A Common Bond Forged Through Shared Experiences 2019 Reunion
The OCS Alumni Association conducted the 2019 reunion at Fort Benning, Ga. from April 28 to May 1. Over 250 people attended the reunion.
The reunion included a briefing by the OCS Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Matthew Chitty. (See the briefing at the OCSAA website.) Chitty briefed the alumni, many of whom attended in the 1960s, what OCS is like today. One of the biggest changes from previous generations of OCS graduates is the background of the OCS candidates. Previously many of the graduates were prior service, in particular non-commissioned officers. Today, the vast majority of candidates are “college-option” candidates, which means they enlisted specifically for OCS and their sole military experience prior to OCS is the Army’s ten-week basic combat training.
Chitty described the training regimen. The course is currently 12 weeks in length and is designed to confirm competencies in basic soldier skills, train the candidates to be small-unit leaders, and teach them to be critical thinkers able to operate in a complex environment. The OCS course is a branch-immaterial course as it has been since 1973. Upon completion of the training, the newly commissioned lieutenants will go to BOLC – B, Basic Officer Leader Course – B which is their branch-specific training. (Note BOLC – A is the commissioning source of a lieutenant: OCS, USMA, ROTC.) Branches are determined by an order-of-merit list during the eighth week of training.
While there are differences in the OCS regimen, land navigation remains generally the same. No GPS or other technological aids are permitted. It’s a map, red lens flashlight, protractor, and pace count. The candidates must get four out of the five points correct to pass the land nav course. Candidates still receive peer evaluations as part of their training.
The OCS Battalion is on track to commission 1,570 officers this year. In contrast, just two years ago, OCS commissioned approximately 960 lieutenants in one year. OCS is the only commissioning source that can quickly respond to such increases in demand for officers.
The Training and Doctrine Command annually conducts a survey of field leaders on the readiness of lieutenants from the various commissioning sources. Chitty reported the field leaders assess OCS graduates as twice as ready as their West Point counterparts and seven times as ready as their ROTC colleagues.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY AND DINNER
The OCS Hall of Fame, currently housed at the National Infantry Museum, was established in January 1958 to honor OCS graduates who displayed outstanding service to the nation. This year 40 graduates were inducted including five general officers.
LTG Michael K. Nagata
COL (R) Dennis C. Tomcik
MG Benjamin J. Corell
COL (R) Stephanie D. Vaughn
Brig Gen Jay S. Goldstein (USAF)
COL Aaron Wilkes
BG Erick K. Little
COL (R) Harold W. Youmans
BG (R) Douglas A. Pritt
LTC (R) Alan “Ace” Cozzalio*
COL (R) Michael J. Baier
LTC (R) Ilmars H. Dambergs
COL (R) David J. Bolter
LTC (R) Orlando J. Illi Jr.
COL (R) Gerald A. Boston
LTC (R) Michael S. McDaniel
COL Dan Roger Brue II
LTC (R) Grady A. Smith
COL Basil J. Catanzaro
MAJ (R) Edwin W. Spinaio*
COL (R) Juan I. Chavez
MAJ (R) John Synowsky*
COL (R) Abbas K. Dahouk
CPT Edwin C. Jackson*
COL Wayne O. Dehaney
CPT Laurence M. Kerr
COL (R) Frederic D. Hyatt
CPT Stephen Orlofsky
COL (R) Anthony Kanellis
CPT Patrick C. Polis
COL (R) William M. Knarr
CPT (R) Ronald A. Radcliffe
COL (R) Dean A. Levay
CPT William W. Walker*
COL (R) Gregory C. Meyer Jr.
1LT Lee B. Alley
COL Randolph M. Morgan
1LT James F. Godsey*
COL (R) Randell G. Stansfield
2LT Jasper D. Sturdivant*
OCS HERITAGE CENTER AT WIGLE HALL
Since the last reunion, the OCS Alumni Association has been working hard to raise the funds to renovate the current Wigle Hall at Fort Benning to be the OCS Heritage Center dedicated to celebrating the heritage and legacy of OCS graduates, regardless of branch or training location. The intent of the OCS Heritage Center is to honor, preserve, and educate visitors on the valor and sacrifice of the OCS graduate as a small unit leader from 1941 through today.
At the 2019 reunion, a “soft opening” of the OCS Heritage Center was conducted. Currently the interactive museum is 15 percent complete. The center is expected to be finished by next year’s reunion.
