OCS bids farewell to Pensacola.
Recently, one of the commissioning programs underwent a sea of change. Officer Training Command Pensacola (OTCP) closed at the end of September and relocated to Newport, R.I., as part of the 2005 BRAC requirement. The final class, OCS 20-07, graduated in early September ending a military tradition in Pensacola spanning nearly seven decades.
With relocation to Newport, OCS is being retooled to take full advantage of the co-location with the other institutions of training and education in Newport including the Naval War College, Surface Warfare Officers School Command, Naval Academy Preparatory School, Naval Chaplains School, Naval Justice School and eventually the Navy Supply Corps School and Center for Service Support. Curriculums, instructors, and facilities may now be leveraged to provide access and sharing of these learning resources.
In addition to OCS moving to Newport, other officer commissioning programs that were once located in Pensacola like DCO School and the LDO/CWO Schools all moved to Newport with Officer Training Command Newport (OTCN) in FY06. Since this merger of officer commissioning resources, OTCN has assumed the title as the largest developer/ producer of officers in the U.S. Navy with over 2,800 annually. The move has provided an opportunity to leverage technology to bring officer accessions training into the 21st century.
The strategy behind bringing OCS to Newport was to bind all officer commissioning sources in a common pipeline. By doing so, the more experienced (LDO/CWO candidates) will share their rich and diverse backgrounds with those less experienced (OCS, OIS, DCO). This means placing officer candidates in common classes, and sharing developmental activities such as physical fitness, leadership training and other instructional venues.
With these commissioning sources colocated in Newport, all officer commissioning programs except for the U.S. Naval Academy and NROTC, were alligned, gaining efficiencies and best practices, while improving education and performance outcome for all newly commissioned officers.
On July 1, 2007, prior to the convergence of commissioning resources, the final pages of the training chapter in naval history began as the last classes of officer candidates were trained aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. They checked aboard, like so many before them, for their 12-week indoctrination in such subjects as damage control, shipboard engineering, military law, navigation, seamanship, naval history, personnel administration and naval warfare. Officer candidates also conducted physical fitness training and were schooled in other subjects such as naval leadership, military training, professional development and water survival.
"Being in the last class is an honor for me. Just to think about some of the great officers who have gone through [before me]. We're the last class to come through and there are definitely some big shoes to fill," said Ensign Philip Torem, of OCS 20-07.
OTCP was responsible for the initial accession training of approximately 1,400 officers per year, and trained more than 15,000 officers for the fleet. Approximately 2,500 officers are commissioned annually through OTC as follows:
* Direct Commission Officer School-450
OCS Class 20-07, which started with 55 candidates was comprised of recent college graduates and some prior enlisted personnel. Like the previous classes before them, the officer candidates, leery of what to expect, received their first Navy haircuts, were issued uniforms and met their Marine drill instructor to formally kick off their training.
"The very first time we met the drill instructor-they call it 'Wake up Monday' -and it was a wake-up. It was just intensity, intensity, intensity and I was scared," said Ensign Matthew Hertz, of OCS Class 20-07. "It was an eye-opening experience. And there was a little time where I didn't think I was going to make it through. But you get to a point they ease off, and [take on] a more teacher/mentor role instead of just being in your face all of the time. But, they can still get into your face real quick."
The last drill instructor (DI) for OCS Class 20-07 was Gunnery Sgt. Jason Jones, a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq.
"I think most everyone can recall the very name of their drill instructor, the introduction to their DI is an unforgettable experience. It is meant to be memorable," said Hill Goodspeed, historian of the National Museum of Naval Aviation. "When an officer candidate meets their DI for the first time they are all business, and the candidate realizes that the DI expects nothing less than his best.
"They bring pride, professionalism and an element of toughness. When you graduate from OCS you know you have gone through the crucible of a Marine DI. All the way [from] the 'Smokey Bear' cover that DIs wear to the aura of their position, the officer candidates can't help but have a sense of accomplishment when they are willing to endure everything that the DIs throw at them."
