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April 2017 Newsletter

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President's Message

OCS Alumni,

Our 75th anniversary and 2017 reunion is upon us. We have a great itinerary of events that will include several opportunities to interact with the current officer candidates and your fellow alumni. These candidates are absolutely first class and will make you proud to be an OCS graduate. This year the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will honor 35 deserving graduates, including two Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients and two general officers. We are especially honored to have retired Gen. John Abrams as the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speaker. Our Alumni Dinner speaker is retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, the most recent MOH recipient.

One of the special events this year will be the dedication of the Memorial Walk in the OCS Battalion area. The walk will be lined with bricks and pavers, honoring the history and heritage of OCS graduates, past and present. See Frank Harman’s article in this newsletter regarding the program. Secure your own brick or paver before April 10 to ensure it is emplaced before the May 8 dedication.

Your Board of Directors has been pushing forward in a number of areas, all focusing on advocating for the OCS program and our alumni. The Washington D.C. Area Chapter # 1 received its charter on Veterans Day, November 11, 2016. The Colorado Chapter will receive its charter in April, hopefully followed by Florida and Columbus, Georgia. For our Association to grow and truly become a nationwide, no worldwide Association, we need to continue to form chapters. If you want to be a part of our expansion and our effort to get the word out to our civilian and Army population, contact Tom Evans, ranger06tom@aol.com.

We have a great PAO/social media team, led by Karla Langland and Jim Wright. Jim Wright has been reaching out to various military magazines, post newspapers, and other media outlets informing them of the 75th anniversary of OCS. It is unfortunate that in the last year there has not been a single publication that has found the history of OCS significant enough to publish. We must all be strong advocates for our truly magnificent history filled with the exploits of our 49 MOH recipients and so many other war heroes, as well as our distinguished government and industry leadership. Please note the article by Jim Wright on our history. I ask you to include it in your conversations with military and civilian contacts. Rotary, Kiwanis, and other organizations are always looking for speakers who can tell our stories. We are growing, and as we grow, so does our influence within the Army and our civilian communities. Our membership roster is rapidly increasing, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Pat Smith who has reached out to many of our members with whom we had lost contact. Pat needs your help in contacting your classmates and others who are OCS graduates. Tell them about the Alumni Association and encourage them to join.

Finally, there are two board positions that have come open in the past few months. One of the director positions has been filled by Lt. Col. Chris Bresko, who will stand for election by the membership in the next few weeks and at the reunion. Chris is on active duty and is a professor at the Naval War College. He fits perfectly into a diverse Board of Directors. We have six retired Army members, five who served and went on to pursue civilian careers, and now one active duty Army officer. In addition, retired Col. Richard Jung has stepped forward to give back to OCS by running for the remaining board position. Board members make a commitment--to serve and honor the OCS program and its graduates and to foster the ideals and promote the welfare of OCS, the Officer Corps, and the U.S. Army. These positions require time and energy, but the rewards are great.

See you at the reunion!

Forward Ever,
John Ionoff

Colonel (USA Retired)
President/CEO, USAOCSAA
813-505-8335
jionoff@aol.com

Commander's Circle

With Our Heads Held High!

The need for OCS commissioned officers has never been greater. The Army has shrunk in size since 2013, reaching its low-water mark last November. During the last three years, the OCS leadership has expected the Army leadership to turn to OCS to grow and grow fast to meet the needs of an expanding Army. That day is very nearly upon us and I am proud to report to you that when the Army turns to OCS, we will provide the highest quality officers to all 17 basic branches and all three components of the Total Army, just as OCS has done for the last 75 years.

During the last 90 days, OCS has achieved a string of notable accomplishments: commissioned 286 lieutenants; graduated an OCS commissioned officer from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst with the prestigious Overseas Sword of Honor; submitted our revised program of instruction for a 14-week course to Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); and selected 35 OCS alumni for induction into the Hall of Fame.

The next 90 days look equally bright: OCS is currently training 181 candidates; will send a platoon trainer to the Warrant Officer Candidate School as an exchange tactical officer; is prepared to exchange platoon trainers with five National Guard OCS battalions this summer as they conduct their OCS training; and is prepared as I relinquish command to Lt. Col. Matt Chitty and Command Sgt. Maj. John Dudas conducts a change of responsibility with Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Carne. Lt. Col. Chitty and Command Sgt. Maj. Carne will have an opportunity to lead OCS into this exciting time of growth.

