I hope you had a very merry Christmas and the new year will be a bright and happy one for all of you.
For the past two years, your association has been working hard to form a solid foundation from which we may truly fulfill our potential of preserving the legacy of graduates and enriching the lifelong relationship among alumni and the OCS program. Our mission is to serve and honor the OCS program and its graduates. Financial management is solid; membership is growing; four chapters have been formed; and the Memorial Walk is now a OCS benchmark honoring our history. A major update of the Association bylaws has been completed and is available on our web site. We are now ready to take the next big step forward. The standing committees identified in the revised bylaws, for example the Resource Development, Chapter Formation, and Nomination Committee just to name a few, will require member volunteers to serve and help us move forward as an association. Each of our board members has a specific charge and, believe me, they are hard at work; however, now it is critical our alumni step up and serve on these committees. OCS is a very unique leadership experience as described by Dr. Bud Pigeon, Director of Resource Development, as producing “can do” leaders. OCS graduates lead from the front and get the job done. That is what your association needs now: alumni to step up and help get the job done. I know the talent is out there. We recently asked for a volunteer to conduct a yearly audit for the association and, within a few days, we had a member of the Association volunteer. His many years of experience as a CPA make him well qualified to complete the task. We need each of you to be ambassadors for the OCS program and the Alumni Association and to step forward to give back to the school which has been described repeatedly by graduates as their launching pad for a successful career. Get involved in your association by helping to form a chapter in your area; run for election in March 2018; celebrate the birthday of OCS on July 1 with family, friends, and brothers and sisters in arms; or volunteer to serve on a committee you are interested in or with which you have expertise. The Alumni Association needs you!
One of the major projects to be launched in 2018 is the renovation and transformation of Wigle Hall at Fort Benning into the OCS Heritage Center. Preliminary work has begun on the design of the Center with the expert help of the staff of the National Infantry Museum. More about this exciting project will be discussed at the general membership meeting during the upcoming reunion. Many of you have already participated in this project through our email survey by sending in your ideas on what should be included in the OCS Heritage Center and how it should be displayed. All eras and branch schools will be included and many of your stories as well.
We are all looking forward to the Alumni Reunion and Hall of Fame events at Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia in a few months. January 2018 is the 50-year anniversary of the Tet Offensive and of the 1968 OCS classes. The Hall of Fame induction board took place on December 15. The inductees who were chosen will make you proud of your OCS heritage. As soon as they have been notified by the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general and the OCS commandant, we will publish their names in the “Attention to the TOC” bi-weekly email. Come join us for the camaraderie, outstanding guest speakers, Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner, and the dedication ceremony of the newly laid pavers and bricks at the OCS Memorial Walk.
The Board of Directors and I look forward to seeing each one of you at the general membership meeting and reunion.
We have started the process to grow OCS to meet the Army’s needs. Beginning in late October, our classes now consist of 160 officer candidates, an increase from our previous strength of 120. In addition, our Direct Commissioning Course, which commissions Army lawyers, increased from 90 to 120 candidates. The battalion will add two companies in early 2018 to meet the Army’s commissioning goals. All of the companies will receive an additional platoon to provide the required training and mentorship to the candidates. This increase will continue through at least 2018 and likely through 2019 as well.
OCS continues to send three high-quality commissioned officers to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. As the British Army’s sole commissioning source, Sandhurst provides basic and advanced military and leadership training to new British officers. Our exchange program with Sandhurst began in 2008 and continues to gain strength. In conjunction with the British Army liaison office at Fort Benning, we select three of our best officer candidates to attend Sandhurst’s one-year commissioning course. We select our top officers to represent our country, our Army, and OCS. Upon return from Sandhurst, the officers attend their branch-specific officer training and continue their Army careers. Our next attendee, 2nd Lt. Kelly Weigand, will document her time at Sandhurst in upcoming OCSAA newsletters.
We continue to make final preparations for this year’s reunion and Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Working hand-in-hand with the Association’s Board of Directors, we are looking forward to providing you with a quality event showcasing the changes in OCS and the quality of our current candidates. We look forward to meeting all of you during the last week of March 2018.
The OCS program has changed throughout the years, most notably in length and the fact that it is now a branch immaterial course. However, the result is still the same: producing generations of leaders who have the critical task of leading American Soldiers. Following are just some of the stories of those who met the challenge.
Emil J. Stryker, Jr., Lieutenant Colonel (USA Retired)
I entered the Army on March 19, 1943 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where I underwent 17 weeks of basic training with the 75th Infantry Division artillery. Then I was sent to St. Louis University under the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). The program was designed to commission students upon graduation from a four-year course. I graduated from the Basic Engineering course which was not long enough to earn a commission. The Army ended the program because we were losing many men in combat in Europe. The ASTP students were used as “fillers” in units that were slated for overseas duty.
In 1944, I was reassigned to the 583rd Signal Depot Company–went to Europe with it. Landed in England for a while, then landed on Utah Beach on August 16, 1944; passed through St. Mére Église en route to LeMans, then one mile west to Hartencourt in the vicinity of Charteres, then to Reims on September 7, 1944; then to Steinfort, Luxembourg on October 9, 1944. My unit was responsible for repair of signal equipment and signal logistics for the Army and Air Force (I forget the names of the Army and Air Force theater organizations–General Patton’s Army was one.) I was in charge of warehousing supplies and carrying messages from Steinfort to Liége, Belgium. I had to pass through Bastogne, Belgium on the way. On returning to my unit, I was at Bastogne on December 16, 1944 when the Germans were beginning to surround the city. I left Bastogne just before the encirclement was complete.
