A glimpse into the high-stress world of Planet OCS: from Marine to law student

No joke, stepping off that bus was like stepping into another dimension. Behind you was the world you knew: you were familiar with this world, you had a pretty good idea how it worked and you thought you were pretty badass for it. But once your foot left the bus and landed on that hot asphalt known as Brown Field — also known as Officer Candidate School (OCS) for the United States Marine Corps — you knew you were no longer in the world that you knew and loved.

Indeed, OCS is an environment unique unto itself, kinda like its own planet. Planet OCS – yeah that works. On Planet OCS there are no smiling faces and no one to help you find your way; instead it is populated by stern faces that have an inability to understand the idea of patience, or excuses. They’re basically the exact opposite of Walmart greeters. By the end of the first day you’ve been assigned to a platoon with 40 or so other dudes who are going to be more or less joined at your hip for the next 10 weeks.

The first few days of OCS consisted mainly of standing in line, getting gear issued, medical exams, and filling out mountains of paperwork; it wasn’t grueling by any means, just boring. As boring as it was, I remember looking back fondly on those days, mainly because as soon as your “in-processing” was finished your training could properly begin. This event is known as pick-up day. Pick-up day is when you meet your Platoon Staff for the first time; these are the men that will be responsible for molding you into Marine Officers. They lack any sense of sympathy or compassion for you; in fact they want you to fail, they try and make you fail, and the only way to communicate with them is by yelling at the top of your lungs.

A quick word on yelling: We’re not talking about yelling like you would at a football game or at a rock concert.  No, no, my friend. Yelling in the Marine sense means yelling as if your life depended on it, yelling so hard you feel like your veins in your neck are going to burst.

So after your cordial introduction to your platoon staff you start training. The main purpose of OCS is to train, screen, and evaluate each candidate for the potential to lead Marines. This is accomplished by constantly putting candidates in high stress situations. From the moment the lights come on at zero-five hundred till they go out at twenty-one hundred you are under a microscope.  Everything you do during the day is being observed and recorded in some way. Let me put it to you this way: Everything you do, literally every-frickin-thing is done a certain way: how your gear is stored, your posture in the chow hall, the way your rack is made, and so on. If you’re not doing it the right way, you are promptly called out and “counseled” by a member of your platoon staff.

The first few weeks can be surmised as living in a state of chaos. The easiest way to create chaos was to give your platoon a lot of tasks and not nearly enough time to complete them. Being under a “time-hack” creates a lot of stress especially when you know that there’s a drill instructor just waiting for you to fail. Basically you have no idea what’s going on. There were mornings where I would get chewed out so bad that I would have spittle on my face from being “counseled,” and I’d only been awake for three minutes. It seems like no matter what you do, it’s never right and you end up paying for it.

The surprising thing is that you actually get used to living on Planet OCS. You learn the routine, you learn from your mistakes and you figure stuff out. Once you start to see how OCS works, you realize that everything is done at OCS for a very specific purpose. The lack of sleep, the long hikes, the brutal physical workouts — it’s all done for a reason: to see if you can lead when you are completely worn out physically, mentally, and perhaps even emotionally. That’s what being a Marine is all about.

In the final weeks of OCS, I began to notice the change in myself and those around me. Without a doubt, OCS was the hardest thing that I had ever gone through, and to make it to the other side in one piece as a Second Lieutenant is a very empowering feeling. Not only that, but now I have a job waiting for me when I graduate. That’s a pretty good feeling to have as a 2L.

There’s a lot to this story that I left out. Some of it was intentional (there’s a lot that goes on at OCS, so if you really want to know you’re gonna have to go there yourself to find out), but it’s mostly because I have spent enough time on this blog and need to get back to working on things that I am going to get graded on.

So anyway, take it easy and I’ll probably see you around Green.

‘Rah, — Zak

— Zak Beasley, a second-year law student, is a KU Law Student Ambassador. Reach out to him at mckibbon@ku.edu.