In my 21 months in command, I have travelled to all the TRADOC branch schools. In my conversations with those leaders, it is clear the OCS commissioned officers of the present continue to uphold the legacy of those who have gone before them. This was objectively verified last fall when TRADOC published its annual survey of initial entry officer training. The performance of OCS commissioned officers surged well past ROTC and even USMA officers! We cadre at OCS will continue to provide the candidates the best program of instruction and the coaching, teaching, and mentoring that will allow them to lead American sons and daughters both while deployed and in garrison to accomplish the complex missions given to them in an uncertain and changing operational environment. OCS has done this for the past 75 years and is poised to continue well into the future.

We are just over a month from the Hall of Fame induction and reunion scheduled for May 7-11, 2017. We have planned a schedule that is chock-full of events that celebrate the 75-year history of OCS, as well as look forward to the next generation of OCS commissioned officers who are poised and ready to carry your proud legacy into the future. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible attend, as I was overawed in my conversations with inductees and alumni last year. This year’s guest speakers will include retired Gen. John Abrams, former TRADOC commanding general, and retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient. This year’s reunion will be the capstone event to our yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of OCS. If you have not signed up for the reunion, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. You can share your stories of service and sacrifice with those who are attending as well as interact with and educate the next generation of OCS alumni who are starting their careers.

Standards!! No Compromise!!

Mark C. Andres
Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry
Commanding
706.545.3507
Email

The First Overseas OCS

David W. Taylor

Well known is Fort Benning’s legacy of establishing the Officer Candidate School when Omar Bradley took command of Fort Benning in 1941. But another Benning rising star, Alexander Patch, who had served on the Infantry Board for three years, created another first for `OCS.

Six weeks after Pearl Harbor, Patch, as a brigadier general, was appointed to head “Task Force 6814” which was being shipped to New Caledonia, a French colonial protectorate in the Pacific, to protect the strategic island from Japanese assault. New Caledonia sat astride the strategic sea passage from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand.

Task Force 6814 was a hastily assembled ad hoc assortment of units including two National Guard regiments that were orphaned from their guard divisions when the Army converted to triangular divisions of three regiments, versus the four regiments in a square division prior to World War II. Task Force 6814 was referred to as “an odd conglomeration of spare parts, a wartime stew of men and equipment.”

Task Force 6814 picked up the orphaned 182nd Infantry Regiment from the Massachusetts National Guard’s 26th Yankee Division and the 132nd Infantry Regiment orphaned from the Illinois 33rd National Guard Infantry Division. Patch picked up the 164th Infantry Regiment, orphaned from the 34th Infantry Division of the North Dakota National Guard, which arrived in New Caledonia a month after the task force landed there.

On New Caledonia, Patch quickly went about creating an infantry division suitable for island warfare. The War Department had no number to assign to the new division so Patch, ever the innovator, held a contest in his task force to name the division. The winning entry was Americal which stood for “American Forces on New Caledonia.” The name stuck and the Americal became the only Army division with a name and not a number.

Mindful the Americal needed a whole new crop of young officers to staff his division and that many of Fort Benning’s OCS graduates were destined for North Africa, Patch asked for and received permission to establish his own OCS on New Caledonia.

The school became the first officer candidate school to be established outside the continental limits of the U.S. and it was begun on July 10, 1942 at Camp Stevens, New Caledonia. Standards for selection were very high. The examining board consisted of two majors and one lieutenant colonel.

Training was oriented for infantry officers, but graduates were detailed for other branches such as Ordnance and Quartermaster to staff the new units created from “the military stew of men and equipment” in the task force. Their branch training was on the job by their assigned unit, but, owing to the high standards of selection for OCS recruits, they performed magnificently. Patches’ New Caledonia OCS was immensely important in staffing the new units created to round out his new division. The first graduation was held on September 18, 1942.

In mid-October advance units of the 164th Infantry Regiment were rushed to Guadalcanal and one battalion was led through the night up to the severely depleted defensive lines of the Marines during the battle for Henderson Field. With no time to establish their own sector, the tough-as-nails North Dakotan infantrymen filled in among the legendary Chesty Puller’s depleted Marine battalion, which was covering a two-battalion front - just in the nick of time. The line held during the night and the Americal became the first Army division in World War II to go on the offensive against the enemy.

