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The United States Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS), located at Fort Benningmarker, Georgiamarker, provides training to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Officer candidates are drawn from enlisted members (up to Master Sergeant), Warrant Officers, inter-service transfers, or civilian college graduates who enlist for guaranteed attendance at OCS after they complete Basic Combat Training (BCT).


OCS is a rigorous 12-week course designed to train, assess, evaluate, and develop second lieutenants for the U.S. Army's sixteen basic branches. It is the only commissioning source that can be responsive to the Army's changing personnel requirements due to its short length, compared to other commissioning programs and their requirements. Completing OCS is one of five possible ways of becoming a U.S. Army commissioned officer. The other methods are:

The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School is organizationally designated as 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 199th Infantry Brigade. It was redesignated from the 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment in June 2007. It is a subordinate unit of the United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) also headquartered at Ft. Benning. As of January 2006 the battalion has five training companies in operation, designated Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo—each of which can conduct one class at a time, with a maximum of 172 candidates being trained in each class.

The commander of the 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment (OCS), 199th Infantry Brigade is Lt. Col. Dean E. Bushnell and the Command Sergeant Major Glenn


Except where noted, the history is compiled from the official Army history records.
A digital representation of the 11th Infantry Regiment's distinctive unit insignia currently worn by the cadre and students of the US Army Officer Candidate School.

Historically, OCS has provided the means by which the U.S. Army could generate large numbers of junior officers during periods of increasing personnel requirements, typically during wars. Prior to 1973, OCS was branch-specific, at one time there being eight separate schools; by 1964, the Army had consolidated OCS into two schools: Field Artillery OCS at Fort Sillmarker, Oklahomamarker, and Infantry OCS at Fort Benning. The Vietnam war brought expansion of the OCS program, but it was short lived. In 1973, OCS was made branch immaterial and was consolidated into two courses taught at Ft. Benning, and another at Fort McClellanmarker, Alabamamarker for female Officer Candidates; the course length was reduced to 14-weeks. In 1976, the OCS at Ft. Benning integrated females, and became the only OCS left in the active Army, with the closure of the WAC School. The term "90-day wonders", both as a pejorative and term of affection, has been intermittently applied to junior officers commissioned through OCS since World War II.

World War II era

Officer Candidate School was first proposed in June 1938, as the Army began expanding in anticipation of hostilities when a plan for an officer-training program was submitted to the Chief of Infantry by Brigadier General Asa L. Singleton, Commandant of the Infantry School. No action was taken until July 1940, however, when Brig. Gen. Courtney Hodges, Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School, presented a revised plan to (then) Brig. Gen. Omar Bradley, Commandant of the Infantry School. In July 1941, the OCS stood up as the Infantry, Field Artillery, and Coastal Artillery Officer Candidate Schools, each respectively located at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, and Fort Monroemarker, Virginiamarker.
In addition to the aforementioned programs, there were Officer Candidate Schools stood up for other branches, for instance the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouthmarker, New Jerseymarker. Due to the rapid creation of these programs because of wartime necessity, and then the rapid closures, or restructuring, soon after the end of the war, historical records were not always created or adequately maintained and little is known about many of these branch specific commissioning courses.

The Infantry course, on the other hand is well documented, and it stands today as the precursor of the branch immaterial course taught at Fort Benning. On 27 September 1941, the first Infantry OCS class graduated 171 second lieutenants; 204 men started the 17-week course in July. Testament to the ability of OCS to produce new second lieutenants quickly can be found in War Department decision that ROTC could not fulfill the national demand for officers; so in May 1943, the advanced course in ROTC was suspended and basic course graduates were immediately sent to OCS so they could be commissioned sooner.

During the war, the Army's policy of racial segregation continued among enlisted members; Army training policy, however, provided that blacks and whites would train together in officer candidate schools (beginning in 1942). Officer Candidate School was the Army's first formal experiment with integration. Black and white candidates lived separately, but all of the candidates trained together. Despite this integrated training, in most instances, the graduates would go on to join racially segregated units.

General Bradley is credited with establishing the format, discipline, and code of honor still used in OCS today. Bradley emphasized rigorous training, strict discipline and efficient organization. These tenets remain the base values of today's Officer Candidate School. Between July 1941 and May 1947, over 100,000 candidates were enrolled in 448 Infantry OCS classes, of these approximately 67 percent completed the course to earn commissions. After World War II, Infantry OCS was transferred to Fort Rileymarker, Kansasmarker, as part of the Ground General School. Due to the post-war downsizing of the Army and the declining need for new Officers, all but Infantry OCS was closed. Finally, on 1 November 1947, it was deactivated. The final class graduated only 52 second lieutenants.

