Heath Elliot Johnmeyer
NAVAL AVIATION SCHOOLS COMMAND
Officer Candidate School
NAVAL AIR STATION
Captain Kenneth R. Zimmerman, USN, Commanding Officer
Pensacola, Florida was established in April of 1994 when OCS (Officer Candidate School) Newport, RI, and Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), Pensacola were consolidated here. The mission of this thirteen-week officer accession course is to educate and train college graduates (civilian and active duty military) in basic military indoctrination and naval knowledge and to teach the leadership skills necessary to satisfactorily perform as junior line and staff officers.
Classroom curricula include Damage Control, Shipboard Engineering, Military Law, Navigation, Seamanship, Naval History, Personnel Administration and Naval Warfare. Candidates are also trained in Naval Leadership, Military Training, Physical Fitness, Professional Development and Water Survival.
Officer candidates are mustered in at the paygrade of E5 but hold a special title known as Officer Candidate. This title is held from the beginning of week 2 through the middle of week 9 when an Officer Candidate completes the "Victory Run" and earns the title Candidate Officer; Officer Candidates are regarded as basic recruits. As training progresses over 12 weeks, individuals gradually move from Indoctrination Candidates, or "Indocs," to Officer Candidates, to Candidate Officers, or "Candios." The latter being a position of authority over less senior candidates.
During a 60-year period in our history, both officers and enlisted personnel took the same oath, as required by Congress in April 1790. The oath used the wording "to bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America" rather than "to support the Constitution," but it retained the concept of allegiance to the nation as a whole.
It constituted one of 16 sections in an act that regulated the military establishment - the forerunner of to-day's "authorization" acts. Congress periodically updated these authorization acts although the oath remained constant with one minor addition in 1795.
The officer oath became separate from the enlisted oath again in 1862, when the 37th Congress passed an all-encompassing 176-word oath for all government officials (including military officers) to verify their loyalty during the Civil War. In 1884, after several years of multiple oaths that applied to different subsets of people (depending upon which side they fought on during the "late rebellion"), the 48th Congress amended a revised statute of 1873 that eliminated the first half of the Ironclad Test Oath and established the wording that has carried over into modern times.
Oath Of Office - Having been appointed an officer in the Armed Forces of the United States, I do hereby accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter; so help me God.
Officer Candidate School (OCS) is designed to give you a working knowledge of the Navy (afloat and ashore), to prepare you to assume the responsibilities of a Naval Officer, and to begin developing you to your fullest potential. OCS is extremely demanding; morally, mentally, and physically.
Your personal Honor, Courage, and Commitment will be tested at OCS and you will be challenged to live up to the highest standards of these core values. You must be committed to the goal of earning a commission as an Ensign in the Navy before arriving at Officer Candidate School.
The Navy's Revolution in Training is taking another step forward in the move to produce a more highly trained naval force and offer better support to Sailors. As part of the revolution, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) is being established to align enlisted and officer initial training programs under a single command structure.
Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Fla. is a rigorous course for new non-commissioned, unrestricted-line and restricted-line officer candidates. Over the course of 13 weeks, enlisted Sailors and civilians are transformed into Naval officers.
Physically and mentally demanding, OCS requires absolute commitment to the goal of earning a commission in the Navy. According to Lt.. Enid Wilson, public affairs officer at OCS, "A candidate who is strong academically, physically fit, has attention to detail, displays teamwork and leadership traits and is determined to succeed" will complete training at OCS.
About 90 percent of candidates make it all the way through. The rest either leave the Navy, or transfer to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes for enlisted basic training, depending on their Navy commitment. Eligibility requirements for OCS include: U.S. citizenship, Excellent moral character and conduct, Baccalaureate degree or higher from an accredited institution, Excellent health and physical fitness, Under age 35 for all designators, with lower age restrictions for many designator choices,
Specific qualifications and specific aptitude scores for different designators. Each class is led by a Class Officer (Fleet Lieutenant), Class Chief Petty Officer (trained at Great Lakes as a Recruit Division Commander), and a Class Drill Instructor (Marine Corps E-6/E-7 Drill Instructor).
Military training at OCS consists of Military Training Tests (MTT), Personnel Inspections (PI), learning and practicing drill and, ultimately, the pass in review and commissioning ceremony. Candidates complete two MTTs while at OCS, one in week four and one in week nine. The academic grade makes up 45 percent of the overall grade at Officer Candidate School. Candidates generally spend six to eight hours a day on academics.
Academic training includes courses on engineering, military indoctrination, Naval history, navigation, seamanship, damage control, Naval leadership, Naval administration and military law. Briefings include suicide awareness and prevention, Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) program, human resources and safety programs, counterespionage and AIDS.
Physical readiness is extremely important. The Class Drill Instructor stresses its importance daily. Individuals not performing up to standards generally have a difficult time in all areas. Physical training instruction begins almost immediately upon arrival. Candidates are required to complete a standard physical readiness test (PRT) during their first week at OCS, and go through a regular regimen of calisthenics, running and aquatics for physical training. Candidates are encouraged to report in the best possible physical condition.