The Americal would relieve the First Marine Division on Guadalcanal and Patch would become a corps commander during the heavy fighting which followed on the island to finally defeat the Japanese. Patch was then picked by Gen. George C. Marshall to be transferred to the European Theater to gain his third star and take command of the newly formed IV Corps.

After a rest and refit in Fiji the Americal went on the relieve the Marines at their small beachhead on Bougainville and, with the 37th National Guard Division (Ohio), severely destroyed Japanese forces, including much of the Japanese Army 6th Division, the division primarily responsible for the Rape of Nanking. Then on to the Philippines with heavy combat in Leyte and other parts of the Vasayas, including the liberation of the island of Cebu. The Americal was one of the first Army divisions to arrive in Yokohama, Japan for occupation duties.

Patch’s OCS on New Caledonia remained after the Americal Division departed, offering a steady feed of quality young officers for the war effort in the Southwest Pacific Theater. 

Two generals look on while an applicant for OCS is questioned by the examining board on New Caledonia. On the left is Maj. Gen. Robert C. Richardson, visiting New Caledonia on tour of inspection, while on the right is Maj. Gen. Alexander Patch, Jr, commanding the U.S. Forces on New Caledonia. The Board, seated at the table from left to right: Maj. Curtis P. Donnell, Lt. Col. Gordon Butler, and Maj. Orin Jacobson (Photo: National Archives)

Foreground: Maj. Romlein of the Officer Candidate School and Lt. Col. John Allen, commandant of the school. At the rear: Maj. Gen. Alexander Patch, Jr. commanding U.S. forces in New Caledonia. The first OCS graduating class passes in review before Maj. Gen. Patch, September 18, 1942. (Photo: National Archives)

Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch Jr., commander of the Americal Division, addresses applicants for the Officer Candidate School, New Caledonia,1942. Maj. Gen. Patch received permission from the War Department to establish the first OCS outside the continental limits of the U.S. at Camp Stevens, New Caledonia on July 10, 1942. (Photo: National Archives)

Bayonet drill for officer candidates in the OCS established on New Caledonia in July 1942. This photo was taken September 6, 1942. The first OCS class graduated on September 18, 1942. (Photo: National Archives).

David Taylor is a retired colonel, Special Forces. He graduated from the 91st Company in February 1968 and was assigned as a Tactical Officer with the 62nd Company upon being commissioned. He served with the Americal as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam. He was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame in 1993 and is the Americal Division Veterans Association’s World War II Historian. 

Supporting the Presidential Inauguration

2nd Lt. Michael Friel

Recently I had a unique opportunity to put my training to the test as one of more than 7,900 Guardsmen of the Joint Task Force-District of Columbia (JTF-DC) supporting the 58th presidential inauguration.

The D.C. National Guard has a distinguished history of supporting the presidential inauguration that goes back to its first order to protect then President-elect Abraham Lincoln during his inauguration in 1861. Since then, the nature of support to the District and the president has evolved from a collection of D.C. militia sappers to a robust assembly of Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen from 54 states, territories, and the District organized into task forces that provide traffic, security, crowd control, and weapons of mass destruction detection support to augment D.C. and federal agencies. Additionally, the D.C. National Guard individually provides this support during national special security events and in response to severe and significant weather.

The weekend before the inauguration was different than fulfilling my monthly National Guard duty. The weekend transitioned into active duty orders where I was part of augmenting the U.S. Capitol Police as a member of JTF-DC’s, Task Force Capitol. At the time, I was one of four platoon leaders in the 275th Military Police Company under the 372nd Military Police Battalion, which was activated to support the task force. This was my first mission as a platoon leader and with it came a great level of responsibility. It was an opportunity to be a part of a historical event and America’s peaceful transfer of power.

While in the District, I was in charge of a two-block radius in the vicinity of the Federal Center Southwest metro stop that contained seven checkpoints. My Soldiers and I were vigilant conducting traffic control procedures, greeting people, and guiding people safely toward the National Mall for the inauguration ceremony. To the attendees, I represented the National Guard.