The Army had a shortage of infantry lieutenants and began sending replacements with the rations. A call was sent out for volunteers to attend a special infantry OCS training at Fontainebleau, France. My unit was overstocked on master sergeants and other ranks. The commander looked for reasons to reduce personnel. I was lucky just to make E4. I saw no future in staying with my unit so I volunteered to attend the special OCS course. I believe it was only eight weeks long. A lot of miscellaneous training found in stateside OCS was eliminated. Students were divided into platoons. My tactical officer said that he would never graduate any of us if he thought we wouldn’t do a capable job of training his brother who was still fighting the Germans. I was in class number 25. I completed the course successfully.
The Army sent me the “long way around” before I received my commission as you can see. The thing you and I have in common is that we were both “mustangs” before we became officers (enlisted to officer). I served for 30 years.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally an email to another OCS Alumni Association member retired Maj. James Earls, the Colorado Chapter president. Dave Taylor wrote about another World War II overseas OCS in New Caledonia in the April 2017 edition of the Association’s newsletter.
Ralph Talbot IV, Lieutenant Colonel (USA Retired)
I graduated from OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia on September 19, 1958. I was an enlisted armor Soldier and was commissioned initially in infantry, but received a branch transfer later to armor. I was inspired to attend OCS to better myself and become a leader of Soldiers.
OCS was the start of my officer career in the Army. It prepared me for a 30-year career in the Army and definitely made me a better man. My career led me to such places as Germany, Vietnam, and Australia. I was also the Pistol Branch Chief at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. I learned the true value of leadership and teamwork and how invaluable these are for mission accomplishment.
I was pleased to be selected to be my class guidon bearer and I maintained this honor for the complete OCS cycle.
Our class assisted in the dedication of Wigle Hall on June 19, 1958. We built and dedicated the 5th Student Battalion OCS “Gold Bar” club July 12, 1958. I was selected to model the tropical worsted commissioning uniform for our class on June 22, 1958 for my classmates’ selection and purchase.
It was the OCS values that sustained me during my military career and instilled in me the desire to do the best and be the best no matter what the challenge was.
Clifford L. Fields, Colonel (USA Retired)
My interest in someday going to Officer Candidate School to become a commissioned officer began in the early 1960s. Though I was already on a path to being a career enlisted soldier, I also wanted to, as a later popular Army recruiting slogan suggested, “Be All You Can Be.” So in 1965, while assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and receiving a wide range of encouragement from senior officers within my chain of command, I submitted my application. After being notified that my application had been approved, I received a call from the Army Personnel Office in Washington to ask if I would consider switching to the newly opened Armor OCS at Fort Knox instead of the Infantry OCS. I still remember the personnel officer saying, “as a tanker you’ll ride to work.” Because of my foot soldier infantry background, I clearly caught the gist of his comment, agreed to switch, and in a couple weeks was on my way to Fort Knox.
On January 12, 1966, I reported into the OCS Battalion where the staff was patiently waiting to cordially meet and greet me and my other incoming classmates. RIGHT! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Over the first few weeks, I was quite impressed with how well prepared the newly activated Fort Knox OCS battalion seemed to be at controlling what appeared to be a continuous and rapidly evolving situation. Of course, the ever-present TAC officers, many of whom were fresh out of basic officer training, were the key players in the saga. Their seemingly ever present, 24- hour schedule was the centerpiece of all activities. The TACs also often provided a bit of unwelcomed amusement with antics seemingly designed to test the candidates’ fortitude and tolerance levels. To that I must add that often the TACs’ actions were equally much humor as harm, which was a good thing. As I recall, it seems that after the first six or eight weeks it was not uncommon to see the TAC officers smile as much as smirk.
I was particularly impressed with the emphasis placed on leadership, punctuality, and decision-making.
The training provided outside of the cantonment/ barracks by the Armor School was top notch. The range of training subjects we received–maintenance, gunnery, vehicle recovery, and land navigation–were effectively taught as these were the inevitable skills we needed to survive on the battlefields of Vietnam.
On June 22,1966, I graduated from OCS and happily pinned on the shiny new gold bars of a second lieutenant. I recall it was a very special moment filled with tremendous personal pride, the likes of which I continue to carry. The 23- week training program I had undergone was by far the most challenging, and yet the most rewarding military training I have ever experienced.
As was expected, by June 1967, one year after graduation from OCS, the majority of our class was either already in Vietnam or en route. I fortunately was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment along with a large number of my OCS classmates, returning to the U.S. in 1968. In mid-June 1972, I was back in Vietnam and stayed until the ceasefire agreement in January 1973.
In December 1975, I changed my career field specialty to the Foreign Area Officer program with sub-Sahara Africa as my region specialty.
Through all the changes through the years, I have always felt as though my OCS experience was a major factor in the various excellent opportunities I had over 28 years post OCS.
Orlando J. Illi, Jr., Lieutenant Colonel (USA Retired)
I applied for Officer Candidate School through the college option program. I was teaching school at the time and was not that enamored with a career in education. I completed Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey and was then cast into the mental, physical, and emotional crucible that is OCS. I was originally enrolled in Branch Immaterial Officer Candidate Class (BIOCC) 4-77. However, I broke my ankle during the fourth week and was medically held back until BIOCC 1-78.
OCS is not a course for the meek or those with self-doubt. It is a course fraught with mental and emotional challenges. I learned after the first two weeks that a candidate will never be right; that the goal posts are always being moved; and that candidates are evaluated not on what they achieve, but how they handle failure. That realization was the most important to me. Because of my college op status, I had to work harder than others who had more military experience that I did and I had to admit, more than I liked, that I was unsure of which course of action to take. Consequently, at times I felt overwhelmed. Nonetheless, I graduated and achieved something that a year before I would not have been able to achieve. I became a commissioned officer – the first in my family.
After my graduation from OCS, I was groomed by a series of colonels to become a Research Development Officer. I served as Assistant Project Manager for Logistics at the Center for Night Vision and Electro-Optics (CNVEO), Fort Belvoir, Virginia from 1985-87. During that time, I was responsible for developing the total logistical support concept for the AN/PVS-7 Monocular Night Vision Device and the AN/AVS-6 Aviator Night Vision Device. In 1987, I received the distinction of being selected as the CNVEO employee of the year.