Currently complete or nearly complete are the Hall of Fame room, the Alumni Association room, the OCS Today wall, and the interactive kiosk that contains stories of OCS graduates.
Still to be finished are the main gallery exhibits that will feature stories of valor across the decades of OCS, an exhibit to honor fallen comrades, and a display to illustrate OCS school locations and history. Exhibits will include donated items, shadowboxes of valor and service, words of wisdom from OCS graduates, and stories of notable graduates.
MEMORIAL WALK DEDICATION CEREMONY
I am often asked why is the OCS Memorial Walk important. I answer with a question. Have you ever been to the Plain at West Point? You see statues of Grant and Lee, Black Jack Pershing, MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Patton. All icons of our country’s military greatness and rightfully so. But here at Fort Benning, in the OCS area, what did we have? Your OCS Alumni Association Board of Directors wanted to fix that.
Who are our icons? Well, the OCS icons are those young men who demonstrated competence, courage, valor, and sacrifice leading small units in combat. Our icons are also those senior leaders who provided 78 years of superior meritorious service across the Army and distinguished public service across the nation. This is our answer: the OCS Memorial Walk. The walk covers the 78-year OCS history. It starts with the George Marshall monument identifying the requirement for tough, well-trained officers and small unit leaders to lead the platoons, companies, troops, and batteries of World War II. We honor over 69,000 OCS-trained lieutenants from eight branch schools who were commissioned from 1941 to 1946. They were the small unit leaders who breached and assaulted their way from island to island in the Pacific, across North Africa, Sicily, and Italy and into and across Western Europe represented by Medal of Honor recipients Robert Nett, Thomas Wigle, and Jimmie Monteith.
We honor the graduates from the Korea and Vietnam eras. The situation was much the same. Small unit leaders were in demand again and, once again, OCS graduates met the challenge represented by Medal of Honor recipients Don Faith, Pinky Durham, Keith Ware, and our recently departed brother Charles Kettles.
We honor our Cold War graduates who stood guard in Berlin, West Germany, and Korea. They trained hard at places like the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center and conducted exercises like REFORGER and Team Spirit and contingency operations in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. During the era known as VOLAR, or the Volunteer Army, and subsequently known as the Army of Excellence, OCS graduates from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were culminating successful military and civilian careers. This includes Senator Bob Dole who ran for president of the United States, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and NATO commander General John Shalikashvili, U.S. Army Europe Commander Fritz Kroesen and CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks who led the joint and combined forces in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. We honor them also.
We honor our Global War on Terrorism graduates. Since 9-11 and the beginning of the global war on terror, OCS has had between three to five companies and produced between 800 to 1,200 lieutenants a year. The Army has been in continuous combat now for 18 years and OCS graduates have served in every capacity to support that effort. Two OCS officers received the Medal of Honor for valor during this period: CPT Florent Groberg and CPT William Swenson.
And finally, from now on we honor each graduating class with six bricks with class 3-19 being installed just last week.
It is hard to believe what we have accomplished here in the last three years. We have 118 dedication blocks representing eras, units, OCS classes, and members of the OCS Hall of Fame. We honor Soldiers, fellow graduates, OCS sponsors, Medal of Honor recipients, and fallen comrades. We have in excess of 700 plates, pavers, and bricks with their names. This winter we took the opportunity to reorganize the walk. In the center of the walk facing the parade field, we have the eras of OCS. New from last year are the COL Nett tribute, the Judge Patterson tribute, the Secretary of Defense tribute in honor of Casper Weinberger, the Secretary of the Army tribute in honor of John O. Marsh. Also new are the combatant commands, direct reporting units, numbered armies, and corps in honor of our three- and four-star generals who were the past commanders. We highlighted the 50 Medal of Honor recipients and surrounded it all with the members of the OCS Hall Fame. On the north and south wings, we have divisions, separate brigades, and regiments mixed with OCS class blocks and surrounded by individual names on granite plates, pavers, and bricks. Over half of that is new. We expanded with over 240 feet of new paver bed on the outside wings and the four cul-de-sacs. In the cul-de-sacs are additional unit memorials and OCS classes and more plates, pavers, and bricks. Over half of that is new; the rest was cascaded from the center walk. Finally, we reordered the raised monuments to make them standout and to achieve symmetry. Although similar and symmetrical each monument is unique.
