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Who Has it Tougher?

Marine Enlisted Recruits, or Marine Officer Candidates?


Marine OCS

Candidates from "G" Co. fall on the ground in line after completing a task on the NATO Obstacle Course, waiting to tackle the next.

Official USMC Photo
Updated May 08, 2005
by SSgt. F.B. Zimmerman

On any given day, enlisted Marines can be heard arguing about which is tougher, Parris Island or San Diego. But how many times have you heard Marines comparing boot camp to Officer Candidates School? It's a more difficult comparison because Marines who attended both aren't everywhere, and because the missions of the two are different.

"OCS is a screening and evaluating process," said GySgt. Edward Yarbrough, former drill instructor who spent his summer away from his duties as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to serve as a sergeant instructor with 3rd platoon, "G" Co. "Candidates come out of here qualified to do something ... when they graduate here, they're qualified to be trained."

Yarbrough also said the main differences between the training evolutions are the expectations.

"The mindset is completely off in different directions," said Yarbrough. "If a candidate messes up, it's his or her fault. If a recruit messes up, it's everyone's fault. The candidates have to be self-motivated ... if they don't want to be here, they're gonna leave."

Sergeant instructors, who are all former drill instructors, say the way they train recruits is different from candidates.

"At recruit training the recruits have very little knowledge about the military, and we have to hand-drag them through everything," said SSgt. William Sweeney, sergeant instructor with 3rd Platoon, "G" Co, who is the AMOI from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. "They learn through constant repetition and support on your part. We teach them instant obedience to orders.

"At OCS we don't stress teamwork as much. To a candidate, a platoon is one - himself. The candidates hit the ground running. When we tell them to do something, we expect it to get done without constant supervision."

Yarbrough added that the way recruits and candidates are evaluated is also dissimilar.

"The candidates are continually evaluated, while at recruit training, you look at the broader spectrum," he said. "Any little thing a candidate does is evaluated. For example, if a recruit goes down for heat, we take care of him and get him back into training. If a candidate goes down, we'll take care of him, but it may be put into his book that he failed to follow orders for not properly hydrating.

"Also, the candidates fill out peer evaluations, which are like small fitness reports. They use them to rate each other within their squads. We can use those to identify trends we might not have seen otherwise."

As for the Marines who have been through recruit training, one thing that's difficult for them is to once again have to prove they have what it takes.

"Coming here a staff NCO, it's tough taking off the rank and becoming a follower," said Candidate Jason Schrage, who, after graduating OCS Aug. 17, is once again a staff sergeant. "I wanted to jump out and take control. Wearing my pride on my sleeve was something I couldn't do, I had to have tough skin."

Schrage will return to Texas A&M to graduate before being commissioned.

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