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Insider Scoop on Navy OCS

flynavyp3

Active Member
Since my first post appears to be a success (thread on Joboy's "OCS stories/experiences") I've decided to open a new thread on AW to provide some realistic insight to Navy OCS. As for my OCS experience, I am an OCS graduate (class 07-00 commissioned Dec 1999) and now serve as a class officer at OCS. The information I'm posting here can generally be accepted as true until OCS moves to Newport, RI in the fall of '07. After the move, this information should be considered speculation or hearsay only.

First, I want to address the issue of the OCS environment. Some have complained that OCS does not prepare them for the fleet, it is not realistic, etc. My response: you are correct, OCS IS NOT LIKE THE FLEET!!!! That is absolutely true, and for a reason. OCS is an assessions program, which means that for the majority of those who undergo training here this is their first experience with the military. Since OCS is only 12 weeks, there is not enough time to teach all the information that you can get later anyway. OCS is designed to teach critical SKILLS that are applicable across the wide range of responsibilities encountered as a naval officer. Skills become a part of who you are by changing the way you think about situations, so OCS creates scenarios that, although they may be "unrealistic", help you view situations through the lens of those skills. OCS-specific inspections, certain military protocol and procedures all work together to provide an environment which aids you in adopting new skills such as attention to detail, time management, teamwork, honor-courage-commitment, working through discomfort, etc. For students who already have certain skills, those aspects of OCS tend to be less challenging simply because they don't have to work as hard to meet the required standard. For individuals who may be lacking in certain areas, that doesn't mean you are a bad person, it simply means you need to work harder to reach the standard.

Now, what is the best way to prepare for OCS? As with any mission, you need to determine what the objective is that you are trying to achieve, and then plan your preparation accordingly. Per OCS's mission statement, OCS trains men and women "morally, mentally and physically". It is my PERSONAL opinion (not an official command statement) that 12 weeks with adults does not do much to "train" morals. By this stage of life, you must already have moral character within you, and OCS provides an opportunity for you to test your character and hopefully refine/direct what you already have. I would challenge you (once again, PERSONAL opinion) to examine your own morals/ethics/belief system and decide if military service is in line with your own beliefs. I'm not a chaplain so I won't get into all that, suffice it to say that OCS is not the proper place or time to begin wrestling with these issues. There are chaplains here who are available for counseling if needed, but you would do yourself a favor to work through this beforehand. Enough on the "moral" issue.

Preparing MENTALLY. Some have said that OCS is just a big mind game, and while there may be some truth in the statement, there is also a purpose to it. It has been proven over and over again that the human body (including the brain & its ability to think/make decisions) can overcome much more than most people believe, and as long as the body doesn't physically break (i.e. get injured) the sole factor that determines success or failure is the decision of the mind. A career as a naval officer has the potential to include situations where you will be responsible for making life-and-death decisions, most likely when you yourself are under extreme duress. To use an analogy, if you knew you would eventally be in a life and death situation where you would need higher-than-average levels of strength (say, be able to push 500lbs), you would be completely foolish to not challenge those muscles ahead of time, engaging some sort of strength building regimen to prepare yourself for that moment. In the same way, the mind needs to be trained for those moments down the road when it must function perfectly under extreme circumstances, so you prepare it by putting it in practice situations where the stress level is raised and allow it to respond in the simulated environment. In case you haven't recognized it yet, part of that "simulated environment" is OCS. OCS is designed to create stress in certain situations in order to develop your "mental muscles" and prepare you for greater challenges down the road. So, anyone who tries give you a shortcut, or "gouge" on how to beat the system is shortchanging you and stealing your chance to improve yourself. Just as mentioned in the "moral" statement above, if you are already used to dealing with stressful situations then OCS won't seem too difficult. What does that mean in specifics? OCS will expect you to "toe the line" on every regulation written in the Officer Candidate Regulations (OCR), so familiarize yourself with the OCR as soon as you get here. On memorized items, don't settle for "the general idea". The big three (Code of Conduct, Chain of Command and General Orders of a Sentry) must be memorized VERBATIM. WORD FOR WORD! All other items are "key elements", but even those must include ALL key elements. Another good preparation is to begin analyzing why you make your decisions; even when you make a bad decision (and you will), if you have a rational thought process behind your decision (as opposed to a random choice) you will A) stand up better under the tongue-lashing to come, and B) have a starting point to adjust your thought process and avoid the bad decision in the future.