There was also a school located in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) at Camp Columbia, Brisbanemarker, Australia. From photographs taken by the U.S. Army it is apparent that this course was integrated, and contemporary records indicate that the course was branch immaterial — perhaps the first branch immaterial course in the Army. Unfortunately, there is little information about the SWPA OCS, and its years of operation and other reliable statistical information are not readily available.

The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was created by act of Congress on 14 May 1942, permitting them to serve, but not as Soldiers. At that time, women did not have military status and were not integrated into the Army. Their ranks, pay, and benefits were different than the Army, along with all administration. But, being a military organization that was modeled after, and parallel, to the Army, it required a way to train Officers; therefore it created its own WAAC OCS, which stood up on 20 July 1942 at Fort Des Moinesmarker, Iowamarker. The course was six-weeks long, its first class consisting of 440 candidates. Upon graduation, the women were commissioned as third officers (equivalent to a second lieutenant). It is worth noting, that among the first candidates were 40 black women. Initially, black women were segregated, but in keeping with Army policies, integrating officer training, and with pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), by November 1942, they were being trained in integrated units.

Cold War

1st Officer Candidate Battalion, 2nd Student Regiment
With the outbreak of the Korean War, and the Army's rapid expansion in response, the shortage of on-hand officers, and projected commissions, caused the Department of the Army to re-open Infantry OCS at Ft. Benning on 18 February 1951. The course was lengthened from 17 to 22 weeks, as a result of lessons learned from WWII; thus permitting more instruction in Infantry tactics. The Infantry Officer Candidate School became the 1st Officer Candidate Battalion, 2nd Student Regiment. The strength of OCS rapidly increased. As one of eight branch programs, Infantry OCS included as many as 29 companies with a class graduating every week. During the Korean War, OCS commissioned approximately 7,000 Infantry officers.

in April 1949, the U.S. Army established the Women's Army Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Lee, Virginia. The WAC, an active component of the regular Army, descendant of the WAAC, operated this OCS for females seeking to enter the WAC Officer Corps. The "wash-out" rate was nearly identical to the men's programs, at roughly 37%, during its first four years; an alarming statistic to observers of both programs. By 1954 WAC OCS had been closed and merged with a commissioning program for female direct commissionees, due to the low numbers of women attending the WAC OCS course, due in part to tightened standards for selection — in response to investigations of the washout rates.

On August 4, 1953, the Department of the Army reduced OCS from eight to three programs: Infantry, Artillery, and Engineer, finally closing Engineer OCS in July 1954, leaving only the Infantry and Field Artillery schools open. With the onset of the Vietnam War, however, the OCS program was again expanded with officer candidates undergoing a grueling 23 week program of instruction with an extremely high attrition rate which was designed to prepare young officers to be platoon leaders in a demanding Vietnam jungle environment. In September 1965, Engineer OCS reopened at Fort Belvoirmarker, Virginia, and before closing for good in 1971, over 10,000 Engineer Officers had been commissioned.

During the height of the Vietnam War, Infantry OCS produced 7,000 officers annually from five student battalions, all located at Ft. Benning. Also, during the war, a female OCS was once again established; it was stood up at Fort McClellan, Alabama, as part of the WAC Center and School. Other OCS programs were located at Fort Gordonmarker, Georgia (Signal Corps); Fort Sill, Oklahoma (Artillery), Fort Lee, Virginia (Transportation), Fort Belvoir, Virginia (Engineer) and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland (Ordinance). In April 1973, a branch immaterial OCS was established at Fort Benning, ending the Infantry and Field Artillery based courses. In 1976, with the end of the gender separate Army, the women's OCS was merged with the branch immaterial male course, creating a program very similar to the modern OCS. The United States Military Academymarker at West Pointmarker, New Yorkmarker, also admitted its first female cadets in 1976. However, due to the length of instruction there (4 years), the newly gender integrated Officer Candidate School had the distinction of commissioning a female second lieutenant before USMA.

Modern OCS

Today, Officer Candidate school is offered in two ways. Active duty OCS is a 12-week long school, taught "in residence" at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Its primary purpose is to commission Second Lieutenants into the Active Army, with a secondary purpose of training selected individuals for Reserve duty as commissioned officers.

The Army National Guard also runs OCS at Regional Training Institutes (RTI) in many states. This is the same program of instruction as the OCS program conducted at Fort Benning and are accredited every three years through Fort Benning.

Army National Guard

The program at the RTI's is offered in two different formats to accommodate the reserved component citizen soldiers. The traditional OCS program is a 16 month course of instruction conducted from April to August of the following year and is broken down into four phases:Phase 0 - is two drill weekends and designed to prepare Officer Candidates for the OCS program. Phase 1 - is a 15 day annual training period held in June. Phase II - is conducted one weekend per month for a period of 13 months. Phase III - is a final 15 day annual training period . The Army National Guard also offers an "Accelerated" OCS program which is an 8-week, full-time program. Upon successful completion of Army National Guard OCS the candidates are commissioned Second Lieutenants and must complete Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) II and III within 12 months. The commission received from this version of OCS is the same federally recognized commission as offered through Fort Benning OCS.

