“You’re Going to Marine Boot Camp Then?”

If you’re like me, you’re already sick and tired of explaining the differences between boot camp, OCS, PLC, ROTC, and all the routes of joining the service.  Relatives and those unfamiliar with the military don’t understand the different “boot camps” out there.

For those who might ask an annoyingly if well-intentioned question, here’s your overview, so Listen Up!

Marines Boot Camp: Get it straight.

Marines Boot Camp: Get it straight.

You can enter the Marine Corps as enlisted or officer.

Being an officer requires a college degree.

“Boot camp” for Marine officer candidates is through the Officer Candidate School (OCS) program.  There are two tracks to get through OCS.

Officer Candidate Course, OCC, is the first kind of OCS.  It is a 10 week program which is completed after you have your college degree.  When you graduate, you have earned the right to accept a commission as a Marine Corps officer.

Platoon Leaders Course, PLC, is for freshmen, sophomores, or juniors in college to complete two 6-week sessions over a summer during their college careers.  When they graduate, they can commission.

ROTC is not one of the “boot camps,” it is a program for during college that trains students; in the summer they will still have to go through OCS to become Marine Officers.

Got it?  Hope so.


Mental Preparation

Advice I received from a Marine officer:

  • As far as your mental prep goes. Know the 11 General Orders, Leadership Traits, OSMEAC, Hymn, Chain of Command (at OCS, and up top w/ the Commandant, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the assistants to those positions, Secretaries of various dept’s like the Navy, and DOD) If you want, you can learn some info on Marine Corp History, the M16A2 Service Rifle, but the test questions are pretty specific to the text they give to you, so there’s not too much stock in studying up on your own w/o the text.
  • PICKUP. After three days of gear issue, admin in-processing and medical, it is time to meet your platoon staff, whose job it is to train, screen and evaluate you. Pickup is the most stressful time at OCS. Immediately after you have been “picked up”, you will be yelled at like no other time in your life. You will be called all sorts of names. Don’t take any of it personally; it is just the staff’s way of getting you out of your comfort zone and evaluating you under stress. It is extremely important to survive the initial shock if you want to succeed. You will find yourself out on the parade deck with all of your “trash” (gear) dumped on the ground and scattered everywhere. Try to keep your gear away from other candidates’ gear so you don’t lose anything. Prior to reporting to OCS, put all your gear in Ziploc bags with your name on it. This simple step will make pickup and its aftermath much less stressful, as you will probably “pack and unpack” your gear about four times before bringing it into the barracks for good. If something unexpected or bad happens don’t lose your bearing and never let them see that you’re scared.

    Everyone gets yelled at!

    Everyone gets yelled at!

  • After pickup, things are going to be intense, without a break, until your first liberty three weeks later. Understand that you will have big, older, well respected Marines screaming at you for no apparent reason, and that there is no way to “train” for this. Understand also that you will receive very little or no positive feedback regarding your performance; you could be Chesty Puller himself and still be told that you’re the worst candidate ever to come to OCS. Prepare to be belittled and humiliated in front of your peers. Mentally prepare to perform while tired, under pressure, and in a hostile environment.
  • The job of the staff is to create chaos and stress, and then to evaluate how you perform under these conditions. They are good at their job. You have to be good at yours. Your job at OCS is to perform as a future Officer of Marines should: stay positive, don’t get down on yourself, push through adversity, be there for your fellow Candidates, get the job done, and maintain your integrity no matter the cost. Above all, keep things in perspective.