The class blocks are important and special as each honors their cadre and their killed in action. I am most proud of the fact that those young men who gave their lives in combat over the last 78 years are now recognized here and lie with their fellow OCS graduates from each era and the units which they served. We will reach capacity by this time next year, so in 2020 I expect another expansion.
We are encouraging new raised monuments; more dedication blocks for divisions, brigades, regiments, OCS classes, and branches especially combat service support and combat support units; and, of course, individual and group tributes and memorials. And finally, we want hundreds of bricks and pavers surrounding them all.
Thank you for your support.
Frank Harman serves as the President of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. This is the speech he gave at the dedication ceremony for the expanded Memorial Walk on April 30, 2019.
ALUMNI REUNION DINNER
The reunion concluded with an alumni dinner where the third Robert B. Nett Award was presented. Nett, an OCS graduate, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in the Battle of Ormoc Bay in the Philippines in December 1944. Nett went on to command the 5th Student Battalion, OCS and later the Infantry School Brigade. The OCS Alumni Association established the Nett Award to recognize and honor an OCS alumnus, current or former cadre member, or leader in the OCS chain of command who has provided superior support and advocacy to the OCS program. This year’s winner of the Nett award is retired Lt. Col. Edgar Burroughs. Burroughs, a graduate of Class 023-70 at Fort Benning, has dedicated countless hours volunteering in service of OCS and the Alumni Association where he previously served as Treasurer.
The keynote speaker for the reunion dinner was Nick Snider, retired senior vice president of UPS and 1965 OCS graduate. Snider delivered a humorous, rousing speech on what he learned in the Army and how it translated to the successes he had in the business world. He also highlighted the military and post-military service of a classmate, Rick Rescorla. Rescorla served in Vietnam under then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore. Moore describes Rescorla in his book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” As the head of security for Morgan Stanley, Rescorla is credited with saving most of Morgan Stanley's 2,687 employees in the South Towner of the World Trade Center on September 11. Rescorla, however, was not one of those employees. Rescorla’s life illustrates the contributions OCS graduates have made and continue to make to this nation.
At the general membership meeting on Monday, April 29, retired Col. John Ionoff relinquished the presidency of the Association to retired Col. Frank Harman. The following is John’s final report as president of the Association:
On Monday, April, 29, 2019, I formally passed the Alumni Association flag to President Frank Harman, thus completing my four years of service as president of our great organization. In the last newsletter, I described the change of Association officers as both an era change and a generational change. I view this as a very important and healthy change for the continued growth of the Association. I am confident that under Frank’s leadership, the Association will move forward to a new level of success.
When I joined the Board of Directors in September 2014, the Association was in a very precarious state with very little income and back pay owed to the Executive Director and failure to make reports and pay taxes to the IRS and the state of Georgia. The Association had lost its nonprofit status due to the failure to report its activities to the IRS and was in danger of disbanding. With the help of Ed Burroughs, who agreed to fill the vacant treasurer position, and Gus Youmans, OCS graduate and CPA, we were able to pay money owed to the Executive Director and settle with the IRS and state of Georgia. At that time, we terminated the Executive Director in order to conserve funds and the volunteer board took a much bigger role in running the Association.
I was elected President in June 2015 and set goals which included recruiting board members outside of Columbus, Ga., and the southeast U.S. I believed if we were to be a truly national organization, we needed broader representation. By the end of 2015, there were nine new board members, geographically located from California to Virginia, Ohio to Texas.
Given the financial problems of 2014, solid financial management was a priority, as well as a concentrated effort to gain and maintain members. USAA gave every graduate who wished to be a member of the Alumni Association a free membership for a year. This money has been used by the Association to help pay for various projects and monthly expenditures such as the website maintenance, storage facility, and other budget items.
Supporting all of our efforts is a great public affairs team producing a greatly improved newsletter every three months, blast emails (“Attention in the TOC!”) every two weeks, and an aggressive outreach program to the civilian and military communities. Thank you, Karla Langland and Jim Wright. We have righted the ship now and added the Memorial Walk, Veterans Day activities in Washington D.C., establishment of July 1 as the official birthday celebration of OCS, four very successful reunions, and now the development of the OCS Heritage Center. We have improved our relationship with the OCS commandant, staff, and candidates. We have advocated for improvement in the security holdovers and allowing candidates to attend OCS without a college degree. During my tenure, we began developing chapters in various locations, such as Washington D.C., Florida, Colorado, Columbus, Ga., and now Southern California.
