Thank you to Lieutenant Schmuckatelli, a new Infantry Officer, who is sharing his journey through OCS and TBS with us.
The year is 2005.
As I’m getting ready to graduate high school and head off to college, I can’t help but notice that I’m not as excited as most of the people around me. I was 18 – what do I know about what i want to do for the rest of my life? School was never really my thing and 4 more years of college was more daunting than exciting.
I wanted more. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to be excited.
So as most people do I went to the local recruiting station that held offices for all the branches to see what they all had to offer.
The Army talked about enlistment bonuses and money for college – which if college appealed to me I wouldn’t have been there to begin with. The Air Force guys were still at lunch (you can’t make this stuff up…) and the Navy didn’t do it for me either for reasons I can’t remember looking back. From across the hall the well dressed, in shape, straight to the point Marine Corps recruiter brought me in. While the other branches spoke about the financial part – this recruiter had that famous Rose Garden poster on the wall and said if you were joining for the money the Marines weren’t for you. I remember being impressed thinking “hell yea, now THERE is a challenge.” The idea of being part of something you really had to earn, that not everyone could do, that had a degree of exclusivity was too much to ignore.
He had me hook line and sinker.
There was just one problem – my mother was a hardcore academic. PTO, School Committee, perfect attendance at all costs. NOT going to college was not an option. It didn’t help that my mom lived through the Vietnam era and saw how the military was treated and it gave her some very strong opinions. To keep a long story short – I opted to keep the lady with the checkbook happy and ultimately left for college in the fall.
Just like high school, I didn’t find it all that challenging or exciting. I seemingly just had to show up sober and knock out some “night-before” papers and I did alright. With 1 year left, I decided enough was enough and chose not to finish (the most immature decision I could have made for those keeping score). The draw I felt in the recruiter’s’ office those few years before started creeping back and my family reacted the same way as before. It was there that my mother compromised and asked that I at least look into becoming an officer instead of enlisting. Admittedly at the time I had no idea there was a difference.
I did my research, found an OSO in Massachusetts near my school and around 2009 started the process of applying OCS.
I crammed all of my remaining college courses into 2 semesters, with 6 major classes in each with only a couple of electives sprinkled in. However this time there was an end state. I had a purpose. It was my best year and pulled my GPA out of the hole and left me with a 3.08. I wouldn’t be becoming a doctor any time soon but it would have to do. I was also over an hour away from my OSO and throughout the year had to be in charge of my own PT. Spoiler alert: I didn’t do enough. I had been told time and time again how competitive OCS was but didn’t completely grasp the gravity of the situation.
So in 2010 I found myself with a degree, but rejected from the organization I had wanted to join for, by then, 5 years.
Like most of us, being told I wasn’t good enough for OCS or that I didn’t have what it takes didn’t sit well with me. However, UNLIKE most of us, I didn’t turn that rejection into a fire and I bounced from job to job for a few years being more and more miserable and unfulfilled at each one.
Fast forward now to 2015.
I’m 28, living with my fiancé in Southern California (pretty awesome) working a couple of dead-end jobs, working check-to-check with nothing to show for it (much less awesome). I found myself broke, with a seemingly useless degree, and no real marketable skills to speak of.
Predictably, enter Marine Corps
Only now, at 28 years old my back was against the wall…it was honestly now or never.
I called the office by UCLA and spoke with the OSO there about my history and situation. He told me to come in so we could talk more. When I arrived in the following days he has misplaced his notes of what I had told him but then wrote them all down again from memory – it reignited the feeling I felt back in 2005 that I had made the right choice. I went to MEPS and upon looking around at some of the personnel from other branches who even in their utilities were obviously not in the best shape, compared to the Marines in their “Charlies” looking lean and mean, I again knew I made the right choice. Everything went fine administratively and now it came down to the hurdle that kept me out the last time – physical fitness. I worked out at the office twice a week with the other candidates and worked out on my own 5-6 days a week.
(Side note: Everyone’s preparation philosophy is different, I focused on nutrition and joined a CrossFit gym. Some may agree or disagree, but having high intensity movements that are functional and always vary workout to workout helped me tremendously at OCS, TBS and IOC. It worked for me, everyone is different.)
Knowing this was my last shot at becoming a Marine I didn’t take anything for granted. I worked hard on my deficiencies. By the time my application went up for selection, I was posting 285-297 PFT scores.
Then in November of 2015, at 28 years old, I learned that I would be headed to Quantico, VA in January as part of OCC 221. Little did I know that it was the EASY part that was over and the real work hadn’t even started yet.