Preparing PHYSICALLY. Physical training has several uses at OCS, some of which go beyond the "pass the PFA" minimum. Since the mind dwells inside the body, one way to create a stressful environment for the mind (see "mental" portion above) is to stress the body. YOU WILL GET TIRED AT OCS. Plan on it. But, as mentioned before, the more you push yourself and prepare ahead of time, the less ground you will have to cover to meet the Navy's standard. The maximum standards for the Navy PFA are 105 curl-ups and 87 pushups (male)/48 pushups (female). Running: as fast as you can for 1.5 miles. These are the MAXIMUM scores; I won't be divulging the minimums, since the tendency would be to simply do enough to pass instead of challenging yourself to do your best (ref. my previous statements on challenging yourself now to prepare for future requirements). Form is important on curl-ups and pushups. If an instructor sees you using incorrect form, your count can be nullified and you will have to start over regardless of the time remaining. Running: the Physical Readiness Test (PRT) consists of a 1.5 mile run, but the normal morning runs are usually longer, so don't stop all your workouts at 1.5 miles. Run on a road or hard surface to work the muscles in your legs properly; a treadmill isn't the same, since all you do on a treadmill is hold yourself up while the "ground" goes by beneath you. Your legs need the practice of pushing your body forward. Additionally, don't wait until a few weeks before your report date to start running. Yes, the muscles and cardiovascular system may adjust fast enough to be ready for the minimum standards, but the vast majority of injuries seen at OCS is a result of bones/tendons/ligaments not being strong enough. These parts will thicken & strengthen over time, but they need more than just a couple weeks. Start running a few months ahead of time so that you have time for your WHOLE body to adjust, as well as to give yourself time to improve on your run time.

While this post doesn't cover everything about OCS, I hope it provides a good starting point for individual preparation. OCS is challenging, but so is the life of a naval officer, so see it as a chance to maximize your potential in your future career.
 

Sidewinder7

New Member
Thank you for this valuable information! I am running almost every day and conditioning myself slowly but surely to be ready for when I go here in the next few months if selected to OCS. By the way since when is OCS moving to RI? What is the rationale behind this. Have a great week.
 

WishICouldFly

UO Future Pork Chop
Sidewinder: The last OCS class date at Pensacola, FL is June 30, 2007, I believe. Don't know why they are changing it, hopefully someone with more experience or knowledge will answer here.

Thanks for the gouge, flynavy!
 

Moth

New Member
Last P-Cola OCS Date

I heard from my recruiter that the last OCS date at P-Cola was either 3 or 10 Jun. OCS classes after then will be held over until July when they will begin at Newport.
 

CaptainRon

Member
pilot
Contributor
The maximum standards for the Navy PFA are 105 curl-ups and 87 pushups (male)/48 pushups (female). Running: as fast as you can for 1.5 miles. These are the MAXIMUM scores; I won't be divulging the minimums, since the tendency would be to simply do enough to pass instead of challenging yourself to do your best (ref. my previous statements on challenging yourself now to prepare for future requirements).
What's are some good scores to shoot for when arriving at OCS to avoid extra heat from the DIs? Would excellent high in each category be enough to avoid any extra attention from them?
 

