Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Navy OCS Tips

I get a lot of hits on this blog for one lonely post I did of Navy Officer Candidate School photos. Out of a sense of guilt that I'm luring people to this blog about something other than it's main topic (which is, incidentally, ecumenicity), I decided to write something substantive for the poor souls preparing themselves to successfully endure 13 weeks of "training" in Pensacola, FL.

Anyone preparing for OCS wants to know the secret of what to do to make it bearable. Success at OCS requires managing your anxiety and performing tangible acts in a timely fashion. I'll give my advice on preparation here:

1) Run. In reality, there is really very little you can do to prepare for waking up early, staying up late, getting screamed at by scary Marine Corps Drill Instructors, holding a glass of water straight in front of you for extended periods of time, etc. But one thing you can do, and that will pay huge dividends both in terms of tangible success and in terms of lowering your overall anxiety load: run a lot.

2) Don't worry. I know that this is impossible advice. But you will do your anxiety load a great disservice by worrying excessively before you start. While you will get yelled and forced to do push-ups, you will not get punched in the face, you will not get shot, and you will not be forced to quit. There is nothing to worry about other than the fact that you will be uncomfortable and made to do things contrary to your lazy will for a brief period of weeks. Get over it -- life is full of discomfort and doing things contrary to your will, so you might as well start now. And just imagine the bragging rights you'll have...

3) Run. Really, you need to get in running shape well before showing up. The bad runner carries several extra degrees of anxiety: a) he worries that his shins won't hold up and that he'll have to "roll" out of his class for medical reasons [putting him in limbo for up to months while he heals - a hellish state], b) he worries that he'll drop from every morning run, have to get in the van of humiliation, and get yelled at for being a bad runner, c) he worries that he will fail the weekly fitness tests which are required to continue on to the next week of the program with his class, and d) he worries that his poor running skills will oterwise call unwanted attention to himself.

4) Don't do anything stupid. People really don't fail out of OCS under normal circumstances. Despite what you might hear about scary statistics (like, that only about 50% of my class graduated on time), people on whom the Navy has spent the money to accede will get a commission. If you fail two tests, you just roll back a week and take it again. If you can't pass your runs, you just roll back until you're in shape. But what will get you sent home without the right to wear a gold bar on your collar is to do something stupid. What is stupid? Lying to a drill instructor about whether or not you purchased sodas from a vending machine (thou shalt not lie to thy D.I.). Getting a DUI near the end of your training (thou shalt not drink and drive, even where thou art a stellar candidate).

5) Run. Really, do get in running shape. It was the best thing I did, and something I was thankful for every single day there. Don't worry so much about being awesome at lifting weights or even being an incredible swimmer (though you do need to be able to do the crawl with your face in the water, but that's about it). Just run. If you can run five times a week with at least one 5-6 mile run in there (and none less than 2 miles), you will be fine. This is more important than being fast, because it will mean your legs are strong enough to avoid injury when they push you to go fast. One important rule of thumb that runner's use: DO NOT increase your running distance by more than 10% per week. This will allow you to avoid injury while you train. Have discipline!

I went through Pensacola a number of years ago, but from what the new junior officers tell me, it hasn't changed much since that time. Let me know if you have any questions about OCS.


Anonymous said...

great tips! I am considering joining the Navy through a commission. I was wondering if you have any tips for me to be selected to go to OCS?

I have an undergraduate's degree and I am 28 years old, 29 in December. My e-mail is

Tom Murphy said...

Read the OCS book before you go: Honor. Courage. Commitment.