The OCS Alumni Association continues to collect archival documents and memorabilia that detail the history of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School program.
Thanks to James Earls, Class 004-02, for providing these posters.
ARMY OCS: 75 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE
“You have to lead men in war by requiring more from the individual than he thinks he can do. You have to lead men in war by bringing them along to endure and to display qualities of fortitude that are beyond the average man’s thought of what he should be expected to do. You have to inspire them when they are hungry and exhausted and desperately uncomfortable and in great danger; and only a man of positive characteristics of leadership, with the physical stamina that goes with it, can function under those conditions.” Gen. George Marshall in testimony to Senate Military Affairs Committee in 1940.
In 1940, Gen. George Marshall recognized the absolute importance of establishing rigorous training facilities for new officers. The Officer Candidate School program was established in early 1941, when the Secretary of War, the War Department, and the Army Chief of Staff agreed that a training program was needed to quickly commission new officers. The selective service draft program had brought nearly a million men into the Army by the spring of 1941. Leadership was needed desperately and OCS stepped forward to fill that need, just as it has in every conflict or era since then.
The first class graduated in September 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Later that month, the War Department announced that OCS would be expanded to 10 branch schools–Infantry, Signal Corps, Armor, Artillery, Coast Artillery, Quartermaster, Medical Corps, Engineering, Cavalry, Ordnance–with an initial total enrollment of 2,300 men.
Those who survived the ordeal were commissioned second lieutenants — the famed “ninety-day wonders” of World War II. The momentous decision to start a shortened commissioning program proved to be very wise, as OCS became the leading source of commissioned officers during the war. Of the 800,000 or so officers who served in the Army during World War II, more than half were OCS graduates and well over half the combat leaders were products of that system.
At the end of World War II, the troop level of approximately 8 million was reduced to less than 20 percent of that strength in one year and down to 7 percent in three years. Commensurate with that reduction, by the end of 1946 all OCS training was transferred to the Army Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas. Officer production slowed to a trickle until 1950.
The officer requirements of the Korean War resulted in the reactivation of six branch OCS programs in 1951: Infantry, Artillery, Signal, Engineer, Ordnance, and Antiaircraft. By the end of 1952, a combined total of 16,800 candidates had graduated from the six schools. Korea did not require as many new combat leaders because so many were available with World War II experience. All the reactivated schools except Infantry, Artillery, and Engineer were closed by the end of 1952. The Engineer OCS closed in June 1954.
The Army expanded in 1965 from 1 million to 1.5 million to fight in Vietnam. The Army needed 40,00 to 50,000 new junior officers for this expanding force. ROTC production declined and West Point commissioning was slow, so six new OCS schools were opened (making eight in total) to produce the numbers needed for the Vietnam War.
During the height of the Vietnam conflict, Infantry OCS produced about 7,000 officers annually from three battalions at Fort Benning. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the company grade officers who fought in Vietnam were OCS graduates. The program was reduced to two battalions toward the close of the conflict and presently maintains a single battalion. In April 1973, the Branch Immaterial Officer Candidate Course was created at Fort Benning to replace all other OCS courses except the Women’s Army Corps OCS which remained at Fort McClellan until 1976, when it too merged with the course at Fort Benning.
In the decades since the OCS branch immaterial program was implemented in 1973, OCS continues to provide commissioned officers to the total force for all basic branches of the Army. The demand for well-trained junior officers has expanded and contracted over the years to support major conflicts such as the 1991 Gulf War, peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, the Iraq War, and continuing operations in Afghanistan. Overseas contingency operations continue as U.S. forces are a vital part of the intervention against the Islamic State.
On June 12, 1998 to further integrate the total force, the Army National Guard OCS Phase III candidates began training alongside their active duty counterparts at Fort Benning. Officer candidates from the National Guard conduct the final phase of training before commissioning during their two-week annual training period. Over 650 future officers were trained for the Army in the first year, with similar numbers being trained in subsequent years.