FUPaladin

couldabeen
Confessions of an OCS dropout

What follows is an account of my very brief experience at OCS in Newport. I’m not posting this because I’m looking for pity or because I think Airwarriors is my personal blog, but to offer advice to those who are in the process of applying so that they don’t end up in the same position I found myself in these past several weeks. I’ve also never read anything here or elsewhere about what happens to the people who DOR or NPQ at OCS, so that might be something that people are curious to know. True, you shouldn’t be thinking about such things if you’re going to OCS, but I doubt that knowing will change anyone’s plans. If the mods deem this topic inappropriate for this forum and delete it, that’s really okay with me, because I’m probably not going to post here for much longer anyway (nothing against you guys, I just have no reason to come here anymore). They’d probably be doing everyone a favor, because now that I’ve finished typing I realize how freakin’ long this thing is.

The short version of my story is that I didn’t make it through Indoc week at OCS. I had only just made it to the part with the DIs and beatings and sandpits, but even after just those first few days I knew that I wasn’t motivated enough to put myself through everything that OCS requires of you. If there’s only one piece of advice I can give prospective officer candidates, it’s to make sure you are absolutely, 100% committed to the goal of becoming a Naval officer. If you’re not, or even if there is something else that you think you also might like to do, you won’t make it. I understand (and saw for myself) that a large percentage of the people who DOR are priors who liked their job to begin with and decided that OCS wasn’t worth it to them when they could just go back to their old job, try to make Chief, etc. If you’re a prior and think that OCS is just going to be like boot camp all over again, you’re completely wrong, as every prior I talked to there can tell you. In my case, I had an alternate plan that I gave up to go to OCS, and that was living abroad in China to fully learn Mandarin Chinese and eventually attending graduate school in a China-related field (probably history). The fact that I also wanted to do that means that I should have done it from the beginning, because once OCS started it turned into a no-brainer for me. I applied only for Intel straight out of college and I was really happy when I got it, but now that I’m being honest with myself, that was more because I wanted to work in intelligence than because I wanted to be in the military. You’ve probably heard this before, but if you’re applying to become a Naval officer, make sure your primary motivation is that you want to be a Naval officer. If, for example, you’re applying for SNA primarily because you want to fly and you think the Navy is a good way to do that, you’re going to have a hard time finding the motivation to make it through OCS knowing you also have options on the civilian side. Indoc week especially will give you a lot of “What the **** am I doing here?” moments, and you’d better have a great answer, because that’s the only thing that can keep you going.

So even though I went to OCS with a little bit of doubt and probably the wrong motivation, I was still prepared to work hard and figured that I could get through based on what I had read about it here and elsewhere. Wrong. The program is designed to weed out people like me, who don’t want it badly enough or think they might rather be doing something else. I thought I was prepared for the intensity of the program based on what I had read and heard, but you can’t understand what it’s really like until you’re actually there doing it. I won’t try to describe everything, but know that just because all the fun with your DI doesn’t really start until Wake-up Wednesday doesn’t mean that the first three days aren’t very stressful. You will be sore, sleep deprived, and barely able to speak long before you ever start rolling around in the sand, and once that starts, like I said, you had better be life-or-death determined to get through or else forget it. A week or so before I was finally went home, I heard the CO describe Navy OCS as the most difficult officer accession program in the military, which would have really surprised me to hear before I went but now I’m inclined to believe, even though I think Marine OCS might beg to differ. You will get beat. A lot. But the physical demands are just part of everything the instructors do to add stress, because that’s what they’re really after. It took me a while to figure this out, but the main purpose of OCS is not to make you into a good officer; it’s to put you into an extremely high stress environment for a long period of time to make sure you can function in it (and presumably let you learn how to be a good officer with later with the help of the chiefs). Being intelligent and/or a PT stud will only help so much, because OCS is not primarily an intellectual or physical challenge. Like I’ve been saying, it’s all about motivation.

