Your OCS application has many components, but one of the most overlooked is the letters of recommendation. When the board looks at two candidates with roughly equal packages, the letters of recommendation can easily make the difference between acceptance and a rejection letter.
Consider a wide variety of people to write your letters of recommendation. The important thing to keep in mind is that the writers need to know you personally. It doesn’t matter if George Washington, Mother Theresa, and General Patton recommend you if they don’t really know you. That being said, extra weight is given to any of the following characteristics:
- Military service, especially high-ranking officers
- Those who have seen you in leadership roles
- Long-term relationships, who can attest to your growth
If a similar picture is painted by a variety of people who know you well, the positive testimony will be a strong and cohesive argument in your favor.
For content, a general recommended outline is as follows:
- Open with a specific recommendation for the individual and program
- Call out the most prominent character traits for success in the program
- Explain the personal relationship to give credibility to the praise
- If possible, tie the writer’s military experience and credibility to the candidate’s potential
- Close with a strong statement connecting the candidate’s character and leadership to the recommended program
An (Ideal) Example:
To the Application Board of OCC-234,
I am writing to recommend Chesty Leftwich for the OCC-234 class of Officer Candidates School.
In the four years that I have been his mentor, parish priest, and football coach, I have been impressed with Chesty’s integrity, leadership, academic success, and drive. He has proven himself to be an exceptional athlete, a valedictorian in his school, volunteer in his community, and a natural leader. I met Chesty when he was just a college freshman at State University, when he asked me to be a mentor for the non-profit start-up he funded, Social Justice Through Football. Since then, he has only grown in stature as an accomplished but humble young man.
From my 21-year career as a chaplain in the United States Navy, when I served for 15 years with Marine Corps units, I can honestly attest that Chesty has all the potential and motivation to be a great success as an officer. He has a sharp mind, a patriotic desire to serve, and a passion to lead with humility.
Although the University, his church, and teammates will be sad to see him go, I’m confident that the US Marine Corps will be better off with the commissioning of Chesty as a Second Lieutenant after OCC-234.
Father Patrick Flanagan
Captain, USN, Retired