Marines Training At MCB Quantico Marine Officer

How The Reduction In Manpower May Affect You

In the midst of budget cuts and a war that is winding down, it should come as no surprise that the Department of Defense is continuing to reduce manpower. With the Marine Corps having the smallest budget of all the services, it is even less surprising that we are getting hit hard. What does this mean for new officers, the number of NROTC scholarships, and OCS applicants? You won’t find a definitive answer here, in fact much of this information is speculative. However, there seems to be some evidence supporting a lot of the chatter going around.

Newly Commissioned Officers And The Basic School

If you weren’t aware, TBS is having serious trouble trying to manage the flood of new Lieutenants that are making their way into the Corps. Many of these officers signed on several years ago when the budget situation and outlook of the war was much different. For instance, most NROTC Marine Option Midshipman graduating today got in at least four years ago.

The solution has so far been to place new officers on hold, or more formally in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). In some instances, the holding time could exceed a year.

In addition, it has recently come to my attention that TBS is giving new officers the option to:

  1. Extend their time in the IRR, or
  2. Resign their commission

As of today, there are NO available TBS slots until April of 2015. Those who have an upcoming ship date can delay their entry further. This may be ideal for someone expecting a child, or dealing with other personal, financial, or private industry work related issues. The second option does seem a surprising at first, but when you examine the severity of the reduction it makes sense.

NROTC Scholarships – Can you still pick one up?

Although speculative, you can pretty much guarantee that the Marine Corps is going to be much more careful in determining who gets a full ride through college. When you think about it, the amount of tuition paid for a single person can range between $50k to $200k and up depending on the university. Given that Marine Officers coming out of NROTC only have a 4 year commitment, it doesn’t seem likely that the Corps is going to invest very heavily in this particular path given budget cuts.

As an example, my old unit, one of the smallest, generally gets between 3-5 Marines Options on scholarship each year. Last fall they only received 1.

OCS Applicants – Will You Get Picked Up For OCC/PLC

Can’t really say too much here, except that you are likely to see the same patterns. Traditionally, OCC graduates went straight to The Basic School with little time between the two. However, don’t be surprised if you end up in some temporary admin job waiting to pickup for real training.

Don’t be discouraged. The Marine Corps will always need new officers, and the best pool of applicants still have the chance to claim the title of Marine Officer. Things will balance out in the years to come.

PFT Run at OCS Officer Candidates School

Benchmarks And Workouts For TBS. A Good Reference For…

The Basic School and Marine OCS require officers and candidates to be physically prepared for the training ahead. These are the recommended benchmarks and suggested workouts for Marine Officers preparing for TBS. This information was obtained from eMarines, and will give you a general idea of what to expect.

There isn’t much difference when it comes to OCS prep. If you can do these workouts and meet the benchmarks then you won’t have any trouble.

Benchmarks

1. Hike 3-5 miles for 3-4 consecutive days with 15-35 lbs
Justification: Hiking is a consistent exercise and function at TBS. Hiking to and from field exercises and training areas will be consistent. Simply being on your feet all day with body armor can be a challenge for some.

2. Perform running 3-5x week on multiple surfaces and terrain (approximately 12-18 miles per week)
Justification: You will encounter uneven surfaces and varied distances such as the Endurance Course, Land Navigation, and Field Exercises. Building a consistent base of running will be helpful.

3. Perform plyometrics exercises such as: Squat jumps, burpees, jump rope, box jumps
Justification: maneuvering up and down obstacles such as logs, over streams, walls, and barriers will be necessary in a variety of events.

4. Perform weight training exercises with machines, free weights, or Olympic weight
Justification: There are many benefits to weight training and load bearing exercise such as increasing bone density and increasing muscle strength. Have a weight training program at minimum 2 times a week.

There are many conditioning programs available with a wide variety of goals. Try the below exercise program to see if joint or muscle pain become significant.