In July 1991, I was selected to serve as Technical Director of one of 28 Knowledge Engineering Groups (KEG). Our KEG, in concert with the Army Research Laboratory’s Advanced Computational Information Sciences Directorate, initiated a joint $8 million software development effort to enhance current and future diagnostics capabilities for the M1 Abrams tank AGT-1500 turbine engine. In March 1993, we received the distinction of winning the American Defense Preparedness Association’s group award for excellence in artificial intelligence logistics applications.
I retired from active duty as a lieutenant colonel on April 1, 1997 from the Defense System Management College where I served as both Director of Automation Operations and Educational Services, as well as a professor of software acquisition.
In November 1999, I entered Federal civil service as a GS-15 and was appointed as the Deputy Product Manager for the newly chartered Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) program office at Fort Detrick, Maryland. MC4 enables worldwide patient-tracking and reporting along the health care continuum through a lifelong electronic health record documentation. MC4 also includes an automated link between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
In 2006, 2008, and 2011, the MC4 program was awarded the DoD Chief Information Officer award for excellence in information technology. In 2008, the MC4 program was awarded the U.S. Army Superior Unit Award, the first Army product management and the fifth Army acquisition organization to achieve this recognition. In 2014, MC4 was the first recipient of the excellence in health information technology award. In 2008, I was designated a National Security Professional as well as selected as a finalist for receipt of the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America National Security and International Affairs Medal. In 2009, I was awarded the Order of Military Medical Merit for my ten years of service as MC4 Deputy Product Manager. In 2012, I had the distinction of being one the primary developers of the Emergency Personal Isolation and Containment system which was awarded a U.S. patent
OCS gave me the confidence to handle difficult situations. It allowed me to fail and learn. It gave me the confidence that you can achieve anything if you believe in your people, the mission, and yourself. But, more importantly, OCS forced me to grow into a leader and a manager and to understand and appreciate the subtle, but nonetheless important, distinction between the two.
Jon E. Lopey, Sr., Colonel (USA Retired)
I joined the California Army National Guard (CAARNG) in March 1980 after two fellow California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers urged me to join specifically to obtain a commission by attending the California Military Academy. I joined the 570th Military Police Company and requested to attend federal OCS in lieu of the state program. I was the Distinguished Honor Graduate of Officer Candidate Reserve Component Course 2-80, which graduated from Fort Benning on November 25, 1980.
I began training at Fort Benning in September 1980. I felt attending federal OCS would provide me a better opportunity to learn the job as a platoon leader and give me more hands-on experience as a Soldier. I previously served as a Marine NCO and served a tour of duty in the Philippines. I was always impressed with the officers I knew in the Marines. I was also encouraged by officers I met in the CAARNG. Patriotic fervor and concern was raging in all of our hearts and minds at the time because the Iranian hostage crisis was underway and the threat of a Middle East conflict was looming.
I was physically fit and ready for OCS, but I was not fully prepared for what I found at Fort Benning. When I arrived at OCS, I was assigned to the third platoon. During the first day of festivities, I heard 1st Lt. Jesse Daniel, the TAC officer of the 2nd platoon, bellowing orders and admonishments not unlike the Marine drill instructors I once knew. I was glad I was not in that platoon. During the first night at OCS, I was assessed a Class II and Class III violation much to my surprise. One violation was because I closed my combination lock on my locker, but did not turn the dial and a TAC officer pulled on it and it opened. The second infraction was for getting up early and getting caught taking an early shower to get ahead of my peers before they awakened. I thought my time at OCS would be short-lived, but I persevered and eventually served successfully in a variety of leadership positions at the platoon and company levels. I was a first sergeant twice, including the “Honor Chain” prior to graduation.
I was surprised so many OCS candidates failed our first Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). We lost over 20 candidates based on the APFT results. My platoon lost so many people that we were reassigned and I was placed in 1st Lt. Daniel’s platoon. Although he was the loudest and most demanding of all TAC officers, he was a true professional. As an airborne-infantry officer, he set a high standard for us and I owe much to what I accomplished then and throughout my career to 1st Lt. Daniels and other outstanding instructors and OCS mentors. After the first APFT, I was placed in the fast running group. The first day we ran in formation, the fast group took off like a flash, led by an airborne-ranger TAC officer. I remember thinking to myself that the pace is like a sprint and we would have to slow soon, but we never slowed down!
I have other fond memories of OCS. One of them was the chow hall’s “Tray Line Ridge,” where it was almost impossible to escape without demerits because you had to regurgitate knowledge and other information while being verbally admonished by predatory TAC officer’s intent on assessing demerits. I remember Lt. Gen. Grange, the commanding general of the Infantry School and an OCS graduate, the famous infantryman who served as the very best example for us aspiring officers. I remember the incredible knowledge, skills, and technical and tactical knowledge I acquired while at OCS. When I returned to the CAARNG, I was assigned as a platoon leader and not one enlisted man, even Vietnam veterans, could beat me disassembling and assembling the M60 machinegun. When I graduated from OCS, I was well prepared to be a platoon leader and, later when I attended my basic course, I felt OCS graduates were generally better prepared than most officers from other commissioning programs. Fort Benning is still my favorite Army installation. I returned there years later for Airborne School and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and during a couple of deployments to hostile fire or combat zones. I always marveled, however, how hot, humid, miserable, and bone-chilling cold it could be at Fort Benning – sometimes during the same tour!
I served in three branches in the CAARNG and Army Reserve – military police, infantry, and civil affairs. I served as a platoon leader, adjutant, company commander, battalion operations officer, assistant brigade operations officer, and acting battalion commander. Later I served as a public safety officer, special functions chief, and executive officer (XO) of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade. While in hostile fire areas or combat, I served as the staff civil affairs officer for Operational Detachment-Bravo 2060 in Haiti, as a United Nations law enforcement liaison officer in Bosnia (twice), and as the senior military advisor to the Afghan Minister of Interior, Combined Force Command – Afghanistan. While in Iraq, I served as the XO of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade.