Notable and distinguished OCS graduates include Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration; Robert J. Dole, former U.S. Senator from Kansas and presidential candidate; John O. Marsh, Jr., Secretary of the Army during the 1980s; William F. Buckley, Jr., political commentator; Winthrop Rockefeller, former Governor of Arkansas; Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of U.S. Central Command; Gen. Frederick Kroesen, Jr., former commander Seventh United States Army; Maj. Dick Winters, subject of the miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’; Thomas B. Cotton, U.S. Senator for Arkansas; and Ralph Peters, author and Fox News Strategic Analyst. Three of the most recent Medal of Honor recipients–Capt. (Ret) Florent Groberg (Afghanistan), Lt. Col. (Ret) Charles Kettles (Vietnam), and Capt. William D. Swenson (Afghanistan)–are OCS graduates.
The legacy of OCS is maintained by the United States Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association (USAOCSAA). USAOCSAA is a non-profit, national organization representing all Army officers commissioned through Officer Candidate School, regardless of previous school locations and branches. It fosters fellowship, highlights the history of OCS, and memorializes OCS graduates who have lost their lives in service of their country. The Association, at www.ocsalumni.org, is an advocate for the ongoing OCS program and a source of information for all related interests. The Association invites new members and wants to hear from active, retired, veterans, and family members. It offers a great way to reconnect with OCS classmates and those affiliated with the program.
Since its inception 75 years ago, through major wars, the Cold War, and participation in numerous operations and conflicts all over the world, the Officer Candidate School continues to demonstrate uncommon flexibility, professionalism, and the unmatched ability to provide the U.S. Army with competent, well trained, and fearless officers in the shortest and most responsive time. OCS continues to meet the “standards with no compromise.”
1st Lt. Vernon Baker, Medal of Honor recipient, World War II veteran, and OCS graduate.
Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam veteran, and OCS graduate.
Capt. Florent Groberg, Medal of Honor recipient, Afghanistan veteran, and OCS graduate.
USAOCSAA President John Ionoff presenting an Association coin to Senator Bob Dole, OCS graduate, at the National World War II Memorial on Veterans Day, 2016.
Former Secretary of the Army, John Marsh, an OCS graduate, with recent OCS candidates.
Jim Wright is a member of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is a retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran. He graduated from OCS in April 1966 with class 5-66.
MEMORIAL WALK UPDATE
Frank L. Harman III
We have raised approximately $39,000 so far for the establishment of the Memorial Walk on the grounds of the OCS Battalion!
Excavation and site preparation for most of the east and west sides of the walk have been completed. Pavers for 49 OCS Medal of Honor recipients and three OCS D-Day Distinguished Service Cross recipients have been purchased and emplaced. In addition, the Association purchased pavers for 17 distinguished graduates (four-star generals, senators, governors, and cabinet secretaries). Another 50+ bricks and pavers have also been emplaced.
In addition to the individual bricks and pavers, the Association has purchased and emplaced 24x 24 granite era blocks for World War II; Korea; Vietnam; and the Cold War, the All-Volunteer Army and Army of Excellence, and the Global War on Terrorism. There are 24×24 granite dedication blocks for the Memorial Walk itself; in honor of Gen. of the Army George Marshall who authorized the establishment of OCS; our distinguished graduates; and OCS cadre, commanders, and staff. We are in the process of procuring and emplacing 24×24 granite dedication blocks for the Army divisions and regiments. I would like to get all the divisions that fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam emplaced by the 75th reunion in May. So far, we have the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division, and the 25th Infantry Division.
If you would like to purchase your share of OCS and Army history, please go to the Association’s web site.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at [email protected].
Frank Harman currently serves as the Vice President for Administration of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. He is a retired colonel and was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame in 2004.
Final preparations for the Memorial Walk at the OCS Battalion headquarters. The Memorial Walk will be officially dedicated during May’s reunion.
