Platoon Running At Marine OCS OCS Leadership

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 OCS Leadership

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.

OCS Endurance Course OCS Workouts

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.

Marine Officer in Dress Blue Uniform Uniforms

Dress Blue Uniform Tips For New Marine Officers

It is expected that newly commissioned officers will make mistakes. Many of which are going to be small and insignificant. However, any opportunity to pass on wisdom to help others avoid mistakes should be taken. Here are a few tips for those who have never worn the blue dress uniform before. More than a few lieutenants have gotten one or more of these things wrong.

Medal Placement

This is something that many Midshipman get wrong. Why? Simply because they are used to the wearing medals a certain way with the Navy Service Dress Blues. For the Marine uniform, don’t cover up the button on the chest pocket. Midshipman will be tempted to pin the medal 1/4 inch above the pocket, but this is simply not the case.

Incorrect Medal Placement

Correct Medal Placement

Don’t Forget The White Collar Strip

Anyone thinking about buying their uniform items separately might forget this small item. It is a white strip that lines the dress blues collar. It is indeed noticeable if you don’t wear one of these. Also, it helps prevent the collar insignia from digging into your neck. That would just not be pleasant.
White Collar Strip

Sam Browne Belt goes under the shoulder strap

A small detail that you are likely to get wrong if there is no one with more wisdom to tell you otherwise. The Sam Browne Belt goes underneath the dress blues shoulder strap.
Sam Browne Belt

Wearing the Sam Browne Belt AND the Blue Dress Belt

This one isn’t too common, but there are a few commissioning photos out there with new lieutenants looking like this. It seems like something would click and your natural instincts would tell you that this looks too ridiculous to be correct.

Marine Officer Dress Blues Belt

There are probably plenty of other common mistakes that lieutenants make when wearing their dress blue uniforms for the first time. This list contains a few that just seem to keep turning up. Read the regulations and ask other for help!

OCS Pull-ups OCS Workouts

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.