It is interesting to note that in TY 2009 the U.S. Army will begin sending soldiers to the accelerated OCS program conducted by the National Guard RTI's. This was determined to be a more cost efficient way of producing officers compared to expanding the Fort Benning program.

Active Duty

The Army's Officer Candidate School is programmed to teach basic leadership and Soldier tasks, using the Infantry battle drills found in Army Field Manual 3-21.8 as a framework for instruction and evaluation of leadership potential. A total of 71 tasks are taught and tested while at OCS. A candidate should expect to be under constant observation and evaluation by their cadre. Mental and emotional stress is induced through a variety of controlled methods, to test problem solving and moral resolve. Additionally, the course is meant to be physically demanding, with numerous tactical road marches, timed runs of varying distance from 2 miles to 5 miles, and Army Combatives training. Beginning with the first class of FY 2008, the calendar length of OCS was shortened from 14 weeks to 12 weeks, thus allowing for more classes to be conducted each Fiscal Year; thereby raising the maximum capacity of the school to train Second Lieutenants to meet future commissioning needs as the Army grows. The current capacity of each class that is conducted is limited to 172 Officer Candidates.

Officer Candidate School is conducted in two phases: basic phase and senior phase. Students are referred to as either Basic Officer Candidates (BOCs) or Senior Officer Candidates (SOCs) as their classes progress. Initially, upon arrival, the candidates have very few privileges, and enter into a controlled environment similar to BCT, though they are expected to act like leaders and take charge and responsibility immediately. As they progress through the course, they may earn and request privileges. Their bearing, deportment, and behavior individually, and collectively, will affect the return of their privileges.

All candidates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants upon graduation.

Basic Officer Leadership Course

Beginning in 2001, the Army began to experiment with a new course, called Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC). In short, through several test phases, and program of instruction reviews, the course was established in 2006 as a branch immaterial leadership course, and renamed BOLC II. BOLC I is an Officer's commissioning source, for example, ROTC, USMA, or OCS; while BOLC III is their branch specific Officer Basic Course (OBC). BOLC II is 7-weeks in length, and designed to ensure that all new Officers, regardless of commissioning source (to include JAG and most Medical Service Corps Direct Commissionees), are at the same level with basic leadership skills, individual Soldier skills (such as physical fitness and weapons qualification), Infantry tactics, and the orders process. Certain non-prior service commissionees, such as doctors who get directly commissioned, attend a variation of BOLC II known as Officer Basic Leadership Course (OBLC). It is primarily for Medical Service specialties like Doctors and Surgeons who have no prior service with the military and takes place at Fort Sam Houstonmarker, Texasmarker. It includes all the normal OBC classes, but includes a segment on basic soldiering skills such as marching, customs and courtesies, and rank structure.

This is the only possibility of attaining an officer's commission without the prerequisite of having a bachelors degree. There are, however, requirements that allow basic qualification for entrance into Officer Candidate School for the Army Reserves. These include having at least 90 credits from an accredited college, approval from the Officer Candidate School board, and falling in the age range of 18 to 41 years.

The Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame

The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame was established in 1958 to honor Infantry Officer graduates of the Officer Candidate School Program who distinguished themselves in military or civilian pursuits. In 2002 the Hall of Fame was opened to graduates from all U.S. Army Officer Candidate Schools from across the history of the U.S. Army.

Selection and induction into the Hall of Fame is not guaranteed. The qualifying criteria for selection are as follows:

Commissioned from any active component Army OCS program and accomplished one of the following:
:(1) Awarded the Medal of Honor
:(2) Attained the rank of Colonel while serving on active duty or the reserves.
:(3) Elected or appointed to an office of prominence in the national or state government.
:(4) Achieved national or state recognition for outstanding service to the nation.
:(5) Attained an exceptional wartime service record.

All U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame inductees are considered notable. There are over two thousand inductees; some of them are listed here:

  • Honorable Hugh J. Addonizio
  • Honorable William F. Buckley, political commentator
  • Honorable Robert J. Dole politician
  • Colonel Leland B. Fair
  • Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith, Jr
  • General Tommy Franks
  • Colonel Ronald F. Fraser
  • Colonel John L. Insani
  • Brigadier General Julia A. Kraus
  • General Frederick J. Kroesen, Jr.
  • Colonel Robert Nett
  • Brigadier General Belinda Pinckney
  • Honorable Rick Rescorla
  • Honorable Winthrop Rockefeller
  • Colonel Carolyn R. Sharpe
  • Lieutenant General David S. Weisman
  • Major Dick Winters, whose service was portrayed in "Band of Brothers"

Notes & References

See also

External links

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