The day after the inauguration, many of the Soldiers and Airmen from other states returned to their home stations. D.C. National Guard Soldiers remained on orders supporting the Women’s March on Washington where I served as the officer-in-charge of a checkpoint on 12th and C Streets, SW. There I led an element conducting traffic control procedures where hundreds of thousands of excited demonstrators gathered peacefully in the District.

While supporting JTF-DC, I can recall several memorable stand-out moments--nothing heroic, but the little things that were impactful to me. For example, I helped a woman with back problems walk several blocks and provided extra tickets to four elderly ladies dressed in red, white, and blue windbreakers attending their first inauguration. It was truly a privilege to be in a position to help my fellow citizens.

Members of the D.C. National Guard are known as The Capital Guardians. I was tired and worked long hours throughout the week, but the mission made it worthwhile. Being able to serve as an actual “guardian of the Capital” during the inauguration gave me a sense of purpose and gratitude.

By the end of it all, I lost count of the number of people who approached me with words of appreciation and to thank me for my service. Whether it was folks from both the right and left sides of the spectrum attending the inauguration or the folks attending the Women’s March on Washington the following day, the one thing they all had in common was that they had nothing but the utmost respect for those in uniform.

Maybe, as Americans, we are not so divided after all. The one thing that our nation agrees upon unequivocally is their appreciation for the men and women who serve the United States of America!

2nd Lt. Friel with Wayne “Butch” Gilliam, widely known for his appearances on the television show West Texas Investors Club which airs on CNBC.

Michael Friel was commissioned on June 9, 2016 in Class 005-16. Shortly after his commissioning, 2nd Lt. Friel returned to Washington, D.C. to drill with his unit, the 275th Military Police Company, District of Columbia Army National Guard, while awaiting orders to attend the Military Police Basic Officer Leadership Course.

Life of a Lieutenant

Army Reconnaissance Course: Reaching the End of My Time at Fort Benning

1st Lt. Blake Grasso

After over two years of training--from Basic Combat Training and OCS to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (ABOLC)--I am finally two weeks away from reporting to my unit. While I appreciate the fantastic training I have received, I am more than ready to finally leave behind my student status and join my line unit. Following ABOLC graduation, I “blackbirded” for a month as I waited for a slot at the Army Reconnaissance Course. This consisted mainly of daily details, one of which was an outreach project with a local middle school that involved spending Fridays playing basketball or soccer with the kids. Blackbirding was a nice break after my long string of various schools. During this period, I found out that I will be assigned to 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment (Garry Owen!) when I arrive at 3rd Infantry Division in this month. While I joined the Armor branch because of my passion for tanks, I am excited and motivated for my job as a scout platoon leader. The relative freedom of scout platoons and their position ahead of the main body makes the role interesting and creative in a way I did not realize before my training at ABOLC.

At the end of my time blackbirding, I attended the Army Reconnaissance Course (ARC), a month-long course for future platoon leaders and platoon sergeants that expands on the basic scouting instruction we receive at ABOLC. ARC consisted of numerous physical training events, as well as exercises involving land navigation and reconnaissance and security operations. The first exercise, Bushmaster, was focused on land navigation over long distances using terrain and avoiding roads and built up areas. We were inserted by helicopter (my first helicopter ride and a great experience) and immediately had to self-locate. We were given a point in the woods and had to plan a route that got us within 100 meters of the point (as determined by the cadre’s GPS). We wore our rucks and covered 12 to 18 miles a day over the three-day exercise that saw a dramatic improvement in land navigation skills for many of the students.   

After Bushmaster, the remainder of the field time was centered on area, zone, and route reconnaissance missions. We were on Humvees, Strykers, Bradleys, and dismounted for our missions. The Strykers almost made me wish I was going to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, as they have an incredible amount of space and are very comfortable for someone of my size. I was assigned a platoon leader role for a Bradley route reconnaissance because I am going to a heavy unit. My mission went well despite the sleep deprivation and my lack of experience on the Bradley. From there on I served as either a gunner or dismount for the rest of the field exercise. 

Unfortunately, Armor lieutenants are no longer eligible to attend Bradley Leaders Course, so my slot for that school was canceled and I will now be moving to my unit with very limited experience on the platform. One thing I am very comfortable with, though, are the basics of reconnaissance and security operations. Despite being only a month long, ARC did an excellent job of expanding my knowledge with many practical repetitions and productive classroom instruction.

