Top 5 Tips on the OCS Leadership Reaction Course

The OCS Leadership Reaction Course is designed to test a candidate’s quick thinking and problem The OCS Leadership Reaction Course is designed to test a candidate’s quick thinking and problem-solving skills and encourage teamwork among the candidates. The Leadership Reaction Course is an essential component of your leadership grade at Marine OCS.

The LRC is a group of condensed challenges and obstacles carried out as a fire team. (4 person unit). Each candidate will be required to take the role of a fire team leader and navigate the LRC obstacle.

There is a set amount of time for the fire team leader, candidate to receive, issue, and execute an order. The LRC is a timed evolution, so a solid understanding of the operations order is critical. (read more about the SMEAC format).

TIP: Scoring high is not solely dependent on completing the LRC obstacle.

The LRC is about leadership perception. Candidates must show qualities such as: Decision Making, Adaptability and overcome, Confidence, and the Ability To Convey Orders Quickly.

A mistake candidates make is concentrating on score and completing the challenge successfully vs. their ability to demonstrate leadership. OCS Sergeant Instructors are looking for a candidate’s ability to perform under pressure, and more importantly, make a decision and execute – don’t worry about the outcome of the actual task.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl John Kennicutt)

Here are the top 5 tips and best practices for performing well on the Leadership Reaction Course.

#1 Fast is slow. Slow is fast.

The leadership reaction course will be the first time candidates experience decision-making under pressure. The motto fast is slow, slow is fast can be applied to most training evolutions in OCS, from the rifle range, inspection, and the LRC. The practice of situational awareness is a primary attribute that candidates can learn and incorporate into the leadership decision-making process. 

The Navy Seals echos the preceding antidote with their motto, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. When you go slow, you can scan, study, and observe. You can recognize patterns, routes, landmarks, the overall landscape — literally and figuratively. When you go slow, things are much smoother. 

According to an article by Michael Fischer, by going slowly, with purpose, your brain and body can better learn and understand what is happening around it. You can sustain that energy. You can be relentless. You can complete tasks successfully. Practice situational awareness: Observe, orient, decide, act.

The leadership reaction course is challenging. But if you do not panic and rush things, you can excel. The instructor will give you a rapid and condensed order that you must convert into something resembling a complete and concise plan within about a minute. Candidates will likely not retain more than 20% of the information in the order, but that’s ok – remember, the goal is not to have a perfect plan for 100% success but to perform your directions to your fire team calmly even if it results in complete disaster. 

# 2 The Grading Checkboxes

As mentioned earlier, a high score is not necessarily the final factor in passing or failing. Instead, ensure you cover every operational order aspect when guiding your team through the obstacles. 

You can guarantee that the instructor will not provide details for each order section, such as Administration & Logistics. The natural reaction would be to leave this section out of your order. Leaving this section out would be a mistake and reduce your score. Instead, improvise by providing a general order, “chow will be resupplied on the objective, ammo is whatever you are carrying, POWs and casualties go to the Platoon Sergeant.”

A common mistake that candidates make is to skip entire sections of the order because it has no impact on carrying out the actual mission. As mentioned earlier, this is not about finishing the obstacle. The instructors hold a grading sheet with check boxes next to each order component. All you have to do is at least say the name of the section and “none” or “no information.” Many candidates do outstanding showing leadership, but they get walloped on their grades because they failed to give a complete order.

#3 Go with 70% (Read this: TACTICAL PLANNING B2B2367 STUDENT HANDOUT)

The Marines teach their young officers what they call the 70 percent solution. Meaning, go with 70% and then reevaluate when better intel presents itself. (Additional reading on 70% rule)

Leaders will never have all the information needed to make informed decisions. Nevertheless, if you have most of the information you need, you can still make good decisions—provided you accept the notion that you may need to adjust and compensate for the information you lack as you move forward. 

The Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz coined the phrase “The Fog of War” to describe battlefield uncertainty. Military leaders need to adapt as things become more evident in the heat of battle (or, in your case, LRC) and pivot accordingly.

#4 Good initiative, bad Judgement. 

Candidates tend to take control of a plan’s physical execution, abandoning the leadership role. For instance, if the mission is to build and cross a bridge, the fire team leader starts moving lumber first and runs across. As the saying goes, good initiative, bad judgment. The key to leadership is to keep leading and depend on your fire team to act upon your orders. 

As the fire team leader, position yourself in the middle of the group to maintain control and provide updated directions as the plan unfolds.

#5 Adapt and Overcome

A good leader expects their plan to encounter unexpected challenges. And even if the plan is going smoothly, expect the instructor to throw in a twist to challenge your leadership skills. 

Here is an example:

The mission is to climb over a fence to deliver supplies and return safely. Although your team member successfully navigates the fence and delivers the supplies, the instructor suddenly declares a sniper shoots your Marine and must be retrieved. 

Part of the Leadership Reaction Course evaluation process is making sure candidates can develop new plans and develop decisions on the spot. Don’t be thrown off by unexpected events. You have already accomplished the main task, and the rest is gravy if you take your time and deliver a clear, concise plan to your team. 

BONUS: Scraping The Original Plan Is Not A Bad Thing

Sometimes the original plan doesn’t work out. If you spend the entire duration of the course continually attempting to do something that isn’t working, you are bound to score low in the evolution. There is nothing wrong with pausing, calling your fire team together, and developing a new plan. It is essential to continue to show leadership by asking for feedback but still maintaining control of the final decision. 

Finally, keep control of the situation. Although OCS is all about teamwork, there are times when you must perform independently. And the Leadership Reaction Course is one of those times. 

Other candidates will tend to try and take control of the leadership role – you must NOT let this happen. Keep control of the situation no matter the potential outcome. The key is to learn and do better next time. 


The Leadership Reaction Course is a very challenging and time-constrained event. You will be on a team of four, which means you may not be first – in this case, pay attention and learn from the successes and missteps of others. Although this is a team event, the scoring is individual, so don’t worry about hurt feelings from other candidates. 

Adopted from MilSpouse YouTube page,

U.S. Marines and Sailors assigned to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, forward deployed to the 3rd Marine Division, as part of the forward Unit Deployed Program, practice small-unit leadership skills through a Leadership Reaction Course at Camp Mujuk, South Korea, May 29, 2017. Marines conduct courses like these to build confidence and communication skills within their units.

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