Marine with M16's Officer Candidates School

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

BoreSnake

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.

Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investing

Index Funds As A Preferable Alternative To Mutual Funds

I have already expressed my opinion about mutual funds, but I have yet to provide a viable alternative. The reality is that most of us aren’t going to have enough time to actively manage our own stock portfolio. You should still try to find good long term stocks to own, but you aren’t going to be able to keep a very close watch if you are deployed and have 10+ stocks to worry about. Index funds are an incredible alternative to mutual funds that can add diversity to any portfolio.

The first index fund was establish in 1975 by the creator of Vanguard, John Bogle. Index funds utilize computers to automatically buy and sell shares in a manner that complements the marketplace (e.g., the S&P 500). If a stock represents 3% of the S&P 500, it is going to signify 3% of the index-fund. Such funds need almost no care whatsoever, and operate in a manner that is both tax-efficient and inexpensive. Put simply, index funds are merely sets of shares that computers handle in order to mirror the marketplace whether it by the S&P 500, or something else such as real estate.

Every mutual fund manager claims he is able to overcome the marketplace. They constantly engage in new trades, and utilize information along with elaborate analysis to bolster their advertised results. The real outcome is high trading costs and taxation, which, when along with the expense ratio, makes it practically impossible for the typical trader to overcome. Bogle acknowledged the shortcomings of mutual funds, thus offering index funds as a favorable alternative.

Currently, index funds are a simple and effective strategy to create a substantial investment return. Nevertheless, the index funds will follow the marketplace. If the stock exchange falls, your assets will likely fall. There may be times of hardship but, as history has revealed, ,markets will almost certainly rise back over the long term.

There will always be positives and negatives associated with any investment. Here are some key points to note when considering investing in an  index fund.

Yes! Invest in an index fund

  • Tax-efficient
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to manage

No! Stay clear of index funds

  • You will generally have to invest in multiple index funds to properly allocate assets in a diversified manner
  • Managing several index funds will require some time re-balancing assets

Index funds definitely have some advantages over buying mutual funds. If you wish to create and manage the precise make-up of your collection making use of their reduced costs, they’re an outstanding option. Still, it may not be the best choice for everyone. If you aren’t willing to take at least a little bit of time (once a year at the least) learning proper asset allocation and researching the various index funds then you may need a different investment vehicle to hop in.

Humvee Photo Investing

Mutual Funds Are Like Humvees. Less Exposure But More…

The marketplace is run by some very intelligent people. Those individuals are quite cunning when it comes to creating investments for those they serve. Mutual funds were concocted in 1924 as a way for investors to alleviate the burden of picking stocks themselves. The idea was to give the average person a chance to simply choose from a variety of funds and let their money sit. Mutual funds come in all sorts of flavors for you to choose from: large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, biotech, 3D printing, social media platforms, Asia, Europe, and whatever other category you can throw together. Many find them favorable due to a greater level of diversification. Instead of picking 5 stocks to invest in 3D printing, you could choose to buy a mutual fund that holds all of the best players. In this manner, you are investing in a sector, rather than a specific company. Mutual funds are also commonplace in investment accounts such as an IRA, or a 401(k).

Little risk? More diversification? Hands off? What’s the catch? The mutual fund investment vehicle has been popular and profitable for decades and loved by Wall Street. Simply put, the catch is that money managers are going to charge premium fees for their services. The money spent paying the big guys to pick your stocks is going to cut into your overall profits and retirement income. The amount you end up paying up will vary depending on the fund. There are some low-fee funds, but for the most part you can expect to get knifed in the wallet by the guys taking care of your money. In some cases, higher fees will be justified. If you are getting good returns and not having to worry too much about losing all of your savings then you might as well ride this one instead of doing nothing.

Yes! Invest in a mutual fund.

  • Less to worry about when you don’t have time to manage your investments (especially during deployments and field training)
  • Diversified portfolio of stocks

No! Stay clear of mutual funds

  • Fees … Fees … more Fees. You could end up paying tens of thousands over the course of a lifetime
  • Funds do not always beat the market so you end up paying heavy fees and losing capital
  • If you own multiple funds they may contain similar holdings which means you aren’t as diversified as you thought

The main thing you need to know if that mutual funds definitely have their place when it comes to investing your money.  If you have some time to manage your own portfolio then I would limit investments in these funds and try to beat the market on your own. However, as Marines we are always going to be busy doing what we need to do. Don’t let your investments detract you from taking care of your Marines. A mutual fund may be the peace of mind you need. Know yourself and decide what works best. I would also like to suggest index funds as a great alternative to mutual funds.

Marine Corps Officers must teach Marines about investing Investing

The Roth IRA Investment Vehicle For Marine Corps Officers

Marine Corps Officers MUST be knowledgeable when it comes to investing. Not simply for their own benefit, but more importantly for the Marines whom they teach financial management. The Roth IRA should be one of the first things you teach your Marines. The Roth IRA is an retirement account that offers a future tax-free retirement income. The idea behind the Roth IRA is that you pay taxes now in order to free yourself of such a burden later on. The investment account is a sensible option for those who expect to be paying a higher tax rate during retirement. If you are not making a whole lot of money now you can minimize future taxes by paying up-front at your current lower rate.

Marines and Marine Corps Officers Are Eligible

There are eligibility requirements for the Roth IRA. However, given that you have chosen a career in the military you likely won’t be making enough money to warrant exclusion from this investment option.

