What kind of training were you doing at Quantico, how long were you there and how did you find out about the opportunity?
So basically, for the past year or so I have been part of an ongoing process to become a commissioned Marine Corps Officer. Though I had been thinking about potentially going this route since the beginning of my first year at Harvard, I decided my full commitment to the program sometime late November 2018. Anyone who wants to have the opportunity to go to Officer Candidates School and try to become a Marine has to have a few credentials in order to be enrolled:
1. They must have (or be working on) a college degree
2. They must complete the PFT (Physical Fitness Test) and do better than a certain baseline score.
3. They must fill out an application with references. From this point, all applicants are put on a "selection board" where their readiness to begin the Officer program is assessed.
Fortunately, I was put on the late April 2019 selection board and chosen to attend OCS-231 in the Summer of 2019. I was at Marine Corps Base Quantico for 10 weeks and while there, put through a variety of tests designed to assess my ability to think/decide/act under circumstances of increased pressure and stress. Unlike Boot Camp, this schoolhouse (OCS) is more of an evaluation in the sense that not everyone graduates. In fact, many decide that this path is not for them. For others, the instructors at OCS decide for them.
What was the training like? Where did you stay?
During my 10 weeks, I stayed in a "squad bay" - which is essentially a fancy name for 33 bunk beds (or "racks") - that began with 65 candidates, housed next to each other. Though it was obviously pretty close quarters, having an experience like this allows you to really get to know the guys living around you. We battled through some of the hardest days together and I would venture to say it's near impossible to recreate these bonds unless you were to go through the program yourself.
What was one of the most challenging situations?
I would have to say that the most challenging situation that I faced was arriving at a point of tired that I had not reached before - and continuing on. I can credit the completion of many of these days to the good friends that I made during training who taught me a level of discipline and staying power that I had not been able to tap into before.
What was something you really enjoyed about the experience?
From these experiences, I will always value what I learned about the magnitude of things you can accomplish when you're working as part of a committed group. From land navigation in the dead of night with no headlamps, to completely submerging multiple times on the combat course, the guys you were with always had your back. That is one of the things that makes me so proud of returning next year. I will also never again take for granted the freedom that we experience as college students - or as Americans in general. I look forward to trying to pass on some lessons from this summer to my teammates and making this season the best one yet.
Was there any sort of assessment at the end? What does your result mean going forward?
As I said, OCS was an evaluation process, so all candidates were given grades based upon their performance in the classroom (we had seven written tests), in the field (leadership events in the form of field exercises, land navigation courses day/night), and in physical fitness events including the obstacle course and the endurance course. At the end of training, I was fortunate to have completed all events successfully and graduate Officer Candidates School, with the intention of returning after graduation for further training.