In a couple of weeks, I will be making the short drive to Fort Stewart to report to my unit. They are currently in the midst of a rigorous training schedule as they prepare for a nine-month rotation to Korea in January of next year in which I will participate. The next time you hear from me, I will have reported to my unit and will be preparing for gunnery and a rotation to the National Training Center in October.    

Blake Grasso recently returned from a year-long assignment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 1st Lt. Grasso wrote about his adventures at Sandhurst for the USAOCSAA newsletter. He has graciously agreed to continue writing for the newsletter about life as a lieutenant in today’s U.S. Army. 1st Lt. Grasso is a member of Class 007-015.  

OCS Bookshelf


Prelude to Reveille: A Viet Nam Awakening by S.D. Sawyer

Lt. Tom Barrington believed fighting in the Vietnam War might be the hardest thing he’d ever be called upon to do. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe coming home was. Prelude to Reveille: A Vietnam Awakening, S.D. Sawyer’s emotionally raw novel, mines the personal histories of returning soldiers like Tom. Inspired by real-life experiences of the author and her husband during this turbulent era, the narrative begins in December 1967, when newlyweds Tom and Meg Barrington reported to his first military station, The Old Guard, the Army's ceremonial unit, in Arlington, Virginia. Within months, Tom received new orders— Ranger School, then deployment to Vietnam. Meg's role transformed into that of a waiting wife and a soon-to-be mother. Wounded half-way through his tour, Tom went from combat on a jungle trail in Vietnam to surgery in Japan, to enrollment at a small college back home. Anti-war demonstrations and protests cordoned off him and other veterans from even their peers. Soldiers' pride was quickly replaced with feelings of guilt, anger, and betrayal. This novel possesses a sense of time and place that foreshadows issues still facing military families. Bravery and commitment to America are not limited to times of triumph and national celebration, but remain steadfast and true in the face of protracted engagement, ambiguous mission and uncertain outcome.

The above review is courtesy of Amazon.com.

The late S.D. Sawyer was the wife of OCS graduate Richard Sawyer. Richard graduated from OCS on November 20, 1967. Like the character Tom in the novel, Richard was assigned to The Old Guard following commissioning. His platoon had responsibility for carrying the casket, placing it on the caisson when required, taking it to the grave site, and folding the flag. After Ranger School, Richard was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry in Vietnam. You can read an excerpt of Prelude to Reveille: A Vietnam Awakening at http://sdsawyer.com

Today's Army

Occupational Physical Assessment Test

What is it?

The Occupational Physical Assessment Test helps the U.S. Army predict each recruit's ability to successfully perform physically demanding tasks in the most physically challenging occupations. It will help the Army match prospective Soldiers to careers in which they are most likely to succeed physically.

The Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) has four events: standing long jump, seated power throw, strength deadlift and interval aerobic run. These events assess both upper and lower body power, muscular strength and aerobic fitness needed to complete tasks required by certain military occupational specialties.

What has the Army done?

The previous requirement, for recruits to join the Army was to take the Armed Services Vocational Battery Test, or ASVAB, and meet medical standards. The Army will now begin using the OPAT from April 2016 to assess each recruit's physical aptitude. Together, these two assessments will help the Army to more effectively place the right Soldier in the right job based on intellectual and physical aptitude.

U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) is developing the OPAT. USARIEM researchers have worked with different units across the Army to accurately replicate physically demanding tasks for MOSs. This is based on scientific studies of the human body's endurance to compete the tasks. USARIEM and CIMT have utilized over 2,000 test subjects in the development of the OPAT. Teams of experts continue to conduct evaluations of volunteers at select locations using basic combat trainees and advanced individual training Soldiers.

Why is this important to the Army?

The OPAT is another tool used in the quest to optimize the Army Profession. It allows the Army to better predict a person's ability to meet the physical standards of their MOS. This means that the OPAT may help reduce attrition and risk of injuries prior to the first unit of assignment, and improve retention. The test is also meant to help increase a recruit's focus on physical fitness prior to entry. The OPAT is one of many Army efforts meant to help improve readiness across the force.

This article was published on the Army’s website on March 28, 2016. 