During the detailed PIs, the candidates undergo thorough tests in uniform presentation and memorized knowledge. Precise measurements are taken of each uniform component to ensure observance of regulations. While their uniforms are being checked, candidates are tested on their knowledge of required memorized information-chain of command; code of conduct; general orders of a sentry; the lyrics to the National Anthem, the Navy Hymn, Anchors Aweigh and the Marine Hymn; and rank structure. Candidates complete two PIs while at OCS-one in week six and the second in week ten.
Approximately 98 hours are spent learning and practicing drill. Candidates march to and from every class. The OCS graduation begins with the pass-in-review ceremony, the final test of their drill and ceremony skills. The final moment as a candidate is the commissioning ceremony, when the candidate is pinned and becomes a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.
At least half of all the newly commissioned Ensigns are either Naval Aviators or Naval Flight Officers and stay in Pensacola to attend Preflight Instruction at Naval Aviation Schools Command. OCS also commissions Surface Warfare Officers, Submarine Warfare Officers, Special Operations Officers, Special Warfare Officers, Supply Corps Officers, Civil Engineer Corps Officers, Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officers, Intelligence Officers, Cryptology Officers, Public Affair Officers and Oceanographers.
Commissioned Officers can be thought of as the leadership and management team of the Navy and Navy Reserve. They hold positions in dozens of different career and job areas - from health care to chaplaincy, aviation to engineering. These men and women tend to be highly educated and/or experienced. And they use their professional skills and leadership abilities to inspire the best in others.
The 56 recent college graduates who lined up near an old sea wall on a steamy summer morning wanted to be naval officers. It wouldn't be easy - but those who survived the three months of training would be the final class to graduate from Officers Candidate School at the nation's oldest Naval Air Station. For 68 years young men and women have morphed into confident naval officers here during intensive training overseen by Marine drill instructors.
When class 20-07 - the 20th Pensacola officer class of 2007 - graduates Sept. 21, the school will close and consolidate with training at Newport, R.I., under military realignment plans. "Hundreds of classes have suffered out there on the grinder, the parade deck and we are going to be the last class doing it," said Allen Hamby, a 21-year-old admiral's son and University of Central Florida graduate who plans to be a supply officer, two months into training.
His classmates, standing nearby, nodded in agreement as he said, "You either limp through it or you go out with a bang to show people what's up." The class's first morning did not begin auspiciously. Ten minutes after reporting for duty last July, a few lost their composure, their voices cracking as instructors barked commands over the ocean breeze. It was a first taste of military discipline for some.
For Pensacolans accustomed to seeing officer candidates out on the town in their dress white uniforms, an era is ending. "It is one of those things you don't appreciate until they tell you it's going," said Jack Williams, whose family owns Seville Quarter, a popular block of clubs and restaurants that's frequented by the officer candidates. "We will miss seeing them walking around downtown and coming in here and checking their hats in our gift shop," he said.
Over the years, he's taken some early morning calls from candidates who forgot to retrieve their hats before leaving his bar. And he's headed off a few fights. "It's rare that you have to make a call out to the school, but it does happen. They train them to be confident and that comes out some times. Usually it's about a girl or someone looking at a girl," he said.
The school closing is also the end of an era at the base where candidates run along the streets in their navy blue shorts and white T-shirts, and the sound of instructors putting candidates through their morning push-ups and marching drills often filters into offices. "Every time we come across people out on the base they let us know how long they have been supporting the officer candidate program and how sad they are to see it go," said William Brinkmeyer, an officer candidate from the final class.
Flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station dates to 1914, but those original aviators came as officers from the U.S. Naval Academy. The base began officer training for aviators in 1936. In 1994, the Aviation Officer School was combined to include candidates in other career fields. "It's been such a visible aspect of the base for such a long time," base historian Hill Goodspeed said.
Marine drill instructors have always overseen the training. "Every candidate I've ever talked to always remembers their drill instructor because they are such a dominating presence, a larger-than-life presence," Goodspeed said.
The drill instructor for class 20-07 is Gunnery Sgt. Jason Jones, a veteran of two Iraq combat tours. His gravely voice comes from years of yelling commands. "You'd be surprised how many people say I have a problem with my voice or something is wrong with the way I speak, but the candidates learn real quick to understand what I'm talking about," said Jones, who stands with perfect posture and gazes with a classic Marine thousand-yard stare. He was quick to remind 20-07 of its place as the last of thousands of classes to march on the parade field and run the streets of Pensacola Naval Air Station. "Go out with a bang," he told candidates.
Class 20-07 itself dropped 25 of its 56 candidates. As graduation approached, students became more confident in their futures as Navy officers. Lt. Scott Kykendall, an instructor and naval aviator, will return to Iraq instead of moving to Rhode Island. As he watched officer candidates maneuver an obstacle course, he said Pensacola will always be a unique place, especially for would-be aviators starting their Navy careers. "It's just so motivating in the mornings to run students around these streets and see the history. When you think about the people who have gone through flight training here - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John McCain. Need I say more? They are walking the same streets as those individuals," he said.
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