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OCS: Officer Candidate School Family Guide


Guide to officer candidate school OCSThe following information will give you an idea of what your loved one is going through while at Officer Candidates School, give you some tips that will help you and your candidate adjust, and list helpful tips that will ease your transition as a family member of a candidate undergoing Marine Officer training.

The day your loved one leaves for Officer Candidates School, he or she willingly embarks on a noble and difficult journey that tests his or her mental agility, physical prowess, and moral strength as they partake in training and evaluation with aspirations of ultimately earning the right of passage to become a U.S. Marine Corps Officer and serve our great nation.

The OCS training regimen offers unique and challenging features that no other service has – it will always remain professional, fair and safe, reflective of our Country’s finest military force. You are assured that the well-being and care of the son or daughter of America’s parents is of utmost concern and they are treated with respect and dignity.

Note on Sending Mail

Please read our guide to sending candidates mail at OCS before you drop anything in the mail that might make your candidate’s life harder!

Description of Officer Candidate Training

Ductus Exemplo – Leadership by Example

The mission of Officer Candidates School is to train, screen, and evaluate officer candidates to ensure they posses the moral, intellectual and physical qualities for commisioning; and the leadership potential to serve successfully as company grade officers in the Operating Forces. Marines are forged in a furnace of shared hardship and tough training. This intense experience creates bonds of camaraderie, espirit de corps, and standards of conduct so strong that Marines will let nothing stand in the way of accomplishing their mission. Marine Corps officer candidates are trained and challenged not only physically and mentally, but morally as well. These three challenges, when combined, forge the bedrock of the character of a Marine officer. The main focus of OCS is on screening, not training. Leadership is not taught so much as leadership aptitude is tested and observed.

The Training Cycle

Officer Candidate Training is divided into five phases and is broken down by Training Week. Each phase builds upon the others, reinforces those skills and values necessary to become a Marine Officer, and provides goals for the candidates.

Phase I In-Processing (Days 1-4) is the beginning, where the foundation and reinforcement of Core Values and ethics starts, and where candidates begin administrative and medical in-processing, receiving their gear and uniforms, take the Initial Physical Fitness Test (IPFT), learn basic military customs and courtesies, and are placed in their respective training company.

Phase II Transition (Wk 1-3). Combat Conditioning and learning about the Marine Corps in classes on General Military Subjects, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), and physical fitness. Here your loved one will be indoctrinated into the Marine culture, Marine Corps leadership, and close order drill. This is the hardest three weeks your loved one has probably ever endured as they undergo a transition of “I” to “we.” This is when “pick up” occurs, with the stereotypical yelling, sleep deprivation, and stress. At the end of week 3, candidates not making the cut will begin getting sent home.

Phase III Adaptation (Wk 4-5) begins the evaluation process, with an increased responsibility on billet holders and an emphasis on leading one’s peers. Candidates receive additional training in land navigation and basic tactical training.

Phase IV Decision Making and Execution (Wk 6-9). Candidates are evaluated on four major leadership events, demonstrating leadership traits and principles while exhibiting knowledge of tactics instruction in a field environment. They are tested academically and physically, and face the defining evaluation of the SULE test of mental, moral, and physical challenges. Candidates not making the cut in Phase IV will be sent to Week 9 boards, the last major cut made in the series of drops throughout OCS.

Phase V Out Processing (Wk 10). Candidates feel the transition from officer candidate to Basic Marine Officer during the final week leading up to graduation and commissioning. Out Processing usually includes a Family Day just prior to graduation where you will be able to visit with your candidate.

Core Values

Honor, Courage, and Commitment. These are the Marine Corps’ Core Values. Combined with training on ethics and leadership traits, they are incorporated into every aspect of training, resulting in Marine Officers who are committed to our core values in service to their country. These values make up the bedrock of a Marine’s character. During training, candidates learn to embrace these values, learn how to know right from wrong, and develop leadership traits like integrity, discipline, teamwork, duty, and Esprit de Corps. Platoon staff members also conduct guided discussions with candidates after training events to reinforce these values.

Training Events

Combat Conditioning builds a strong foundation in general fitness by increasing core strength and upper body development through power movements and events like the obstacle and confidences courses, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and conditioning hikes. The confidence course is an 11-station obstacle course that helps the candidates build confidence as well as upper-body strength.

Drill is the basic way in which platoons march and move from place to place and is one way that candidates learn discipline and teamwork. At first, candidates practice staying in step with the rest of the platoon and Sergeant Instructor. However, as training continues, the platoon becomes a well-oiled machine performing synchronized, complex drill movements.

Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, or MCMAP, is a martial art that was designed to be the “synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines.” Candidates are introduced to the fundamentals of MCMAP early on in the training cycle, and continue to progress through graduation.

