Preparing For Army Officer Training

Becoming An Army Officer

Colonel insignia, eagle military pin
••• Colonel insignia, eagle military pin. PhotoAlto/Alix Minde/Getty Images

Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a 12-week program which graduates commissioned officers in the United States Army. Since World War II, Army OCS was established to provide Infantry officers for the War effort. OCS has remained an important commissioning source for the Army, just as Army ROTC and U.S. Military Academy are the other main commissioning sources. Officer Candidate School (OCS) is located at Fort Benning, GA and is the Army's only active duty Officer Candidate School, commissioning over 800 lieutenants annually.

An additional 650 National Guard candidates train there each summer.

Basically, there are three categories of OCS candidates: College Graduates (civilians), current military (enlisted) and direct commission (doctors, lawyers, chaplains, etc.) All OCS graduates must serve a minimum of three years on active duty following graduation from OCS.

The OCS selection process is very selective. Only about 60 percent of all those who apply are accepted for attendance at OCS (Note: Enlisted [current military] selection rates are relatively higher. About 70 percent of enlisted applicants make it through the screening process). It should be noted that College Graduate (Civilians) and Current Military (enlisted) do not compete with each other for available OCS slots. College Graduate (civilian) applicants are selected by a selection board convened by the Army Recruiting Command, and Current Military (enlisted) are selected by a board convened by the Army Personnel Command (PERSCOM).

Once selected, the graduation rate for OCS is over 90 percent.

College Graduates (Civilian Applicants)

Eligibility

  • A college graduate with at least a four-year degree
  • United States citizen
  • Between 19 and 32 years old (you must enter active duty or ship to training by your 33rd birthday and accept commission prior to age 34)
  • Eligible for a secret security clearance
  • At least a 4-year college degree prior to entering the Army
  • Earn a minimum 110 GT score on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
  • Meet the minimum height and weight standard (male & female)
  • Pass a complete physical at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)

Application Process

The application process begins by talking to an Army Recruiter. In the Army, OCS candidates must enlist for the purpose of attending Army Basic Training. Individuals who enlist in the Army for the purpose of attending OCS, enlist under enlistment program 9D of Army Regulation 601-210. Below is a brief description of the process:

The application process begins by completing a DA Form 61, Application for Appointment (Note: This, and other official forms in this article are PDF forms. In order to view them, you will need to download and install a PDF file viewer, such as the free Acrobat Viewer, available at http://www.adobe.com). You will also complete an SF Form 86 (Security Questionnaire), and DD Form 1966 (Record of Processing for the Armed Forces.

The Recruiter will schedule you for a medical examination, and to take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). There is no longer any special "officer test" for Army OCS. Candidates complete the ASVAB and must score a minimum of 110 in the "GT" area to qualify. You must meet the medical standards of Army Regulation 40-501, chapter 2, and the vision requirements listed in 40-501 for Combat Arms, or Combat Support.

Once you pass the above criteria, and it has been reviewed for correctness by the Recruiting Battalion, you will be scheduled to appear before the Recruiting Battalion OCS Board. The board is composed of at least three commissioned officers. The board will question you on personal history, training, and experience. It will decide whether or not you appear to possess the desire, determination, and motivation necessary to complete training and to develop into a satisfactory commissioned officer. On this basis, each board member will make an independent appraisal of your overall qualification for a commission.

For an example of what the board may ask you, see DA Form 6285, Structured Interview, Army Precommissioning Selection.

If the board recommends rejection, you will be so informed. The processing ends at that point. If the board recommends acceptance, the results are sent to the Army Recruiting Command OCS Review Board, who does the final approval, and determines OCS class date. Once the review board approves the application, you will be enlisted in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), and given a basic training class date (Note: Prior Service Army personnel who have been out of the Army for less than five years usually do not have to re-attend Army Basic Training).

