Where is the Officer Training School for Each Military Branch?
Officer Candidate School (OCS) also known as Officer Training School (OTS) in the Air Force and Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) in the Marine Corps, is an educational program that allows individuals to become officers in the U.S. military. OCS is a rigorous program that includes classroom instruction and field training in leadership, military tactics, and other subjects.
Candidates must demonstrate leadership potential and possess the physical and mental abilities necessary to successfully complete the program. Upon successful completion of OCS, candidates are commissioned as officers in the U.S. military and assigned to a branch of service.
Officer Candidate School is a challenging program that requires dedication and hard work, but it is an excellent chance for those interested in a career in the U.S. military. OCS is slightly different for each of the six military branches, and the locations of the schools and training also vary.
Empire Resume will explain where the officer training schools for each military branch are, along with what the training involves.
Army Officer Training School
The U.S. Army’s OCS is located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where officer candidates are trained, assessed, and evaluated for the U.S. Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. Candidates are former enlisted members, warrant officers, civilian college graduates, and inter-service transfers who enlist for the OCS Option after finishing basic combat training.
For the Army, OCS is a 12-week course designed to train and develop personnel to become commissioned as second lieutenants. It’s the only commissioning resource said to be responsive enough to the Army’s shifting personnel needs because of its short length compared to other programs.
Completing OCS is one of many ways to become a U.S. Army commissioned officer. The other ways include graduation from the U.S. Service Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps, and direct commissioning, typically reserved for chaplains, medical personnel, and Judge Advocate Generals.
Enlisted soldiers must have 90 semester credit hours of college before applying to Army OCS, and civilians must have a bachelor’s degree. The Army Officer Candidate School commissions nearly 1,000 officers yearly, close to the military academy’s output (900).
Army OCS is conducted in three phases: Basic, Intermediate, and Senior. Upon arrival, officer candidates must complete a physical fitness test to enter an OCS company. Candidates should arrive for the training in peak physical condition because the cut-off for the fitness test has historically been pretty demanding.
Candidates have virtually no privileges once assigned to a class and enter a highly controlled environment likened to Basic Training. Officer candidates earn some rights throughout the training, but it’s still a very grueling process because of the policy of total immersion. This system removes the possibility of OCS candidates using their vehicles during the first six weeks of school and prohibits carrying cell phones while in uniform. Candidates are commissioned as second lieutenants if they make it through the process.
Navy Officer Training School
The Navy’s Officer Candidate School offers initial training for officers of the line and some operational staff corps communities. The Navy’s OCS is one of the three main ways this branch gets new commissioned naval officers, along with the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Qualified U.S. citizens with a bachelor’s degree meet with a Navy officer recruiter and discuss packages for consideration to apply to the OCS. Selection for the Navy’s OCS is known to be very competitive. Candidates are already associated with a designator when they begin training. This differs from the Naval Academy and Naval Reserve training corps, where trainees aren’t associated with the community until before commissioning.
Navy OCS training is a 13-week process at the Garrison/H.Q. in Newport, Rhode Island. Along with physical training and rifle drills, instruction inside and beyond the classroom includes topics like naval history, engineering, leadership, navigation, and military law. Navy OCS training is also challenging, with every action of candidates heavily scrutinized. Candidates who don’t meet milestones are held back or removed from the program, and adherence to a code of honor is mandatory. Candidates who complete the course are commissioned as active-duty ensigns in the U.S. Navy. The new officers then join their determined designator communities and are eligible for orders to the naval fleet.
U.S. Air Force Officer Training School
The U.S. Air Force’s Officer Training School (OTS) is at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. During peacetime, the training school is often the most minor commissioning source for the Air Force, producing fewer annual officers than the Air Force Training Academy and Air Force Officer Reserve Training Corps. However, the OTS tends to surge when the Air Force needs it.
The short lead time for officer production is 9-weeks of training in the Air Force OTS compared to the typical four-year commissioning process in the academy and reserve training corps. The number of officers commissioned through the Air Force OTS fluctuates because this military branch usually makes cuts to the training school if the academy and reserve corps produce enough officers. During contractions, the Air Force OTS produces very few officers, making the selection to the program competitive, especially those with no prior enlisted service.
