January 2017 Newsletter
I hope you had a very happy Christmas holiday and a joyous New Year celebration. Your Association Board of Directors has been busy in the last 12 months, resulting in several programs that have been initiated or reorganized. The construction of the brick and paver Memorial Walk under the direction of Vice President for Administration, Frank Harman, is a tangible example of this effort. We are all looking forward to May 8, 2017, when the dedication ceremony will be conducted during our annual reunion. Frank has outlined the program in another part of this newsletter. We now have an opportunity to honor alumni members, as well as cadre of OCS. It is not too late for you to get a brick or paver for yourself, a fallen classmate, or your TAC officer.
Another major event was the establishment of the first chapter of the Association. The Washington, D.C. Area Chapter received its charter during the Veterans Day celebration in Washington, D.C. Several board members and I were there to present the charter and participate in ceremonies at the World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans Memorials. We laid OCS/USAOCSAA wreaths at each of the memorials and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. A highlight of the day was meeting Senator Bob Dole, an OCS graduate from World War II. Pictures of this event are in this newsletter.
Internally we have undergone several changes. We are continually working on our website to make it useful to our members. We have a new mailing address and a POC listing on our website, providing our members with easy access to the board members and help with technical issues. Please feel free to provide us with your suggestions to improve our operations. We have determined as a board that we have the talent in our Association to conduct our own fundraising efforts and effectively operate a PAO/Social Media Team. Director Mike Mayo leads the Fundraising Team and Director Karla Langland with assistance from Director Jim Wright work to get the word out about your Association and the OCS program. We need your help in establishing chapters in your area, telling the OCS story, and reaching out to your classmates. Vice President for Operations, Dr. Pat Smith, is always on the lookout for new and old members and in helping our members with website issues.
The 2017 reunion, scheduled for May 7-11, is fast approaching. This reunion will close out our year of celebrating our 75th anniversary of our years of service to this great nation. Last yearâ€™s reunion got high marks from all our attendees and we want to build on that success. Additional information about registering for the reunion is in this newsletter. All 1967 classes from every OCS program will be celebrating their 50-year anniversary. What better way to celebrate than to participate in the reunion at Fort Benning and hold your events as well!
Finally, as we head into the New Year, the question on our minds is what will happen to the size of the Army with the new administration. One can only speculate, but what I know is, as in years past, the OCS program is prepared to support any increase in officers as needed. Your Association will continue to be strong advocates of the OCS program and will continue to raise issues and support programs such as education levels required for commission (remember bootstrap?), security clearances prior to entrance into OCS or before commissioning, and many more important issues.
I look forward to a year of growth, not only in membership but in the ways that your Association can serve you and the Army community. Your support is vital to the success of all we strive to do. Participate, communicate, and donate. May 2017 be a year of health, happiness, and success for you and yours.
John Ionoff | Colonel (USA Retired)
As 2016 comes to a close, I continue to reflect on what has changed and what remains constant in the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School. In March, OCS reintroduced platoon-level operations to bring our military training on par with other commissioning sources. In April, OCS commissioned the first female Armor officer. She has since completed Armor Basic Officer Leader Course and is en route to her first tank platoon. In June, OCS broke trail for the Army by piloting the Operational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) as a pre-requisite for branching. (Editor’s note: The USAOCSAA Facebook page posted an article about the OPAT in December.) In September, all OCS battalion commanders gathered to discuss how best to improve the program not just for candidates at Fort Benning, but across all 54 states and territories for the Total Army. In October, OCS, along with USMA and ROTC, helped to optimize the military training for all candidates and cadets. And, finally, starting in October OCS reorganized from four OCS companies to three to provide our candidates the best cadre and instruction possible.
More changes appear on the horizon and OCS is ready to meet them because of what has remained constant. First, the quality of the men and women who continue to volunteer to join the U.S. Army as leaders-whether off the street or from the ranks-is very impressive. What they lack in experience, they make up for with their intelligence, drive, and love for country and each other. I can firmly assure you, the nation, the U.S. Army, and the legacy of OCS are in good hands with this current generation of American sons and daughters.
Second, the quality of the cadre and training resources at Fort Benning is outstanding. While discipline remains a cornerstone of the program, gone are the days of TACs harassing candidates to put them under stress as a driver to unit cohesion. Today the program of instruction adds the stress and the platoon trainers coach, teach, and mentor the candidates through the transformative process from civilian/junior Soldier to leader and second lieutenant. Bringing the candidates through this journey of development requires intelligent, technically and tactically proficient, caring, and committed leaders. We are blessed to have an amazing cadre shaping the next generation of officers.
