Top 4 OCS Tips from a Marine Lieutenant

Greetings Candidates! My name is 2nd Lt Speyer and I’m here to offer my two cents on the matter of preparing for OCS. For some context: I just graduated with OCC 231 in August of 2019 and am currently finishing up at TBS. I am not a “prior”, nor was I in the program long before being selected. Everything I learned about OCS was either through my OSO, or through the marineocsblog videos (our YouTube, our Instagram). I was an older candidate (30) and already had two boys and a wife when I left. All this to say, you are not alone in feeling anxious and nervous about how you will stack up should you be selected to go.

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I also want to start off by disclaiming that there are no “magic words” or “secrets” that I, or anyone else, can relay to you in order to make you successful. Whether PLC or OCC, the system is designed for the specific purpose of meeting you at your best, and then expecting more. Failure is not an option at OCS; it is an expectation.

            Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me pass along some (hopefully) helpful tools and mindsets which you can be sure will help you approach OCS with the correct mentality.

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  1. Never Surrender. This one was big for me. I was never the fastest, strongest, or smartest; and there were numerous times when it seemed appropriate to quit, to go home, to get out of the way, to accept that I didn’t have enough heart. In those moments, no screaming Sergeant Instructor or encouraging fellow candidate could pull me out of my self-misery. The only thing that pushed me through was the albeit cliché question: “But are you dead?” So when those moments come when one more burpee seems like the breaking point, ask yourself: “But will I die?” (The answer is no)
  2. You Are Not Alone. Other than being a touching MJ song, this is an important fact to remember: There have been countless candidates who have come before you and succeeded, there are numerous candidates among you doing it now, and there will be countless candidates who will succeed when you are done.
  3. Time. Time. Time. It did not matter who you were or where you came from, all candidates struggled to balance sleep with the necessity of studying and prepping for the next day. Work on your ability to saturate short periods of time with intensive focus. If you want an “edge” on some of the other candidates, practice being super-efficient with your transitions. Do things like time yourself getting into the shower, shaving (for males), getting fully dressed, and out the door with what you need. If you can refine the skill of being efficient under tight time constraints, you will avoid much heartache and friction at OCS. Also, see my list at the end of this article where I will list some important subjects to study. If you know them before you go, you won’t have to use up as much sleep time learning them when they’re tested.
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4. Lastly, Find a WHY. It is very easy while at OCS to get tunnel vision. When you have a 6-mile hike at 0400 in the morning, and 4 hours left to sleep AND get your pack ready, you are going to wonder why you signed up for this. Have a clear, personal, and extremely motivating reason for why you are becoming one of the few men and women who LEAD Marines. Doesn’t matter if you write it down and read it out loud, memorize it, tattoo it on your stomach (tell your OSO), just remember it; and let it drive you.

Just remember, there’s always “more to say” about OCS… and though you may watch every live video and blog post before you go, no one article is going to make you an expert. But by doing your research and doing your due diligence now, you are ALREADY TAKING AN IMPORTANT STEP to succeeding at OCS. I wish any of you reading this the best of luck! Feel free to DM me any clarifying questions or just general questions you might have about OCS. As promised, here is a non-exhaustive list of some key subjects you can study up on before leaving:

  • 11 General Orders
  • 14 Leadership Traits
  • 11 Leadership Principles
  • The M16A4 Service Rifle
  • Weapon Safety Rules
  • Weapons Conditions
  • OSMEAC 5-paragraph order skeleton
  • Marine Corps History (Major battles and key figures)
  • Marine Corps Uniforms

See resources on OCS academics on the blog here.

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