As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Officer Candidate School Tips and Advice

Recently, more potential Coasties have reached out to me about joining the Coast Guard. One person in particular is about to leave to start Officer Candidate School (OCS) and asked for some advice. Although I don’t want to ruin any of the “fun” he is about to experience, I will share a few tricks that helped me get through the 17 weeks of training.

Of course, the Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Center Web site has some general information on what to bring and how to prepare but it surely isn’t going to give away any of the dirty details. Since it has been almost seven years since I went to OCS, I not only don’t remember the dirty details but they have likely changed since I was there. Those exciting details are for the OC (Officer Candidate) to have fun figuring out! Sorry…

Here are a few simple tips that I would offer as you start your OCS adventure.

1) Remember that only the best of the best get into OCS. You will be in a very challenging program with between 50 and 100 other overachieving, bright, and educated people. Everyone wants to lead and nobody wants to follow. My tip… be ready to pick your battles and approach every situation with an open, calm, and composed frame of mind.

2) Memorization is key because information overload is a given. My tip… try to read or hear things once and commit it to memory. This will be particularly true for those who have not had prior military experience. They will have to learn the ranks, ratings, uniform appearance, unit types, maritime lingo, and much, much more. Make friends with a prior service member. One of your strengths will be one of their weaknesses. Work together and you can absolutely achieve more than if you try to do it all on your own (see #3).

3) It’s all about teamwork. Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. I can’t say that enough. Within the first few days of training, your mental and physical strength will be pushed to the limits. If you work alone, you won’t make it. You must work as a team… all 100 of you in your OCS class. You may think a push up is done one way, but if you don’t ALL do it exactly the same way and with the same pace, it isn’t right. You may think you are folding your t-shirts right, but if you ALL aren’t folding them the same, it isn’t right. Do you get my drift? My tip… figure who is great at doing what and divide and conquer the work. This goes for cleaning, moving rooms, doing laundry, studying, uniform maintenance, and so on. One person may be the best at ironing while someone else is best at folding t-shirts or cleaning the bathroom.

4) The days are long and it can be tough to stay focused and strong for 16 hours straight. My tip… live for each meal. I know that seems odd, but the meals are the best part of the day. No, it’s not because the food is good (but, it’s not bad), it’s because the meals are your chance to re-group and think on your own for a few minutes. In the beginning, the meals won’t be fun (I don’t want to spoil any of the “fun” so I won’t tell you what I mean) but your stomach will get full and you will feel better. Also, you will get three full meals a day with each meal about four hours apart. That means you only have to get through four hours at a time instead of all 16 hours in the day.

With all this said, as I mention in my post on Bootcamp and OCS there is a point to all the training. You may not realize it while you are in it, but it is all about discipline and it will all make sense when you are finished. The pride you will feel your final weeks of training is amazing. Try to make lasting friendships because your classmates will follow you in your career. You may need to call on them from time to time and you will surely run into one or more of them along your journey.

Best of luck in training, Semper Paratus, and welcome to the Coast Guard!

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