It should be noted here, that unlike enlisted (current military) applicants, you will not know what officer branch you will be selected for at the time of approval. However, you will normally be informed of your branch selection prior to attendance at OCS (not necessarily prior to attending basic training, however). The preferences you make on the DA Form 61 are just that -- preferences. There is no guarantee that you will go into the officer branch of your choice.

Current Military

Eligibility:

  • Be a citizen of the United States.
  • Have a GT score of 110 or higher.
  • Pass the Army Physical Fitness Test score 180 (APFT). (Note: Must score at least a 60 in each area).
  • Pass the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), min 850 or American College Test (ACT), min 19 (Note: Not required if the soldier already possesses a bachelor or higher degree).
  • Have at least 90 semester hours of college study towards a degree and be able to complete your bachelor's within one year.
  • Achieve a score of 80 or higher on the English Comprehension Level Test (ECLT), if primary language is not English.
  • Be at least 18 years old and less than 34 (can waiver age up to 39). Have a complete physical exam six months prior to date of application.
  • No more than 10 years' active Federal Service at time of commission (can be waived).
  • Have no convictions by civil or military courts. (This does not apply to minor traffic violations with a fine or forfeiture of $250.00 or less). An applicant must not have been judged to be a juvenile offender. This applies even if the court sentence, or any part of it, was suspended or withheld, or such conviction was in any way removed from court records by satisfactory completion of a period of probation. This also applies to adverse juvenile adjudication. (Note: Some convictions can be waived).
  • Have completed advanced individual training (AIT)
  • Have had a type "A" medical examination within 9 months of the date of the application. Applicants must meet procurement medical fitness standards prescribed in AR 40-501, paragraph 8-14, and possess a physical profile serial of at least 222221.
  • Have not been previously disenrolled from officer candidate training.

Who May Apply:

  • Active Army warrant officers or enlisted members who have completed AIT and reported to their first permanent duty station may apply.
  • Soldiers assigned to overseas commands may apply at any time, but may not normally be permitted to return to the continental United States (CONUS) for OCS attendance before completing five-sixths of the prescribed overseas tour ( AR 614-30).
  • Former commissioned officers may apply if their only commissioned service was performed in one of the Armed Force's early commissioning programs for students in the health professions.
  • Commissioned warrant officers may apply.
  • Warrant officers and enlisted personnel of the USAR not on active duty may apply (see AR 140-50).
  • Warrant officers and enlisted personnel of the Army National Guard of the United States (ARNGUS) may apply as prescribed by the Chief, National Guard Bureau. Guidance in National Guard Regulation (NGR) 351-5 will be followed.

Application Process

For current military, the very first thing you want to do is to check with your chain-of-command (Platoon Sergeant, First Sergeant, Commander) about applying for OCS. If your chain-of-command won't support you, your application is "dead on arrival." As with civilian applications, the process begins with completing a DA Form 61, Application for Appointment. On the DA Form 61, in item 6, applicants will indicate at least 10 branch preferences in order of preference.

Required preferences

(1) Male applicants. 2-combat arms, 2-combat support arms, and 2-combat service support arms. One combat arms branch must be among the first three choices. The remaining four branch choices will be at the applicant's discretion.

(2) Female applicants. 1-combat arms (excluding IN and AR), 2-combat support arms, 2-combat service support arms. The remaining five choices will be at the applicant's discretion.

(3) Warrant Officer Aviators. Warrant Officer aviators who wish to be commissioned aviators will list AV as their only branch choice.

The DA Form 61, along with supporting documentation (college transcripts, waiver requests, letters of recommendation) is sent to the unit commander who reviews and approves the application. The unit commander then passes the application package through the intermediate commander (for review/approval) to the Installation Commander. The Installation Commander convenes an "OCS Structured Interview:"

(1) The structured interview identifies the degree to which the applicant has developed attributes that show potential for a successful career as a professional Army commissioned officer. The applicant’s past behavior in a variety of situations is evaluated to predict future performance.

