OCS Endurance Course

The Marine OCS Endurance Course. Some Will Fail.

The Endurance Course is the most physically challenging event that candidates will have to undergo at Marine OCS. Everyone must complete the Endurance Course in order to graduate from OCS. It is an event that WILL send some candidates home. Females, in particular, tend to have a very difficult time with the course. However, males shouldn’t get too comfortable because there were more than a handful that had to retest. Some were even sent home.

You can expect to go through the course a minimum of threes times (6-week Program).

  1. Introduction run done as a platoon
  2. Preliminary ungraded run
  3. Run for score

Failing the Endurance Course when running it for score could mean a ticket home. During OCS 2012, the Commanding Officer elected to allow candidates who failed an opportunity to retest not only a second time, but also a third. It will depend entirely on the OCS staff at the time you attend. Prepare physically for OCS and you will not have to worry about doing the course 5 times to pass. The Basic School will have a course twice as long, so think of the OCS course as being a warm-up for what is to come.

Endurance Course Overview

There are dozens of obstacles in the Endurance Course. Here is a rough outline of the 3-4 mile course:

  1. Start with the Obstacle Course
  2. Put on an LBV and pick up a rifle
  3. Run
  4. Crawl across a rope
  5. Crawl under barbed wire
  6. Jump over and under a series of logs
  7. More running
  8. Climb a rope wall
  9. More running
  10. Dive into water
  11. Run through water
  12. Run up a hill and get your time


These are the items candidates must carry during the Endurance Course. The canteens CANNOT be emptied. You may drink them (sometimes this changes), but dumping the water out is an integrity violation that will get you sent home. The gear adds around 10 pounds to your load. The weight isn’t a huge deal, but the rifle can be cumbersome to carry.

  • M16
  • Load Bearing Vest (LBV)
  • Two full canteens

3 Permitted Rifle Carries

There are 3 authorized methods for carrying the rifle. You will find what works best for you, but do note that certain events require a specific carry (e.g., cross body muzzle down is necessary for the rope wall). Wasting time moving the rifle will only hurt you. During the introduction run pay attention to which carries are necessary for which events. That way you can move the rifle BEFORE you get to the obstacle.

Marine OCS Endurance CoursePort Arms

This is the only method you shouldn’t use. Carrying the rifle in front of you with both hands is going to waste energy. Although, if you prefer this method just go for it.




Marine OCS Endurance CourseSlip Ring

This seems to be the easiest carry method. Candidates can even use their LBVs to offload the weight on to their bodies. Hooking the pistol grip over a canteen will make life much easier.




Marine OCS Endurance CourseCross Body Muzzle Down

There isn’t any good reason to use this method unless it is required for an event. Several candidates went this route during the ungraded Endurance Course, but most find that it hinders your ability to run effectively. The rifle is going to be bouncing all over the place, and the pistol grip will dig into your lower back.




Minimum Passing Requirements

Males: 46 minutes

Females: 56 minites

As a disclaimer, these were the requirements during OCS 2012. Marine OCS is constantly changing so don’t be surprised if things don’t match up exactly when you get there. That being said, there is no reason for the minimum times to get changed unless the course changes.

Preparing for the Endurance Course

Although it would be impossible to exactly replicate the sequence of events, there are ways to prepare yourself for the Endurance Course both physically and mentally.

Running in boots

Getting used to running with boots is going to have a significant impact on your ability to perform at Officer Candidates School. This does not apply to the Endurance Course alone. Conditioning your feet to boots will help with hiking, drilling, the Obstacle Course, and just about everything else at OCS. NROTC Midshipman and Enlisted Marines should be able to do this easily since they already have Marine Corps boots. For everyone else, it is highly recommended that you purchase some boots and start training in them as soon as possible. Ensure that you don’t overtrain and get injured. One or two workouts a week in boots and an additional day of walking around in them should suffice.

Circuit Training

The Endurance Course contains dozens of different obstacles that candidates must navigate. Train your body to understand the transition between running and going through an obstacle. Here is a sample workout that can be modified for intensity and variation. The more confused your body becomes the better. Couple a workout like this with a pair of boots and your in for some intensity.