Finally, your support has been unwavering. From the moment I received word of my selection to assume command of the OCS Battalion to this day, I have been overwhelmed by your kind words, offerings of support, mentoring, and unflagging devotion to this generation of officer candidates. Because of your support and advocacy, OCS has a voice at the highest levels of the U.S. Army and government that has allowed us to improve the instruction the candidates receive. Through your generous donations of time and money, future candidates will have not only the Memorial Walk but a restored Wigle Hall to reflect on their history and legacy. Through your hard work and determination, the 75th anniversary of OCS was recognized not once, but two times in July and November 2016 in our nation’s capital. Your dogged determination to ensure todayâ€™s candidates are ready to accomplish their assigned missions while caring for their Soldiers has been a constant guide for CSM Dudas and me-we thank you for it.
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible during the 2017 reunion at Fort Benning, Georgia May 7-11, 2017-especially alumni from the classes in 1967. We have an action-packed agenda planned to show you just how great your alma mater continues to be. I am continually humbled to be in your presence and lead this enterprise that stretches back 75 glorious years to July 1, 1941!
Standards!! No Compromise!!
Mark C. Andres
Mark C. Andres
Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry
WE EARNED IT
“Have you considered the contribution Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) had in building your success?”
That was the question my friend, fellow officer and public relations executive Bob, asked when informed of my recognition as the ‘2016 Distinguished Alumni’ of Everett Community College (EvCC).
EvCC is a regional college founded in 1941 (the same year OCS began) and has more than 244,000 alumni. For the last 10 years, one male and one female have been recognized as the distinguished alumni. I am honored and humbled to be selected for 2016.
The school describes the selection criteria as follows: “In recognition of outstanding achievement, citizenship, and leadership in professional life and furthering the reputation of Everett Community College.”
Interestingly the criteria are the same for OCS which “will always remain constant: train selected personnel in the fundamentals of leadership, basic military skills; instill professional ethicsâ€¦.”
You cannot buy an OCS education; you have to earn it and earn it we did.
One of our first bonding teamwork exercises involved moving as a group through a series of obstacles. They were formidable and at first glance impossible. One of the obstacles involved crossing a gap between two landings. An easy assignment except the three planks supplied would not span the gap. John Lee figured out the key. Cantilever one plank and use it as landing for the others.
Jump ahead twenty years and I am on a county committee to start a tourism bureau from scratch. We had examples from other jurisdictions, knew the needs of local venues, and had other pertinent information. However, we didnâ€™t have anyone with direct experience. The problem was the same as the obstacle course. We had the pieces, knew the goal, but didn’t have the formula.
The same principles used 20 years before of working together, thinking out of the box, and taking a chance resulted in the creation of the tourism bureau. It worked! Today tourism has grown into a billion-dollar industry in our county.
Remember “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance?” You’ve heard that phrase and repeated it countless times. The guidance has proved helpful in many endeavors. It was our motto on the volunteer committee charged to guide the design, construction, and build the business model for our school district’s aquatic center. The project took six years of considering options down to the level of powder coating metal bolts. Today the center is a success and a world-class salt water swimming facility costing more than $22 million. I gave the dedication speech and in my thoughts were ‘Thank you OCS for instilling P-P-P-P-P-P principles’.
Mentoring makes it possible to pass along the OCS values and principles which result in building a better world for all.
OCS lessons took many forms. Mentoring between the candidates changed lives. Vernon Hartline mentored me and I became a better person during our tenure as roommates. Mentoring is the basis of my life’s work. I’m a certified public accountant, own several small businesses, and am a community leader but those are secondary.
Since 1978, kids have clerked in my offices and each has been mentored and encouraged to reach to find their potential. This work has enabled many of the students to become professionals. The others have a better understanding of themselves and their positive qualities. This led to the most satisfying moment of my life.
Heather, a senior manager at Ernst and Young (EY), called with a lunch invitation. She worked through high school and college in my office. After college graduation, she joined EY, earned her professional license, and has grown into an outstanding CPA. At lunch, she thanked me for mentoring her and added, “Without your encouragement, I’d be a checkout clerk at Albertson’s.” Sweet success!
Mission accomplished Army OCS!
Bill Fulton is a graduate of OCS Class 24-69. Shortly after Mr. Fulton was recognized as the 2016 Distinguished Alumni of Everett Community College, he wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense attributing his success to the experiences he had at OCS and as an Army officer.
Bill Fulton pinned the gold bars on his niece at her commissioning as an Army officer in June 2016.