Don’t miss the 2017 Hall of Fame induction and reunion May 7-11 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The guest speakers include retired Gen. John Abrams, former commander of Training and Doctrine Command and retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, most recent Medal of Honor recipient. There will be a special ceremony to dedicate the first bricks and pavers on the OCS Battalion’s Memorial Walk. This year is a great time to schedule a mini reunion for your class along with the alumni reunion. Scheduling your mini reunion with us will provide your classmates with many event options that you can take advantage of at a reduced cost and without you having to plan the events yourselves. You can register now for the reunion at the Association’s website and make hotel reservations at the Columbus Marriott: phone number – 706-324-1800 and reservation link. We have a special rate of $124 per night with a full buffet breakfast included for two. For more information, contact Nancy Ionoff, Reunion Coordinator, at [email protected] or 813-917-4309. Mark your calendars and plan to attend this special year-end celebration of 75 years of the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School!
Retired Gen. John Abrams enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and was commissioned from Armor OCS the same year. He retired in 2002 after commanding the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles for conspicuous gallantry, in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2016. Then-Maj. Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967 and is credited with saving the lives of 40 Soldiers and four of his own crew members. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION
The annual election of OCS Alumni Association Board of Directors (BOD) has begun. All BOD directors serve two years upon being elected and officers of the BOD serve three years. This year there are four candidates for election: those previously elected and running for reelection, those appointed to the BOD and running for election, and those nominated for election to the BOD. You can vote for any or all four candidates listed below at //www.ocsalumni.org/candidates.php.
- Lt. Col. Christopher C. Bresko
Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on January 27, 1995
- Retired Col. John Ionoff
Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 1, 1963
- Retired Col. Richard G. Jung, Sr.
Commissioned Armor at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 27, 1979
- Dr. Patrick A. Smith
Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on April 3, 1969
Voting deadline is May 9, 2017. You can vote online at the OCSAA website. You can also vote in person at the membership meeting at the OCS Alumni Association reunion in May. Only members of the OCS Alumni Association may vote in the election.
WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA CHAPTER NEWS
It is cherry blossom time in the nation’s capital. The Washington D.C. Area Chapter sprouted to life with our initial group meeting in March at the Fairfax, Virginia American Legion Post 177. The Chapter has a three-fold mission: (1) assist in the growth of USAOCSAA membership, (2) be a steadfast supporter of the OCS Battalion, and (3) remain active as a community service provider.
Our chapter is in a prime reconnaissance position to scout and make first contact with numerous military and service organizations. From the Pentagon to national headquarters for many service sponsoring agencies, we hope to make liaison and cultivate USAOCSAA membership and support from these groups. It is time our alma mater had an advocate lobbying on our behalf. We intend to (figuratively) plant the USAOCSAA flag atop the Washington Monument in full sight of Congress, the Joint Staff, and nationwide promoters.
I am gratified to report we have strong volunteer support and the spirit OCS instilled in us remains alive and thriving. Our members stepped forward to explore ways to serve our community. We will be active year-round in post and base activities, retiree appreciation events, wreath laying, and active engagement with Soldiers contemplating OCS as a career option.
Many hands make for light work. We hope more members in the region will join us for fellowship, fun, and family. After the course we endured, we are all sisters and brothers, born of ‘Mother Benning’ and other great posts. We are discovering we are all proud to have served this nation and that we retain that spirit of leadership and generosity. We want to give back to the country and our communities. Participation in the OCS Alumni Association is a wonderful venue to continue leadership and service.
Please contact our Signal Officer, Don Northcutt at [email protected], to have your name placed on the chapter contact roster. We will keep you advised of our meeting dates and planned service projects. I can speak for all who attended our first meeting–we enjoyed being in the company of veterans and OCS graduates once again. It comes as no surprise that all our volunteer leaders are also active in other organizations, community, and family events. If you do not think you have time to devote to USAOCSAA, take a look at the leaders who have already made a leap of faith. The Association will be better with your participation. Follow me!