Candidates from Class 002-17 learning the exercises for the new Occupational Physical Assessment Test at Fort Benning, GA.

Yesterday's Army

The OCS Alumni Association continues to collect archival documents and memorabilia that detail the history of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School program.

OCS Recruiting Posters: 1940s through 1970s

Thanks to James Earls, Class 004-02, for providing these posters. 

Class Photo of Class 436-45

Janis Papaloukas and Stacey Mitchell found this photo of Class 436-45 that graduated on April 14, 1945 at Fort Benning. Thanks to Janis and Stacey for providing us with this piece of OCS history!

Army OCS: 75 Years of Excellence

“You have to lead men in war by requiring more from the individual than he thinks he can do. You have to lead men in war by bringing them along to endure and to display qualities of fortitude that are beyond the average man’s thought of what he should be expected to do. You have to inspire them when they are hungry and exhausted and desperately uncomfortable and in great danger; and only a man of positive characteristics of leadership, with the physical stamina that goes with it, can function under those conditions.” Gen. George Marshall in testimony to Senate Military Affairs Committee in 1940.

In 1940, Gen. George Marshall recognized the absolute importance of establishing rigorous training facilities for new officers. The Officer Candidate School program was established in early 1941, when the Secretary of War, the War Department, and the Army Chief of Staff agreed that a training program was needed to quickly commission new officers. The selective service draft program had brought nearly a million men into the Army by the spring of 1941. Leadership was needed desperately and OCS stepped forward to fill that need, just as it has in every conflict or era since then. 

The first class graduated in September 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Later that month, the War Department announced that OCS would be expanded to 10 branch schools--Infantry, Signal Corps, Armor, Artillery, Coast Artillery, Quartermaster, Medical Corps, Engineering, Cavalry, Ordnance--with an initial total enrollment of 2,300 men.

Those who survived the ordeal were commissioned second lieutenants — the famed “ninety-day wonders” of World War II. The momentous decision to start a shortened commissioning program proved to be very wise, as OCS became the leading source of commissioned officers during the war. Of the 800,000 or so officers who served in the Army during World War II, more than half were OCS graduates and well over half the combat leaders were products of that system.

At the end of World War II, the troop level of approximately 8 million was reduced to less than 20 percent of that strength in one year and down to 7 percent in three years. Commensurate with that reduction, by the end of 1946 all OCS training was transferred to the Army Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas. Officer production slowed to a trickle until 1950.

The officer requirements of the Korean War resulted in the reactivation of six branch OCS programs in 1951: Infantry, Artillery, Signal, Engineer, Ordnance, and Antiaircraft. By the end of 1952, a combined total of 16,800 candidates had graduated from the six schools. Korea did not require as many new combat leaders because so many were available with World War II experience. All the reactivated schools except Infantry, Artillery, and Engineer were closed by the end of 1952. The Engineer OCS closed in June 1954.

The Army expanded in 1965 from 1 million to 1.5 million to fight in Vietnam. The Army needed 40,00 to 50,000 new junior officers for this expanding force. ROTC production declined and West Point commissioning was slow, so six new OCS schools were opened (making eight in total) to produce the numbers needed for the Vietnam War.

During the height of the Vietnam conflict, Infantry OCS produced about 7,000 officers annually from three battalions at Fort Benning. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of the company grade officers who fought in Vietnam were OCS graduates. The program was reduced to two battalions toward the close of the conflict and presently maintains a single battalion. In April 1973, the Branch Immaterial Officer Candidate Course was created at Fort Benning to replace all other OCS courses except the Women’s Army Corps OCS which remained at Fort McClellan until 1976, when it too merged with the course at Fort Benning.

In the decades since the OCS branch immaterial program was implemented in 1973, OCS continues to provide commissioned officers to the total force for all basic branches of the Army. The demand for well-trained junior officers has expanded and contracted over the years to support major conflicts such as the 1991 Gulf War, peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, the Iraq War, and continuing operations in Afghanistan. Overseas contingency operations continue as U.S. forces are a vital part of the intervention against the Islamic State.

On June 12, 1998 to further integrate the total force, the Army National Guard OCS Phase III candidates began training alongside their active duty counterparts at Fort Benning. Officer candidates from the National Guard conduct the final phase of training before commissioning during their two-week annual training period. Over 650 future officers were trained for the Army in the first year, with similar numbers being trained in subsequent years.

