Camp Woodward, PA -- Twenty-eight aspiring officer candidates from Officer Selection Team Columbus, Ohio spent the weekend preparing their minds and bodies for the rigors of Officer Candidates School during an OCS preparatory weekend at Camp Woodward, Pa. April 25-27.
The weekend was planned with the purpose of giving the Candidates a realistic view of OCS.
The mission of OCS is to train, evaluate, and ensure candidates possess the moral, intellectual, physical, and leadership values to serve as successful Marine Corps officers.
“OCS is a very unique environment and the candidates are not going to be prepared until they are put in an environment like that,” said Capt. Robert Gervasio, an officer selection officer from OST Columbus and a Long Island, N.Y. native. “Our thought process was that we are not setting them up for success unless we conduct some type of training that introduces them to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of OCS.”
The training began when the candidates arrived at the rural Pennsylvanian camp the night of April 25. The training started easily as the candidates orientated themselves and received a series of classes covering such topics as Marine Corps history, customs, courtesies and weapons safety.
The bulk of the training occurred the next day when the candidates were abruptly awakened at 6 a.m. by sergeant instructors who had quietly arrived in the early morning. Wearing their trademark black belts, the SIs loudly ‘motivated’ the candidates through their morning physical training warm up and physical fitness test.
The presence of the instructors was a jolt into reality for the candidates, according to Greg Haylett, who studies biological sciences and physical therapy at Ohio University and a Poland, Ohio native.
“One of the hardest aspects of the weekend was the initial shock of reality,” said Haylett, referring to the instructors. “You realize this is what the intensity (at OCS) will be like and you will be experiencing this every day for the six weeks of training this summer.”
After completing the PFT, the candidates broke into three groups and took turns completing the ropes course, combat fitness and small unit leadership classes.
Each class had an individual purpose with the ropes course testing the candidate’s confidence, the combat fitness course testing their physical fitness through a variety of exercise stations such as a bear crawl or pull-ups, and the leadership class testing the candidates coordination while patrolling through the woods where they had to work as a unit and deal with different events.
Olivia Waugh, who studied criminology at Ohio State University and a Zanesfield, Ohio native, said the combat fitness course was the most challenging event of the day.
“The combat fitness training was the hardest because it was so intense and you are not just worrying about yourself but the entire team also,” said Waugh.
The last class was the leadership class which took the candidates on patrol through the woods where they had to patrol as a unit and deal with different events, such as an enemy ambush. The final day of training had the candidates complete a Combat Fitness Test before packing up to go home.
One of the candidates who participated in the prep weekend was Colorado Springs, Colo. native Malik Birks. Birks, who studies political science at Marietta University and plays quarterback on the school’s football team, had long dreamed to serve in the Marine Corps and lead Marines. Birks grew up with an army father, but decided to join the Marine Corps.
Birks said that the weekend prep class helped prepare him for the upcoming rigors of OCS.
“It was like a dream come true,” said Birks. “I loved every second of it. From waking up with the SIs, to the actual training, it was all exhilarating and real. It has been a wealth of knowledge. All the questions I had about OCS have been answered. “
Gervasio said that the response to the OCS prep weekend from the candidates has been positive.
“It was the most motivating training they had done this year,” said Gervasio. “They all found the training incredibly valuable and they were able to push themselves further than they ever thought they could. They now have a great deal of confidence because they know what the environment (of OCS) is going to be like, what the challenges are going to be like, and this past weekend will always be in the back of their head as they go forward now.”