Sample Exercises

Clean & Squat OR Clean & Overhead Press 10 x 95lb
Box Jump 15x (approximately 16-20 inch)
Kettle Bell Swing 15x 26Kg
Decline sit up 20x
Clap and push up 10x
(Scale weight as needed)

For those with lower extremity pain, injury or surgery

Single leg hops equal in HEIGHT to the unaffected side
Single leg bounding equal DISTANCE to the unaffected side
Range of motion equal or near equal to unaffected side
Single leg squat strength with stable hip and knee
Martial Arts: Leg sweeps, heavy bag kicks, push kicks

For those with upper extremity pain, injury, surgery

Pull ups without pain
Single arm press resistance equal to unaffected side
Clapping push ups
Dynamic side planks
Wall hand stand
Range of motion equal or near equal to unaffected side
Martial Arts: forward shoulder roll, heavy bag strikes, break falls

Sample Workout Programs For OCS/TBS Prep

Week 1

Monday

Morning: Low impact cardio 30 mins
Evening: Weight training (M)

Tuesday

Morning: Run 2 miles moderate
Evening: Weight train (L), run sprints

Wednesday

Morning: Off
Evening: Sprints

Thursday

Morning: Weight train (H), Low impact cardio
Evening: Run 3 miles

Friday

Morning: Lo Impact
Evening: Weight train (L), Plyometric, run 2 miles

Saturday

Morning: Foam roller, flexibility
Evening: Run 1 mile interval x 2

Week 2

Monday

Morning: Off
Evening: Weight training (M)

Tuesday

Morning: Run sprints
Evening: Weight training (M)

Wednesday

Morning: Run 2 miles
Evening: Weight Training (H)

Thursday

Morning: Flexibility, foam roller
Evening: Sprints 5×100

Friday

Morning: Weight train (L)
Evening: Plyometric, run 2 miles

Saturday

Morning: Foam roller, flexibility
Evening: Weight train (H)

(L) = Light weight exercises: Body weight, 50% of maximal effort, allowing for repetitions between 15 and 20.
(M) = Moderate weight exercises: Body weight + weight vest, 70% maximal effort, allowing for repetitions between 10 and 15.
(H) = Heavy weight exercises: Near maximal lifting capacity, 85-90% maximal effort, allowing for repetitions between 6 and 8.
Plyometric = Jump routine with jump rope, box jumps, bounding jumps
Foam roller & Flexibility = development of warm up and stretching for range of motion, flexibility training and recuperation.

Candidate On An LRC Obstacle At Officer Candidates School OCS Leadership

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.

Radio Operators Calling For Support Communications

Communications Officer Billets

Marine Communications Officers have four basic options to pick from as far as billet assignments go, and they essentially boil down to the four parts of the MAGTF:

COMM BATTALION: Supports the Command Element
DIVISION: Supports the Ground Combat Element
MLG: Supports the Logistics Combat Element
WING: Supports the Air Combat Element

So that describes where in the Marine Corps you’re going, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s easiest to understand using the infantry model as an example.

Division, MLG, Wing

Let’s say you get assigned to 1st Marine Division. You’re going to report to the Division’s COMM COMPANY; this is the unit responsible for setting up comm for the Division Headquarters. From there you’ll be assigned a platoon: Radio, Wire, Data, Satellite Communications, etc. You’ll stay in the comm company for a few months learning how life as a Communications Officer works.

After awhile you’ll be sent out to a unit within the division. That could be an infantry regiment or battalion, a tank battalion, an artillery battalion, etc. If you get an infantry battalion you will be an “independent S-6,” meaning your boss is the Battalion CO and you’re the only comm-o in the unit. If you go to a larger/more complex unit, such as a regiment or a tank battalion, you’ll be the S-6A (assistant). You’ll work for a captain, who is the regular S-6. In either case, you’ll run that unit’s comm platoon, which will consist of about 60 Marines and will be split into radio, wire, and data sections.

That’s how it works at Division, and it’s roughly the same at MLG and Wing.

