Thank you to Candidate S for sharing her tips after attending OCS in 2019!
1.) Broken-in boots
Lightweight and comfy combat boots to wear on the everyday.
Not your O-course/endurance/stamina course boots.
Not your inspection boots.
Just good, comfortable, broken in boots (Bates Lites are a common choice). You should be able to walk, run, and drill in these, as you will wear them for a majority of your time during OCS. Make sure they are a bit roomy, as your feet will swell-sometimes immensely-throughout the day. Besides, wearing two pairs of socks is a good way to manage comfort and prevent blisters, so having your boots be slightly larger is beneficial.
Break them in on the stairmaster at the gym, during practice hikes, and even in the shower!]
Check out Bates Lites for yourself here.
Read more about our advice on boots in these posts.
2.) Kendall Covidien Waterproof Tape
A lifesaver. Do NOT fool yourself and think that the issued tape will be good enough to make labels. Or even any tape you buy on libo from Target, Walmart, etc. Those labels will turn brown, dirty, and fall off in a matter of seconds.
The only tape that will stay adhesive and keep your name looking sharp is Kendall Covidien Waterproof Tape.
If there is one piece of advice to take from this list- this is it. Writing your labels on Kendall Covidien Waterproof Tape will save you so much time and effort at OCS.
3.) Socks: both kinds (Boot and PT)
Bring plenty of extras, as these will get stolen easily in the laundry. Remember: coyote brown for boot socks and white for PT socks.
The Fox River Military Dry Wick Mid Calf Boot Socks are a perennial favorite, especially for summer OCS.
4.) Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Top-Spiral Notebook, pens, and notebook cover
These notebooks will come in handy for everything: notes in class, studying, writing chits and drafting essays, taking field notes, 5 Paragraph Orders, mini calendars to track your days at OCS, etc. The material will allow you to write in any weather, and won’t run or bleed when wet (which will happen). The paper will only work with Rite in the Rain pens, so buying one or two packages is necessary. The notebook cover is also a must, and allows you to keep everything you need for class and the field in one easily accessible place that you can just grab in the morning and go. You can hold not only notebooks in it to keep them organized and neat, but also pens and pencils, index cards, cough drops, photos of family, etc. My notebook cover was the closest thing I had to a personal item. I kept notes, bible verses, prayer cards- it felt like the only thing at OCS that was absolutely under my control and I cherished that sentiment wholeheartedly.
5.) Boot Bands
These will also get lost. They’re cheap in bulk, so it’s recommended to bring extras. By the time you make the rank of Captain in four years, it’s estimated you will use up 277 individual boot bands.
6.) Index Cards
The key to studying at OCS. You may be too tired to focus during lectures, so simply reviewing your material at the end of the day may not be enough. Writing index cards forces you to review the material completely, and also creates an interactive way to study. I didn’t start passing tests until I made index cards, and I know a lot of girls in my platoon felt the same
7.) Plastic Baggies
Organizing your gear! Keeping accountability of gear is a huge part of OCS. You will frequently dump your gear, have inspections, and switch racks/lockers. This means you need to constantly have full accountability of your belongings, especially the tiny stuff. Putting it all in plastic baggies with your name on it helps makes accountability a lot easier, and keeping plenty of extras will make you a platoon favorite
8.) Office supplies (bring extras!)
Pens and pencils: black ink only
Sharpie: labeling. Bring both regular size and extra large sharpie for different types of labeling
Highlighter: easier/quicker to highlight in class than write notes the whole time, and makes going back to study a lot easier
Tape: for laminating papers to make them multipurpose or more durable (use this to laminate a 5 paragraph order!)
6 inch ruler: wrap tape around this and use it to make labels. You can keep dozens of labels at the ready this way
Manila folders: use these to cut out stencils for labeling
9.) Waterproof wrist watch
Durable, yet not expensive or valuable, wrist watch (or Timepiece as it will be called at OCS). You will only be able to use it as a billet holder and on libo, but it is something you will want to have. This one is under $10 on Amazon, and has lasted me over a year already:
10.) Family photos, notes, letters, religious sentiments, etc
These small tokens just make you feel at home and make OCS a bit more tolerable. Don’t overdo it, but keeping something small to keep home close will help with your morale. These little pieces of reality are what will keep you sane on some of the hardest days, and their value cannot be underestimated! One recommendation is to write a letter to yourself and have your family send it to you halfway through OCS. This will help you remember your why and keep your motivation up when things are getting really tough. Hearing your own voice encouraging you is different than hearing it from someone else, even a loved one.
Set of dress clothes: comfortable and modest. Include belt. Should/will probably be approved by your OSO.
Pair of running shoes: Go-Fasters as they will often be called at OCS. Shop around for good quality shoes, try to purchase ones made for long distance running, like for Cross-Country. Make sure you buy new shoes before OCS, as you do not want to use the same ones you are putting lots of miles on while training before ship. However, make sure to break them in a few weeks beforehand so they are not uncomfortable
Hygiene items: shower soap (travel sized), toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair gel, nail clippers, mouthwash, chapstick
Map pens: not only writing on maps, but also for writing on laminated papers such as 5 Paragraph Order
Moleskin: will also be provided, but extra is never a bad idea
Undergarments: ladies- sports bras only, no regular bras
Plain PT gear for sleeping in before gear-issue