I served for 30 years in the commissioned ranks and retired from the Army Reserve in March 2011 as a colonel. I retired from the CHP as an assistant chief in 2010. Since January 2011, I have served as the elected sheriff-coroner of Siskiyou County, California. My OCS experiences made me a better leader, a better citizen, and a better person and helped shape my career as a 30-year Army officer and 40-year veteran of the law enforcement profession.
Michael Maharaj, Lieutenant Colonel (USA)
As an OCS graduate (Class 1-95), I have experienced many leadership situations that no one organization could have prepared me for over the last 28 years of Federal service. There is no magic curriculum, training, or commissioning source that can make a leader. There is, however, an organization that lets potential leaders…lead. That organization provides you time-tested tools and allows the candidate to master the ability to reframe problems based on the evidence at hand. That organization, known to us as OCS, encouraged me to experience a different type of thinking—one that allowed for meaningful insights into unfamiliar, dynamic, and complex situations.
OCS differs from other commissioning sources in that many of your fellow candidates are prior NCOs with an expansive resume of skills. Key to success is finding a way of capitalizing on that experience and encouraging intellectual cross-fertilization. As a battery commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1, I utilized the strengths, skills, and know-how of my Soldiers to accomplish the assigned task. How? By allowing the NCOs or lieutenants to formulate their own solutions and providing the guidance and resources required to accomplish that task.
A leader must compromise, negotiate, and allow their subordinates to have input into the decision-making process. Discounting a team member’s input is tantamount to telling the contributor that his or her value to the organization is negligible. Imagine trying to pass the Leadership Reaction Course without the input of your fellow team members—probably not going to happen. As a leader of one of the first artillery batteries to cross into Iraq during OIF 1, I can attest the environment was truly dynamic. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. What does survive and what truly matters is how quickly the leader is able to adapt.
In the late 1990s, the OCS program expanded to help fill shortages at the field grade level. The expansion brought new life to a program that regularly competed with the other commissioning sources for talent and funding. Many of the cadre that I trained with were veterans of Operation Desert Storm. It was from their insight into combat, their having-been-there knowledge, and their personal interactions with Soldiers in combat that I learned what it took to be a leader. One of my cadre members was a Green Beret by trade who taught us the tactics block of instruction. He told us to remember a simple, yet powerful, statement. He said, “Doctrine and training are just tools that provide guidance and the framework for you to build your plan. If you are at a crossroads as to which plan to execute, use the scientific method guaranteed to work most of the time…follow your gut.” OIF was a full-spectrum operation conducted against an asymmetric threat. The deep penetration executed by the division, coupled with the unconventional enemy forces, created a nonlinear, noncontiguous battlefield. The diverse threat and terrain required thinking, flexible, and adaptive leaders. OCS provided the framework that gave me the foundation to build my leadership skills.
As graduates of OCS, we are part of an organization that is truly unique—an organization that trains individuals conscious of their obligation to serve. Looking back, I am sure I made the right decision for my commissioning source—it is where I belonged.
Lt. Col. Michael I. Maharaj is currently serving as the Branch Chief for Multinational Cyber Operations, Joint Staff J6. His responsibilities are to plan, lead, and direct both defensive and offensive cyberspace effects with our multinational mission partners and U.S. services. Lt. Col. Maharaj is a 2016 Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Award for Cyber and Information Technology Excellence individual winner and a 2017 Federal Computer Weekly individual award winner for his work on developing and incorporating tactics, techniques, and procedures for blue and red teams on a mission partner environment network. Starting in June 2018, Lt. Col. Maharaj will assume duties as the Director, United States Army Regional Cyber Center – Southwest Asia, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
James Earls, Major (USA Retired)
On June 21, 2002, I was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army upon my graduation from OCS. This is an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of and very happy to say that I did. It has been over fifteen years since I graduated and left Fort Benning and already my stay there seems like a distant memory.
I knew when I first joined the Army I wanted to make it a career and I wanted to do half my career as an enlisted Soldier and half the time as an officer. I just did not know the path it would lead me. In early 2001, I was an infantry staff sergeant in B Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry (3rd Infantry Division) on Kelly Hill at Fort Benning preparing for a deployment to Kosovo. We were training for the deployment when several NCOs were selected to become drill sergeants or recruiters. There was a rumor that Sand Hill was short 72 drill sergeants at the time. Most of my friends were picked up as drill sergeants; there were only three of us who were selected for recruiting duty. I did not want to be a recruiter; I wanted to deploy with my platoon to Kosovo, but since it was a Department of the Army school and we were not at war, there was nothing my chain of command could do. This is when I felt it was time for me to apply to OCS.
I had a little knowledge of what to expect prior to going to OCS, mostly through conversations with a few officers who gave me basic tidbits, but nothing in depth. I thought myself fairly squared away both mentally and physically for OCS. The big surprise was how I personally reacted to all the phases.
I knew about as much as I felt I could know about OCS when I reported to 1st Platoon, B Company on Sunday morning, March 10, 2002 (class began Thursday, March 14). Our company breakdown was about 90% prior NCOs with years of knowledge and experience under our belts and 5% college option candidates. We had two college ops in my platoon, one of them my roommate, Ed Kaspar, who was our class photographer. Ed was a great communicator and an excellent roommate. In 1st Platoon, we started with 31 candidates and graduated 29. We lost two aviation chief warrant officers after the first week because they felt like they were already officers.
The days’ events at OCS had the ability to take you emotionally to heights and valleys within minutes if you were not prepared. The cadre started out strong during Basic Phase. The first week was the hardest of the course which weeded out those who were not prepared. The cadre did not try to disguise the method to their madness. By Intermediate Phase, they had lightened up a little and by Senior Phase, unless you screwed up, you were treated as a commissioned officer.