  1. Run 1/2 mile
  2. Exercise
  3. Run 1/4 mile
  4. Exercise
  5. Repeat for 4-6 miles

For the Endurance Course, exercises with a high intensity factor and lots of movement will be most effective. Here are some examples:

  • 10-20m Low crawl/High crawl/Back crawl/Bear crawl
  • 20 High jumps/Box jumps
  • 20 Burpees
  • 20 Mountain climbers
  • Uphill sprint (if possible)
  • Rope climb (if possible and you know the proper technique)
  • Jump in a body of water or dump a few gallons on yourself (perfect before doing a crawl in the mud)

Your main goal should always be to never stop moving. Don’t worry too much about sticking to the format of this workout. It is all about muscle confusion and training with intensity. If things are comfortable then you need to push harder.

OCS Pull-ups

OCS Workout That Kills: Push, Pull, Press, Abs (PPPA)

I want to say that this has to be a classic OCS workout. I had heard about it from many people for several years and when I got to OCS there it was. The workout is actually fairly simple to do, but it will destroy your arms. It is also not going to be the only thing you do for a morning PT session. There may be a platoon run, or some “introduction to” type of workout that you do beforehand. I just don’t want you to get too excited thinking that this won’t be to bad. The PPPA workout is also going to be done fairly early on at OCS. I recall it being the second, or third, PT session we had after phase 1. Scheduling does change frequently throughout the years, but since PPPA focuses on helping candidates train for the CFT and PFT my guess is that it will always be one of the first training sessions. I have heard from OCC graduates that they did the workout multiple times. I only did it once during my 6-week session.


Pull-Up Bar

(1) 30 Pound Dumbbell (or ammo can if you have it)

There is no excuse for not being able to do this workout. If you don’t have a pull-up bar go to the park, or find one at a school. There is more than likely going to be one publicly available in the area. If you don’t have the dumbbell then find a brick or fill an empty jug of water with dirt. I don’t care about having fancy equipment when I train. There are so many ways to make use of the things we have around us to get a good workout.

PPPA: Push, Pull, Press, Abs OCS Workout

Push-up/Pull-Up Supersets

  1. 10 pull-ups
  2. 25 push-ups
  3. 8 pull-ups
  4. 20 push-ups
  5. 6 pull-ups
  6. 15 push-ups

There is no rest between the pull-ups and push-ups, but you will likely get about 30 seconds to a minute after the push-ups before having to jump back into pull-ups. It is going to depend on the line to use the bar, so you may get no rest at all!.

Depending on your current physical status you can modify the number of repetitions to begin with. The Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) will say to do each exercise 3 times, but really you are going to keep on going until it is time to switch with the other half of the platoon doing presses and crunches. I would recommend continuing to reduce the reps until you hit zero. If you can start with 20 pull-ups and 50 push-ups just keep working your way down until an arm is getting ready to fall off.

Ammo Can Press/Crunches

  1. 2 min Ammo Can Press
  2. 2 min Crunches
  3. 1.5 min Ammo Can Press
  4. 1.5 min Crunches
  5. 1 min Ammo Can Press
  6. 1 min Crunches

As you can see, this event is timed and not dependent on repetitions like the pull-ups and push-ups section. That is why I mentioned earlier that you may do more than 3 sets of push-ups/pull-ups. The exercises are done with a partner, so you will have rest after each set with the time being equivalent to the time you spent doing the set. To reiterate, when training for this at home go a little further and do more intervals by adding 30 seconds and 15 seconds to the supersets. The more challenging things are when training at home the easier it will be when the real OCS workout comes around.

Marine with M16's

2 Rifle Cleaning Tools To Add To Your OCS…

Rifle cleaning at OCS is surprisingly more enjoyable than you would expect. The drill instructors, for the most part, will leave you alone. Candidates do sometimes get more comfortable than they should. The instructors will catch on to this quickly and make sure you still know where you are at. As long as everyone keeps their mouth shut and is actively cleaning their rifles things will become quite pleasant, if only for a brief moment. Rifle cleaning is going to occur several times a day once you start doing events like the endurance course, combat course, and anything else that requires candidates to dive into mud and swim through the swamps. After events like these rifles are going to be covered in mud, filled with sand, and in need of a good coat of CLP. Here are two tools that a MECEP from my NROTC unit recommended I bring to make life easier. Not to boast, but I was one of two candidates to get a perfect score on my rifle during the Platoon Commanders inspection. These two items were practically getting passed around the entire platoon after that.

