A Look into the Marine Corps Officer Training Program

by Brian Carhide

National Museum of the Marine Corps

The Few, The Proud, The Marines – have you ever thought about a chance to become one of “The Few”? If so, can you run 3 miles in 18 minutes, do 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes, and do 20 pull-ups, amongst other skills and knowledge needed? Those are the physical requirements to secure a slot at Officer Candidate School (OCS). Quantico, VA is the home to OCS, The Basic School, and The Marine University.

Marine HelicopterI always had a basic understanding of the Marine Corps motto, but recently I attended an educator’s workshop in Quantico and had the opportunity to experience, firsthand, the level of commitment and pride in becoming a Marine Corps Officer. The Marines are considered “The Few” because, in comparison to the Army and Air Force which typically have 1.7 million soldiers, The Marines are only 200,000. Over the next few years, the Marines will be reducing the force to 180,000, so even if you can meet the physical criteria, it still doesn’t guarantee an opportunity at OCS. However, if you are a current student or recent graduate and are interested in doing “something bigger than yourself” (as many of the Marines put it), becoming a Marine Officer is a viable option. The process begins with an Officer Selection Officer (OSO); the OSO acts as a mentor and assists you in navigating through the selection process in obtaining a slot at OCS. If you survive the grueling 10 weeks at OCS, you are commissioned as an Officer and move-on to The Basic School as a Second Lieutenant.

In Basic school you will learn what it takes to lead a platoon of Marines. During theIwo Jima educator’s workshop,  we were provided a small snippet of the training. At The Basic School, we were issued some field equipment and instructions for the day’s events. After some guidance in attaching the gear, an intelligence briefing was given regarding the afternoon tactical drill. We were then divided into our fire teams and squads and placed in a column formation.  The Lieutenants instructed us on the hand signals used in the field to communicate silently. At the completion of our training, we were off to the Landing Zone for an MRE lunch and the tactical drill.

Marine MuseumThe tactical drill: As we were traversing along a road through the woods in our column formation, a large explosion occurred, followed by screaming victims. The victims, now wounded by the explosion, were our missions’ dignitaries that we were supposed to approach and convince to return to the base and discuss why we (U.S. forces) were in their country.  After administering basic first aid, the squad leader decided on which 2 dignitaries we needed carry out because we only had 2 stretchers.  Of course, during the post brief, we discovered the Marines would never leave a man behind; they would have shouldered the third person out. Although the tactical drill was very basic in nature, it was designed to give us an idea of what a young Marine might go through when something goes wrong and the critical thinking a Marine is faced with during a mission.

The remainder of the workshop was not as intense (except for my first helicopterView from Helicopter ride on a CH 46E, one from the HMX-1 fleet), but none-the-less my interactions with the Marines and officer candidates were very interesting. It was impressive how respectful and professional the Marines were, two invaluable skills.

If you are someone who is considering joining the military as a career option and looking for a challenge, consider the Marines Corps Officer Program. From my experience in Quantico, the Marine Corps will provide you with many important life skills and a new level of pride.

MH 46e, one of the HMX-1 Fleet in Quantico, VA. Landing in a field.

Brian Carhide has more than 20 years of professional aviation experience. He spent many years as a professional pilot, including experience as a charter and airline pilot. Recently, he has been a leader in guiding young aviators in higher education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.   

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