(2) A panel of three interviewers will conduct the interview. All panel members must be commissioned officers; the panel president must hold the grade of major or above, and the other two panel members must hold the grade of captain or above.

(3) Immediately before the structured interview, the panel members will require the applicant to submit a handwritten narrative on standard 8 1/2 by 11–inch paper stating “Why I Want to be an Army Officer.” This narrative gives interviewers a chance to evaluate the applicant’s writing and ability to express a desire to serve as a commissioned officer.

  • (a) The applicant will be allowed a maximum of 1 hour to complete the narrative.
    (b) The narrative will not exceed two pages.
    (c) No assistance except use of a dictionary and an explanation of the question will be permitted.

    The Installation Commander reviews the board recommendation and approves/disapproves the package. If approved, the Installation Commander passes the application through the MACOM commander (who can also approve/disapprove), who forwards the package to Army PERSCOM (Personnel Command), where the package is reviewed by an OCS selection board, who makes the final selections. The PERSCOM board selects the branch at the same time the OCS package is approved.

    OCS - About the School 

    For detailed information about Army OCS, visit the Army OCS Foundation Website.

    All Officer candidates must complete Basic Combat Training before they enter OCS where they will be focusing their education and training on small unit leadership and tactics. OCS is divided into two basic phases:

    PHASE 1: The basics of being a commissioned officer are taught in the first phase of OCS. This will include training the officer candidate in leadership and accountability. Being an officer requires responsible and capable people working together as a team. This phase focuses on testing those abilities.

      

    PHASE 2: Now the testing and evaluation phase requires for the candidate to use all of the skills learned and put to the test in the field. Officer candidates are tested in leading a team during an intense 18-day training mission. 

    Other Information About Initial And Secondary Officer Training

    Accommodations. Most rooms are two-man rooms, although if you have a large class, some can hold three. Showers are stalls with doors (4 per latrine).

    Relocation of Family Members. In general, the Army allows the movement of dependents at government expense if the length of training (at a single location) is greater than 180 days. For OCS, this means that if you attend OCS, branched for Infantry, the Army will pay to relocate your dependents to Fort Benning, as Army Officer Infantry Training is also conducted here, and the length of OCS plus the length of Officer Infantry Training exceeds 180 days. If you are not going infantry, you may, however, pay to relocate family members on your own.

    However, with the exception of church on Sunday, you indeed will have no access to your family members for at least the first seven weeks or so of OCS. After that weekend passes are conditional until you enter senior phase when restrictions are relaxed a bit.

    Basic Officer Leadership Course.  After OCS, a newly commissioned officer will attend Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC).  This is a three phase training program designed to provide initial military training for junior commissioned and warrant officers in both active and reserve components. the mission of BOLC is to develop leaders who are more competent, confident and adaptable warriors. They must be effective at solving problems, making decisions under duress, and leading Soldiers. The outcome of BOLC is to ensure each leader will be ready to train and lead soldiers in combat immediately upon arrival at his or her first unit of assignment.

    BOLC I, II, III (Consecutive Schools)

    BOLC I is the basics of military officer training. In February 2007, the Army implemented a four week Direct Commissioned Officers Course to prepare direct commissioned officers such as Judge Advocate General, and select Army Medical officers for the rigors of BOLC II.

    BOLC II is a 6-week course located at Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA, and Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, OK. The course is a focus on tactics and field craft, leadership and the Warrior Ethos. It also develops leaders who work with their different branch peers and are ready to soldiers in combat situations upon arrival at their first unit of assignment. 

    BOLC III is the capstone of training. This section ranges between 6 weeks to 15 weeks and consist of branch-specific functional training conducted at existing branch school locations. 

    The training for become an Army officer starts off with the basics - Basic Military Training, then advances to OCS and culminates with BOLC. After these courses, Army Officers in the combat MOS will typically attend Airborne and Ranger School. This entire process can take 12-16 months total time depending upon the job of the newly commissioned officer.