J. Michael Harris
Major (USA Retired)
President, Washington D.C. Area Chapter USAOCSAA
Harold Dobbs and Don Northcutt signing documents to establish a bank account for the Washington, D.C. Area Chapter.
Mike Harris presiding over the first meeting of the Washington, D.C. Area Chapter of the USAOCSAA.
Are you in the Colorado Springs area? Are you looking to connect with your fellow OCS grads? James Earls is establishing a chapter of the OCS Alumni Association in Colorado Springs. Let James know if you are interested in participating in regional events. He can be reached at [email protected].
Are you in the Central Florida area? Are you looking to connect with your fellow OCS grads? Darrell Katz is establishing a chapter of the OCS Alumni Association in Central Florida. Let Darrell know if you’re interested in participating in regional events. He can be reached at [email protected].
Interested in establishing an OCS Alumni Association chapter in your area?
Association chapters are established to coordinate and promote activities and camaraderie at the local level. The chapters encourage fellowship and goodwill among the OCS graduate community and promote the purposes of the Association.
The Association has an SOP that describes the process for establishing and operating a chapter. To establish a chapter, a minimum of 10 founding members are required. The requirements for operating a chapter are submission of an annual report on the activities of the chapter and reporting any change in its leadership.
If any member in interested in establishing a chapter or would like to receive a copy of the SOP, please contact Tom Evans at [email protected] or 310-827-1491.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Congratulations to the 2017 OCS Hall of Fame inductees! Join us as we honor their service at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Monday, May 8, 2017 at the National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning, GA. You can register at the OCS website. //www.ocsalumni.org/events/cart.php?id=1
- 1LT Joe V. Abernathy
- COL William A. Bonnick
- COL Thomas A. Boone
- COL Jeffery R. Broughton
- MG Douglas E. Caton
- 1LT Hector E. Colon
- 1LT Donald J. Dare
- MAJ Thomas A. Davidson
- COL Gene J. Del Bianco
- COL Wayne L. Ellis
- CPT Harold A. Fritz
- LTC Gregory K. Gandy
- COL Earl D. Greer
- COL Richard D. Heyward
- LTC Charles S. Kettles
- COL Scott D. Kubica
- COL Christopher J. Lackovic
- COL Brian D. Lesieur
- LTC Carl B. Marshall
- COL Remso J. Martinez
- LTC Michael J. McCarson
- COL Jan C. Norris
- LTC Ralph H. Peters, Jr.
- COL Robert E. Philpott
- COL Larry J. Redmon
- COL Bruno H. Repeta, Jr.
- 1LT James E. Robinson, Jr.
- COL John F. Rogan
- COL Mark E. Rosenstein
- COL Camelia J. Scott-Skillern
- COL Jerry A. Smith
- 1LT Patrick A. Smith
- COL Frank J. Stanco, Jr.
- CPT Antonio L. Suarez
- MG David A. Whaley
- OC Class 47/67 (74th Company) is planning a 50th anniversary reunion August 11 – 13. Contact John Shea [email protected] for more information.
- The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is looking for your history! By sharing your experiences, you are helping to ensure history is not forgotten. Thousands of veterans and their families have shared their stories with the USAHEC, but these individuals only represent a small fraction of the millions who have served. To truly capture the breadth of our Army veterans’ experiences and to protect and preserve information for future generations, the USAHEC team hopes many more Soldiers will decide to share their piece of Army history. If you are interested in telling your Army story, you may contact the USAHEC at (717) 245-3972 or [email protected].
- Attention FA OCS Class 31A-67: The sister of 1LT Jimmy Donald Johnson is seeking contact with anyone who served with or knew him. Jimmy was from Ashland, KY and was assigned to HHB, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, 25th Infantry Division. He was serving as a Forward Observer with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry and was one of nine members of that unit killed in action in Hua Nghia Province on April 27, 1969. Jimmy’s sister, Sherry, can be contacted at [email protected].
