Candidate On An LRC Obstacle At Officer Candidates School

5 Tips For The OCS Leadership Reaction Course

The Leadership Reaction Course is an important component of your leadership grade at Marine OCS. It is not as heavily weighted as SULE, but the skills practiced in the LRC will carry forward to SULE.

Essentially, the LRC is a group of mini challenges and obstacles that are carried out as a fire team. Every candidate will be required to take the role of a fire team leader and attempt an obstacle.

Candidates are given a set amount of time to receive an order, create an order, issue the order, and execute. The LRC is very time constrained and it’s important that you are completely competent when it comes to the Operations Order.

HIGH SCORES ARE NOT RELIANT UPON WHETHER OR NOT YOU COMPLETE THE OBSTACLE!

This is the most important point that you should take away from this information. It’s not about actually completing the challenge successfully. Some of the obstacles are ridiculously difficult to complete and take more time and people to actually accomplish the task. The LRC is all about leadership perception. Candidates must show qualities such as:

  • Decision Making
  • Adaptability
  • Confidence
  • Ability To Convey Orders Quickly

All of these qualities can be demonstrated without successfully finishing the obstacle.

These tips are derived from personal experience, and feedback that candidates received from instructors. Make a note of these and take them with you to OCS. Practicing these ideas will make a difference in your LRC grade and help you better develop leadership skills.

1. Give A Complete Operations Order

Candidate preparing an order for the leadership reaction courseThis is a tough thing to do given time constraints, but do not fall victim to panic and rush things. The instructor will give you a very quick and chopped up order that you must then turn into something that is complete and concise within about a minute. Candidates will likely not receive more than 20% of the information that goes in the order. The other 80% is essentially going to be made up.

For instance, it is almost guaranteed that you won’t get information for the Administration & Logistics section of the order. If your not sure what this means you just have to know that the section contains information about food, ammo, prisoners of war, and casualties. If your instructor doesn’t give you this information then just say something like, “chow will be resupplied on the objective, ammo is whatever you are carrying, POWs and casualties go to the Platoon Sergeant.”

Candidate giving orderA common mistake that candidates make is to skip entire sections of the order because it has no impact on carrying out the actual mission. As mentioned earlier, this is not about finishing the obstacle. The instructors are literally holding a grading sheet that has check boxes next to each component of the order. All you have to do is at least say the name of the section and “none”, or “no information.” A lot of candidates do great showing leadership, but they get hit hard on their grade because they failed to give a complete order.

2. Develop A 60% Plan

As the saying goes, “it is better to have an instant 60% solution than a 100% solution that is delayed.” From the second the instructor finishes giving an order, you must come up with a solution while you are starting to write your own order. It probably won’t be perfect, but you just have to go with it and make changes throughout the execution.

The worst thing you could do is hesitate when assigning tasks. Even if your tasks are vague you must be confident in your plan.

3. Don’t Be The One Carrying Out The Plan

Traversing a wall during the LRCCandidates have a tendency to take control of the physical execution of a plan.

For instance, if the mission is to build and cross a bridge then the fire team leader immediately starts moving lumber and runs across first.

This is not the way to go here.

The fire team leader must maintain a leadership role. If you start building the bridge yourself then how are you supposed to lead the fire team.

Leaders should position themselves in the middle of the group to maintain control. They should give orders to others and observe closely so that changes and new decisions can be made.

 4. Adapt Quickly To A Changing Environment

Candidate falling in water during LRC at Marine OCSThe plan will not go smoothly, and if it does then the instructor will throw in some twist to make it more difficult.

Here is an example:

The mission is to climb over a fence to deliver supplies and then return. You send 1 candidate over with the supplies and he delivers it successfully. The instructor doesn’t like that your plan is working so he tells you that the candidate you sent over was just sniped in the head. Now you must go retrieve the body.

Part of the evaluation process is making sure candidates can come up with new plans and develop decisions on the spot. Don’t be thrown off by unexpected events.

5. Scraping The Original Plan Is Not A Bad Thing

This is a tip that came up a few times from various instructors. Sometimes the 60% plan just doesn’t work. If you spend the entire duration of the course continually attempting to do something that clearly isn’t working you are hurting yourself. There is nothing wrong with pausing for a few seconds, calling in your fire team, and working together to develop a new plan. Get help from other candidates, but make sure that you first demonstrate that you can come up with a plan on your own.

