How I Succeeded at OCS as a Female JAG Candidate

The female attrition rate at OCS is higher than the males. Let me just lay that out there to start. In addition, PLC Law candidates are a very small number.

My platoon started with 68 candidates, we graduated 36, and we had a higher success rate than normal.

Of the 68 in my platoon, 5 of us were PLC Law and 3 of us made it. One of them was a prior reservist, one had previously been to OCS and was back for a second time, and then there was me. Of the two that were dropped, one dropped on request and one was dropped due to injury.

Those are all just statistics, and every platoon is different, but that was my experience. Making it through OCS successfully on the first try is not unheard of, it’s completely normal, but you will have to work hard both before OCS and while you are there.

Let me briefly explain my path and then get into the nitty-gritty. I was a three-sport high school athlete and played collegiate tennis. Coming to law school, I typically worked out a few times a week but nothing that dedicated.

Once I decided to go to OCS that became a daily, often twice-daily routine. When I started my run time was a 34-minute three-mile, 0 pull-ups, and about 65 crunches. Upon shipping, ten months later, it was a 23:30 three-mile, 11 pull-ups, and 115 crunches.

Training is hard, but “like anything else, if it’s important to you, you make the time for it.”

There are two stages of OCS: the preparation, and then actually doing it.

The hardest part of the prep for OCS was finding the time to do it.

I was a 1L, which in itself is a lot. Law school is more demanding than undergrad; the hours you spend sitting down pouring over books is enormous. But it’s just like anything else, if it’s important to you, you make the time for it.

I would workout at 06:00 every morning, go to class during the day, at 17:30 kick a second workout then come home and do readings and study till I went to sleep and did it all over again. Other candidates at OCS are college athletes, doing workouts with their teams, prior Marines who are already up to standards, some just have more time than the average law student. So you are at a disadvantage, but that does not mean you cannot overcome it. I would take breaks from studying by doing pullups, squats, pushups, abs, etc. Take advantage of every opportunity you get to stop just sitting hunched over a table reading and do something physical.

Female JAG candidates get treated the same at OCS as everyone else

            In addition, you need to study for OCS before you go. I’ll be the first to admit, I should have studied more before going. I found myself constantly competing for study time because if I was OCS studying I felt like I was falling behind at law school and vis versa. I kept telling myself I would have time between the end of 1L and shipping to OCS, but after taking all of my finals I found that I had less time than I expected I would to study for OCS. Make it a priority to study OCS material in advance, even if it means taking time away from law school classes. You will thank yourself later for this when you get to sleep more at OCS instead of staying up to study. (Read our post Academics vs Sleep: The Math)

Take Hike Preparation Seriously

Finally, as a female candidate, you have to practice the hikes. As a shorter female, I knew the hikes would be challenging for me. You can follow a hiking program or hike with your OSO office as I did. Just DO NOT let the first day hiking be at OCS. The pace is fast and the weight is heavy so work yourself up to that. Again, it’s about making the time to do it, I often found that Saturdays were when I would go. Normal law students, typically drive to class then walk into the building and you are there most of the day, they are not putting 10+ miles on their feet every day. Make an effort to get your body used to that in any way that you can prior to attending OCS. That may be taking breaks to go do short one mile runs or even studying flashcards while pacing around your apartment in your boots.

The work is easier if you’re not doing it alone

Learn to Follow Orders as a Female JAG Candidate

At OCS, you will face the same challenges any other candidate faces. There are some additional times it will be harder as a law student and sometimes it will be easier. I know that the PLC Law candidates in my platoon that dropped did not have the right mindset. I struggled with this myself at times. As law students, we are taught to question everything and know the why. I had to throw that completely to the side at OCS. OCS is a time to just trust the process, the instructors there want to see if you can lead Marines and everything they are doing there is to determine that. Asking why, is going to single you out quickly, and not in a positive manner. Just because you’re a law student does not mean you will make a better leader than the next candidate, remember that.

Marine First, Everything Else Second

Secondly, as a female JAG, they are not a lot of you so learn to help each other out. I became close with both of them in my platoon that made it. The thing that the three of us had in common was that we all knew we were there to be Marines, not attorneys. We had to earn the title the same way everyone else did, and we loved that. Keep your mindset on the goal, the goal is to be a Marine, period. The goal isn’t to get the best test grades or to study more than another candidate, or to network, you are there to earn it. This is a vast differential from law school but it’s doable. Law school ranks you based on your peers, OCS is not like that. If you have an every man for himself mindset there, you will not make it. Thousands have done it successfully before you and thousands will do it after you.

You Do Have Some Advantages

Finally, a positive aspect of being PLC Law is that you typically do have better study habits, you are used to less sleep and demanding readings. I was one of the knowledge candidates in my platoon and I often would help others study. Since you are used to that, the aspect of the exams is a bit easier than others. Use that time, however, to aid the other ladies in your platoon because you want them to be successful as well.

successful female JAG candidates celebrate passing OCS
Sweet success

The Few, the Proud: the Female Law Candidates

One last note, being a female at OCS is something to be proud of whether you’re a female JAG or not. Every candidate I graduated with earned it just like I did. My instructors were well known as being the toughest, even the male platoons made comments about it, but we respected them for it. Other platoons respected us for it and I think it did impact everyone from my platoon. Females have challenges males do not typically have to deal with, like our hair or our hip strength, but just remember why you are there and that you want to be a Marine. However, in order to do so, you must earn it, good luck.

Thank you to Lt B for your guest contribution!

Recommended follow-up reading from another successful Female JAG candidate:

Advice from a Female Marine Judge Advocate: Succeeding at OCS

Push yourself hard before OCS to give yourself a physical and mental edge

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