Notable and distinguished OCS graduates include Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration; Robert J. Dole, former U.S. Senator from Kansas and presidential candidate; John O. Marsh, Jr., Secretary of the Army during the 1980s; William F. Buckley, Jr., political commentator; Winthrop Rockefeller, former Governor of Arkansas; Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of U.S. Central Command; Gen. Frederick Kroesen, Jr., former commander Seventh United States Army; Maj. Dick Winters, subject of the miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’; Thomas B. Cotton, U.S. Senator for Arkansas; and Ralph Peters, author and Fox News Strategic Analyst. Three of the most recent Medal of Honor recipients--Capt. (Ret) Florent Groberg (Afghanistan), Lt. Col. (Ret) Charles Kettles (Vietnam), and Capt. William D. Swenson (Afghanistan)--are OCS graduates.

The legacy of OCS is maintained by the United States Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association (USAOCSAA). USAOCSAA is a non-profit, national organization representing all Army officers commissioned through Officer Candidate School, regardless of previous school locations and branches. It fosters fellowship, highlights the history of OCS, and memorializes OCS graduates who have lost their lives in service of their country. The Association, at www.ocsalumni.org, is an advocate for the ongoing OCS program and a source of information for all related interests. The Association invites new members and wants to hear from active, retired, veterans, and family members. It offers a great way to reconnect with OCS classmates and those affiliated with the program.

Since its inception 75 years ago, through major wars, the Cold War, and participation in numerous operations and conflicts all over the world, the Officer Candidate School continues to demonstrate uncommon flexibility, professionalism, and the unmatched ability to provide the U.S. Army with competent, well trained, and fearless officers in the shortest and most responsive time. OCS continues to meet the “standards with no compromise.”

1st Lt. Vernon Baker, Medal of Honor recipient, World War II veteran, and OCS graduate.

Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam veteran, and OCS graduate.

Capt. Florent Groberg, Medal of Honor recipient, Afghanistan veteran, and OCS graduate.

USAOCSAA President John Ionoff presenting an Association coin to Senator Bob Dole, OCS graduate, at the National World War II Memorial on Veterans Day, 2016. 

Former Secretary of the Army, John Marsh, an OCS graduate, with recent OCS candidates.

Jim Wright is a member of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is a retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran. He graduated from OCS in April 1966 with class 5-66.

Memorial Walk Update

Frank L. Harman III

We have raised approximately $39,000 so far for the establishment of the Memorial Walk on the grounds of the OCS Battalion!

Excavation and site preparation for most of the east and west sides of the walk have been completed. Pavers for 49 OCS Medal of Honor recipients and three OCS D-Day Distinguished Service Cross recipients have been purchased and emplaced. In addition, the Association purchased pavers for 17 distinguished graduates (four-star generals, senators, governors, and cabinet secretaries). Another 50+ bricks and pavers have also been emplaced.

In addition to the individual bricks and pavers, the Association has purchased and emplaced 24x 24 granite era blocks for World War II; Korea; Vietnam; and the Cold War, the All-Volunteer Army and Army of Excellence, and the Global War on Terrorism. There are 24x24 granite dedication blocks for the Memorial Walk itself; in honor of Gen. of the Army George Marshall who authorized the establishment of OCS; our distinguished graduates; and OCS cadre, commanders, and staff. We are in the process of procuring and emplacing 24x24 granite dedication blocks for the Army divisions and regiments. I would like to get all the divisions that fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam emplaced by the 75th reunion in May. So far, we have the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division, and the 25th Infantry Division.

If you would like to purchase your share of OCS and Army history, please go to the Association’s web site.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at frank.harman@harmangrp.com.

Frank Harman currently serves as the Vice President for Administration of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association. He is a retired colonel and was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame in 2004.  

Final preparations for the Memorial Walk at the OCS Battalion headquarters. The Memorial Walk will be officially dedicated during May’s reunion. 

