Thanks to Lt. W for her insight into OCS as a female Judge Advocate candidate. Candidates, learn as much as you can before you go to OCS!
OCS is a life changing challenge.
It is hard for everyone! However, there are some challenges that are specific to female candidates. Hair is a lot more complicated at OCS! You won’t have a lot of time, and the standards are insanely strict. When the Sergeant Instructors told me that I had to wear it in a bun without any hair ties or bobby pins showing, I thought they were crazy. Not only did I have to hide any sign that my hair was not naturally held in a bun, but it had to stay in place after crawling through the mud. Hair will be a problem the entire time you are at OCS. My advice would be to practice doing it correctly and quickly, so you do not spend too much time doing it in the morning and you can get more sleep. Got2bglued Styling gel is a must have for OCS. Every girl in my platoon used it to keep her hair from falling out.
Everyday hygiene can be more difficult for females as well. Thankfully, we were able to shower almost every night (unless we were in the field). Due to the time restraints after morning PT, I found it easier to use baby wipes, rather than showering like the other girls. Whether you decide to shower or use baby wipes, baby wipes will be essential for the nights when you are out in the field. You will feel much better at night after changing your sports bra, underwear and shirt after you have wiped down with a baby wipe. During the times when you are in the field, I would also make sure to bring cotton underwear and compression shorts. Cotton underwear will help to prevent UTIs and the compression shorts help you from chafing. When you are unable to clean properly, these issues are a lot more likely. There were a lot of girls walking around like cowboys because they had such bad chaffing that they could not let their legs touch.
Try Your Best at All Times
Regarding PT, try your best at all time! Make sure you are at your top physical shape before you go. OCS will be challenging no matter what but the better physical shape you are in the better your entire experience will be. Remember the faster you run, the harder it is for them to yell at you. I think the most important thing for female candidates to do is to work on upper body strength and pull-ups. Due to the types of physical training you do at OCS, you will lose a lot of that strength, so you need to have a good starting point. Work on maxing out your pull-ups. Pull-ups are essential for OCS.
Sleep is the biggest challenge female candidates face which the guys will have a lot easier. The male platoons keep their numbers much higher than the female platoons, so they do not have to do fire watch (position where you watch over the platoon at night) as often. The males will have fire watch once a week, while the female platoons may end up having fire watch every other night and, in the end, every night.
Advice for Judge Advocate Candidates
The Judge Advocate candidates negatively spotlight themselves by trying to act like law students at OCS. Do not try to understand the rules, do not try to analyze the rules, and do not try to argue your interpretation on the rules. The culture of OCS is nothing like law school. Remember learning how to sit for hours straight reading case after case? At OCS, you will be standing for hours with the sun beating down on you. This is not the place of, “It depends…” or people who live in the law library. There is always one answer here and no one cares about your interpretation. Judge advocate candidates learn the lesson to keep our mouths shut a little slower than everyone else. Our personalities are a little different and everyone can tell.
It’s Their Game and Their Rules
One of my worst moments at OCS was when I tried to argue how I did not break the rule. I was called to the front of the squad bay and yelled at for five minutes straight with spit firing at my face. You are not there to interpret rules. Even if you know you are correct, you need to accept the interpretation of your superiors. Your life will be much easier if you fall in line. (This is obviously only advice for being a candidate and should not apply to being a Judge Advocate.) The hardest challenge at OCS is changing your mindset from a law student to a candidate.
In retrospect, I wish I would have known how much I would value letters from home. A lot of the biggest challenges at OCS you cannot prepare for. You can never prepare for being tired, hungry, and having someone yell in your face. It is something that sucks every time and you just have to push through. But letters from home will remind you of good things and help you escape for moments of happiness. Encourage your family and friends to write you funny jokes or just tell you about how fun summer can be elsewhere. I wish I had realized this earlier in the cycle. The letters made my time much easier.
I think my best piece of advice would be to enjoy your time and know that everything that goes on is supposed to happen. You are not going to get out of things. You have to fail, you have to be tired, you have to get yelled at, and you have to manage under stress. Everything that is happening is to make you better.
Female Candidates, what questions do you have about OCS?