One quick piece of advice before I move on. I rolled into H right before I dropped, so I don’t know too much about it, but I do know that even though H-class is often likened to spending two weeks or more in a Siberian gulag and is definitely someplace you’d rather not be, it’s also not the end of the world. For some people it can actually be a much needed relief from Indoc week and give them time to get themselves more accustomed to OCS and better prepared physically and mentally, though of course it also means at least another two weeks of suck. So if you happen to roll into H during Indoc week (and quite a few usually do), don’t panic. Just address whatever issue you had and get yourself ready to class back up, then go and be a leader in the next class, because you will have learned a lot of things that they don’t know yet. In fact, OCS wouldn’t work the way it does without the knowledge and experience that the roll-ins bring to new classes. If you want it enough, and as long as you don’t physically or mentally break, you will make it through eventually even if you have to spend multiple weeks in H.

I hope this next part will not apply to anyone who reads this, because I hope that everyone who is selected will be motivated enough to make it all the way through, even though I know that won’t be the case. If you should happen to DOR or NPQ, you’ll move to what’s called student pool in another part of the base and be given simple jobs (fix this, move these, etc.) to do every day until all the paperwork is finished to get you released, back to the fleet, or wherever you’re supposed to go. You’re still getting paid as long you’re there, so you do have to work, but most days aren’t hard at all and you’re free to do whatever you want once you’re done for the day. For the paperwork, you’ll need to collect about a dozen signatures from anyone and everyone important, including finally the CO, and each time you’ll have to explain your reason for dropping and they’ll often try to talk you back in. Until the CO signs your paper, you still have the option of changing your mind and getting back in, and some guys did while I was there, even though it of course meant being a huge target for a while and for one guy it even meant going all the way back to the seawall when he had been in his fourth week. Student pool can be kind of a depressing place, because while some people are like me and just realized that they’d rather do something else, others were NPQ’d by an injury or have other issues and are pretty devastated, sometimes bitter. Everyone in student pool just wants to get out of there, but the absolute fastest that will happen is about three weeks to a month, and that’s if you’re like me and are just a civilian who doesn’t owe the Navy money for college or anything. For priors, program guys, and especially anyone with an injury, the process can take much longer.

So that’s about it. I dropped out of OCS after less than a week, and I don’t regret it because I’m confident that it was the right decision for me. My biggest regret is wasting the time and effort of the people who helped me get to Newport, as well as the time I wasted when I should have been doing something else. There were numerous reasons why I was attracted to the Navy in the first place which I haven’t forgotten, and I knew I was giving up a great opportunity, but I never lost any sleep over my decision (I did lose sleep, but only because they moved the next Indoc class to the deck right above us :mad:) or seriously considered getting back in after I dropped, so I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t really belong there in the first place. I definitely have a new respect for those who have chosen to serve as Naval officers, but it wasn’t for me, I accept that, and I’m moving on. If anything I described about my situation seems familiar to any applicants out there, stop right now and think long and hard about whether this is something you really want, because you don’t want to do what I did. Good luck to everyone and I hope that whatever you choose to do is the right choice for you.
 

The Stoic

New Member
I appreciate your honest with this post and hope you don't get slammed to hard by the other guys.

I also like the fact that nothing in there discouraged me so my motivation for completing OCS is in the right place.

Good luck to you and don't forget to thank all those that got you to the place you were.
 

MattWSU

Well-Known Member
pilot
Contributor
Thanks for the post and giving us newbs a little more insight about OCS.
 

ben

not missing sand
pilot
Super Moderator
Contributor
Good post. Thanks for the insight. I think the take-away from your experience is to know and understand that OCS will be difficult, but if you've got the motivation you'll make it. There was one particular comment about not going to OCS as SNA just because you want to fly and think the Navy is a good place to do that... I agree with what I interpret your post to really be saying, but want to point out that plenty of people who are pilots in the military are only in the military because they wanted to fly. I am one of those people. I wanted to be in the Navy and wanted to get through OCS regardless of my options in the civilian flying world, but if they had said to me, "You can be in the Navy but you can't be a pilot..." then I wouldn't necessarily have stayed. I might have redesignated to another field, but it would have been something to really think about. I just wanted to expand on your post a little.

To you hopefuls out there, don't let your desire to be a pilot take away from your desire to go to and graduate from OCS.
 
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