Marine with M16


Update: Pete, from the comments, informed me these are being banned from OCS. Another rule to make life more difficult as a candidate. I still suggest having one for TBS and the fleet!

There were probably about 5-10 people in my platoon who brought this item. It is seriously going to save you when it comes to rifle cleaning. The standard cleaning kit includes a bunch of small rods that you have to screw together. After that you have to use these tiny little cloths and shove them down the barrel to wipe it clean. 100 times later you end up with a decently clean barrel. With the BoreSnake, you feed the string through the barrel, add a bit of oil to the wire brushes, pull the string from the other side, repeat, and you are all done. The barrel is going to be emaculate after just 2 runs with the BoreSnake. We had these things getting passed around the entire platoon. By the time OCS ended just about every candidate who didn’t have one bought one during liberty. I wouldn’t be surprised if OCS banned these things one day simply because they make cleaning so much easier.

You are going to want a BoreSnake designed for the .223 caliber M16. The Hoppe’s 24011 BoreSnake Rifle Bore Cleaner, M-16, .22 – .223 Caliber is the one I bought.

The first time using a new BoreSnake is going to be a bit scary because it takes a lot of pull to get the snake through the barrel. OCS paranoia makes you think the lace will break off leaving half the thing in the barrel. Don’t worry it just takes a few runs to break it in.

Large Cleaning Brush

I would say this is the hidden gem when it comes to rifle cleaning. No one in my platoon had one of these. The standard toothbrush like wire brush works great for the most part. You are able to get into the small areas and really dig out the dirt. However, a large brush will allow you to more quickly cover parts of the rifle that don’t need heavy cleansing. You can drop a bit of CLP on this thing and coat the entire rifle in seconds. More importantly, the small brush has short hairs which makes it difficult to get into deep crevices. A larger brush can reach some areas the issued one can’t. As a quick tip, use the large brush to stab out chucks of dirt where necessary.

You can find a good brush online, or maybe in an arts and craft store. I used a brush very similar to this one Forney 70508 Parts Cleaning Brush, Carbon Steel with Plastic Handle, 10-1/2-Inch

Both of these tools are going to be useful beyond just Officer Candidates School. A small investment now is going to save time and headaches later. If you do find yourself being the only candidate with these items, make sure you help out the platoon. Candidates who only looks out for themselves will be hated and it will get reflected in peer evaluations.

OCS Tarzan Course

The Only Thing Not To Do On The Tarzan…

The Tarzan Course is considered a physical fitness event at OCS. I will tell you right now that it doesn’t require any significant amount of physical fitness. The course is more geared towards coordination and mental fortified … I guess some candidates are afraid of heights or something? I want to say that this is an event that occurs during week 5 or 6 for the seniors course. I’m not sure if PLCĀ  Juniors does this course and OCC candidates probably do it around week 8 or 9.

So, why am I writing about the Tarzan Course. Is it graded? No, it doesn’t affect your score at OCS. Is it difficult? You have got to be kidding me. Is it the “funnest” thing you are going to do at OCS? Maybe, I actually quite enjoyed doing the course. There is even a decent zip-line at the end where you go over the infamous Quigley. The truth is I more or less just wanted to tell a story. In fact, this has got to be one of my favorite stories from my time in the depths of Quantico.

A little background is necessary to fully understand what occurred. I attended OCS during the summer of 2012. For the past year, the Tarzan Course was closed due to renovations (see that nice mesh of rope in the picture that is there to catch you). The candidates at OCS during the summer of 2012 were the first ones to break in the new ropes. How exciting, right? Well … if you happen to be the FIRST CANDIDATE to fall off the new course it might not be too exciting anymore. A candidate in my platoon, not me of course, lost his balance and fell into the safety net after getting past just the first obstacle. Our drill instructors had a field day with this one. It wasn’t anger that overcame them it was shear embarrassment that one of their candidates was the first to fall off the ropes.

