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A Typical Day at Officer Candidates School

One of the most common questions I get is: "what does a typical day at Officer Candidates School (OCS) look like." OCS is shrouded in mystery, and that is by design. Not knowing the details of what awaits you on a weekly and even daily basis is one of the course’s most valuable tools in its effort to screen and evaluate you and your reaction to uncertain circumstances in a high-stress environment. That being said, there is some general information that can be shared without spoiling any of the many surprises the cycle has in store for you. For all of the uncertainty there is at OCS, there are also some constants around which your days revolve. You must be fed three meals every day, you will be allotted eight hours (excluding standing periodic fire watch) to sleep every night (from 2100-0500) unless field events necessitate abbreviating that time, and you will be provided an optional hour every Sunday to attend congregational religious services in addition to five minutes for religious devotion every night prior to the lights being turned off. It’s worth mentioning that the time that you are allotted for sleep is also likely the only personal time you’ll have for the day, as every other minute of your day is prescribed by the schedule.

OCS keeps very much in line with the Marine Corps’ crawl, walk, run approach to training. While your first few weeks only contain a few graded evaluations, by the end of the cycle you may have 3 culminating events in as many days. Your average day consists of physical training in the morning (first thing in the summer and after breakfast in the winter), a midday lunch bookended by a mix of academic classes (ranging in subject from squad tactics to financial responsibility) and periods of close order drill, and eventually dinner in the evening followed by your evening routine to prepare for bed and the day to come. Certain periodic events such as Leadership Reaction Courses (LRCs), Academic Examinations, Small Unit Leadership Evaluations, Land Navigation, and Field Exercises will force you to alter your individual and collective plans on a daily basis, but the fundamental structure of the days will quickly become evident and unchanging. Any “white space” or unassigned time in the day’s schedule represents time the candidate billet holders in positions of leadership must determine a plan to be presented to and approved by their actual respective counterparts in the platoon and company staff. While the period of instruction is rife with confusion and uncertainty, the many constants that do exist allow for the discerning candidate to remain grounded and focused on the ultimate goal of graduation and commissioning. One of the expectations of being a Marine Officer is mastery of the minutiae, and understanding the format of your days is an essential step in the process of doing all of the little things right and avoiding any additional bonding time with your Sergeant Instructors.

It is important to remember that the mission of OCS is to screen and evaluate candidates for the potential to lead Marines. You are not expected to be a master of tactics, land navigation, or military strategy as a candidate. You are, however, expected to be in the right place at the right time with the right gear. Failure to meet those three simple yet paramount standards tells the staff all they need to know about your potential. Excel in these categories and you will be well on your way to the beginning of a successful career as a Marine Corps Officer.


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