The Leadership Reaction Course is a very challenging and time constrained event. Some candidates end up falling into water while others have to hang on to an ammo can with every muscle in their forearm. There are going to be enjoyable aspects to the course, but main thing is to stay focused and pay attention to everything. If you aren’t the first one to be the leader you should be learning from other candidates’ mistakes. Remember that you are graded on leadership not successfully finishing the obstacle.

Candidates Doing Push-ups

Marine OCS MCMAP Circuit Workout

Throughout Marine OCS candidates are exposed to a small amount of training from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). There will be much more MCMAP training at The Basic School. These sessions are generally not very physically intense, since you will only be doing basic punches, kicks, and a few other things. However, there was a very intense workout involving MCMAP that I can recall from my time at OCS. It has been a long time, so parts of this routine may be a little butchered.

MCMAP Circuit Workout

The workout is essentially a circuit filled with body and buddy exercises along with martial arts.

There is going to be something like 8 different stations setup as in the diagram below.

mcmap-workout-diagram

Each station is an exercise with the corners being martial arts related. There are also exercises used when traveling between stations. The distance between stations is about 15-20 meters.

Here is an example set of exercises that closely resembles the ones from OCS:

  1. Lead/Rear Hand Punch –> Buddy Drag to station 2
  2. Crunches –> Buddy Drag to station 3 (partner does it)
  3. Front Kick –> Low Crawl to station 4
  4. Push-ups –> High Crawl to station 5
  5. Uppercut –> Fireman’s Carry to station 6
  6. Squats –> Fireman’s Carry to station 7 (partner does it)
  7. Round Kick –> High Jump to station 8
  8. Burpees –> Lunge to station 1

Time

Each station should last for about 2 minutes. THE PUSH-UPS ARE GOING TO KILL YOU! This doesn’t include the time to takes to travel between stations. The PTI will wait for everyone to reach their station before starting time.

Repetitions

Candidates will do the rotation at least two times with a few minutes to rest in between. If there is extra time you can expect to keep going. That’s just how things go at OCS.

MCMAP Instructions

If you aren’t already familiar with some of the MCMAP techniques you can look at the publication. The moves are simple enough where you can learn them just by reading the instructions. You will get more training and critique at OCS. During the circuit candidates will have pads to use for punching and kicking

Home version

Not everyone out there is going to have the equipment, or even a partner, to do the workout described above. Therefore, you should modify it accordingly to suit your needs and environment. The martial arts exercises can be done without a partner, or pads. If you can’t do the buddy drags and fireman’s carry then just repeat the crawls. There are no excuses when it comes to getting fit.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome

 

Marine using a compass at night

OCS Night Land Navigation. Tips To Get You A…

Night land navigation is an important event at Marine OCS. It makes up 5% of the 25% academic grade (i.e., 5% of your total OCS grade). There is going to be at least one practice round so don’t worry too much if you aren’t confident in this area. Candidates will be able to get the help they need from instructors to be successful with this.

Here is a simple diagram showing how the course is setup.

Land Navigation Example

Every candidate is given a card with 5 letters, 5 azimuths, and 5 distances. Starting at a letter you shoot the azimuth, walk the distance, and mark the letter (it may be a letters on one side and number on the other) for where you end up. It may sound simple, but it is definitely going to be challenging considering the darkness and surprisingly chaotic terrain. There are literally dozens of enormous trees that have fallen over. Navigating around the obstacles while maintaining the correct azimuth is not easy.

Scoring

As mentioned, the night land navigation course makes up around 5% of your total OCS grade. If you don’t think that’s much you should check the evaluation guidelines again. Candidates must pass OCS with at least an 80% average overall AND in each of the three categories: leadership, academics, and physical fitness.

Scoring a zero on the night land navigation course would take your academic grade straight to 80% (1 – 5/25 * 100 = 80%) . One would have to pass every other exam with 100% to pass OCS, or else they would fall below the 80% average.

It is uncommon for a candidate to score a zero. However, the night land navigation grade is based on only 5 points. Candidates who miss 2 of the 5 points will still fail the course with 60%. Just like any other exam a failing score has to be retaken on the weekend, or occasionally during the week. Candidates retain their original score for their OCS grade, but since every exam must be passed you still have to redo the course.

