
Food/Health/Sleep: The food wasn’t bad, we just didn’t get very much of it– I was always hungry! The first week and a half, my stomach killed me, but I adapted. Injuries are so high partly because all we eat is carbs, with little protein or calcium. My feet never blistered, but my ankles and tibialis are pretty worn out…actually, every joint and muscle is my body is worn out. The athletic trainer and Navy Corpsmen were awesome with taping and treating injuries. At one point, I was pretty sick, and they let me take naps during my breathing treatments. 🙂 Literally everyone got sick, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we never slept. Even though lights are out for 8 hours each night, that’s the only time you have to write punishment essays, prepare for the next day, shower, etc. It also didn’t help that every few days you’re on a 2-hour fire watch shift.
Sergeant Instructors: The Sergeant Instructors weren’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated (until they decided they hated me). Early in training they clearly target weaker candidates, but as long as you sounded off and responded with speed & intensity, you were fine. With the exception of 1, it was evident the SIs loved their job and the Marine Corps. When they let their guard down, it was easy to remember they’re people too and we can actually learn a lot from them. l After the 3rd week, they backed off significantly and let us lead ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, they still screamed a lot, but it became more constructive than for the sake of stressing you out.
Drill: Although I was on the drill team in high school, I’m now a terrible marcher–I can’t stay in step to save my life. I love it though. When the whole platoon gets something, it looks so sharp and our confidence goes through the roof. Unfortunately, more often than not, our Drill SI says we look like “retarded Clydesdales.”
Academics: We typically spent 2-4 hours a day in classes about the structure of the Marine Corps, USMC History, Leadership, etc. Anyone who knows me knows that I love school, but these classes kicked my ass. Even though they’re only a 10th grade level, I failed half of them the first time–by 1 question. It’s just so hard to stay awake in class and there was not usually time to study until after lights out.
Leadership Evaluations: Leadership is the largest percentage of your grade, so it’s constantly being evaluated. First up, we had the Leadership Reaction Course (LRC), which tests your ability to make decisions & plan, then adjust it all when you fail. We also had Small Unit Leadership Evaluations (SULE), which test your ability to use signals, formations and lead your team through enemy territory. I did well with these, partially because I can write a kick ass Operations Order (thank you, OSO ATL!).
Leadership Billets: Candidates are also placed in leadership billets over their peers, which is surprisingly difficult. I was Candidate Platoon Commander and Squad Leader, neither of which were exceptionally good or bad. My last week at OCS, I was the Candidate Company Gunnery Sergeant, which apparently is one of the more dreaded billets. Basically, I was responsible for chow, maintenance, accountability, security and gear for the entire company. I loved it, and did really well–thanks to my Type A, organizational skills. I also got to work with the coolest staff member (who actually wanted me to stick around).
Candidates: Honestly, I had initial inclinations about who would/wouldn’t make it and many of the surprised me! We had several prior service members in our platoon which helped everyone out. A lot of the girls were catty and immature, but for the most part, there was a sense of camaraderie and willingness to help each other out. I’m also convinced that the only reason I survived as far as I did was because a dear friend of mine from Atlanta was in my squad–she saved my butt on countless occasions and singlehandedly kept me sane toward the end. I didn’t interact too often with the male candidates until weeks 4 & 5, but they were super cool. I was impressed by their willingness to encourage and help without being asked (unlike most females). Overall, the males were much more relaxed and enjoyable to be around.
Physical Training: By the third day of PT, I regretted every workout I skipped. I got it together though and held my own during most sessions. During platoon runs, I was usually a little behind, but I never fell out. I loved the Rifle PT and the Obstacle, Tarzan (high ropes) and Confidence courses. The only PT I failed were the 4 & 6-mile hikes–those things are bitches. Regardless, I’m faster and stronger than when I started, so I’d say PT was a success.
Tactics: Hands down, this was my favorite element of training–mostly because it was really fun and I excelled at it. Day and night land navigation was one of the first things we did, where you go from Point A to find Point B after shooting an azimuth and whatnot. The combat courses were hella fun as well. Basically that included different crawls and obstacles with your weapon. usually we were in fire team elements and had to navigate enemy fire and secure enemy objectives.
Liberty: I didn’t realize how homesick/stressed/tired I was until the end of week 3 when we got our first liberty. Everyone told me that OCS changes you, but it wasn’t until Harmony and Caryn came to visit that I saw the change in myself (more on that to come later). I spent every liberty on probation, so I was stuck on base and had early morning formation on Sunday, but it was nice to have Saturday evening-Sunday evening to relax, prepare for the week and just act like normal people.
Just thinking about everything we did, is exhausting, but I actually miss OCS and the 0500-2100 days! Anywho, more to come about the OCS Experience tomorrow.