Monday, March 18, 2013

One Year In- A Turning Point

I guess I didn't realize how long it has been since I posted last- well fear not, I'm still in the program. Drill this month marked an important anniversary- Class 56 has now been at this for a whole year. Phase 0 candidates started this month, so we're now the senior class on the ground. We caught glimpses of the train wreck that is Phase 0- very glad to be distanced from that. If anyone from 57 is reading this, y'all got two votes out of 33 when the cadre asked if we felt sorry for you. We've all been there and 12 months down the road from now you'll be glad that the ones with tiny heart syndrome aren't in your class anymore.

I haven't given a typical breakdown of a Phase II weekend yet, so here's what we've been doing:
-1500-1800 Arrival, baracks setup, gather supplies and weapons
-1800 First formation
-1830-2200 Classroom: Friday night classes are generally suplemental information on topics ranging from basic grammer to UCMJ and radio operation.
-2200-2300 Hygiene, baracks maintenance
-2300 Lights out

-0500 Wake up
-0530-0630 PT
-0630-0700 Morning meal
-0700-0745 Hygiene, baracks maintenance
-0800-1200 Classroom: This is the primary class of the weekend. The material is testable and part of the graduation requirements. Classes are taught by various cadre- generally not the black hats. We have a senior instructor that is a Captain that teaches most frequently, other NCO's and officers split up the remaining classes. Classes break every hour for either an admin break for water and latrines or TAC break where we get smoked- just depends on how well the cadre think we're doing that day. If anybody falls asleep (which happens all the time) we're almost guaranteed to get a TAC break.
-1200-1230 Noon meal
-1300-1500 Classroom: continuation of morning death by powerpoint class
-1500-1600 Test: These tests are challenging but not impossible. Honestly, the thing that makes them the hardest is being able to focus on six hours of powerpoint content while you're running on much less sleep than you normally get and physically worn out from getting smoked. The hardest test we took was the Land Nav test in Phase I, by a unanimous vote. Cadre told us it would be the Call for Fire test, but we had a Field Artillery officer teach the class and I found the material to be quite easy to grasp. You need a 70% to pass each test and they're all about 25-30 question multiple choice tests. Doing well requires being able to think like an Army test writer and regurgitating facts that you learned for the first time a few hours earlier.
-1600-1800 Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills: This is where OCS gets a little more fun. These drills are the basic building blocks of how the Army fights. Candidates teach these blocks of instruction that are supervised by our TACs that fill in the holes with their vast experience from the battlefield. We're really benefiting for a decade of war in the sense that our cadre have seen and done all these drills in real life. We are definitely in a unique position to learn from their firsthand accounts on how and why these battle drills are critical to master.
-1800-1840 Evening meal
-1900-2200 Depends on monthly mission
-2300 Lights out


-0500 Wake up
-0530-0630 PT
-0630-0700 Morning meal
-0700-0745 Hygiene, baracks maintenance
-0800-1200 Classroom
-1200-1255 Noon meal, religious services

-1300-1500 Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, inspections
-1500-1700 Wrap up, clean up
-1700 Final formation

Drill this month was different than it ever has been. Starting off, the Company Commander pulled me aside to tell me I had done a good job on some training I put together between drills- it might not seem like much but when it feels like 95% of what the cadre are telling you has something to do with how you suck at life it makes you feel 10 feet tall when they think you did a good job on something (but keep your military bearing and don't let on that you're too excited...).

Secondly, the cadre were amped up like crazy with all the fresh blood that was bumbling around [think Somalians hopped up on cot prior to the battle of Mogadishu], so we wanted as little of their attention as possible. I was a squad leader this drill so I was doing my best to make sure we were squared away to keep as much of a low profile as possible. In the end, I think everybody was happy- the cadre got to release 12 months of pent-up hate on Class 57 and were more hands off with us than they've ever been allowing us to lead more of the weekend. We didn't get smoked once from first formation to final formation- that's a first.

I also got a "go" on my leadership evaluation- a critical part of passing Phase II. I can't tell you how much of a relief that is. It's the first one I've gotten in OCS and my evaluator didn't have a single negative comment to give me in my out-brief. It was a real confidence boost for me to see that the cadre think I'm finally tracking with this course at the level I need to be.

In addition to the leadership evaluation, I was promoted to "intermediate stage."  As I mentioned before, they are promoting individuals as they feel is necessary, not the class as a whole. Honestly, I'm not sure that plan is working out quite like they want it to. As a class, we feel like several of the candidates that have been promoted didn't deserve it so it's created a bit of a stigma for those that have it. Frankly, I don't really feel like I deserve it any more than a good majority of the class that doesn't have it yet. All part of the game, I guess.

Despite (or maybe in spite) of all this, we really have come together as a class- and to a larger extent it feels like a family. This is the biggest hurdle that we've made it over in the last year. It is a surprisingly difficult task that Class 55 didn't accomplish and took us a long time to accomplish. We all say we don't like OCS but what's more accurate is that OCS is a challenging, hostile environment but none of us would want to do it with anyone but the 32 other soldiers that keep coming back for more. Without a doubt, Class 56 will graduate a fine group of officers.

Ending on another high note, ever since Phase 0 a group of us driving back to the same part of Texas stop at Texas Roadhouse for dinner and to laugh about all that happened over the weekend. This time a table offered to buy a round for us- a genuinely kind offer that we would have gladly accepted had we not been in uniform. Then, as we were about to pay, the waitress handed us a folded up napkin that said "Thank you from all of us. USA" and let us know that our dinner was paid for by another table. Unfortunately, they had already left but it was humbling and a blessing to have that support from our fellow Americans.

So for the first time in my two years in the military, I'm starting to be treated more like a human being and in a few short months I'm more confident than ever that I'll have a gold bar on my chest.


  1. Thanks for the post! I've been waiting months to hear how you've been doing.

    1. Sorry again for the lag- I guess I figured no one wanted to hear about our adventures getting smoked and life in the classroom. Things are picking up and I'll have more to write about as we move into the field next month. Thanks for reading!

  2. As a member of class 57, much of what you have written has been helpful... even if it was our group that kept ya'll from getting smoked. ;)

    Keep it up; the blogs are appreciated. And any further tips/tricks/pointers and hints you feel like sharing are much appreciated.


    1. Hey Norton,

      Glad this is useful- I really wanted to be able to share what we've experienced for people like those of you in Class 57. Your experience will be unique but I'm sure it will help to have a somewhat reliable source of what's coming down the pipeline. I'd be glad to answer any questions y'all have. Tips and tricks though- you're on your own. I wouldn't want to steal the experience of needing to figure those out for yourself :)


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