All of this can be summed up to “DON’T MISS MORE THAN 1 POINT

Doing so will ruin your OCS grade and negatively impact the few hours of relaxation candidates get during liberty.

Night Land Navigation Basics

The official course information for OCS night land navigation can be found here.

A more detailed and comprehensive outline from The Basic School (TBS) can be found here.

The TBS material is going to better the better resource, but reading through both would be most ideal.

Getting Around Obstacles

tree brush

A happy and confident candidate is walking along in the middle of the night with a compass in hand and a perfectly shot azimuth. All of the sudden they run into some interesting terrain like what you see above. What is a candidate to do?

In all honestly, there is no perfect way to deal with some of these obstacles. Candidates should be very cautious when something like this happens and maybe even restart the point if you get out of sync with what you are doing. Here are a few methods that can be used.

Shoot Yourself Around the obstacle

This can be a little complicated. Especially considering you are going to be relying upon the clicks of your compass for accuracy. The goal is to box yourself around the obstacle by modifying the azimuth by 90 degrees and walking equal distances around the obstacle. This simple chart gives an idea of what this would look like. Yes, I do know that it is horrible, but you get the idea.

Navigating around an obstacle

 

Candidates should avoid doing this unless completely necessary. There are too many ways to make mistakes

Shoot a point beyond the obstacle

If there is enough light you can look for a specific point beyond the obstacle that is in line with azimuth. It must be a very specific point like a narrow tree. Double and triple check this to make sure. Then just walk to the point you were looking at. From there shoot the azimuth again and continue.

Deal with it

Sometimes the best option is going to be to climb over the tree, or walk through the brush. This is a decision you will have to make when the time comes.

No matter what don’t hesitate to restart the point if you don’t end up right on the target point.

Tips For Success

Highlight the card

Bring a highlighter with you into the field when you know night land navigation is coming up. Use the highlighter to mark the entire card you get with the starting points, azimuths, and distances. This will make the card more visible in the night.

Bold the letters and numbers

For the same reason as highlighting, if you make the information on the card bolder and darker it will be easier to see in the night.

Memorize beforehand

Don’t rely on this too much. However, there is some benefit to remembering your azimuths and distances before going into the field at night. You shouldn’t base your actions on memory alone, but if it turns out to be an especially dark night then you will be glad to have something to confirm what you are reading is correct.

What Not To Do

There are going to be several factors that impact the difficulty of the course. The weather is going to change the landscape. The moon is going to significantly affect your visibility. No matter what the circumstances there are a few things that candidates should avoid doing.

Do Not Tap The Ammo Cans

A few years back an entire platoon was kicked out of OCS after the night land navigation. Yes, you read that correctly. An ENTIRE PLATOON got sent home.

The gist of the story is that several candidates collaborated to help each other out by tapping on the target points which are ammo cans with sprayed on letters. The noise would help other candidates better navigate themselves through the darkness. It probably wasn’t their intention to cheat. Maybe they were just incompetent and thought it was like a teamwork thing or something. However, it was definitely seen as cheating. Many candidates who weren’t involved got caught in the cross fire and suffered the consequences as well.

The point is that you shouldn’t make any noise that may be misconstrued as cheating. Try not to do something as little as sneeze. If you hear of candidates trying to do something that seems out of place you should report it.

Do Not Use The Poncho Method

Candidates are allowed to use a light if they do it properly. This involves using a poncho, it’s like a rain coat, to envelope yourself on the ground. You create a little dome of sorts. As long as light doesn’t illuminate out from the area between the poncho and the ground this method is allowed.

The catch is that if you don’t do it properly you automatically fail. The risk simply does not outweigh the reward. There are several other ways to get through the night land navigation course successfully without any additional light.

Do Not Hesitate To Reshoot

This is a tip often ignored and many candidates will regret it. You are going to be tired and exhausted. The thought of having to redo a point will not seem appealing. Maybe you ended up between points A and B, but since you were slightly closer to A you figured that must be the correct spot. It may very well be the right point, but is it really worth risking 1% of your OCS grade.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU FINISH THE COURSE FIRST!

Many candidates finish the course in just 10-20 minutes. What they don’t realize is that they still have to wait for every other candidate to finish. Instead of risking a point and giving in to exhaustion go back to the starting point and confirm the target.