Radio Operators Calling For Support

Comm Battalion

Comm Battalion (which supports the MAGTF Command Element) is a little different; you’ll get assigned your platoon (again, radio platoon, wire platoon, data platoon, etc), and that will be your platoon. You’ll stay at the comm battalion for the duration of your tour. Comm Battalions typically don’t deploy as a whole, but instead will deploy a company at a time. For instance, when I MEF was in Iraq, it would be supported by 9th Comm Battalion’s Company A for awhile, then B, then C, etc.

You could potentially get sent on a MEU in comm battalion, and in that case you will probably be an independent S-6 or an S-6A for the MEU Command Element.

What are the big differences between each assignment?

Aside from the obvious fact that infantry does infantry and logistics does logistics, there are a few other differences as well:

Division units tend to be very radio-heavy and less data-heavy, especially at the battalion level. Radios are easy to use and set up by your average grunt, they can be operated on the move, and they are highly mobile. Data and other, heavier comm systems require significant time to set up and take down, and major comm nodes are highly susceptible to enemy attack. As such, you’re likely to see more data and other such technical gear at higher levels only in the division. Same applies for MLG.

Wing units are EXTREMELY data heavy. Lots of computers and command and control applications are used to control airspace, and long range communication necessitates Satcom and multichannel radio links.

BOTTOM LINE: No matter what, as a comm-o you will have a platoon of Marines. They’ll also be remarkably intelligent Marines. You really can’t lose, but based on what you’re looking to get out of the Marine Corps you have several options, at least one of which will appeal to you.

How do you go about picking a billet?

In the first week of comm school, you’re asked for your “geolocation” preferences. These give you a broad idea of where you’ll be stationed: East Coast, West Coast, or Overseas. Later in the course you’ll put in your preferences for billet: Comm Battalion, Division, MLG, or Wing. Talk to your faculty advisor throughout the course so you’re sure he knows your preferences and your reason for choosing them.

Then billets will be revealed. Most people will follow the path described above (e.g., reporting to the Division Comm Company, then getting tasked to a lower unit), but some people will be assigned directly to a subordinate unit. If that’s something you feel strongly about, make it known to your faculty advisor as well.

Marine With A UAV MOS

A Note On MOS Selection And UAV Officers

At TBS there is going to be an “MOS Mixer”, which is basically where a bunch of Captains talk about their Marine Occupational Specialties then you go to the bar and talk to them over beers. It is a great experience that will give real insight into what being an officer in a certain MOS means.

UAV Officers

The UAV Officer MOS is a brand new officer MOS and no one knows anything about it. Here’s is some basic gouge about the UAV MOS that came up during the mixer.

  • UAV Officers work with a team of two or three Marines operating a UAV from a FOB.
  • The UAV Officer is the mission commander who directs the operation of the UAV, gathers intelligence from the feed, and supervises the coordination of that intelligence with the S-2 and whatever unit on the ground the UAV is supporting
  • In the future, the Marine Corps will be arming UAVs. When that happens, officers will begin directly operating them, as enlisted personnel are not allowed to operate craft that can drop ordinance.
  • This is a growing industry. It’s the only growing field in the Marine Corps at the time
  • Marines who get selected for UAVs will go to several Air Force schools. You’ll get your basic pilot’s license flying a Cessna, then focus on UAV material. Similarly to flight school, training will take a few years.
  • Currently, Marines selected for UAVs have only a 55% pass rate through UAV schools. This is an Air Force school that is heavily academic, and Marines coming out of TBS tend not to be prepared because TBS doesn’t teach you any skills relevant to operating a UAV. On the other hand, Air Force LTs show up with a thorough understanding of how the aircraft works.
  • Marine UAV operators are extremely successful once they get to the fleet. Since TBS teaches infantry tactics, how to coordinate with infantry, and how to call for fire, Marine UAV operators are effective as forward observers for fire support.

Some thoughts on MOS selection

If you want infantry, you’re probably going to get it. People are getting dropped and DOR-ing from IOC at a pretty incredible rate right now, which is leaving a lot of openings. Some classes have over 50 infantry slots! Some people who DON’T want infantry are probably going to get it. When you take away reservists, flight contacts, and females (not sure how the new regulations will impact numbers), 1 in every 4 male active duty Lieutenants will get infantry.