The physical and mental challenges of OCS basically sum up what the entire place is. I am convinced there is really no way to prepare yourself 100% for what you experience at OCS. Depending on the class, the time of year, and what random restrictions for candidates have been recently set in place or lifted, the stay at OCS will be very different than what I experienced. Each company had a reputation when I was there too. Alpha Company was the hardest, followed by Bravo, and then Charlie. I never believed that though. I never came in expecting my OCS experience to be like anyone else’s.
The rest of OCS: chow hall, inspections, inspections, inspections, and other various ways for the staff at OCS to help raise your stress threshold while teaching you a little bit about life in the Army and being an Army officer. I could write pages and pages about the details of every little thing that happened over my 14 weeks at OCS, but that is not necessary. Four important take aways that I learned at OCS are:
Get as much sleep as you can. I was used to sleep deprivation before OCS, but not to the extent I experienced at OCS.
Find a time to de-stress. Most of my class did this during Sundays when we went to church and had some downtime.
Make friends with whom you can be normal with. Talk about what is going on around you and talk about home. No one is an island (for me it was my platoon).
TEAMWORK IS A MUST. You can’t do it by yourself at OCS.
I guess I will end with what I enjoyed most about OCS—the camaraderie. At OCS, everyone was on the same playing field and, more importantly, on the same team. It did not matter what your previous occupational specialty was, or where you came from, just that you are working right alongside everyone else. The teamwork between everyone in our class could not be beat.
I retired from the Army on June 30, 2012 at Fort Hood, Texas. My wife, Amy, and I moved to Colorado Springs and I became a deputy sheriff with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (Class# 13-2). I worked at the Criminal Justice Center until October 1, 2015, when my brother-in-law asked me to work for him as an independent contractor doing research on real estate and travel.
I am a proud lifetime member of the following organizations: Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Associates of the Vietnam Veterans of America (AVAA), and the U.S. Army Officers Candidate School Alumni Association (USAOCSAA), where I currently serve as the Colorado Chapter president. I am also a National Museum of the U.S. Army founding sponsor.
Joseph Schultz, 2nd Lieutenant (ILARNG)
It had always been my intention to serve in the Army. My family, many of whom were prior service, encouraged me to go to school first and enter as an officer. Over time, I realized this would be the most effective way I could serve. I worked the tugs in the St. Louis harbor while in college. After graduation, I was hired by Ingram Barge Company to work the line-haul vessels a month at a time. These trips on the Mississippi River afforded me the opportunity to mentally and physically prepare for basic combat training and Officer Candidate School. Days and nights were spent toiling on the barges; after coming off watch, I would run the onboard treadmill.
I truly sought to serve to make the nation more secure and contribute to bettering the world. In January 2016, I arrived at Fort Benning for basic combat training (BCT) as an O9S, officer candidate. Though I was somewhat older than many of the others there -28 at the time- I was fortunate in that a quarter of our company were comprised of officer candidates. The working relationships molded in BCT were later cemented in OCS.
We entered the OCS footprint where it was assumed that you planned. An intelligent explanation of forethought was continually expected. We were watched and graded. The physical and mental conditioning on the boat was put to the test. Finding purpose in one’s own actions was key.
Our company commander, Capt. Allen Jenkins, had a methodology for honing our mental process, which directly correlated to the action we were -or were not- doing. He would walk up to you, sometimes from nowhere, make direct eye contact, and inquire, “Candidate, what is your sole purpose in life right now?” He would then wait for an honest, acceptable answer. To this day, this same question resonates as an internal factory zero of sorts, resetting my own intentions in any action or project I am currently engaged.
I did not excel at land navigation. A group of us, approximately twenty, sat on bleachers in the dark. We waited for the time to start and for our maps of points to be issued. It was the last day to successfully complete land nav before recycling to the next class behind us. Each of us had traversed the woods in the days leading up to this. Capt. Jenkins spoke to us without sympathy. He matter-of-factly instructed us to not allow the failures of the preceding days to define us. Learn from them? Absolutely. However, if we did not center on and successfully execute on that day, it would be our defining moment, rather than a challenge we overcame along the way. Many of us, myself included, did achieve that day. The lesson remains: do not allow the past failings of yesterday to define who you are or what you do today. Learn, adjust fire, and improve from them.
Our cadre was beyond qualified. They brought a wealth of knowledge and past experiences to this assignment. They truly cared about the process and the quality of future officers they produced. We trained on and rehearsed warrior tasks and battle drills. In a culminating grading event, OCS alumni were invited to attend and oversee us. To walk amongst, speak with, and perform before our predecessors who had served many years before we were born, some prior to the forward assist on the M16 rifle, was humbling and an honor.
As a candidate, I initially thought of the recycling attrition as a harsh, unforgiving policy. Through the course of OCS, I recognized the reasoning behind it twofold. In the regular Army, away from Training and Doctrine Command, you get first chances and are not always guaranteed second ones. This can be a far cry from a former life of civilian schooling and employment. Second, the process, with the looming imminence of recycling, leads to more resilient candidates. Candidates graduated as officers unafraid to take calculated chances, so long as they were executing a thought-out plan. These candidates understood a now-or-never mentality. The narrowing, limiting, and shifting of personnel in this way strengthened us as a class. We held each other up and accountable. The finish line at the alma mater was only the beginning of our careers and the genesis to truly understanding the lessons we had learned.
We spread to the four winds after graduation. With staggered basic officer leadership course dates, the active duty went to their respective duty stations; the National Guard and Reserve returned to our individual states. Outside the walls of OCS, as U.S. Army officers, we are still being continually evaluated, expected to have done our homework of research and planning, to know what our purpose is, and to execute. All of these were borne in “Benning’s pride and joy.” Truly, it was the OCS cadre’s constant and ruthless commitment to excellence that instilled this military bearing, receptiveness to teaching, and command potential upon us.