Academics Training allows the candidates to exercise their minds and covers subjects ranging from Marine Corps history, policy and regulations, Marine customs and courtesies, to basic lifesaving procedures.

Leadership Reaction Course is an evolution designed to see how a candidate can perform as a fire team leader. During this evolution, the candidate will be given a problem that they have to negotiate with time restraints and limited equipment.

Individual Movement Course is an evolution designed to give the individual candidates the skills needed to work as a small unit to be able to negotiate different types of obstacles. During this evolution, candidates will also be put under a controlled amount of stress to be able to further evaluate their leadership skills.

Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) is the culminating leadership evaluation event at Officer Candidates School. It is designed to evaluate a candidate’s mental, moral, and physical development. For many, SULE II will be the first time a candidate has reached the limits of their mental, physical, and emotional endurance; SULE II will demonstrate that they are capable of much more than they previously believed.

Evaluations are crucial to the proper screening of candidates to become Marine Officers. Candidates are evaluated daily by their Sergeant Instructors for their performance and how well they are developing an understanding and personal ownership of core values, ethics, and leadership. They must also pass the seven graduation requirements. In addition to the Combat Course, LRC I and II, SULE I and II, they are also tested in their academic knowledge and practical application of General Military Subjects and physical fitness. SULE II and the Battalion Commander’s Inspection are the final two requirements that all candidates must pass to become a Marine Officer.

Family Day and Graduation

Family Day and Graduation take place on the last two days of training. Family Day gives candidates’ loved ones the opportunity to hear about Officer Candidates School from the Commanding Officer and allows for time to meet the candidates’ training staff and ask questions. The candidates are granted liberty for the afternoon and are free to show their families around Brown Field. Graduation is a formal ceremony and parade that takes place the morning of the final training day.

Event Update Information

For up-to-date information on events and changes to event times, parking procedures, etc, please refer to the OCS Home Page Announcements section, and continue to check the Graduation and Family Information linked on the home page.

Driving Directions

directions to OCS officer candidate school Marine Corps usmcOfficer Candidates School is located on Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico. Quantico is located in Northern Virginia, near Prince William County. It is accessible from Interstate 95 of HWY 1. Quantico is South of Washington D.C. and north of Fredericksburg, Va. There are two exits on both North and Southbound lanes of I-95 that will provide access to a Quantico gate.

From the North: Take Exit 150A, Triangle/Quantico, and turn Right from the exit to proceed to Marine Corps Base, Quantico Main Gate. Follow Fuller Rd and veer right onto Barnett Ave. Follow Barnett Ave to the traffic signal and turn left onto Range Rd. Range Rd merges left over a bridge onto Bauer Rd, passing the Marine Corps Air Field, HMX-1, and Larson’s Gymnasium. Turn right over the railroad tracks onto Ruhl St to enter Brown Field.

From the South: Take Exit 148A, Marine Corps Base Quantico. Merge right from the exit. Proceed to Marine Corps Base Quantico Gate Zulu-4. Follow Russell Rd to Dunlap Circle, and stay right passing the Crossroads Inn. Keep right to a stop sign, and turn Right onto Range Rd. Range Rd merges left over a bridge onto Bauer Rd, passing the Marine Corps Air Field, HMX-1, and Larson’s Gymnasium. Turn right over the railroad tracks onto Ruhl St to enter Brown Field.

Airports: The nearest major airport to Officer Candidates School is the Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA). The next closest airport is the Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). Transportation from these airports is not provided; both airports have multiple rental car agencies.


If a message is required to notify a candidate of an emergency situation at any time during officer candidate training, please contact your local Red Cross to have an official message sent to OCS Quantico, VA. In order to process the message quickly, please provide the candidate’s name, social security number, company, and platoon.

Tips for Family Success

Write letters to your candidates from the day they leave. Be positive and encouraging. Don’t write anything negative that can wait until after training to discuss. The candidates are under significant stress, and if possible, you should try not to contribute additional stress. Do not be alarmed if letters home reveal some of this stress; it is normal. If you are worried, talk to your loved one’s Officer Selection Officer (OSO) about your concern, and continue to encourage them in correspondence. Don’t worry too much though, because your candidate is well cared for and receives the best training from the finest instructors in the Marine Corps. Before your candidate leaves, consider sending them off with an address book with important names, addresses, and phone numbers including doctors and dentists in case medical information is required.

Graduation and Commissioning Information

Be sure to check the official OCS website for information aimed at families for Graduation or Commissioning.


About the Author: OCS Blog’s owner a graduate of OCC-202, fall 2009 and current Marine Corps officer. You can learn more about OCS by visiting his website.


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