Here is the official Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2014

If your filing status is… And your modified AGI is… Then you can contribute…
married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)

< $181,000

up to the limit

> $181,000 but < $191,000

a reduced amount

> $191,000

zero

married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year

< $10,000

a reduced amount

> $10,000

zero

single, head of household, or married filing separately and you did not live with your spouse at any time during the year

< $114,000

up to the limit

> $114,000 but < $129,000

a reduced amount

> $129,000

zero

More to Know

As I explained, the main benefits to having a Roth IRA is the future tax benefits you will receive. There are some additional considerations you should take into account.

  • You have a 15 month window to contribute (e.g., January 1, 2014 to April 15, 2015)
  • You can’t contribute any more than you make (e.g., if your income is only $2000 for the year you can only contribute $2000 of the $5500 max)
  • Age is not a factor to eligibility
  • There is no requirement to start withdrawing (with a traditional IRA you have to start withdrawing at 70 ½)
  • If your spouse doesn’t work you can contribute to their Roth IRA

Early Withdrawals

It is incredibly important for Marine Corps Officers to educate their Marines about how early withdrawals work with the Roth IRA. In most cases, withdrawals from a Roth IRA before 59 ½ will be subject to a penalty.  One could end up paying a 10% early withdrawal fee + taxes on the Roth’s earnings + income tax. There are ways to avoid some of these penalties such as disability, death, medical expenses, first-time home purchase (up to $10,000), higher education expenses, and ironically to pay taxes owed to the IRS.

There is no doubt that a Roth IRA is a solid investment choice for Marine Corps Officers and the Marines they lead. The retirement account affords you a wide variety of investment options such as mutual funds, brokerage (stocks, bonds, and other securities), CDs, and more. I encourage everyone to do their research and compare the varying opportunities in order to find the best option for you.

NROTC Commissioning Ceremony NROTC

A Case For Joining NROTC. It’s Truly A Great…

There are quite a few commissioning options for those who are looking to join the ranks of Marine Officers. I would like to provide a 100% completely biased opinion about the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. My disclaimer is that I commissioned through the 4 year NROTC program as a Marine Option Midshipman; therefore, I do not have the experiences of a Naval Academy, PLC, or OCC graduate (contact me if you have other experiences to share).

The Money

Might as well start with the good stuff, right? If you don’t already know, NROTC affords you the opportunity to have your tuition completely paid for. Not every Marine Option midshipman has the NROTC Scholarship, but the vast majority do. Those who join as a “College Program” (no scholarship)  midshipman will be given the chance to compete nationwide for available scholarships. In addition, you will receive a monthly tax-free stipend that may be used as you please. Don’t forget you also get some extra cash to pay for books, and if you don’t end up using it all it can get pocketed! Believe me when I say that the monthly/book stipends are a huge help when it comes to getting through college financially. I will admit that sometimes the stipend money ends up getting used for NROTC related expenses (transportation, lost uniform items, etc.), but usually it’s going to end up helping you pay rent.

The Friendships Built Through NROTC

When I got married who do you think was on my “must invite” list? For one, my entire commissioning class. Secondly, there were several people from other graduating classes that I really wanted to be there. I made a conscious decision to invite friends from NROTC in lieu of parts of my (and my wifes) family. The relationships you make are unbelievable. There is a deep level of trust that you will develop with your classmates and I believe it is the first step to understanding the cohesiveness of the military itself. Naval Academy midshipman will likely experience this as well, but with NROTC there is a lot more freedom to do things unrelated to the military with your classmates. I went snowboarding with them, camping, blackjack at the casino, drinks every Thursday night, and so much more. It really is significant to be a part of such an exciting new community.

The True College Life

PLC and OCC Marines will actually get this a little bit more than midshipman. Simply because they do not have the same responsibilities while in college. With Platoon Leaders Class and Officer Candidates Courses you will essentially do college like a regular student. Midshipman are going to have to wear uniforms on occasion, attend specific classes, show up in the morning for physical training, etc. This part is mainly directed towards the Naval Academy. With NROTC, you are able to develop yourself as an officer while being afforded the chance to engage in college like everyone else. If you want to join the anime club you can do it. If you want to skip a class once in a while there won’t be anyone stopping you. The Naval Academy is it’s own community and going there will inevitably teach you in ways that NROTC never could. I just prefer to be able to live college life normally for the majority of my time.

The Experiences Unique to NROTC Midshipman

I will simply say that there are more than a few great experiences NROTC gave me. I am from California. I went to school in California. I never did much traveling. In my 4 years of NROTC here are some of my highlighted experiences:

NROTC leadership conference at the University of Notre Dame

  1. Weekend trip to the University of Notre Dame for a leadership conference
  2. Trips to Memphis, Tennessee for a drill competition
  3. A SECOND trip to Memphis, Tennessee for another drill competition

I’m sure the Naval Academy does a bunch of cool stuff also, but I think I’ve had my fair share of good times.

 

 

 6 Week OCS!

If you have read or heard anything about Marine OCS you know that it is not a place you want to be at for very long. Those who do PLC go through two 6-week sessions of Officer Candidates School. Could you imagine finishing such an endeavor as OCS and then having to go back a year later? I would prefer not to have to think about it. With NROTC, the idea is that the material that PLC Juniors learn is taught to you throughout your first 3 years in NROTC which is why Marine Options only do a single 6-week session. OCC does a single 10-week session which if you think about it is the exact same as PLC minus the additional first week of in-processing and last week of out-procession. The Naval Academy does not attend OCS. I won’t comment on that, but I would enjoy hearing how some of you Naval Academy graduates out there feel about this.

If you made it through my list reasons why I would recommend NROTC over other programs, you probably can see that I am biased. However, I will reiterate my desire to have those with different experiences write for this site!