Standards – NO Compromise!
2nd Lt. Joseph Schultz is the S8 for HHC, 33 Brigade Combat Team (ILARNG) and works as a Senior Leadman for Ingram Barge Co aboard the M/V Marty Baskerville.
Officer Candidate Shaela Rabbitt (Class 002-18)
To conclude the Faces of OCS is a current candidate, Officer Candidate Shaela Rabbitt.
If there is one thing I can say with confidence, it is that the story of our nation, and of the entire world since 1775, has been written by the U.S. Army. I earned my B.A. in American Military History from St. Cloud State University in my home state of Minnesota. The Army wrote my family’s story as well: my father and grandfather both served to retirement and my brother is currently deployed to Afghanistan. Their stories pushed me. I knew I had to do anything to be part of this team.
I graduated from Basic Combat Training in November and prepared for what I was informed would be the far greater challenge of OCS. I was not misinformed. The challenge certainly is greater, but so is every other aspect of this experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the swell of pride and motivation I felt passing through the OCS archway with Bravo Company. In these first two weeks, I have come to appreciate, more than anything, the mentorship of my cadre and the camaraderie of my fellow candidates.
The challenge is not from the discipline, nor the physical demands. It is the expectations—being treated suddenly with dignity and respect, as a future leader of the Army. It is the realization that you—the new, overwhelmed candidate who fought so hard every step of the way to get here—have finally arrived, and your work has just begun.
And no, I am not worried about the history test.
8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor
A story of valor and the making of a hero—Florent Groberg, who grew up in France, emigrated to the U.S., and was the first immigrant in forty years to earn the Medal of Honor after he saved many lives by tackling a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
Florent “Flo” Groberg was born in 1983 in the suburbs of Paris. When he was in middle school, his family moved to the U.S. and Flo became a naturalized citizen in 2001. After attending the University of Maryland, he joined the Army in 2008, was commissioned through OCS, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. He deployed a second time in 2012. In August of that year, Flo was guarding a high-level U.S.-Afghan delegation and noticed someone suspicious: a local man stumbling toward his patrol. Flo reacted quickly and ran to tackle the man—who was wearing a suicide vest—before he could reach the patrol. Four people died in the subsequent explosion, but many others were spared. Flo himself was badly wounded and spent the next three years undergoing surgeries at Walter Reed Medical Center. On November 12, 2015, Captain Groberg was awarded the nation’s highest military award: The Medal of Honor—the first immigrant to be so recognized since the Vietnam War.
8 Seconds of Courage tells Flo’s story from his childhood in France to his decision to enlist. On the front lines in Afghanistan, he formed close and lasting bonds with his fellow soldiers. It was this powerful sense of responsibility that compelled him to take his brave action to save lives, even at the risk of his own.
Seldom when we hear about the heroism of Medal of Honor recipients do we learn what motivates their actions. Flo Groberg provides that essential insight into his selfless act of valor while honoring his four fallen brothers in arms. 8 Seconds of Courage is a story of heroism, sacrifice, and camaraderie in wartime.
MEMORIAL WALK UPDATE
Frank L. Harman III
Since August, we have emplaced dedication blocks for AMERICAL Division, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Engineers, 173rd Airborne-IBCT, 187th Infantry, 29th Infantry, 34th Armor, Signal Corps, Special Forces, Fort Knox OCS, Vietnamese OCS graduates, and Military Assistance Command-Vietnam. We have also emplaced dedication monuments for Class 6-65, Class 36-67, Class 46-67, Class 47-67, Class 68-67, and Class 19-69. We completed and emplaced a list of all the OCS Hall of Fame members. We emplaced a monument that consists of a dedication block and pavers accounting for the history of OCS: all branches, locations, and services. Finally, we have emplaced over 20 individual bricks and pavers.
We are pushing hard to finish Phases 4, 5, and 6 by the reunion. We have two class monuments staged and ready for emplacement (Classes 4A-63, and 1-66). We have three other class monuments in the works (Classes 24-69, 107-66, 518-68). We have a dedication block and monument for Judge Patterson and the Patterson award winners staged and ready for emplacement. We also have dedication blocks for 3rd Armored Division and 1st Aviation Brigade being engraved. Next will be the plates and pavers for this year’s Hall of Fame, Patterson Award, and Nett Award winners.
The USAOCSAA is very pleased to sponsor a new tradition at the OCS Battalion. It was our original intention for the Memorial Walk that the northeast side of the walk would be for class and cadre bricks. USAOCSAA will purchase six bricks per class cycle for inclusion in the walk alongside the division and regiment dedication blocks. Bricks will be for the graduating class, the distinguished honor graduate, the officer trainer of the cycle, the NCO trainer of the cycle, the company commander, and the first sergeant. On subsequent cycles, if a cadre member already has a brick in the walk, he or she can nominate support cadre or staff for the honor. We will make this retroactive to Lt. Col. Chitty’s change of command in June. This is as an opportunity for team building at the battalion or company level with a small dedication ceremony.
As always, I ask the alumni to please support the OCS Memorial Walk project. Proceeds are used to complete the Memorial Walk project and as seed money to support the Wigle Hall renovation. So far, we have pavers for our 49 MOH recipients and 18 of our distinguished graduates. We have memorial blocks for each era of OCS starting with WWII. We have 24×24 granite dedication blocks for the current active Army divisions, the three independent cavalry regiments, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 173rdAirborne Infantry Brigade. Our next objective is to get sponsorship for the rest of the Cold War divisions and the eight Army National Guard divisions. These memorials will join 12 very impressive raised monuments. We need about $50,000 to complete the Memorial Walk. The USAOCSAA Board of Directors raised over $90,000 since last year to pay for our current walk. We have the capability to emplace up to 420 pavers or 840 bricks or a combination of both. We want to sell all those bricks and pavers by the reunion. We need more classes to commit to buying a monument and well as the support of individual alumni.