OCS Tarzan CourseIn an effort to both embarrass the candidate who fell from the course and entertain all of OCS, one of our instructors had us shouting a new cadence for the rest of the day.

Instructor: “Candidate, (I won’t embarrass the poor guy)”

Platoon: “Fell off the Tarzan Course”

Repeat: 1000 times

In all seriousness, our instructor made it his goal to make sure that everyone at OCS knew which candidate fell off the Tarzan Course. We literally marched around to different buildings at OCS shouting the new cadence. It was quite hilarious and very few in our platoon were able to hold their bearing. The candidate who fell off I’m sure was embarrassed, but in the end the event brought about a slight bit of joy that is ever so hard to find in a place that so closely resembles hell. So, my lesson to you is to save yourself some embarrassment and watch your footing. If someone else happens to fall off then maybe you too can expect a small bit of debauchery that will make the day more memorable.

Platoon in Formation at Marine Officer Candidate School

Be Prepared For The “Moment Of Truth” at OCS

The “Moment Of Truth” is a part of OCS in which you are given the opportunity to disclose various types of information about yourself that may have been overlooked by your AMOI, MOI, or OSO. Essentially, the Marine Corps needs to know about any laws you may have violated. I do not remember all of the details surrounding this activity, but I will try my best to point out some of the major things you need to be aware of. I cannot stress how important it is to make sure these things are documented properly. It is a real possibility that you could be sent home if you overlook even the smallest thing. Purposely hiding crimes is a sure way to get thrown out for falsifying your application.

Parking Tickets or Other Small Fines

You should keep track of all parking tickets that were received under your name. If you have a car registered in your name and someone else gets a ticket with your car then you should keep a receipt of the payment. These are not going to be a big deal once you get to OCS, but it is good to have them documented in your record. The AMOI at my NROTC unit had all of the Marine Options get copies of the receipts showing parking tickets had been paid. Again this is not a huge deal, but you might as well start making sure they are noted.

Fines over $350

This is the important one! The $350 number may be a little off, but there is a key dollar amount that requires you get additional paperwork. For instance, if you got a speeding ticket for $200 all you need to do is disclose it. However, if the ticket was for $375 you need to disclose it, provide a receipt showing payment, and get a police background check in the county in which the violation occurred. You CAN AND WILL get sent home if the Master Sergeant at OCS is unable to track down the documents you need.

How my time at OCS was almost cut short because of a speeding ticket I received when I was 17
To demonstrate the seriousness of the “Moment Of Truth,” I am going to tell a quick story. When I was 17 years old I received a speeding ticket in the state of Texas. I am from the state of California. During OCS, I disclosed that I had received a ticket, but I wasn’t sure how much the fine was. I guessed that it was around $400. Well…that of course meant that I need more documentation. The problem was that because I was from California and the ticket was in Texas there are no easy way for them to do a background check. I, of course, was ill prepared and didn’t even know where in Texas I got the ticket. This complicated matters and made my first few weeks at OCS quite uneasy because I wasn’t sure if a ticket from my teenage year was going to crush my dreams. I was told point blank, “you may be going home.” Luckily, the staff at OCS in conjunction with my AMOI and parents (yes, mom and dad saved me) were able to track down the information they needed. In the end, the ticket was only around $200 so you can imagine how frustrating that was.

Public Intoxication or Other Offenses

Any incident that may have been documented should be disclosed. I cannot stress how important it is to reveal everything about yourself. If you were on campus and got cited for being intoxicated you need to make a note of that. If you got into a fight in high school and the incident was put in your record you should disclose that as well.Obviously, I can’t think of every scenario that may be important. Some of these things may turn out to be insignificant, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

I have a good friend who also nearly got sent home from OCS because there was a bridge toll violation for his vehicle that he didn’t even know about because someone else had borrowed the vehicle during that time. I caution you to be aware of the “Moment Of Truth” and prepare in advance everything you need to disclose. The best time to get these things added to your record is prior to OCS. Make sure that the AMOI, MOI, or OSO taking care of you has copies of all your receipts and has noted in writing all offenses.