- Ronald Herbert Brandt graduated from OCS at Fort Benning in 1957. Ronald’s daughter-in-law is looking for a picture of him for her husband. Ronald passed away in 1996. If you have a class date or yearbook, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association’s website’s home page.
- A researcher is looking for information on the Cavalry School OCS Class 17 at Fort Riley that was in session from 12 Oct 1942 to 31 Dec 1942. The researcher is looking for yearbooks, photos, class rosters, graduation programs. In addition, any information on the following WWII-era units is requested: 2nd Cavalry Group, 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 104th Cavalry Group, 104th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and 119th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. If you know of any resources or references for this information, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association’s website’s home page.
- The Association is accepting digitized yearbooks which will be placed on the website – (Membership Area – OCS Yearbooks). This project is the beginning of an ongoing preservation of historic documents from OCS. If you are interested in having your class yearbook placed on the website, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at [email protected] or telephone him at 951-712-3240 for further information on how to participate. This will also help your fellow classmates who may not have purchased a yearbook or lost it since graduation.
- In December 2015, the Association created a new website. All members are encouraged to log into the website and ensure the information in their profile is correct. If the information is inaccurate and cannot be updated or there is no profile listed, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at 951-712-3240 or [email protected].
- If you have announcements you would like to have publicized on the USAOCSAA Facebook page or in the newsletter, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association’s website’s home page.
- USAOCSAA is looking for your personal experiences. We need to capture our history. If you would like to tell your story, please contact the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association’s website’s home page.
$75 FOR 75 YEARS
A Presidential Challenge
In concert with the OCS Diamond Anniversary, Colonel Ionoff has issued a challenge to all USAOCSAA members…
“This is a call to action to help support and preserve your legacy! I challenge all OCS graduates to give one dollar for each year that OCS has been providing superior officers to our Army. That will be a $75 contribution from each of us. The funds from this campaign will be targeted for the four key areas outlined below. Let’s make the 75th anniversary a year to reflect, reinvigorate and reinvest.”
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING
If you are like me, you have wondered where the money goes that seems to always be solicited by organizations like this organization of which you are a proud member. The U.S. Army OCS Alumni Association is a nationwide, 501(c)(19) non-profit organization. The Association is a completely volunteer-run organization. After paying the minimal cost of operating the Association, all monies collected are used to preserve and promote the OCS legacy through such service projects as:
- Renovation of Wigle and Nett Halls at Fort Benning. The new Wigle Hall will be an OCS museum and repository for artifacts and memorabilia for all OCS programs. The renovated Nett Hall will be a theater and presentation venue for use by the OCS Battalion and alumni.
- Scholarships for family members of OCS graduates.
- Support for the annual Patterson Award and the OCS Hall of Fame induction to include obtaining quality guest speakers and scouting superior meeting and dining venues.
- Expansion of regional alumni chapters.
- Wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Viet Nam, World War II, and Korean War Memorials, and state-based veterans’ cemeteries.
- Establishment of the OCS Memorial Walk at Fort Benning, honoring graduate names and the history of OCS.
- Awards for leadership, academics, and physical training for each graduating class.
- Prior projects include the movement and reconstruction of OCS arches in 2015.
You endured a life-changing event by surviving OCS. You are bound to a unique group who completed one of the most rigorous training courses imaginable. We know something about your endurance, tenacity, and character because only the strongest succeeded. The OCS Alumni Association is more than a fellowship of kindred spirits reliving the glory days. The Association has a mission to serve and honor the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School program and its graduates and to further the ideals and promote the welfare of OCS, the Officer Corps, and the U.S. Army. The Association actively connects with the OCS Battalion leadership and with each graduating class. The Association fosters fellowship amongst its members, highlights the history of OCS, and memorializes OCS graduates who have lost their lives in service to our nation.
So when the Association asks for donations, you can rest assured the dollars will be spent furthering OUR common mission.
Mike Harris is a retired major, military intelligence. He currently serves as the President of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association.