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Training and Education

Officer Candidate School Students

Officer Candidates talk about their experiences at OCS

Straight out of college and quickly approaching Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, a brand new officer candidate feels a wave of uncertainty sweep through his mind. Not knowing exactly what to expect, he's anxious. Like many, he questions his decision to become a naval officer. As the cab pulls up in front of the U.S. Navy Officer Training Command, the new student's mind starts going a million miles a minute. He gets out of the car with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

This is the typical beginning for many new officer candidate school (OCS) students before they open the golden doors leading to their home for the next 12 weeks. They may not know what to expect, but they know it probably won't be an easy adventure.

During four months of training, students experience extreme challenges - "physically, mentally, and morally," according to the officer candidate school website. In preparation for assuming the responsibilities of a naval officer, they will also learn a basic working knowledge of the Navy, both afloat and ashore. They will have to memorize a large amount of military knowledge and academic courses, and begin reaching their fullest potential.

No two candidates are alike; everyone comes from different walks of life and has his or her own life experiences. With that mind, the Navy is able to take civilians, who know nothing about the military, and turn them into leaders of the future.

Like boot camp at Great Lakes, people are taken off the street and literally thrown into uniforms and told to march this way, walk that way, talk this way, and look that way," said Officer Candidate Darren Espree. "It's the same thing in OCS, but based on the person's character and their will to succeed, they will accept it and grow or resist and go backward."

When candidates first arrive, they're greeted by the students in the last phase of OCS. The more senior candidates process and prepare the incoming students, showing them the ropes until they meet their instructors.

"The first six days, you have people in my position, officer candidate phase, command voicing you, trying to prepare you for that first Friday," said Officer Candidate Taryn Salcedo. That's when the drill instructors take over. She feels OCS reaches a new level when the drill instructors and chiefs single an individual out and put them on their face for the first time during physical training.

Of course, pushups will be familiar to prior enlisted Sailors who are selected for OCS. Going in, many think it will be easier than boot camp.

"Everything here catches people off guard," said Officer Candidate Javier Linares. "Even some of the enlisted will say, 'I thought this place was going to be a cake walk' because there is this perception everything is easy for officers. There are definitely things here that they do that are a lot more rough than enlisted."

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It's a challenge and even though enlisted Sailors have been through boot camp and are more familiar with Navy culture, everyone has to work together to get through each phase of OCS. For example, candidates said the eighth week is particularly hard. Students go through vigorous inspections, school work, exams and physical training.

Salcedo's most memorable event is Capstone, which follows that week. It begins early in the morning at the end of the ninth week. Candidates start at the USS Buttercup Damage Control Wet Trainer and work as a damage control team to stop flooding in a mock-up of a shipboard compartment. Also, they participate in man-overboard scenarios and go through a series of timed exercises that emphasize team work, trust and decision making.

Salcedo describes the "capstone" as a series of events which is "the sign you have made it to the candidate officer phase and completed all rollable events, which is a big relief for a lot of people even though you still have a very hard job at hand coming up in the following weeks. It's a bit of a stress reliever to know that you have made it this far and you have pushed with your team and you succeeded as a class, as a group."