4×8 black granite brick- $100
8×8 black granite paver- $250
12×12 black granite plates- $350
24×24 black granite block- $500
24×24 gray granite block- $500
Please go to our Association web site and purchase a personal brick or paver for yourself, spouse, battle buddy, favorite mentor, or a fallen comrade. Class leaders, we can do a very nice class memorial and avoid the special permission required for original projects.
Frank Harman serves as the Vice President for Administration of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. He is a retired colonel and the project manager for the Memorial Walk. He can be contacted at email [email protected].
OCS Reunion: March 25-29, 2018
Make plans to attend the upcoming reunion in Columbus, Georgia! Catch up with classmates, meet the current candidates, and view the progress of the Memorial Walk.
This event will include the 2018 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, reception, and formal dinner including the presentation of the Patterson Award. There will also be briefings and demonstrations at Fort Benning highlighting developments related to the OCS program and OCS candidate interactions.
In the past, we have had graduates representing every decade since the formal founding of OCS in July 1941. It truly is an amazing experience to meet people with whom you share a common bond that transformed all of our lives. We are all brothers and sisters in arms.
Online registration is available at the OCSAA website. For more information, contact Nancy Ionoff, Reunion Coordinator, at [email protected] or 813-917-4309.
Hyrum W. Smith, graduate of Artillery OCS Class 1-67, will be one of the guest speakers at the reunion. He is currently the chairman of 3Gaps, a training company, and was co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Franklin Covey.
MEDAL OF HONOR CEREMONY
President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose on October 23, 2017, at the White House. The OCS graduate was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during Operation Tailwind in Southeastern Laos during the Vietnam War, September 11-14, 1970. Then-Sgt. Rose was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at the time of the action. For more information, see the Army’s official website dedicated to him, //www.army.mil/medalofhonor/rose/.
President Donald Trump places the Medal of Honor around the neck of retired Capt. Gary Rose, during an October 23, 2017 ceremony at the White House, in Washington, D.C. U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.
Retired Capt. Gary Rose and his wife, Margaret, pose for a photo before the Medal of Honor ceremony in Washington, D.C., October 23, 2017. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tammy Nooner.
Acting Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, presents a citation to retired Capt. Gary Rose during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., October 24, 2017. U.S. Army photo by John Martinez.
Retired Capt. Gary Rose gives his remarks during his Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., October 24, 2017. U.S. Army photo by Eboni Everson-Myart.
VETERANS DAY WREATH-LAYING CEREMONIES
On November 11, 2017, members of the D.C. area chapter of the OCS Alumni Association laid wreaths at the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in honor of our Nation’s veterans.
National World War II Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
HOLIDAY WREATHS LAID AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Members of the D.C. area chapter of the OCS Alumni Association were among the 75,000 volunteers who helped place wreaths at the gravesites of 245,000 U.S. service members on December 16, 2017 at Arlington National Cemetery.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION
The following OCS Alumni Association members are running for election or reelection to the Association’s Board of Directors.
COL (R) Tom Evans
Dr. Richard Boyer
Mr. Allen Haines
COL (R) Karla Langland
COL (R) Frank Harman, III
Mr. John Bowles
Mr. Dan Leifel
LTC (R) James Wright, Jr.
Dr. Walter Pidgeon, Jr.
You will be able to vote online at the OCSAA website. You will also be able to vote in person at the membership meeting during the OCS Alumni Association reunion in March. Only members of the OCS Alumni Association may vote in the election.
FLORIDA CHAPTER NEWS
The most recent meeting of the USAOCSAA Florida Chapter was held on October 28, 2017 in Orlando.
The focus of the meeting was the nomination process and election of chapter leadership to occur at our next meeting in mid-February 2018 in The Villages.
After some discussion regarding organization, it was decided to keep leadership positions to a minimum:
Vice President/Vice Commander
Secretary/Treasurer (administrative and financial duties should be minimal)
These three positions will be elected by the chapter general membership and form the nucleus of the Board of Directors.
It was proposed that one standing committee be formed for membership. The chair of this committee will be appointed and will have a seat on the board. Regional representatives will also be appointed and have seats on the board.
The date and location of the February meeting will be provided to all affiliated Florida chapter members in mid-January. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact me. Additionally, if you will accept a nomination to serve on the board or if you would like to serve in one of the appointed positions, please contact me.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year from the land of politics and monuments. The Washington D.C. Area Chapter continues to flourish and grow as we completed our inaugural year. It has been a busy but very rewarding twelve months since we received our charter.
The highlight for the holiday season was our participation with Wreaths Across America (WAA) in placing a fresh, live wreath on all 245,000 grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery on December 16, 2017. For those who may not have viewed Arlington in December, it is a wonderful tribute to those heroes who have passed. WAA volunteers started placing wreaths on a portion of the cemetery several years ago. It has grown to where every grave receives a wreath and the D.C. area chapter supplied a few of the 75,000 volunteers who made in happen it a matter of three hours.
The chapter continues to add members and we have chapter polo shirts and iron on OCSAA patches available thanks to Don Northcutt. We meet monthly in Fairfax, Virginia and have experienced excellent programs and a lot of camaraderie and bonding as a group. With Veteran’s Day ceremonies, wonderful members who attend regularly, and a host of members who stay engaged via email the Washington D.C. Chapter is proud to have set the standard for new chapters to follow.
We anticipate a great second year and have exciting plans. We hope to see you at the reunion in March at Mother Benning. Until then, drop and give me 50 push-ups. Be well.
Standards. No Compromise.
J. Michael Harris Major (USA Retired) President, Washington D.C. Area Chapter USAOCSAA 703-618-0017 [email protected]
COLORADO CHAPTER NEWS
Greetings from the Colorado Chapter. We are honored to be the first state and the second chapter of the Association and we continue to strive.
