Thanks to Candidate Tanner for sharing his perspective!
A question I’ve asked and addressed several times is the idea of how different of an OCS experience will I have as a tall, skinny candidate. I am just shy of 6’2” and weigh 145 pounds soaking wet, and I graduated PLC Juniors this past summer, with Seniors approaching this summer, so that’s the perspective I am speaking from.
- First of all, being skinny will have many advantages over your shorter or heavier set counterparts. Most notably, obstacles and elements that require agility can be significantly easier for you, as you will reach things easier, and generally be moving less body weight around. I did extremely well on these events with little difficulty, and actually rather enjoyed them.
- Second, and this one is summer specific, but you will ventilate heat MUCH better than heavier set candidates, because you don’t have any insulation to hold it all in. I often was the only person in my platoon taking off uniforms that weren’t sweat soaked at the end of the day. This doesn’t minimize the need to hydrate heavily though! One side benefit, is you will be a very desirable candidate to be carried during the CFT.
Now, all these advantages aside, there are many downsides to being tall and skinny at OCS.
- First, is the cold, which you will be much more vulnerable to than other candidates. Even during summer OCS sessions I sometimes found myself shivering slightly prior to morning PT.
- Second, If you haven’t trained properly, humps can be extremely difficult! Your center of gravity is higher, more easily affected by weight and your body isn’t as used to carrying weight as heavier set candidates, these can be a killer if you aren’t prepared! In regards to weight, it is not uncommon for people without a lot of upper body muscle to flounder on strength based events, rather than agility based. This can be seen in me, as I failed my first attempt at the Combat Fitness Test, because I didn’t push hard enough during ammo can lifts. I passed the re-test, but almost saw a Battalion board (meeting with the Colonel in charge of OCS) because of this failure.
- Additionally, being tall can single you out in the squad bay, especially if you have an ABC or XYZ last name. This puts you right next to the duty hut, where the staff enter the squad bay. Anything about you that stands out will only be magnified as you get closer to the duty hut.
Now, none of these advantages can be made use of without solid training to prepare yourself! Being tall gives you a predisposition to do well on many agility based events, but you will still be out-performed by all your peers if you don’t train.
- First and foremost, get used to running and moving through courses with weight on you. Initially, simply running in boots and utes is great, as it breaks in a pair of boots that you can bring with you, and allows you to get your body used to running with more resistance than it is used to.
- Second, go hump! Even if you don’t have hills and trails to march through and go on runs in, just put weight on your back, boots on your feet, and go walk.
- Lastly, do activities that build the kind of strength and agility you need, I am a huge fan of rock climbing. It builds forearm and finger strength, and builds a sense of confidence in how you move your body that will make flying over an obstacle course flow a lot more naturally. Obviously, if you have an actual O-Course to run, go use that!
Advice for Everyone
The rest of my advice about OCS applies to more than just the tall and skinny demographic, these are things that anyone can apply to make OCS a better experience!
First, the absolute most important thing, is to always force yourself to have a positive state of mind! Do this however you can, but find some enjoyment, some excitement for what you are doing, even if it is just one thing other than chow. “Embrace the suck” is a term that is thrown around a lot, but it’s true, the dirtiest, nastiest, hardest and most painful experiences are the ones that you are learning the most and getting the best training in, so take it in stride and do your best to help and encourage those around you. The only thing more infectious than the Candidate Crud, is a bad attitude.
Second, roll with the punches, and not just those from your staff. Candidates will screw up, everyone will have a bad day, some will have a lot of bad days. They get enough attention from the staff, what they need from fellow candidates is assistance and training, not to be berated further. Once you make it to OCS, you are a team and there to help each other succeed.
Third, be mentally prepared for the fact that everything you do will be wrong for a long time, and there is zero tolerance for failure. Even if what you are doing is right, then you will get in trouble for not helping the people around you who are wrong. This doesn’t mean every failure will get you thrown out, but you and your platoon will be “corrected” for absolutely every discrepancy they catch at OCS. If you are ready for that, you can handle the games they play.
So to sum up, train hard for what you know will be your weakness, preferably with a friend, be ready to work hard and have thick skin, and above all, be excited for what you’re going to do! Never forget that we’re joining the baddest fraternity on the planet, and it just gets cooler from here. We can put up with a lot of crap for the chance to look back some day and say we completed this.