Goodspeed added that despite the commissioning source, no matter if it's four years at the Naval Academy, or 12 weeks of OCS, the length of the instruction leading up to their commissions, all officers are taught the same concepts. The curriculum exposes men and women to extreme pressures to see how they act under that pressure while teaching teamwork and esprit de corps. They are, of course, teaching the academic and physical training and most importantly they are teaching leadership. And, leadership is one of the top focuses of OCS class officers.
"The No. 1 thing is leadership," said Lt. Scott Krykendall, OCS Class Officer, OCS 20-07. "I want [the officer candidates] to be able to go out to the fleet as an ensign in the Navy and have [their] leadership tools to know when [and how] to work with their chief petty officer-who will groom them-and in addition be that mentor and role model to the junior Sailors in the Navy [who] need that from their officers."
Speaking nostalgically of OCS, Goodspeed said that it is the tradition that will be missed most by the Pensacola community, its citizens accustomed to seeing uniformed candidates around town on weekends. The red brick and white-columned buildings that housed officer candidates for decades are part of one of the Navy's most historic bases where Chiefs of Naval Operations, and astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell trained to become aviators.
As the days and weeks passed, drawing to a close the historical Pensacola chapter, a portion of the staff had transferred to Rhode Island to prepare for the first class of officer candidates to be taught in Newport and to begin writing a new chapter in officer commissioning history.
The significance of the officer candidates role in closing that chapter wasn't lost on the members of that last class.
"It's an honor and a distinction that I'm really proud of, really glad I got to do," said Hertz. "There's kind of a give and take about it though-we miss out on some of the training-we have no classes below us, so there's an applied leadership aspect of it that we don't get to do. But, we're the last class. We get to have that distinction that we were the ones who ended OCS in Pensacola and we can be part of that 'old school' as we get new officers coming through Newport."
As of October, the second class of OCS officer candidates are marching their way through Newport and learning the lessons of good order and discipline and, while some of their training will be the same as taught in Pensacola, a new training focus has emerged.
"As for looking to the future, OTCN is committed to finding new approaches to education and training for the Navy's 21st century leaders," said Rear Adm. Arnold Lotring, Commander Naval Service Training Command.
The 'revolution in training (RIT)' initiatives have resulted in the most dynamic period of change and transformation in training ever seen in the history of the Navy. Besides the RIT, the global war on terrorism (GWOT) has also provided the Navy with a variety of lessons learned as a benchmark for measuring the development of Sailors," Lotring added.
Facilities in Newport are being upgraded to properly accommodate this new center of officer accessions training. A major renovation of Callaghan Hall will provide a state-of-theart integrated learning environment facility. A new combat training pool facility is being built as well. In the future, improvements in billeting to update existing and outdated berthing facilities.
"Recognizing the need for improvement and alignment of resources, the RIT and GWOT concepts are now being applied to our accession training programs," said Lotring. "From the complete re-capitalization of Recruit Training Command Great Lakes to our most advanced technical enlisted and advanced officer training, we have boldly embraced change in every facet of learning strategy and delivery to ensure our Sailors are fully prepared for the changing face of warfighting in the 21st century."
OTCN will create an environment built on learning excellence, specifically to educate and train Navy officers well into the future. This includes a campus-style atmosphere optimizing technology as one catalyst for positive Sailor outcome.
"The 'Fleet of the Future' is more than equipment." said Lotring. "Sailors must have the knowledge and skills required to deliver critical warfighting capability to a joint force."
Cragg and Aho are assigned to the Naval Media Center, Washington, D.C.
RELATED ARTICLE: Oath of office:
Having been appointed an officer in the Armed Forces of the United States, I do hereby accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which Iam about to enter; so help me God.
Story by Lt.Jennifer Cragg, photos by MC1(AW)Brien Aho
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|Title Annotation:||officer candidate school; Officer Training Command Pensacola|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2007|
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