None of these goals or subsequent activities would have been possible without our dedicated, hardworking Board of Directors: Frank Harman, Pat Smith, Tom Evans, Rick Jung, Danny Leifel, Allen Haines, John Bowles, Karla Langland, Jim Wright, Mike Mayo, Ken Braswell, Ric Boyer, Chris Bresko, Dan Johnson, and Ed Burroughs. Nancy Ionoff, Lisa Harman, Mona Evans, and Mary Wright have helped with volunteer efforts as well as many others. You all have been exceptional in accepting the challenge and overcoming the obstacles. In accomplishing these goals and so much more, you have placed the Association in a strong position to move to the next level.
I am looking forward to assuming my role as past president of the Association and chairing the Advisory Council.
I thank each and every one of you for your loyalty, sound advice, and your dedication to the Alumni Association. You are all very special to me. I am deeply humbled and honored to have been the President and CEO of The Officer Candidate Schools Alumni Association for the last four years.
OCS CLASS 6-65: WHAT ONE CLASS IS DOING
Before March of last year, OCS Class 6-65 hadn’t seen each other as a group since graduation, 53 years earlier. But since that first reunion, they’ve been making tracks. Under the leadership of co-chairs Phil Kearns and Dave Schollman, these 51st Company graduates have been conducting a double envelopment—working to memorialize their class while making sure OCSAA’s larger projects are covered. After the plaque to recognize their classmates was unveiled at the Memorial Walk, they shifted focus to the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam OCS memorial, and then to the OCS Heritage Center.
Memorializing its own members became a major task. Seventeen classmates, a very high number in the context of other classes, were KIA in Vietnam. Two members earned the Medal of Honor while two more were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. All four awards were posthumous.
Right now, the class’s active network is comprised of 80 graduates. Some don’t do email, but when the call went out to fund the OCS Heritage Center, a dozen members came forward before close of business—that only grew in the following days. The graduates had already put their shoulders to the wheel for Memorial Walk plaques, 6-65 legacy award pavers, and Hall of Fame donations for the two posthumous DSC recipients. In an 18-month period more than three dozen members contributed over $12,000. This amount also covered some reunion expenses: a hospitality suite and a pair of dinners for the 31 attending classmates and their guests. It’s been an across-the-board effort, not just driven by a few grads with deep pockets. 6-65 members are all stockholders in OCSAA.
The graduates took special pains with the Legacy Award, established in August 2018. The class set up an ad hoc board to vet nominated classmates. Most of its 156 grads were rifle platoon leaders in Vietnam—two and out. Yet many of these men went on to make significant contributions in their civilian lives. Ten classmates now have pavers in their honor on the Memorial Walk. These legacy award pavers, the 6-65 memorial plaque, and the memorial to MACV OCS graduates were all funded through donations from 6-65.
What motivates this class? First, its beginnings in the 51st Company, evidenced by the fact that their TAC officers are now an integral part of current reunions and group planning—an acknowledgment of the TAC officers’ contribution to the formation of the grads. Second, a strong desire to honor those 17 KIAs, making sure they’re remembered in special ways. Finally, they are motivated to perpetuate the larger OCS legacy—preparing young officers to lead in combat.
More than 20 members attended the April 29 Hall of Fame induction at the National Infantry Museum. Five new 6-65 inductees brought the class’s HOF total to ten. It was a proud moment as 6-65 graduates were recognized themselves as they have been striving to recognize their fallen comrades and memorialize the OCS tradition.
Grady Smith, retired lieutenant colonel, along with fellow classmates Phil Kearns and Dave Schollman, led the effort to create a plaque at the OCS Memorial Walk to recognize their classmates. Smith was one of the five members of 6-65 to be inducted this year into the Hall of Fame.
Fellow graduates from Class 6-65 listen during the reading of the names of their fallen comrades at the class’s plaque at the Memorial Walk.
Classmates from Class 6-65 pose with a Viet Cong flag captured by Lt. Pete Juvet. The flag was captured by Juvet and his radio-telephone operator as Juvet’s infantry platoon overran a Viet Cong base camp while participating in ground operations in Tan Binh in February 1966. The flag was presented to the OCS Battalion to be displayed in a place of honor.
Members of the OCS Alumni Association attend the general membership meeting at the start of the 2019 reunion.
Candidates and alumni enjoy lunch together in the OCS Battalion area.
Alumni visit the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus. Jim Wright fires a Civil War cannon.