THE OCS BOOKSHELF
Our War by David W. Taylor
Our War is the three-year combat history of the 5-46th Infantry of the 198th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. This book is the only known history of an infantry battalion of the Vietnam War that is written in a narrative style instead of pages of excerpts from reports and tables of data. In Our War, David Taylor chronicles the battalion’s struggles with the enemy, as well as the changing tactics and attitudes among the infantry as the war changed from search and destroy missions to pacification and Vietnamization.
The author served with the battalion in 1969 where, in the course of four and a half months, he was hit from shrapnel from a mine, hospitalized for malaria, and shot twice. At the National Archives, Taylor copied over 23,000 pages of the battalion’s daily staff journal and the brigadeâ€™s operations orders, plans, and summaries. He interviewed over 100 veterans of the battalion.
Taylor’s battalion, the same battalion in which the famed Vietnam War author Tim Oâ€™Brien served, fought Vietcong guerillas in the most heavily mined area of the Vietnam War–the notorious Batangan Peninsula, near My Lai and “Pinkville.” The battalion also operated in the dense mountainous jungles against North Vietnamese (NVA) regulars. In three years, the battalion located four NVA hospitals during their sweeps. In one enemy hospital, they encountered two captured peasant women who had been used by the enemy for intravenous blood transfusions to wounded enemy soldiers and were barely alive when found.
The reader will learn the personal sacrifices of war experienced by young Soldiers, the successes and failures of battles, and the experiences that would shape young men forever.
David Taylor is a retired Colonel, Special Forces, U.S. Army Reserve. He served four years on active duty, including combat in the Vietnam War where he was wounded twice, and 22 years in the Army Reserve in special operations and counter-terrorism. COL (R) Taylor was commissioned from OCS on February 9, 1968 and was assigned as a Tactical Officer with the 62nd OCS Company from February to October 1968.
MEMORIAL WALK UPDATE
The OCS battalion commander and his staff have identified a place within the OCS quadrangle for a Memorial Walk. The walk is to be lined with bricks and pavers honoring past graduates and cadre of the OCS program. In honor of the 75th anniversary of OCS, the USAOCSAA Board of Directors (BOD) will dedicate this walk at the May 2017 reunion after the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
We have ordered pavers for all OCS Medal of Honor recipients, as well as a number of distinguished graduates and three World War II D-Day Distinguished Service Cross recipients. We have ordered four 24×24 gray granite monument stones to dedicate the walk and honor the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross recipients; to acknowledge the commanders, cadre, and staff of the OCS program; and two for World War II theaters of operations–Pacific and Europe/Africa.
To date, six pavers and 28 bricks have been sold. USAOCSAA BOD members have donated $10,500 to the overall project. Class 509-68 has generously donated $8,850 for a dedication block and the Vietnam Era block. In addition, we received generous donations from COL Rick Jung and HQ Nissan of Columbus, Georgia.
This is your chance to memorialize your service to our nation. Consider purchasing a brick or paver. We would like to have era blocks for Korea, Cold War I, and Cold War II/VOLAR in the ground before dedication.
As I wrote in the last newsletter, just like freedom isn’t free, neither is philanthropy. Members of the OCS Hall of Fame should lead by example and buy a paver for him or herself and sponsor a deceased Hall of Fame member with an additional paver. Additionally, cadre will be recognized on this walk, so I issue the same challenge to all living former OCS battalion commanders–buy your own brick or paver and recognize another former cadre member who had a distinguished military career or exemplary combat record.
Good news for the thrifty–we are adding another way to participate and that is the group paver. Line one is your unit (Division, Separate Brigade or Regiment, Battalion, Company, and/or OC Class). Lines two through six are the list of names of five graduates, cadre, or associates. We have had a number of these made for the Vietnam era and they look great. This gives a chance to recognize many people for an economical price.
Frank L. Harman III
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.
Initial digging for the construction of the Memorial Walk at the OCS Battalion area in December 2016.
LIFE OF A LIEUTENANT
1LT Blake A. Grasso
It is difficult to believe, but I have finally completed my year-long stay at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Following the commissioning ball at Sandhurst, I flew out of London early the next morning and had a quick turnaround to report to Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (ABOLC). I had a bit of a culture shock in my first couple of days back–from the PT every morning at 0600 (Sandhurst had spoiled me with PT scheduled throughout the work day) to the unique Army language that immediately made obvious my year of British training. The other lieutenants joked that I was another international exchange student. I found it difficult to disagree!