Do Not Forget To Secure The Compass

The instructors will remind candidates of this several times. The compass must be tied to your LBV and completely secured in it’s pouch prior to reporting to an instructor. Since candidates report after every point you will have to do this at least 5 times. Forgetting to do this is an automatic miss for the point you are reporting on. Just don’t forget.

Hopefully everyone out there has an OSO, or NROTC unit, that will help teach them land navigation. Learning the proper techniques prior to OCS will give you a significant advantage.

As a final note, PLC Juniors generally does only day land navigation. The night element will be added when you attend seniors. If you are in that program then don’t worry too much about this, but keep it in the back of your mind for when it does arrive.

Platoon Running At Marine OCS

Connecting Fitness and Leadership. An OCS Perspective

Platoon Running At Marine OCS

Physical fitness and leadership are interconnected in more ways than can be written. On paper, leadership accounts for 50% of candidates’ overall grade while physical fitness makes up 25%. The reality is that the two categories of evaluation and not separable. Physical fitness will play an important role when it comes to proving your leadership ability.

It should come as no surprise that Officer Candidates School tests for leadership competency in the midst of stressful and physically intense environments. Maintaining authority and control when the platoon is sitting on their camp stools eating MRE’s is one thing, but doing so during a 12 mile hike is another story. Candidates will be tested under strenuous circumstances and those who are not prepared physically will have a difficult time commanding their platoons.

Officers Lead From The Front … Literally

As the saying goes, “Officers lead from the front.”

This may not always mean running straight into the battlefield charging your Marines forward, but it does require that you be capable of doing so if the situation ever did arise. At OCS, there are detailed formation guidelines for training evolutions. These formations stem from the way training is conducted out in the real Marine Corps.

Billet holders will be required to maintain a certain position in formation throughout various platoon activities. Failing to do your duty as a billet holder is a red flag that tells the instructors you don’t have what it takes.

Those without billets shouldn’t start relaxing. There may not be as much pressure to perform well, but the instructors are still watching you.

Conditioning March

Company Conditioning March at Officer Candidates School

There are going to be several hikes throughout Marine OCS. Some will be short movements to get the platoon from one place to another. These are usually 3-6 miles and done at a fairly high pace. The most important of these will be the 15-km(9.3 mile) conditioning march which is a graduation requirement. Failing the 9 mile means that you fail OCS. Candidates may have the opportunity to make-up the failure with the 12 mile march, but don’t count on it.

How does leadership factor in?

It is quite simple really. Everyone with a billet is going to be expected to carry out the tasks they are responsible for. If you aren’t fit enough to keep up with the conditioning march, how can you expect to do your duty effectively. Here are some examples for billet holders.

The Candidate Platoon Commander is always in front of the platoon. If he/she can’t keep up and falls back the entire platoon is going to be watching. There is no easier way to lose the confidence and respect of your peers. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, hungry, or have blisters. The Candidate Platoon Commander must remain calm and confident throughout the hikes and not show any weakness as a leader. During rest periods, the Candidate PltCdr should be talking with individuals and reporting to the Staff PltCdr the condition of the platoon.

The Candidate Platoon Sergeant has an even tougher job. That candidate has to manage and take care of everyone in the platoon. This means running up and down the formation checking on individuals, giving reports to the Candidate Platoon Commander and Staff Platoon Sergeant, taking charge during rest periods, getting water refills to everyone, etc. If the Candidate PltSgt can barely keep up with the hike there is no way they will be able to execute the tasks expected of them. Incredibly physically fit individuals can still struggle with this.

Platoon Runs

Platoon runs are another opportunity for candidates to embarrass themselves. One of the first PT sessions candidates undergo is the introductory run which is basically a run throughout the Quantico hills that shows you where everything is. It is not a graded event, but the staff will often record the names of candidates who fall out. You might as well put a target on your back for the staff to aim at.

The responsibilities of billet holders is similar to that of the hikes. The main difference is going to be the added chaos from the increased pace. For example, the Candidate Platoon Sergeant now has to sprint from the rear of the platoon to the front in order to report issues.

The Weak Will Be Chosen

The staff at OCS is aware of just about everything and everyone in platoon. They absolutely do take into account upcoming events when choosing billet holders. If you have show yourself to be a slow runner, don’t be surprised when you end up the Candidate PltSgt for the Endurance Course introduction run done as a platoon.

