The Cradle of Naval Aviation is much quieter now that the Navy's Officer Candidate School has moved from Pensacola to become part of the service's vision for Naval Station Newport as a "center of training excellence." Officer candidates have traded the fire ants, sand spurs, and black-flag days of Florida for the goose droppings, snow, and wind-chill restriction days of Rhode Island. But soon Newport will be a quieter place, too, for the Navy is moving quickly to remove or severely limit the role of Marine Corps drill instructors (DIs) at OCS. This would be a grave mistake, for Marine Corps DIs are the key to more than half a century's success for OCS.
The Navy began using Marine DIs to train its aviation officer candidates at Pensacola in 1947. The idea was for the AOCS DIs to put candidates through a rigorous program that was both a training ground and a weeding-out process. The goal was, and still is, to teach candidates to think and perform under pressure, quickly, and not waste further training and resources—or, potentially, aircraft and lives—on those who can't.