On December 7, 2017, we gathered for our third meeting at The Fox and Hound Bar and Grill. I knew there would only be a small gathering since it was the holiday season, but I felt we needed to have a meeting on December 7 because it was the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Those able to attend included retired Col. Dennis Cripps and retired Capt. Joe Zmugg.
We had a quick meeting to discussed the chapter’s focus and our way ahead. During lunch, Joe shared his experiences in the Adjutant General’s Corps with us. As with our previous meetings, I learned things about the Army that I did not know prior to our meeting: mainly the post-Vietnam reduction in force. I was truly honored to hear his experiences.
On December 9, 2017, I watched the Army-Navy game with retired Lt. Col. Steve Alexander and Chris Stoddard at the Falcon’s Bar and Grill directly in front of the Air Force Academy. This is one of the hangouts for Air Force Academy cadets and their families.
Chris and I have been friends since I was a specialist in Bravo Company, 1-6 Infantry Regiment which was my first duty assignment after one-station unit training in 1993. The place we normally go watch the Army-Navy game, The Foxhole at the Hub on Fort Carson, was closed so I picked Falcon’s Bar and Grill to show the Army colors!
Steve is the president of the National Guard OCS chapter in Colorado Springs. I asked Steve if he wanted to watch the game with us and to discuss plans to bring both our chapter members together to both socialize and gather ideas at future meetings.
It was a great day. We were happy to see Army beat Navy for the second consecutive year and bring the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy back home to West Point. The last time West Point had the trophy was 1996.
The chapter has grown since our establishment. We are always looking for new members and we continue to reach out to the Colorado community. Please help us spread the word and encourage your classmates and fellow alumni members to join the Association. It is amazing how many alumni live in Colorado and, even though we are spread out by generations, we still form a common bond.
Share your story with us at our upcoming chapter meetings. I am always amazed at how much new information I learn when I listen to other members.
If you would like to be added to the chapter contact roster, please email our Chapter Secretary, Samantha Shaffer at [email protected]. We will keep you advised of our upcoming meeting dates.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Before closing, I wanted to share this:
One of our regular meeting members, retired Capt. John Ulbinsky, was not able to attend our third meeting in December because his wife of 53 years, Mitzi Maryanne Ulbinsky, passed away on November 27, 2017 after a three-year bout with sarcoma.
I asked John if it was okay to write a quick biography about Mitzi because I wanted to learn how they met. This is what I learned.
Mitzi was born in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, on September 15, 1941. She married 1st. Lt. John Ulbinsky at Fort Benning, Georgia in a spur-of-the-moment ceremony, since John was only at Fort Benning for a temporary flight assignment en route to Vietnam. A month later, the couple had a formal wedding ceremony in Port Colborne that enabled both families and friends from the U.S. and Canada to attend. The next two of the couples’ first three years found the now Capt. Ulbinsky serving in Vietnam as an Army aviator. Mitzi spent the majority of that time working as a nurse in Port Colborne and Enterprise, Alabama. In 1967 the couple’s daughter, Lisa Marie, nee Helton, was born at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Returning from Vietnam, Capt. Ulbinsky, separated from the service and the family settled in Los Angeles to begin life as an airline family. To help support the family in the lean years, Mitzi worked as a nurse in Hawthorne and Granada Hills. Mitzi was extremely proud of her background as an “old school hospital RN.” Her favorite area of medicine was family practice so she could watch the little ones grow up.
She loved being an American and she loved being an Army officer’s wife. She fully supported her husband’s flying career. John told me, “She was an officer’s wife through and through. I couldn’t have asked for anything more!”
Mitzi, in 1965 at the Honolulu Zoo, taken when John was on leave from Vietnam.
Standards. No Compromise.
James Earls Major (USA Retired) President, Colorado Chapter USAOCSAA [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 is interested in establishing a chapter or would like to receive a copy of the SOP, please contact Chris Bresko at [email protected].
The OCS Alumni Association established the Nett Award to recognize and honor annually an OCS Hall of Fame or OCSAA member or current/former cadre who has provided superior support and advocacy of the OCS program. We are currently accepting nomination packages for this award. Deadline for submission is February 1, 2018. The award is named for Robert B. Nett, an OCS graduate who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Battle of Ormoc Bay in the Philippines in December 1944. Nett went on to command the 5th Student Battalion, OCS and later the Infantry School Brigade. The first winner of this award is the current Alumni Association president, retired Col. John Ionoff. John has presided over an association that has grown in membership, formed regional chapters, and continues to extol the OCS program to leaders both military and civilian. Who will be the next recipient of this award?
Your alumni association and two of its chapters are on Facebook! Follow us as we post timely information of interest to you.
Starting January 1, 2018, active duty service members with fewer than 12 years of service as of December 31, 2017 and Reserve Component service members with fewer than 4,320 points will have until December 31, 2018 to decide to remain in the current system or opt into the Blended Retirement System. All service members must complete mandatory training available via the Joint Knowledge On-line or ArmyOneSource websites to assist with the decision to either opt-in or continue with the legacy retirement system.
Do you have questions about or need assistance with VA benefits? Are you looking to see which VA benefits are available to you? Check out the Veterans Benefits Administration Facebook page. Each day, the page features benefits news, updates, tips, how-to’s, and discussions on VA benefits. //www.facebook.com/VeteransBenefits/
Any members of Class 502-70? 93rd Co, 9th OCS Bn that graduated in July 1970. One of your classmates is looking for you. Contact Lee Williams at [email protected].
The Association is accepting digitized yearbooks which will be placed on the website – (Members – Yearbooks and Programs). 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.
The Officer Candidate School Alumni Association will hold its annual meeting at 0900 on March 26, 2018 at the Columbus Marriott in Columbus, Georgia. At that meeting, a proposal to amend and restate the bylaws of the Association and the election of select members of the Board of Directors will take place.
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.