ABOLC is divided into three phases. The first is devoted almost entirely to the orders process. My year at Sandhurst made me intimately familiar with the British version of a five-paragraph operations order; however, the differences in expectations in the U.S. Army made for a rough transition. Eventually I managed to adjust to the differences between the two armies and I was able to pass my four orders (spaced over a couple weeks) given to various cadre members. Several of the orders required all-nighters, as we also had to produce concept and phase sketches. My fellow lieutenants considered Phase One a miserable, classroom-based experience, but for me being out of the rain and able to sleep in an actual bed for an extended period was a welcome change after my time in England. Phase One finished with a week of superb marksmanship training with rifles and pistols that improved my shooting skills greatly.
Phase Two of ABOLC consisted primarily of hands-on training on both the M1A2 Abrams and the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. We trained and tested on various vehicle-related tasks, as well as vehicle and ammunition identification. We then moved to gunnery and simulators. The simulators blew most of us away with their sophistication and accuracy and left us hungry to get to the real thing. Gunnery was simply awesome. Firing the main gun on the Abrams for the first time is something I will always remember, all the way down to just how cramped my 6’7″ frame was down in that gunner’s hole.
Phase Three has been spent completely in the field, with half of the phase finished before the Christmas block leave. Each lieutenant is required to pass a mission consisting of a score for the order and the execution. The class is divided into those going to Armor brigade combat teams and Infantry/Stryker brigade combat teams. The lieutenants who will be assigned to heavy units were scouts on High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) for the first few days before we switched for the reminder of the phase. I am going to 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at Fort Stewart so I will be on tanks most of the time. I passed both my order and execution. For the rest of the phase, I will be working hard to help my classmates pass with a huge weight off my own shoulders. Maneuvering and operating as a tank platoon is an absolute thrill for a young armor officer such as myself, even if I am too tall to drive. Despite the weather forecast of ten days of rain, I am looking forward to the rest of Phase Three.
In the second half of ABOLC, we will work with infantry lieutenants and Maneuver Captain’s Career Course captains during our missions. Following the completion of ABOLC, I will attend the Armored Reconnaissance Course and Bradley Leader Course with my next update probably occurring right in the middle of this training. It’s an exciting time to be a lieutenant in the U.S. Army!
LT Blake Grasso (far right) is pictured with his tank crew mates.
Blake Grasso recently returned from a year-long assignment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 1LT Grasso wrote about his adventures at Sandhurst for the USAOCSAA newsletter. He has graciously agreed to continue writing for the newsletter about life as a lieutenant in today’s U.S. Army. 1LT Grasso is a member of Class 007-15.
The 2017 reunion dates are set for May 7-11 at the Columbus Marriott in Columbus, Georgia. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Monday, May 8. The Patterson Award dinner will occur Tuesday, May 9. In addition, 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@example.com 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!
VETERANS DAY ACTIVITIES
To commemorate Veterans Day 2016, the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association presented floral wreaths at the World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans Memorials and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Pat Smith and Will Walton presented the USAOCSAA wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
USAOCSAA President John Ionoff presented an Association coin to Senator Bob Dole, OCS graduate, at the National World War II Memorial.
USAOCSAA wreath presented at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
USAOCSAA wreath presented at the National World War II Memorial.
WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA CHAPTER NEWS
The Washington D.C. Area Chapter set the standard by organizing the first chapter in the OCS Alumni Association. The 2016 reunion at Fort Benning was an outstanding success because it was well organized and well attended. We all shared a common bond and starting point in our commissioned careers. Even with four days to talk, we ran out of time to share stories and bond. We discovered a sizeable population of alumni residing along the Atlantic Seaboard and realized we could organize and gather more frequently by forming our own chapter.
On Veterans Day, local members were honored to help plan and execute OCS Alumni Association wreath laying at four national monuments: World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam Memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. During these commemorations, John Ionoff and several board members issued Charter Number 001 to the Washington, D.C. Area Chapter.
The D.C. Chapter has exciting plans to meet locally and serve our community through service projects. During its probationary first year, the chapter is being led by MAJ(R) Mike Harris and MAJ(R) Harold Dobbs. Most communication will be by internet and phone; however, the D.C. Chapter will hold a meeting in January to further organize, elect officers, and set an agenda for regional activities and community service.
The Washington, D.C. Area Chapter issues a challenge to members in other municipalities and regions to organize into additional chapters. Local chapters can meet more frequently than the entire Association. They can more efficiently meet the needs and interests of regional members. In addition, individual chapters can serve as observation posts to identify potential members and to advocate for and promote awareness of the OCS program.
We set the standard.
Mike Harris currently serves as the President of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. If you would like to be on the mailing list for D.C. area activities, please contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.