Thank you, Candidate, for sharing a detailed and instructive summary of your experience at “Mini OCS” at Parris Island.
Most of you candidates have been to or at least heard of “Mini-OCS.” This article is mainly for those who haven’t been, have yet to go, or need a reason to finally call the OSO in their area (if they haven’t for whatever reason). Mini-OCS is a weekend trip to Parris Island where they give you a taste of OCS infused with a little bit of boot camp.
Day 1: Introduction to the Chaos
As soon as we got on the land bridge leading to Parris Island, we were told to put our heads in our laps. I don’t know if that was an iconic thing that recruits do, an opportunity to pray, or just a mindfuck, but we just did it because we were told to do so. We arrived, got in the gate, and made it to the unloading zone and waited and waited and waited some more. We waited for about an hour with our heads down, which leads me to believe it was a mindfuck more than anything else. We finally broke our bows by the growling voice of our Drill Instructors, who immediately instructed us to get off the bus and join the commotion. Candidates running everywhere, desperately trying to locate the platoon they were assigned, and lots and lots of yelling. (This was my first time experiencing that kind of thing, so it was a little shock at first, but it soon became normal for me.)
After the commotion settles, we file into a large classroom and get addressed by Brigadier General Reynolds. This woman is awesome and very inspiring. The words she spoke to us are still in my mind and gave me a whole new perspective on becoming an officer. She made it very clear that we don’t matter. We do, but we don’t. The enlisted guys are experts in everything they do. Those are the guys that make everything happen. Your job is to give them guidance and to organize what they do. She iterated and reiterated that these are the children of America, with parents sending off their children at 18, scared shitless about what they might encounter while in the Marine Corps. They aren’t there for us; we are there for them. Anything and everything we do should be about the enlisted guys and girls we’re leading, not the other way around, and that it all goes back to selfless service. Her words were very inspiring.
After that we were issued gear. My platoon was the one that unloaded the sacks (probably 250 of them) off of the trailer. Just your standard pack with a war belt, canteens, sleeping system, and kevlar helmet. We proceeded to the hooch to stage our gear and unload the sleeping system for later. Then we grabbed our MREs and ate. For those of you who are scared to eat MREs, they’re surprisingly not bad, although I’m sure that guys that eat them all day every day get sick of them.
After more commotion and everything, we finally get addressed by a Lieutenant who is our Platoon Commander. We kick knowledge with him for a little bit and get to sleep around 2200. People will pull firewatch; I was lucky enough to not get picked for it both nights, although I was kind of looking forward to it.
Wake up was at 0500, but our Platoon Guide was active duty enlisted, so he was on top of everything and had us up at 0400 so we could hygiene, stage our gear for the day, and take care of whatever we needed to so the DI’s couldn’t come in at 0500 and screw with us. In the spare time we kicked knowledge.
We marched down in formation to the o-course, where we got instructed by a Corporal (a lot of instructors there were Corporals) on formations. We broke into fireteams and ran a little course where we called out different formations on a patrol, and then we went through an IED course. The Corporal instructing the IED course had been to combat and knew a lot, and was generally just a hard motherfucker.
After that, we were instructed on how to properly execute the o-course. I only ran it 4 times, but some candidates did it 7. The o-course looks easy enough, but trust me, it will kill you if you’re not prepared. After that we got our gear and marched a mile or so to some bleachers where we were addressed by two Colonels; one who runs OCS and the other who runs TBS. They were nice guys and it was a nice, conversational environment where they ran through leadership and what’s expected of us at OCS and if we make it, TBS. They answered any and all questions, and it took us a little over an hour to get done with everything there.
Then we marched about 2 miles over to the land navigation course. We chowed quickly and then waited for instruction. The Corporal gave us a crash course on land navigation, and we split into fireteams with our compasses and a map. The land navigation course was easy enough, and a nice change of pace since we were allowed to work with other candidates and not get yelled at.
After we completed land navigation, we headed over to the LRC (Leadership Reaction Course). For those of you who don’t know, the LRC is a series of seemingly impossible puzzles/obstacles that test how well you can receive and disseminate the 5 paragraph order, lead in the face of failure and stress, and take criticism. We were split into fireteams and did 4 different courses so everyone had the chance to be a fireteam leader.
Next, we headed back to the hooches, where we went to an “MOS Mixer.” Basically a group of officers (mainly Captains, like your OSO) get in a room and give you their backgrounds and let you ask them questions about certain MOS’s and what officer life is like. Again, nice change of pace.
After that we chowed and got addressed by our Platoon Commander again and completed a knowledge test and peer evaluations. They handed out Dri-Fit Marine Corps PT shirts (Navy blue, Marines/EGA on left breast, “Marines/EGA/The Few. The Proud.” on back) and beanies. Then we got assignments for firewatch and went to sleep.
We woke up and did our PFTs. The PFT scores for most sucked because we weren’t used to running them in the condition we were in after the day before. After that we were given an hour to get ready for inspection. We got inspected by Lieutenants, who ask you where you’re from, what school you go to, general knowledge and things like that. Then we got addressed by the staff and congratulated, and awards were given to the stellar candidates there. After that we went to the exchange to shop quickly and then headed home.
Things you should get out of Mini-OCS:
Knowledge: The amount of knowledge there is unbelievable for some. Take in every single bit of it.
Perspective: Perspective on everything. I realized how stiff the competition is, and that my training needed to be kicked up a few notches. You’ll learn what things to train for. Before I was only training for the PFT, but you need much more than pullups, crunches, and a run in sneakers to be ready for this.
Also, perspective on why you want to become a Marine Officer. The Brigadier General’s words stuck with me all weekend and still do.
Next, perspective on OCS. While I was there I hated it. I kept wondering why I had even signed up to go when I could be lounging around my apartment. I didn’t know why we were doing anything we were doing there. But looking back, I feel very accomplished. This will help you handle real OCS better. Instead of wondering why you’re there, you’ll realize that everything has a purpose and that once you get to the end, the prize is worth it. I know that 48 hours is nothing compared to real OCS, but it was still a good feeling.
Finally, perspective on enlisted Marines. 48 hours there sucked enough. Imagine 13 weeks of it. You’ll have a lot more respect for enlisted guys and what they do to get where they are.
A lot of candidates have dropped or will drop soon. They find out it isn’t for them and not at all what they thought it’d be like. Which is fine. Better they leave now then take your spot at OCS only to find it out then, right?
I haven’t been to OCS, and while I haven’t been selected yet, this weekend gave me invaluable tools for when I eventually do go. Mainly, just the perspective on why you’re there. You may not realize it, but everything has a purpose. It sucks while you’re there, but it’s to make you the fiercest warrior on the planet. Like they say, pain is temporary, pride is forever.
Recommendation: Go to Mini OCS!
If you are currently a candidate and haven’t gone, ask your OSO about it immediately. I’m in the southeast region, so we all went to Parris Island. I know West Coast does it at Pendleton, and I think I heard something about another region just meeting at a camp site and having it all run without DI’s. Either way, it’s a valuable experience. If you’re not officially a candidate yet, call your OSO and get in the program immediately. Prove you want to be there and get yourself to Mini-OCS, and eventually OCS and TBS. Waiting will only hurt you in the long run.