Thank you to OCC 235 Graduate X for sharing an update on what to expect during the times of Covid
Obviously COVID has affected nearly every facet of life for every organization globally. This includes the Marine Corps. But here’s some free motivation for you soon to be candidates and newly minted Marine Officers: The Marine Corps adapts, thus it’s still making Marines and leaders of Marines. I commend you for joining an organization that does this when so many others have allowed the times to cripple their success. So let’s start at the beginning.
ROM – Restriction of Motion
You’ll do this before hitting Brown Field. In summary it’s a 2 week quarantine in barracks on main side MCB Quantico. These facilities are utilized in order to isolate possible breakouts of COVID. Every candidate is put in their respective company and platoon and then separated into rooms of 2. I say this because the people you are rooming next to/rooming with will likely be in your OCS platoon. Take advantage of this and be engaging when you can. Building relationships before everything starts is a massive advantage to the dynamic of the platoon once you pick up at Brown Field.
In my cycle we had 2 PT days the entire 14 day ROM. This is more to introduce you to the scheme of maneuver, PT formation, and ditties you’ll yell with your Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) when you get to OCS. Other than that you are in your room just about all day/night except for chow (in which case you will more than likely be handed boxed chow and told to go directly back to your rooms) and medical in processing. SO bring things to PT with in your room. You’ll run a PFT the first week you are on Brown Field and you want to stay in shape for the rest of the period of instruction at OCS. I had a door hung pullup bar, a few resistance bands, and a jump rope. Daily PT with these did the trick for me.
On deck time is usually at 0530 which is comprised of standing outside your rooms in your appropriate civilian attire (please let this look die with OCS) while the corpsman takes everyone’s temperatures. This process is repeated again every evening before lights at 2100. As mentioned before, you’ll exit your room for chow pick up 3 times a day.
Yep they give you gear during this time. It’s not the military issued stuff but is things like scissors, sharpies, camp stool, duct tape, ruler, laundry bag, pens, pencils, white socks. A lot of the things I didn’t expect to get at all and brought from home. So, ensure you have a little room in your civilian bags to store this new issued gear, as you will have to move with all your belongings from your ROM barracks to brown field. Try to be streamline and efficient with this “packing, unpacking, then packing again with more stuff” process.
A plethora of time
You have a lot of time on your hands so I would recommend being productive with it. You’ll be given online classes and quizzes that will be due at the end of your time in ROM (yes, bring your laptop). Some people slept all day or watched too much Netflix, but I would try getting the quizzes out of the way early and using the rest of your time to prep for OCS:
- Make nametapes
- Read MCDP-1 warfighting (it’s provided to you there)
- Look over your knowledge book (Also Provided)
- Memorize your General Orders, Leadership traits, Leadership Principles
- Read your candidate regs (yes do it and do your best to understand them and not just mindlessly scroll through them. They will tell you a lot about what is required of you at OCS)
- Take a little time each day to do something enjoyable. It can be watching a show, reading a book you actually want to read, or getting some extra sleep. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Changes to OCS
From what my experience was in OCC 235 there have been some significant changes to the POI from what it used to be. Some COVID related, some command culture related. Here are the things that stuck out to me the most:
- Masks – Obviously you wear a mask just about every waking moment while at OCS/ROM. It sucks but just isn’t the worst thing and believe it or not the staff revealed to us towards the end of the cycle that they have seen significant drops in candidates getting sick with the usual colds and candidate crud. Don’t get caught without one and I would ensure to buy a couple extra to keep in your wall locker just in case you lose it. Don’t worry, you can take them off when you ruck or run PT/PT events.
- Sleep – To be honest I don’t know if this is a COVID mitigation or just an overall change to the POI. But unlike a lot of classes in the past we had to be in our racks from 2100-0500 every night. This was heavily enforced by our staff and you could only study, write essays, stretch, or sleep while in your rack. In some ways this was a benefit, but it also hindered you from getting ready for the next day’s events – something that you do in fact want to do to make it easier on yourself.
- PT – Physical training changed and this was a command culture decision not one for COVID. To put it bluntly PT was dialed back. We stretch PT’d every other day and did some form of PT on the rest of the days. Personally this surprised me and honestly I didn’t like it. Regardless, I went into OCS running a max, max, 20:30 3 mile PFT and left running max, max, 18:30 3 mile PFT. So there’s an argument to be made for the PT curriculum. I could go into great detail about what you can expect from the PT, but at the end of the day you need to show up aerobically fit (run lots of hills) and have good muscular endurance. In the end of course brief we got from the CO OCS, Col. Rush he explained the reasoning for the change was that the CMC had directly instructed him to “stop sending broken 2ndLts to TBS” and so this “dial back” on PT was the beginning of the process to find the threshold at which candidates begin to get hurt. He also told us what that means for future classes – for the 236 class the PT will begin to ramp up slightly. Instead of stretch PT every other day it will likely be decrease to every 3rd day and possibly every 4th day. Be prepared physically for OCS and PT can be a stress reliever and one less thing to weigh on your mind with a million other things going on. While my cycle was dialed back, we still had candidates fall out, heat case, or get dropped for PT failure. Be prepared.
- Liberty – Probably the biggest change we saw was the off base liberty taken away. That’s right, you lucky candidates will have your entire OCS experience confined to the beautiful Quantico highlands of Brown Field. Here’s how it worked: Sunday morning started off just like any other morning with a 0450 wake-up followed by a full field day of the squad bay and morning chow. Once complete with that we usually had a Company formation and safety brief at 0830. After the safety brief we would stand at our racks “on line” until 0900 at which time liberty commenced. You were given your phone, any food you had been sent to you and put in the contraband locker, and you could make PX calls to the Brown Field PX. After liberty candidates could go to religious services and have square away time to prepare for the upcoming week. The rules:
- You had to stay in uniform of the day.
- If you wanted to be on your phone you had to sit on your campstool on the PT field. (no phone usage in squad bays)
- If you wanted to eat food you had to sit on your campstool on the PT field. (no eating food in squad bays)
- PX calls were confined to a 3 hour block per company. One company had the morning the other the afternoon to make trips and buy things at the PX.
- There was no ordering food from off base vendors.
- For every platoon a fire-watch duty took shifts of 2 candidates per hour during the 7 hour libo period.
- Liberty then ended at 1600 meaning you were back in company formation at 1545. This day was always greatly anticipated and flew by quickly. And to be honest it kind of messed with your head.
- Mail – Mail was only handed out once a week and usually was extremely late. I remember getting letters from my family written nearly a month prior to me receiving them. This isn’t an OCS thing, this is a COVID government mail inefficiency thing. I still recommend writing letters and asking family to send them. It honestly feels like Christmas every time you get anything in the mail on that one day of the week. It will ground you in reality – something that was important to me at OCS.
- Billets – There were no Company level candidate billets, only Platoon level and below. Keep in mind that just about everything you do you will be kept consolidated to your respective platoon. Again, this isn’t a “new OCS” thing, it’s a COVID mitigation thing. Even without the Company level positions, I learned a lot about myself in the billets I held and I think the staff still did a good job of applying pressure and friction to the candidate billet holders to help them understand the gravity of leadership.
- Graduation – no one is at your graduation except staff, but it is livestreamed on social media for families to watch from home. This may change for OCC 236 and future classes. I know the Command during my cycle at least questioned allowing close family to come in some capacity – it just never happened. We were given 4 hours to see family after graduation before checking into TBS directly after.