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Leadership through Officer Candidate School

By Spc. Avery Cunningham | 172nd Public Affairs Detachment | May 18, 2017

CENTER STRAFFORD, N.H. — There are multiple ways to become an officer in the Army; college students could join the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while pursuing their degree, attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, receive a direct commission or attend the Officer Candidate School.

OCS is the program tailored for currently serving Soldiers or recruits with a four-year degree to earn their commission.

“It’s a program [Officer Candidate School] where we take enlisted Soldiers from the Army National Guard and we train them and turn them into commissioned officers,” said Capt. Mathew Higgins, a senior instructor with Hotel Company, 2nd Modular Training Battalion, 124th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), Vermont National Guard.

For the National Guard, each state has its own OCS program, so a state can be self-sufficient in officer training.

“The advantage of OCS is you can be an enlisted soldier for several years and as long as you meet that minimum college requirement, you can come here and do this on the weekends and two, two-week resident phases, so it makes it a little bit easier for citizen-soldiers that have full-time jobs and families,” said Maj. Sam Weber, Delta Company, 195th Regiment (RTI).

The National Guard breaks the training down into four phases. The first phase, Phase Zero, is the preparatory phase, lasting between two to six months. The second phase, Phase One, is their first annual training. For Region One Soldiers, this is hosted at Camp Niantic, Connecticut. This focuses on basic Soldier tasks and skills.

Phase Two is the longest phase as it consists of monthly drills throughout the year being conducted with other officer candidates. It builds on foundational skills while also introducing troop-leading procedures, five-paragraph operations orders, how to lead, and how to train each other.

To progress to Phase Three, Region One OCS candidates take part in a four-day training event held at New Hampshire National Guard Training Site in Center Strafford, New Hampshire. This event occurred from May 18 to May 21 for the officer candidates of Region One.

Phase Three is the final phase consisting of a three-week course and a final evaluation. Qualified candidates receive their commission after this phase.

“In under two years, they go from being an enlisted Soldier or an NCO to being a commissioned officer,” said Higgins.

The transition from an enlisted Soldier to an officer can be challenging, but Higgins says they want to produce the best leaders possible.

“The leaders are the ones who have the foresight and vision to drive the Vermont Army National Guard to get us where we need to go,” said Higgins. “This is not an easy thing to do, it’s definitely not for everybody. It’s a challenge and you will be challenged, you will be stressed, but that breeds success and weeds out all but the best.”