July 2016 Newsletter
The past year has been both exciting and challenging for the Association. The members of the Board of Directors have been working on major projects such as reconnecting with members who were lost from our website, developing material for a new website, planning for the 75th anniversary celebration of OCS, and the 2016 alumni reunion. The 2016 reunion has come and gone and we are already working on making next year’s reunion even better than this year’s. We had many favorable comments from attendees this year and suggestions on how to make it even better next year. We had 200 registrants this year and our plan is to top that in 2017. We are working on dates for next year. As soon as the dates have been determined, we will publicize them on the web site, Facebook, and other media.
We have additional activities planned for 2016. On Wednesday, July 20 at Fort Myer in the D.C. area, the OCS program, the Alumni Association, and all OCS alumni will be honored guests at the Twilight Tattoo. The Twilight Tattoo is an hour-long, live-action military pageant featuring Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” Please join us at this memorable event. In addition, on the same day at 1315, we will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Again, all alumni are invited to attend the event. Logistical details will be publicized on Facebook, on the web site, or via email blasts.
Another ceremony involving the OCS Battalion and the Alumni Association will be conducted on Veteran’s Day, Friday, November 11, 2016 again in Washington D.C. at the different war memorials. More to come as we finalize preparations for this great event as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the OCS program this year. Our Public Affairs Committee members, Karla Langland, Jim Wright, and Mike Harris are working hard to get public recognition of the OCS program and its graduates. I need you to get involved at the local and national level, or wherever your sphere of influence may be, to inform the public of 75 years of excellence in leadership for the nation. Spread the word, encourage your classmates and friends to join the Association, and attend as many events as you can.
Finally, at our general membership meeting and online, we elected nine new members to the Board of Directors. Of the thirteen Board members, eleven were new to the Board as of September, 2014. A majority have come on the Board within the last year. The Board members are from different parts of the U.S. and are dedicated to making this an Association that we can be proud of. Our watchwords are accountability and transparency. I pledge to you that this transparency and accountability will carry over in all of our actions. Past issues of concern to me and the Board are being resolved so we can build on the success of the past year. With your support, we look forward to a banner year for our Association. The Officers, Board members, and I are always available to you, the membership. Please let us know of your concerns and suggestions. We are ready to listen and take action.
John Ionoff | Colonel (USA Retired)
Onward to the 75th Anniversary Year!!
On July 1, 1941 OCS Class 01-1941 convened at Fort Benning Georgia, starting a 75-year tradition of excellence that continues to this day. As we continue the 75th anniversary year of OCS, I would like to take a moment to recap some of the successes and challenges of the last year as well as advertise our planned celebration events.
To date in Fiscal Year 2016 Officer Candidate School has commissioned 540 lieutenants into all 17 basic branches and all three components of the Total Army: this included two female Armor officers and one female Infantry officer. Other notable accomplishments include sending three officer cadets to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) commissioning course; executing an exchange of instructors with the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS); submitting our revised program of instruction for a 14-week course to HQs, TRADOC; and inducting 31 OCS alumni into the Hall of Fame.
The next year looks equally bright. OCS is currently training 320 candidates from individual to platoon-level tasks; we will continue our exchanges with both RMAS and WOCS; and we are poised to integrate US Army Reserve and National Guard platoon trainers with the federal OCS cadre while sending Fort Benning cadre to several National Guard Phase III locations this summer. I continue to receive feedback from senior leaders that make it clear that OCS commissioned officers are every bit as good as their peers commissioned from the United States Military Academy and the Reserve Officer Training Corps. This is a testament to the quality of candidate entering OCS, as well as the professionalism of the OCS cadre and difficulty of the OCS program of instruction.
We continue to celebrate the 75th anniversary year with several events. On June 30 to commemorate the start of the first OCS class, we held a battalion run, dedication ceremony, and beer call. The next event will be a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery and OCS recognition at the Twilight Tattoo at Fort Myer on July 20. If you are in the D.C. area, please attend these great events. OCS will then participate in the Maneuver Warfighting Conference in September 2016 with a leadership panel to gain feedback from senior leaders of the operational force on how OCS commissioned officers are performing. The final scheduled event for 2016 will be two more wreath-laying ceremonies in the D.C area. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at these events as we celebrate together the history and legacy of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School!!