The purpose of OCS is to evaluate candidates. The staff wouldn’t be doing the Marines justice if they didn’t test candidates where it hurt most.

Be Ready Physically

The PFT and CFT do have their merits when it comes to showing that you are fit enough to lead Marines. However, physical events that are done as a platoon, or in a squad/fire team, carry significantly more weight when it comes to proving leadership ability. A candidate who runs a 22 minute 3 mile is still going to have to keep up with the Staff Platoon Commander who chooses to run the platoon at an 18 minute 3 mile pace.

Minimum Suggested Physical Benchmarks For Platoon Activities

  • 3 mile run – 21 min males / 24 min females
  • 3 mile run in boots – 24 min / 27 min females
  • 5 mile run – 40 min males / 50 min females (actual expected scores for a 5 mile run event)
  • Hike 12 miles with 60-100 lbs of gear (males and females)

Don’t get comfortable because you can pass the PFT. Make sure you train your feet for hiking long distances, continue to improve running speed, and push yourself to new limits. The staff at OCS expect it. The candidates standing beside you expect it. Most importantly, the Marines you are aspiring to lead expect it.

There is no single workout that can prepare you for OCS. Continue to train using the resources provided here and through your OSO/NROTC unit.

OCS Drill Competition

Leading Your Peers. The Key To OCS Leadership.

Before anyone could ever hope to lead Marines they must first learn to lead their peers. Officer Candidates School is interesting in that it tests whether individuals are capable of establishing command authority over their peers.

Being put in a candidate billet is going to mean close to nothing to your peers. It is an interesting reality that you must experience for yourself.

After 3-4 weeks of training and over a dozen billet changes candidates begin to lose respect for one another. This isn’t going to be true for every candidate, or platoon, but it is definitely common. Due to the many factors that contribute to this reality, it is difficult to explain exactly why this occurs.

There are some things candidate can do, and avoid doing, in order to help create a more cohesive environment.

Candidates do not respond to “Candidate Instructors”

To put it simply, candidates hate it when other candidates try to act like an instructor when holding a billet.

There is already going to be a Staff Platoon Sergeant hammering the platoon into chaos. Throw in a Candidate Platoon Sergeant who believes they would be most effective mirroring the Staff Platoon Sergeant, and you have a recipe for rebellion.

Keep in mind that the rebellion is going to be aimed towards the candidate billet holders, and it will make their leadership performance look incredibly poor.

The platoon WILL NOT respond to a candidate who thinks they have the same power and authority of an instructor.

OCS Leadership Is about Embracing the ‘T’ in “Tie”

If you don’t understand the reference learn the Marine Corps leadership traits right now.

Possessing tact means that you are able to work with people in a way that maintains good relations and avoids conflict. Maintaining tact with other candidates at OCS is absolutely critical. Some OCS failures can be directly attributed to a lack of tact.

A candidate hated by the platoon will not be able to obtain enough respect and confidence to prove to the instructors that you have what it takes to lead Marines.

Earn respect before you even get a billet

Don’t be the one who is pretending to make racks while everyone else is on their knees scrubbing the deck.

There is always going to be someone watching you so put 100% effort into everything you do.

Integrity is about doing the right thing whether you are being watched or not. If something needs to be picked up, cleaned, or put away then do it without having to be told. Too often candidates feel that the only effort worth making is that which will be noticed and accredited to them. This is the exact opposite of what being a Marine Officer is all about.

Don’t give other billet holders a hard time

Helping out billet holders means taking the initiative when something needs to get done that they don’t see. It also mean giving them your attentiveness and respect.

It is amazing how much the volume of the platoon declines once instructors leave the room and candidates take over. Yes, it is exhausting shouting every minute of the day. That doesn’t mean you should shout any less once a candidate is in charge. The instructors get infuriated when the platoon isn’t loud enough, especially when candidates are the ones receiving the response. They know the platoon is being lazy and it just won’t cut it.

There are many reasons why candidates turn on each other. Most have to do with the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with being at OCS. By following these tips you can form better relationships and avoid having the platoon despise you. There are inevitably going to be candidates who make things much more difficult then they have to be. Focus on building relationships and establishing a good attitude. The bad ones will get weeded out in the process.