Nobody Asked Me But...Keep the Marine DIs at OCS

Why does it work so well? OCS's brevity and intensity sharpen candidates like no other commissioning source. And that intensity comes from the pressure applied by the Marine DIs, who are themselves exhaustively—and professionally—trained to push their charges far beyond their own imagined limits. Yes, OCS has stepped up involvement of the Navy chief petty officers in recent years, and yes, the chiefs have added a much-needed naval presence to the program, particularly in the candidate officer phase. But it is still the dedication and motivation of the Marine DIs that turns candidates from sloppy civilians to fighting-fit officers in a mere three months.

It would also be wrong to step up the training role of candidate officers to indoctrination candidates to, say, that of senior midshipman to plebes at the Naval Academy. Training stress applied by a group of twenty-somethings who are merely applying the training stress given them a short time ago by other twenty-somethings is far less effective than that applied by a professional Marine DI.

Finally, the Marine Corps has trained naval officer candidates for decades without return, so to speak, on its investment: USNA and NROTC midshipmen, all of whom receive limited instruction from Marine DIs, have a Marine Corps option on commissioning, but OCS does not. The DIs' legendary success—and the healthy inter-service respect that their training bestows on OCS graduates—is the Marine Corps's only reward for more than 60 years of sustained excellence at Navy OCS.

I write from experience. I was the only female in my OCS class the entire 13 weeks we were in Pensacola. Were the Marine DIs and their training methods loud, sweaty, often bewildering, and, at times, intensely scary? You bet. Were they abusive? Never. Was I pushed harder than I had ever thought possible? Absolutely. I count my Navy OCS commission as my proudest life achievement—more than the other five years of my naval service, more than any of my academic degrees, more than any other successes I've had, save my marriage (to an AOCS graduate) and family.

Perhaps the Marine DIs' ear-shattering, sometimes otherworldly looking, and often messy methods of training run counter to Newport's staid, New England enclave-of-admirals image of itself. And maybe students at the Training Center of Excellence's other programs—and civilian diners in the naval station galley—are shocked by the glimpses they catch of the DIs at work. It would nevertheless be a mistake for the Navy to discontinue or diminish the Marine DIs' role at OCS. The Marine Corps operates as part of the Department of the Navy, and the Navy would be foolish to ignore the most powerful weapon in its officer-training arsenal: the Marine drill instructor.

Ms. Unangst (OCS Pensacola, Class 19-97) served five-and-a-half years in the Navy as an intelligence officer, earned her aviation observer wings with VP-8, and achieved the rank of lieutenant.


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