Standards!! No Compromise!!
Mark C. Andres
Mark C. Andres
Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry
THE OCS BOOKSHELF
Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate
In October 1969, William Albracht, OCS graduate and the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam, took command of a remote hilltop outpost called Fire Base Kate. The site was held by only 27 American soldiers and 150 Montagnard militiamen, and Albracht found their defenses woefully unprepared. At dawn the next morning, three North Vietnamese Army regiments-some 6,000 men-crossed the Cambodian border and attacked.
Outnumbered three dozen to one, Albracht’s men held off repeated ground assaults by communist forces with fierce hand-to-hand fighting, air support, and a dangerously close B-52 strike. For days, the NVA blanketed Kate in a rain of rockets, mortars, artillery, machineguns, and small arms, blocking efforts to resupply, reinforce, or evacuate the outpost. Albracht continually exposed himself to enemy fire to direct air strikes, to guide re-supply helicopters, to distribute ammunition and water to his men, to retrieve the dead and to rescue the wounded, often shielding men with his own body. Wounded by rocket shrapnel, he refused medical attention or evacuation. Exhausted from days without sleep, he continued to rally his men to beat off each new enemy attack.
After five days, Kate’s defenders were out of ammo and water. Aerial resupply was suicidal and reinforcements were denied by military commanders who had written off Kate. Albracht refused to surrender or die in place. Refusing to allow his men to surrender, Albracht led his troops, including many wounded, off the hill and on a daring night march through enemy lines.
Abandoned in Hell is an astonishing memoir of leadership, sacrifice, and brutal violence. It is a riveting journey into Vietnam’s heart of darkness and a compelling reminder of the transformational power of individual heroism.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
2LT Blake A. Grasso
Summer has finally arrived in Great Britain and with it has come my final term at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
In the break following Intermediate Term, I conducted adventure training with British cadets from the academy. The purpose of adventure training is to risk your safety in a controlled manner that simulates some of the stressors you might encounter in an operational deployment. My group decided to go mountain climbing in northern Albania in the Valbona Valley. Albania itself was a pleasant surprise given its reputation. The mountain “roads” we had to travel to get to our lodge allowed us to experience risk in a manner very much in line with the spirit of adventure training! Our squad of young cadets took the dangers in stride, but on our last day in the valley an Australian climber fell and died on one of the mountains we had climbed earlier in the week. This stark reminder of the dangers we faced led to a somber and very careful six-hour drive back to the capital.
Upon returning to Sandhurst, Senior Term began slightly differently than the previous two terms. The cadre understands that very soon the British cadets will become British officers and, as a result, they have loosened their grip on us. This was especially evident in our first exercise of the term. We have moved on from operating in platoon and company harbors (much to our joy) and have begun operating from Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in a contemporary environment. The town outside our FOB had a large civilian population. If we made missteps the cadre would not intervene. On the first day, this resulted in a near riot as an overeager rifleman (who has branched military intelligence, naturally) tackled the town mayor while conducting a cordon. Eventually our company began to settle down and work better with the civilian population. I personally did not have any issues as the actors generally broke character once they realized there was an American in their midst with whom to talk.
The exercise finished with lessons involving public order. Riot shields and batons were distributed as each platoon took its turn as the policing faction while the others acted as angry rioters. For some of the smaller, less aggressive cadets it was a difficult lesson as they were battered around and sent flying by the civilians. I relished it, however, using my size to great advantage and having to consciously hold myself back as the demonstrators scattered before me.
This term I was also selected to attend the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes as part of the British contingent. I am a religious man (public order escapades aside), so this opportunity was an amazing experience. I was part of the color guard for all of the ceremonies. The immense pride I felt while performing these duties was only slightly tempered by the hours spent rigidly at the position of attention. The U.S. contingent was made up of many wounded warriors. The time I was able to spend with them was incredibly moving. They have given so much for our country, and I aspire to be worthy of the tradition they have safeguarded.
