A Prior-Enlisted (and Prior Drill Instructor) OSO’s Advice for Candidates

First of all, I’d like to thank the Marine OCS Blog for allowing me the opportunity to share my story and for providing a platform for me to get this information out.

A couple of months ago as I reflected back on my career and thought about my rapidly approaching retirement date, I wanted to leave behind a tool that would assist those seeking information about the Marine Corps Officer Program and for those are currently going through the process.

As an Officer Selection Officer, I have had the privilege of interviewing many young men and women. I have also discovered that there is limited information about all aspects of the process (interview, waivers, selection board, medical, OCS, etc.). I figured since I have spent close to 10 years training and learning about the Officer Process, why not create a channel that talks about the OSO process, OCS, and anything in between. As a result, my team and I created a YouTube channel in the hopes that it will address most of the questions potential applicants may have. 

Can you briefly share your Marine Corps experiences so far? (this is where you can point out your unique combination of experience as a DI, OCS instructor and OSO)

Like I mentioned earlier, half of my 22 Marine Corps Career has been spent training and processing entry level candidates and Marines. I joined the Marine Corps in July 1996 as an Aviation Support Equipment technician. The first opportunity that I was given to mentor and train young men came in 2001 when I attended Drill Instructor School in Parris Island. I had the privilege of serving as a Drill Instructor and Senior Drill Instructor form 2001 to the end of 2004. After my tour on the Drill Field I returned to the operating forces. During the summer of 2006 and because I had the background of being a Drill Instructor, I had the unique opportunity to apply to be an Assistant Marine Officer (AMOI). The job of an AMOI is prepare young men and women who are part of a university’s NROTC unit, for OCS. As such, I spent four years training over 70 midshipmen for OCS. The unique part of that job is, that during the summer months all AMOI’s must serve as Sergeant Instructors at OCS. For the summer of 2007, 2008, and 2009, I served as a Sergeant Instructor for India and Golf companies.

In 2010, after having earned the rank of GySgt, I was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program. I attended Officer Candidates School in the fall of 2010 and commissioned in December. After TBS, I was assigned the MOS of Aviation Supply and received orders to my first duty station as an Officer. In 2014 I attended Expeditionary Warfare School and then received orders to serve as the Orange County Officer Selection Officer- a billet which I still hold to this day.

The 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shakes hands with Staff Sgt. Courtney Swinney, a recruiter assigned to Recruiting Sub Station Lakewood, CA, Jan 28, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell, Office of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps/Released)

Since you’re so uniquely qualified to speak to the challenges of OCS, what is the #1 piece of advice you would want to give someone on their first day at OCS?

If you are already at OCS I am making the assumption that you have already been selected by a competitive board and are either a college student or graduate. I wish I could give you the simple answer of study more, harder PT, sound off, whatever it is, but those are not the most important ingredients for success at OCS.

Here’s the deal: if you are at OCS, you have already demonstrated that you possess the minimal mental aptitude and physical fitness to succeed at OCS. Hundreds of thousands of candidates have gone to OCS with no academic preparation and low class PFT scores. While I am not telling you to fit into those categories and the more you prepare the easier OCS will be, I want to continue to emphasize that those are not the most important issues you should be focusing on.

The #1 piece of advice I will provide to you are two traits that you MUST have to succeed at OCS. Those are CONFIDENCE and TOUGHNESS!

At a certain point of OCS you will fail at something. OCS is designed to break down your confidence and evaluate you based off of your reaction. Believe it or not, this is the #1 reason as to why candidates fail. They cannot overcome this confidence issue and thus their performance heads in a downward spiral. Identify your deficiency, correct it, and keep going. The moment you start feeling sorry for yourself and start expecting sympathy, you will fail. While you may be thinking “this is not me” keep in mind that many others before you have said the same thing and are now civilians that never graduated OCS. Do not lose sight that many have completed OCS before you and many will do it after you.

