FORT A.P. HILL, Virginia –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers interested in furthering their careers as officers gained insight into the Officer Candidate School experience March 12-13, 2022, during a pre-OCS event held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. The training, conducted by cadre assigned to the Fort Pickett based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, aimed to prepare Soldiers for the unique challenges of OCS.
One focus of the weekend was land navigation, a skill many struggle with during OCS.
“There are a lot of failures associated with land nav when going through phase one of OCS,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Ice, one of the OCS instructors. Ice said his goal was to ensure the candidates had honed their land navigation skills before testing started later in their OCS experience.
For most candidates, it was the first time in a long time on a land navigation course. The classroom portion included an overview of land navigation basics like how to plot points on a map and shoot an azimuth, and then culminated with a practical exercise completed in two-person buddy teams. Each team received three points to find in a maximum of two hours and, for the prospective officers who attended the March pre-OCS event, weather presented an additional challenge with below freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall.
Failing to find their points in the allotted time would not disqualify any Soldier from continuing their OCS journey, but for those competing for one of nine coveted accelerated OCS slots, their success on the land navigation course mattered. Their success on the course will count toward their ranking on the order of merit list for those vying for an accelerated slot.
In Phase 1 of OCS, the candidates will have their land navigation skills testing again, and there, the stakes are higher. Failing twice will result in expulsion from the program. Ice explained that focusing on land navigation during pre-OCS and zero phase, results in a greater success rate in later phases.
“Virginia does not lose very many people because we do this beforehand,” Ice explained.
Pre-OCS is a requirement for those interested in attending accelerated OCS, which is a continuous eight-week program, compared to the traditional OCS program which includes 12 months of drill weekends and two two-week annual training periods.
“Typically, only nine or 10 candidates will go accelerated,” Ice said.
Thirty-five Soldiers attended the March pre-OCS event and within the first 12 hours, three had already dropped from the course. Capt. Richard Dekeyser, the training officer for OCS, said he expected the number to grow by the end of the weekend, and that he expected around 20 Soldiers to continue.
Additional pre-OCS weekends are scheduled for April 23-24, 2022, and May 21-22, 2022, all at Fort Pickett. Any Soldier can attend in lieu of drill with approval from their command. Soldiers interested must be GTC cardholders, possess all standard individual equipment, have a GT score of 110 or higher along with 90 or more college credits, a passing APFT or ACFT score and hold a secret or interim clearance. All candidates will take the ACFT during pre-OCS and should be physically prepared to do so. For more information, contact the 183rd RTI at 434-292-2905.