OCS in Review: Academics

Although I’m done with OCS, I will be writing a few more posts to help out future candidates. Basically, these are the posts that have been requested, or that I just wish I had to read before OCS.

[Please see the update of this page, which includes real OCS academics for you to study ahead!]

Although much of the time at OCS is spent in classroom time, and academics are 25% of candidates’ final grades, tests are probably one of the easiest challenges to overcome at OCS. Academic failures do send some candidates home, but in my experience leadership and physical fitness send more.

Academics takes a very routine process at OCS, not unlike in the rest of the Marine Corps.  The stages are illustrated here:

Death By Powerpoint

  • Classes are given by enlisted and officers who are knowledgeable in the particular subject with cookie-cutter outline powerpoints.  Sometimes dry, these lessons are one of the enjoyable things about OCS for the optimistic candidate.  I at least kept a good attitude about them throughout.
This Blog's Author (Left) Reading While Awaiting Initial Haircut

This Blog's Author (Left) Reading While Awaiting Initial Haircut


  • All candidates are given a book, called your Knowledge, and expected to study at night and at certain scheduled times of study, which are very helpful.  It merely contains outlines of all the same powerpoints given by the instructors.

Informal discussions in the squad bay

  • Different staff members, including your sergeant instructors will have more informal lessons involving more questions-answer sessions and discussion in the squad bay after a few weeks.  In my opinion, these were very helpful if somewhat long-winded, and you get treated like near-adults sometimes in these discussions.  When the sergeant instructors tell stories of the fleet or their personal experiences, I remember paying rapt attention.  Good training.

Prac Apps

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OCS in Review: Physical Preparation

Although I’m done with OCS, I will be writing a few more posts to help out future candidates. Basically, these are the posts that have been requested, or that I just wish I had to read before OCS.

For physical preparation, much advice I got was wrong, or misleading before I got to OCS. The workouts and much of the training has evolved considerably since past CO’s.

If I had to do it again, I would mimic OCS workouts as much as possible in my own program. So, to that end I’ll detail the current workouts at Officer Candidate School. Enjoy!

PPPA: Push/Pull/Press/Abs

PPPA is often an addition to a run or another workout. This was the only workout that pushed me to my full physical limit. Know your weaknesses, right?

First, pushup/pull-up supersets. For example, 10 pulls, 25 pushes, 8 pulls, 20 pushes, 6 and 15.  The numbers increase each time you do it. By week 8 or 9, I believe it’s something like pull-ups: 16/14/12 and pushups 45/40/35. Ouch.

Marine Corps Pushup!

Marine Corps Push ups!

Ammo can press/crunch supersets come next. I think the ammo cans are 20 or 30 pounds each (full of sand.) This is a great preparation for the CFT and PFT. These are timed events, so you end up doing about 2 min/1.5/1 minute for ammo can presses, alternating with crunches of about the same time.


Fartleks are 3-5 mile runs, interspersed with workouts every half mile or so. Fartleks are very similar to the Run Course/Mec Weight (or something like that) where you just don’t run as far, and do more workouts. An awesome cardio workout.

Example exercises: Pushups, pull-ups, crunches, sit-ups, frog sit-ups (wide knees like you’re doing a groin stretch), diamond pushups, body squats, bend and thrusts, burpees, dips, mountain climbers, sprints

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OCS Video: Leadership

This is a great new video from the Corps on OCS, and its goal of Leadership

Media page updated here

Common Running Injuries, Causes and Treatments

You’ve trained intelligently and followed all the injury prevention techniques but you’ve still suffered a running injury.  How should you get back in shape for OCS or your next PFT?

What should you do now?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common running injuries, their causes, and how to treat those injuries.

Runner’s Toe
Runner’s Toe occurs when the nail is either pressed down too much on the bed underneath it or the nail tears from the bed itself. Either condition causes blood to pool between the nail and the bed. The nail eventually turns black.

Runner’s Toe can be caused by poor fitting shoes (most common cause), excessive downhill running, and wet shoes. Typically, the longest toe is pressed against the front of the shoe causing damage to the nail and/or nailbed.

The primary treatment is to ensure that your shoes are long enough and fit correctly. If bleeding continues and pressure builds beneath the nail, you will require professional advice to release the fluid.

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“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.

Do’s and Dont’s of USMC OCS

Check out this post on the updated blog!

I don’t remember where I got this, but a friend emailed me this great list.  I hope it helps you out!

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following “do’s and dont’s,” but don’t get too bogged down in the specifics of them.  You will pick them up quickly once at OCS.  The important thing is to get in the mindset of an Officer Candidate.  You must be humble toward the staff, but loud; aggressive in your leadership and actions, but tactful toward your peers.  Start mentally preparing now, and your transition to “Candidate mindset” will be much easier.

    •          DO BE LOUD.
    •          DO BE AGGRESSIVE.
Do Be Loud!

Do Be Loud!

    •          DO AS YOU’RE TOLD.
    •          Do speak in the third person – “This Candidate request permission to make a head call.”
    •          Don’t say I   – “I request permission to make a head call.”
    •          Do address the staff by billet and rank – “Good morning Gunnery Sergeant, Candidate Smith request permission to speak to Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Erwin.”
    •          Don’t say you – “Good morning sir, I request permission to speak to you”.
    •          Always speak to staff at the position of attention (POA), never at parade rest or at ease.
    •          Do salute all officers when covered (wearing 8 point cover), don’t salute officers in the field or when in formation.
    •          When the staff says “ZERO!” yell “Freeze!” and don’t move.
    •          Memorize the Basic Daily Routine (BDR) of your staff, this will make every day easier on you.
    •          Do be organized.  Having a specific spot for everything and knowing where everything is helps to alleviate the stress.
    •          Do keep you foot locker and wall locker within regulations.  The regulations are in your Candidate Regulations.
    •          Don’t ever lean against the bulkhead (wall) or racks (bed) or put your hands in your pockets.
    •          Don’t eyeball your staff or the area.
    •          Do memorize your rifle serial number and don’t ever leave your rifle unattended (the sergeant instructors will steal your rifle and then you will have to get it back).
Do be confident!

Do Be Confident!

  •          Do make sure that your weapon is always on safe and your ejection port cover is closed.
  •          Don’t ever take your rifle in the head (bathroom) unless specifically instructed by your staff.
  •          Do sew your white nametapes on your blouse if they come loose, or the staff will rip them off and you will have to re-sew the entire nametape.
  •          Do make sure that your utilities (and all other items) are clearly marked so that you don’t lose them.
  •          Do have your candidate regulations on your person at all times.
  •          If assigned an essay, make sure that you complete and turn it in as soon as possible and before the time hack given.  Write legibly.