In the sandbox

Also, you MUST be mentally and physically tough. Many of you right now training for OCS by pushing yourself physically and perhaps studying academics. Yes, this is very important but please keep this in mind. You cannot replicate the environment that OCS will place you in. You WILL get sick, homesick, sleep for 3-4 hours, not eat what you normally eat, be on your feet for 19 hour days- you get the point.

All of a sudden, those PT studs, those with high GPA who come from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, fail at PT and academics.

Why is that?

It is because they cannot overcome the mental fatigue and stress that OCS will place on you. Head into OCS expecting the worst and you will find out that it is really not that bad. If you expect it to be a walk in the park, you will get crushed. Simple as that.

On my most recent video for our YouTube channel, I speak about this in detail.

Backing up to exploration stage for an applicant, how might a college student today tell whether the Marines is right for them?

USMC Battle Up Commercial

Last year, the Marine Corps came out with a commercial called Battle Up. This commercial speaks about a “fighting spirit” that no one knows where it comes from. If as an individual, there is something that keeps telling you to choose the toughest path, you enjoy physical fitness and the pain the comes with it, you truly want to be something bigger than yourself and serve others, then perhaps the Marine Corps may be your best fit.

A good OSO will allow you to participate with them and observe the process before you decide if you want to be a Marine. We made a video titled “When to see your OSO” and in that video, I explain that OSO’s are not recruiters in the sense that they don’t try to sell you the OCS program. They should allow you to participate for as long as you need to before you make a decision. However, your first step, no matter how interested you are in the program, is to go see your OSO.

Also as a PLC candidate and before you commission you decide that being a Marine Officer is not your best fit, then you drop the program. Furthermore, if you are an OCC candidate, and you feel that this is not a good fit, then you can choose not to accept a commission. The Marine Corps commissioning programs are designed for this type of flexibility.

What are the top aspects an applicant should focus on during their college years, to put together a competitive application for the board?

In the following order, is my opinion for the most important aspects of an OCS application:

OSO’s write-up– Ask your OSO what his/her expectations are. Ask them for advice and even ask them what you need to do to be their #1 candidate. An OSO’s write-up can overcome low GPA’s, volunteer, etc. This is also where you would include any type of challenge you’ve faced in your life.

  • PFT– High PFT’s and OSO ranking go hand in hand. Right now, it is hard to be competitive unless you are running a 280+ PFT
  • Work History– What jobs have you worked at what type of responsibilities were you given?
  • Letters of recommendations– Let whomever is writing your recommendation to talk about your leadership traits. Look up “JJDIDTIEBUCKLE” to help you/them with this.
  • GPA, Volunteer Service, Academic Major, Advanced degrees, University attended, SAT/ACT/AFQT.

Also, when putting together your notes for the board, do not be humble. Put everything you can think of and let the OSO decide what will work best. Although it seems like a lot, excel on all of the above and you will earn a spot at OCS. We also made a video that speaks about this as well.

How do you advise your candidates to prepare for OCS, both physically and mentally?

I can get pretty deep with this and to be honest, these topics are the ones as an OSO we focus on the most. Every day you MUST do something uncomfortable. You need to get to the point where you operate a level that most people consider uncomfortable. If you think your PT is going great for OCS prep, then run with someone faster than you, lift with someone stronger than you, and you will soon find out that you could be doing much more.

In the words of Navy Seal, David Goggins: Do something that sucks everyday!

In my own personal OSO office, I have a group that wakes up everyday at 0400 to PT or study. Our PT sessions are tailored to weed those out that cannot overcome that physical or mental challenge.


I firmly believe that our way of training the mind is the reason why OSO Orange is graduating 10 for 10 from this last OCS class.

Thank you again for this opportunity. I can be contacted via our YouTube channel or at my email carlos.dubon{AT}marines.usmc.mil. I will always make myself available to answer all your questions.

Capt. Dubon, Carlos

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