The Air Force’s OTS has three programs with varying processes and requirements: Officer Training School, Officer Training School-Abbreviated, and Reserve Commissioned Officer Orientation. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in either technical or non-technical fields.
Applicants can apply for aeronautically rated or non-rated positions. The rated positions are for pilots, combat systems officers, remotely piloted aircraft, or air battle managers. Non-rated positions are operational ones like missiles, intelligence, or weather, or support positions like aircraft maintenance, logistics, civil engineering, or communications.
During the Air Force’s OTS, areas of instruction include military history, Air Force culture and traditions, field exercises, small arms training, and leadership. If candidates make it through the training, they’ll receive either regular or reserve commissions as second lieutenants in the Regular U.S. Air Force, the Air Force Reserve, or the Air National Guard.
Interestingly, the Air Force’s Officer Training School is also the officer commissioning source for U.S. Space Force officers. The United States Space Force is the world’s only independent space force and part of the Department of the Air Force, one of three civilian-led military departments within the Department of Defense.
The Space Force is the U.S. military’s most minor armed service, currently comprising only 8,400 military personnel. It operates 77 spacecraft overall, military satellite communications, spaceplanes, the U.S. missile warning system, and the U.S. space surveillance network, among other things.
U.S. Marines’ Officer Training School
The U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School screens and evaluates potential Marine Corps Officers, and those who successfully finish the training are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Marines. Unlike other U.S. military branches, most Marine Corps officers complete the OCS to earn a commission.
The Marines’ OCS is located at the Marine Corps Base Quantico near Triangle, Virginia. Marine office candidates go through 10-week or two 6-week courses over separate summers designed primarily to screen their fitness to lead other Marines. The training is designed to place the candidates in leadership positions in a stressful environment.
The 10-week course only takes place after a candidate’s junior year of college. Candidates are evaluated during a 2-to-3-day garrison command at the company and platoon level and then squad and fire-team level during field exercises.
Candidates for both OCS and OTS must pass a several tests before entering training. An officer selection officer will meet with the candidate, and after a satisfactory interview, the officer will decide whether to move the candidate to the next step. The candidate must write an essay about why they want to be an officer, provide an I.D. and five letters of recommendation, pass a background check, and complete a physical medical exam. There’s more even after those steps. The candidate may have to pass a physical fitness test. If candidates pass, they sign a contract to attend the training course.
All this information is then sent to a review board, which votes to decide if the candidate school be accepted to the school. The review boards usually only convene once a month. The candidate is officially accepted and scheduled for a class only after receiving a majority vote of acceptance from the board.
After all the OCS training is completed, officers are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps (or ensigns in the Navy) and sent to the Basic School at Quantico for six months of even more training with newly commissioned Marine officers. At the Basic School, the new officers receive the skills and knowledge they’ll lead to lead Marines in combat. For example, every officer is taught the skills to lead a provisional Marine rifle platoon.
Advantages of Becoming a Military Officer
Officers are the managers within the U.S. Armed Forces, as they supervise activities and personnel in nearly every specialty. Becoming a military officer requires special training and expertise, unlike simply enlisting. But in exchange for the extra responsibilities and training, military officers receive significant benefits and excellent credentials valued by military and civilian employers. For someone with a bachelor’s degree, becoming a U.S. military officer can advance your career.
Officer training schools for the many military branches are just one way of becoming an officer, and they are often worth the effort. Military officers have far-reaching benefits like high salaries and better housing. What’s even more valuable is the leadership skills you’ll learn. These characteristics can prove highly beneficial in the military and civilian workforce.
Stay tuned to Empire Resume’s military-to-civilian blog for more insights, such as articles like How to Get a Job on a Military Base, Top 10 Military Headhunters, and Getting a Federal Job Without an Interview.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has extensive experience writing resumes for professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a B.A. in Communications from The Ohio State University, an M.S. in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a Ph.D. in Finance.