I am an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. All views expressed in this blog are my personal views as an individual and not those of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Looking back and looking forward - part II

I'm back at Quantico and have some time before things kick off again tomorrow morning. When we last saw our hero, he was making it through week five and a runny nose. We gave him a tissue.

Anyway, in the second half of OCS, things got easier, and harder. The PT got harder, both objectively - more repetitions, harder runs, etc. - and subjectively, insofar as my body was slowly breaking down. The yelling gradually lessened, and though it never really went away, it was even less of a big deal than it had been at the beginning. The expectations rose, of course, and the leadership evaluations got harder - squad-sized groups instead of fireteam, more complex orders to receive and issue, etc.

But as we got through one event after another - the 9 mile hump, various field exercises, the night IMC - we got stronger, physically but more importantly mentally. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we had confidence in our ability to handle whatever was thrown at us.

Along the way, we lost lots of candidates - 50% in my platoon. We lost a rather large handful in week four, the first opportunity to drop on request. We lost some candidates who will make great Marine officers, including at least one who had already been a great enlisted Marine, but had the bad luck to get injured or sick. And we lost some candidates who the staff felt didn't have what it takes, at least right now. The last of these was dropped two days before graduation.

The last few days of OCS, I felt at times elated but mostly tired and relieved. Our very last event was a five-mile "moto run" which, believe it or not, was in fact a ton of fun. At the end the Col. jumped up on the PT table and lets just say he knows how to motivate Marines. That was probably the happiest moment at OCS for me aside from commissioning - I was sweaty and a little tired from the run but I felt great, pumped and proud to be part of that swarm of almost-Marines screaming OOH-RAH in response to the Col.

Friday, Dec. 12, we graduated from OCS in the morning and, after lunch with my parents, I headed to the museum, changed into my rank-less Alphas, and took the oath with the roughly 180 or so candidates of Delta Co. that remained from a starting company of about 360. Technically, that was the moment I became a Marine, but in my mind, it happened two nights earlier, when our platoon commander, a captain, handed each of us our first Eagle, Globe and Anchor, shook our hands and said "congratulations, Marine." Anyway, after the commissioning, my parents pinned me on, I stepped outside and received my first salute from my former instructors, and then I went straight to TBS to check in, without passing Go or collecting $200.

The next week consisted of long hours of in-processing, and that's what this coming week will be too - plus a PFT and Swim Qual. So wish me luck on those. Assuming I don't bomb those, the following week 299 Marines and I will start the 6 month POI (program of instruction) known as the BOC (Basic Officers Course). Around April or May, I'll find out my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty, or job) in the USMC. It's based on class rank at TBS, my ranking of preferences, and the needs of the Corps. On July 3, G-d willing, I'll graduate TBS and head off to my MOS schools. Depending on the school, that will take a few months, and from there it's off to the fleet. I'll be assigned a unit at a given location (e.g. Camp Lejune, Okinawa, Camp Pendelton, etc.) and that'll be home for the next few years - the place where I train and from which I deploy (probably to Afghanistan, from everything we're hearing). And I'll meet my first platoon - the Marines whose lives and livelihoods will be in my hands, the Marines whom I will command, but whose experience will far exceed my own. I can't wait.

So that's what the next year or so holds for me. TBS is physically and mentally demanding - we'll have various fitness tests, lots of exams (it's equal to 2.5 years of college crammed into 6 months), all kinds of field exercises, rifle and pistol qualification, etc. etc. etc. Dropping even a fraction of a percentage of your GPA can drop you tens of places in your class ranking, which not only impacts your MOS but will affect your promotion timing for the rest of your career.

But at the same time, we're treated like adults. Eating, sleeping, working out is up to us. The days will be long but at the end of each day we'll have liberty, just like you do in the civilian world when the workday is over. Most of our weekends will be ours. Of course, we'll have plenty of studying and working out to do in that free time, but it's still nice to have regular access to the world again.

I guess that's it. If you have any questions about OCS or TBS or anything else, don't hesitate to write or call me - I'm happy to answer them and I would love to hear from (and see) you! Especially those of you who don't live in the DC area - if you're ever around please let me know, and if you want I can even show you around the picturesque environs of MCB Quantico.

Semper Fi.