View Full Version : Who Has it Tougher?

01-17-04, 10:19 AM
Who Has it Tougher?

Marine Enlisted Recruits, or Marine Officer Candidates?

by SSgt. F.B. Zimmerman,
United States Marine Corps

On any given day, enlisted Marines can be heard arguing about which is tougher, Parris Island or San Diego. But how many times have you heard Marines comparing boot camp to Officer Candidates School? It's a more difficult comparison because Marines who attended both aren't everywhere, and because the missions of the two are different.

One place you might have heard both viewpoints recently was at the Aug. 17 graduation of "G" Co., a six-week Bulldog/PLC Sr. combined company.

"OCS is a screening and evaluating process," said GySgt. Edward Yarbrough, former drill instructor who spent his summer away from his duties as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to serve as a sergeant instructor with 3rd platoon, "G" Co. "Candidates come out of here qualified to do something ... when they graduate here, they're qualified to be trained."

Yarbrough also said the main differences between the training evolutions are the expectations.

"The mindset is completely off in different directions," said Yarbrough. "If a candidate messes up, it's his or her fault. If a recruit messes up, it's everyone's fault. The candidates have to be self-motivated ... if they don't want to be here, they're gonna leave."

Sergeant instructors, who are all former drill instructors, say the way they train recruits is different from candidates.

"At recruit training the recruits have very little knowledge about the military, and we have to hand-drag them through everything," said SSgt. William Sweeney, sergeant instructor with 3rd Platoon, "G" Co, who is the AMOI from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "They learn through constant repetition and support on your part. We teach them instant obedience to orders.

"At OCS we don't stress teamwork as much. To a candidate, a platoon is one - himself. The candidates hit the ground running. When we tell them to do something, we expect it to get done without constant supervision."

Yarbrough added that the way recruits and candidates are evaluated is also dissimilar.

"The candidates are continually evaluated, while at recruit training, you look at the broader spectrum," he said. "Any little thing a candidate does is evaluated. For example, if a recruit goes down for heat, we take care of him and get him back into training. If a candidate goes down, we'll take care of him, but it may be put into his book that he failed to follow orders for not properly hydrating.

"Also, the candidates fill out peer evaluations, which are like small fitness reports. They use them to rate each other within their squads. We can use those to identify trends we might not have seen otherwise."

As for the Marines who have been through recruit training, one thing that's difficult for them is to once again have to prove they have what it takes.

"Coming here a staff NCO, it's tough taking off the rank and becoming a follower," said Candidate Jason Schrage, who, after graduating OCS Aug. 17, is once again a staff sergeant. "I wanted to jump out and take control. Wearing my pride on my sleeve was something I couldn't do, I had to have tough skin."

Schrage will return to Texas A&M to graduate before being commissioned.

The MECEP candidates also found that the road to becoming an officer means using a varied style of leadership.

"You can't motivate candidates the way you do enlisted," said Candidate Juan Lightfoot, a student from the University of Washington, who is once again a sergeant until he completes college and is commissioned. "When you're dealing with enlisted Marines, you kind of have to get them to fear you, but with candidates you can't do that. You have to encourage them. That was the hard part ... carrying over my enlisted characteristics."

For some of the Marines who had already worn enlisted stripes, OCS didn't hold a candle to boot camp in certain areas.

"Boot camp was a mental challenge that OCS could never compare to," said Lightfoot, who has spent five years in the enlisted ranks.

While it may be easy for recruits to settle into a routine at recruit training, Schrage said the candidates didn't have that luxury.

"At boot camp you're given time to do everything; you have a set schedule," said Schrage. "Here there's a set schedule, but things change and you have to work around them."

Another difference noticed by the Marines who traveled to OCS via MECEP was the physical training.

"We had PT every day at boot camp, but here it isn't as often, but it's more intense," said Schrage. "Here, everything is more on an individual level."

Most would think the prior enlisted Marines would stand out among the candidates, but that's not the case.

"At the beginning you can tell who's MECEP or ROTC, but after about two weeks, you can't tell the difference anymore," said Yarbrough. "They all look and act the same from that point on."

For the Marines who conduct the training at both recruit training and OCS, there is a difference in how they feel about their jobs.

"The amount of job satisfaction you get training potential Marines at OCS compared to boot camp is minimal," said GySgt. Douglas L. Smith, AMOI at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., who came to Quantico for the summer to serve as a Platoon Sergeant for 3rd Platoon, "G" Co. "You take recruits who literally act like they don't know their left from right and three months later, you scream something out and they're flying. At recruit training, we get to see the end product and here we don't."

Above Article Courtesy of United States Marine Corps