Thanks to Candidate X who recently graduated PLC – Jrs and is willing to share his advice with future candidates!
For many future Candidates in the Platoon Leaders Class – Juniors program, this is your first experience in a military setting. Let me tell you right now, it will be an overwhelming six weeks. It will be difficult; it will break you off; you will be stressed; you will be tired and hungry; you will want to quit. But, with a little bit of proper motivation you will get through it.
Throughout my six weeks of yelling, sweating, cursing, and bleeding, I found some basic takeaway points that will make your experience at Officer Candidates School more rewarding and will help you be more successful.
First off, be committed. You will find a lot of candidates who aren’t committed to the PLC program. They don’t fully understand what this training course is for and they only came because they thought it’d be cool. Some are just there to fill spots on their “Experience” section of their résumé or to collect a paycheck. If there is only one thing you take away from this post, it is to be committed.
You only get one real shot at everything at Quantico. Unless you fail something, your first time going through an event is your only time. That being said, you need to give your all on everything that you do. A lot of Candidates don’t put out on all of the events due to their uncomfortableness or being unconfident because they are out of their comfort zone. You need to find a way to push that sense of uneasiness aside and go through the event with 100% effort. Trust me, no matter what the event, you will not be disappointed if you give it everything you have both physically and mentally. Of all the events I completed, the ones I put out most on gave me the highest feeling of satisfaction and pride, regardless of how I did on it.
Attitude is Everything
Secondly, attitude is literally everything. Have a good attitude, no matter what. I’ll let you know right now, things are going to suck and it’s not going to be fun. Everyone hates early morning fartleks or low-crawling through the dirty disgusting waters of Quantico. Just embrace the suck and stay positive about it. If you have a bad attitude, you will be packed up on a plane headed home before you know it. The more positive you stay, the better off you will be. If you fail an event or an exam, shake it off. You will be fine. The best thing to do is let it go and don’t let it happen again. OCS is a fast-paced environment, and if you get caught up on things that already happened, you will be in for a rough time. The same goes for things that are out of your control. Maybe it’s the rain or mud or heat, or maybe it’s route-stepping from Yeckel Hall to Skinner Hall and back to Yeckel for no apparent reason. Whatever the case, suck it up and deal with it. You cannot control what higher has planned, and complaining about it won’t make it any better.
Finally, hold on to your common sense. Of the Marines on Iwo Jima, Admiral Nimitz said, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” At OCS, common sense is an uncommon virtue. You will have Candidates from Ivy League schools who forget which arm is left and which arm is right once they step foot on to Brown Field. The Sergeant Instructors do a great job at creating chaos, and it is pretty easy to lose your stuff, but keep your head on a swivel. The easiest way to do this is by taking a “tactical pause”. Whenever things start to hit the fan and you have Sergeant Instructors or whoever shouting orders at you or yelling at you for reports, just calm down for a second and take a breath. Collect your thoughts and think about what you’re going to say. You might get chewed out for taking these couple extra seconds to think, but delivering a semi thought-through plan is better than shouting nonsense. Tactical pauses ultimately help you develop a more-functional OODA-Loop and can be your main source of success at OCS. Remember, you are training to be Officers. The Marine Corps is paying you to think, not to be mindless drones.
If you keep these points in mind as you battle your way through PLC-Juniors, I am confident that you will be successful. Take OCS one day at a time. Live chow to chow. Always do one more for Chesty. Be confident and give them hell. Semper Fi.