The Why: Find your motivation
What attracts you to becoming a Marine Corps officer? Before you make a life-altering commitment, you need to examine your motivation and your perception of military life versus the reality. First, let’s consider your motivation. Many things go into possible motivation, and here are a few examples:
- Are you patriotic? If you don’t feel like “giving back” to this country, how will you feel when you are forced to make sacrifices for it?
- Are you a team player? Most Marine officers played on sports teams, and all of them have to be able to work well with others and for the benefit of a group, not just themselves.
- Do you crave leadership opportunities? As an officer you will hold much responsibility and probably command many Marines.
- Does the phrase “baddest fraternity on the planet” make you excited or does it make you uncomfortable? The Marine Corps is a proud warfighting gun club absolutely true to its stereotypes.
- Are you going to college? A degree is mandatory for commissioned officership.
- Do you just like Call of Duty and Act of Valor? Leadership in the Marine Corps is not a video game. It is tedious, difficult, rarely glamorous, and frequently frustrating. If you are just an armchair military buff, joining the service would be a huge blunder.
- Do you crave meaning? As President Reagan echoed, “some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” You will make a difference as an officer.
So you want to be in the military? How about the Few, the Proud?
Have you educated yourself on all your options? If you’re not even sure if the Marines are right for you, make sure to study all the military branches to find out where you would fit in best. See a discussion of differences between serving in the Army or Marines from our friends at Future Jarheads: Should I join the Army or Marines?
Officer or Enlisted?
If you do not have a college degree yet, you could enlist after high school. If you are unsure if you want to be an officer or an enlisted Marine, consider this post from our partners at Future Jarheads: USMC Officer or Enlisted
Enlisted to Officer?
If you are set on becoming an officer, but can’t get selected to OCS during a very competitive period, we recommend reading this post, and the comments:
Not every aspect is fun or glamorous. Consider the cost, not just the benefits, of a completely different lifestyle.
If you enlist, then commission, you are what’s known as a Marine Mustang Officer.
The What: Officer opportunities
A second lieutenant’s career begins with his or her primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Every specialty demands mature, responsible leadership. It would be an excellent idea to research all the officer MOSs before making your decision.
Though officers indicate their preferences, MOSs are assigned based on individual performance and the needs of the Marine Corps. Your major in college does not determine your MOS and there is no guarantee you will get your preferred MOS. A great majority of second lieutenants get an MOS in their top five preferred choices. Do some research on officer.marines.com to educate yourself on possible jobs. Some of the most common segments are combat arms, logistics, and aviation.
The Where: Possible duty stations
Eighty percent of the Marine Corps is based in the Camp Lejeune, NC area, Camp Pendleton, CA area, or Okinawa, Japan. Frequent deployments to Afghanistan, or on Navy ships, or to disaster areas are a fact of life. The “plus” is getting to travel around the world. The “minus” is that you don’t usually choose when and where you go, and most rarely get stationed near family as active duty.
The advantages of becoming a Marine far exceed a simple list of benefits: Marine Officers are supported by the Marine Corps brotherhood, as well as by a range of personal and professional resources. During active service, officers and their families have access to a variety of benefits. Read more at officer.marines.com
The How: OCS and beyond
You will work with an Officer Selection Office, or a recruiter for candidates, to get educated, screened, and to submit an application for service. They will be your first face-to-face interaction with the Marine Corps. Before submitting your application package and before you ship to OCS, they will test you with the PFT: The Physical Fitness Test. Make sure you’re ready and already training for it!
Officer Candidates School Mission
The mission of Officer Candidates School is to train, evaluate, and screen officer candidates to ensure they possess the moral, intellectual, and physical qualities for commissioning, and the leadership potential to serve successfully as company grade officers in the operating forces.
This short film is a great introduction to the purpose and experience of OCS:
There are multiple ways to earn a commission as a United States Marine Officer. The only Marine officers who are commissioned and do not graduate from Officer Candidates School are appropriately screened and evaluated at the United States Naval Academy. If you would like to research Annapolis, visit our partner blog at USNA or Bust! All other Marine officers graduate from one of four officer training programs held at Brown Field in Quantico, the home of Marine Corps Officer Candidates School.
Below are the basics of the four programs:
Officer Candidates Course
OCC is a 10-week commissioning program for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. OCC classes are held three times a year, in fall, winter, and summer. Females only attend summer or fall, and the winter class is the smallest of the three.
Platoon Leaders Class
PLC is either two 6-week programs called PLC Juniors and Seniors or a single 10-week program called PLC Combined in which undergraduate college students attend OCS during their summer break. Candidates cannot enroll in PLC Seniors without succesfully completing the Juniors course. Upon successful completion of OCS, these officer candidates return to their respective colleges to finish their degree requirements before receiving a commission.
Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps
NROTC is a scholarship program that provides money for college in return for a commitment to serve at least four years as an active duty Marine Officer. NROTC students receive various classes on Naval Science during the course of their four year college program and attend OCS the summer prior to their senior year. NROTC Marine Option students must successfully complete a 6-week program at OCS to be commissioned as Marine Officers.
Enlisted to Officer Commissioning Programs
Enlisted Commissioning Program
ECP provides those enlisted Marines who already hold a bachelor’s degree the opportunity to commission. Qualified Marines attend OCS and commission upon successful completion of the program.
Meritorious Commissioning Program
MCP provides enlisted Marines with an associate’s degree or 75 semester credit hours the opportunity to commission. Qualified Marines attend OCS and commission upon successful completion of the program and earning their bachelor’s degree.
Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program
MECEP provides outstanding enlisted Marines who do not yet have their degree the opportunity to become Marine Officers. Applying Marines must be active duty of the rank of Cpl or above. If accepted, they will attend a college with an NROTC program and commission upon completion of a 6-week program at OCS and earning their bachelor’s degree. NROTC midshipmen and MECEP Marines attend the same training program.
Note: Enlisted Commissioning Programs are being changed for 2012. Talk to an OSO for current information.
For more information, talk to your local Officer Selection Officer at your Marine Corps Recruiting Station, your Career Retention Specialist, or visit http://officer.marines.com/
The Challenge of OCS
OCS is a physical, mental, and emotional grinder. If you are committed to attending, you will need to be well prepared! Educate yourself. Prepare yourself physically. Ask Questions. Connect with other candidates. Above all, don’t take it lightly.
After OCS: The Basic School
TBS is an intense 6-month training school which indoctrinates Second Lieutenants in basic officership, leadership and ethics, and command of an infantry platoon. The transition from OCS to TBS varies depending on your OCS source.
The Basic School Mission
Train and educate newly commissioned or appointed officers in the high standards of professional knowledge, esprit-de-corps, and leadership required to prepare them for duty as company grade officers in the operating forces, with particular emphasis on the duties, responsibilities and war-fighting skills required of a rifle platoon commander.
The emphasis of training at TBS follows the five horizontal themes:
- A Man or Woman of Exemplary Character
- Devoted to Leading Marines 24/7
- Able to Decide, Communicate, and Act in the fog of war
- A Warfighter who embraces the Corps’s warrior ethos
- Mentally Strong and Physically Tough
TBS is the equivalent of an associate’s degree worth of learning, all packed into six months of 15 hour training days. It is where lieutenants receive their MOS assignments. Learn more on the official website.