We have another large public order exercise this term, followed by our final exercise in Germany. When you hear from me again, I will be on my way back to the U.S. having completed my training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and hopefully having given a positive impression of the U.S. Army and OCS.
OCS 75th Anniversary Celebration in the D.C. area
The U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association will celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of OCS on July 20 at Fort Myer, VA. At 1315, the Association will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreath will be in recognition of the OCS 75th birthday and in honor of OCS alumni. A regional reunion will follow on Fort Myer with a tour of Old Guard facilities and a briefing by the OCS battalion commander.
At 1900 all OCS alumni will be recognized at the Twilight Tattoo. Graduates and those affiliated with any Army OCS program are invited to attend. To add your name to the attendance list, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, see www.ocsalumni.org or //twilight.mdw.army.mil/ or call 703-618-0017.
Maneuver Conference at Fort Benning
The annual Maneuver Conference will be conducted September 12-16, corresponding with the first class graduation in 1941. During the conference a leadership panel will be held to gain feedback from senior leaders of the operational force on how OCS commissioned officers are performing
OCS: A Tie That Binds Generations of Army Officers
Danny J. Leifel
Fort Knox OCS, 10 August 1967
I attended the annual reunion of OCS Alumni Association members at Fort Benning on April 24-27. As I reflect on that experience, I realize it was one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences of my life.
I confess that I had two chips on my shoulder when I arrived. My first chip was Fort Benning itself. As an old armor jock, I thought of Benning as the “Home of the Combat Arm of Blisters.” The second chip was that I knew these new officer candidates could not have been like us–hardcore all the way.
Fort Benning is a remarkable post–an updated version of what I remember at Knox. The people on post are like those I remember and, as on all military posts, respectful and competent. Most surprising, an old tanker was as welcome as any airborne ranger. What I saw was a unified force with respect for all the combat arms. Chip one knocked for six, as the British would say.
But the chip knocked from my shoulder hardest and farthest was the quality of the future Army officers. LTC Andres, the current battalion commander, allowed us unfettered access to the candidates socially–and while some were undergoing very rigorous practical exams. We spoke to at least 50 candidates in various settings, and I found one thing most emphatically proven–these future Army officers aren’t like I was in 1967; they’re better.
These candidates are superbly trained and ready for the next major step. Many of us did not believe a 12-week training syllabus could prepare an Army officer as well as a 23-week period of training. However, I realized after interacting with the candidates and observing their training that these candidates are much better prepared when entering OCS than I or many of my classmates had been and thus did not require as long a period of time to train. Our first phase was really an evaluation; then began the instruction. These candidates, averaging 27 years of age and four years of enlisted service, were evaluated before they entered OCS and so began to learn from day one. Evidence of this is that the current classes lose only about 10 percent of those who start, mostly to family conflicts. I thought the low attrition rate (ours was 30 to 50 percent) was evidence of easing standards. The fact is low attrition is a tribute to the high admission standards, not the ease of the course.
The most amazing thing I found was the ability of the candidates to relate to us, the age of their grandparents. They were at ease, confident, and, most important, knowledgeable. They were physically fit and mature beyond their years. One candidate, soon to be commissioned, said to me, “You know the trouble with my generation? We’re whiners.” I found myself defending her generation. I asked one 34-year-old senior candidate why he wanted to be an officer. He answered, “I was born in the UK. This country accepted me, and I want to prove I am worthy of my citizenship.”
Two chips knocked from one’s shoulders by the same event. What could be better? I really want to return to see these magnificent young officers, many soon to go in harm’s way as we did. I will return in April 2017 to celebrate 50 years since the proudest day of my life–my graduation from OCS.
BRICK AND PAVER
SHADES OF GREEN / USAA
Salute to All Veterans from Shades of Green
Shades of Green, an Armed Forces Recreation Center at Walt Disney World, is offering military veterans with less than 20 years of service an opportunity to vacation at the resort during the months of January and September as part of their “Salute to Our Veterans” program.
Space in the “Salute to Our Veterans” program is limited. Early reservations are recommended. You must present your DD-214 showing an honorable discharge at check-in to be eligible for this program. You can make reservations at the Shades of Green website, www.shadesofgreen.org, or by calling 888-593-2242.