Upcoming Activities

2017 Reunion

Don’t miss the 2017 Hall of Fame induction and reunion May 7-11 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The guest speakers include retired Gen. John Abrams, former commander of Training and Doctrine Command and retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, most recent Medal of Honor recipient. There will be a special ceremony to dedicate the first bricks and pavers on the OCS Battalion’s Memorial Walk. This year is a great time to schedule a mini reunion for your class along with the alumni reunion. Scheduling your mini reunion with us will provide your classmates with many event options that you can take advantage of at a reduced cost and without you having to plan the events yourselves. You can register now for the reunion at the Association’s website and make hotel reservations at the Columbus Marriott: phone number - 706-324-1800 and reservation link. We have a special rate of $124 per night with a full buffet breakfast included for two. For more information, contact Nancy Ionoff, Reunion Coordinator, at ocsalumnireunion@gmail.com or 813-917-4309. Mark your calendars and plan to attend this special year-end celebration of 75 years of the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School!

Retired Gen. John Abrams enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and was commissioned from Armor OCS the same year. He retired in 2002 after commanding the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. 

President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles for conspicuous gallantry, in the East Room of the White House on July 18, 2016. Then-Maj. Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967 and is credited with saving the lives of 40 Soldiers and four of his own crew members. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.

Board of Directors Election

The annual election of OCS Alumni Association Board of Directors (BOD) has begun. All BOD directors serve two years upon being elected and officers of the BOD serve three years. This year there are four candidates for election: those previously elected and running for reelection, those appointed to the BOD and running for election, and those nominated for election to the BOD. You can vote for any or all four candidates listed below at  https://www.ocsalumni.org/candidates.php.

•       Lt. Col. Christopher C. Bresko
        Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on January 27, 1995

•       Retired Col. John Ionoff
        Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 1, 1963

•       Retired Col. Richard G. Jung, Sr.
        Commissioned Armor at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 27, 1979

•       Dr. Patrick A. Smith
        Commissioned Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia on April 3, 1969

Voting deadline is May 9, 2017. You can vote online at the OCSAA website. You can also vote in person at the membership meeting at the OCS Alumni Association reunion in May. Only members of the OCS Alumni Association may vote in the election. 

Washington, D.C. Area Chapter News

Mike Harris

It is cherry blossom time in the nation’s capital. The Washington D.C. Area Chapter sprouted to life with our initial group meeting in March at the Fairfax, Virginia American Legion Post 177. The Chapter has a three-fold mission: (1) assist in the growth of USAOCSAA membership, (2) be a steadfast supporter of the OCS Battalion, and (3) remain active as a community service provider.

Our chapter is in a prime reconnaissance position to scout and make first contact with numerous military and service organizations. From the Pentagon to national headquarters for many service sponsoring agencies, we hope to make liaison and cultivate USAOCSAA membership and support from these groups. It is time our alma mater had an advocate lobbying on our behalf. We intend to (figuratively) plant the USAOCSAA flag atop the Washington Monument in full sight of Congress, the Joint Staff, and nationwide promoters. 

I am gratified to report we have strong volunteer support and the spirit OCS instilled in us remains alive and thriving. Our members stepped forward to explore ways to serve our community. We will be active year-round in post and base activities, retiree appreciation events, wreath laying, and active engagement with Soldiers contemplating OCS as a career option.

Many hands make for light work. We hope more members in the region will join us for fellowship, fun, and family. After the course we endured, we are all sisters and brothers, born of 'Mother Benning' and other great posts. We are discovering we are all proud to have served this nation and that we retain that spirit of leadership and generosity. We want to give back to the country and our communities. Participation in the OCS Alumni Association is a wonderful venue to continue leadership and service.

Please contact our Signal Officer, Don Northcutt at donaldnorthcutt@gmail.com, to have your name placed on the chapter contact roster. We will keep you advised of our meeting dates and planned service projects. I can speak for all who attended our first meeting--we enjoyed being in the company of veterans and OCS graduates once again. It comes as no surprise that all our volunteer leaders are also active in other organizations, community, and family events. If you do not think you have time to devote to USAOCSAA, take a look at the leaders who have already made a leap of faith. The Association will be better with your participation. Follow me!

J. Michael Harris
Major (USA Retired)
President, Washington D.C. Area Chapter USAOCSAA
703-618-0017
harrisnva@msn.com

Harold Dobbs and Don Northcutt signing documents to establish a bank account for the Washington, D.C. Area Chapter. 

Mike Harris presiding over the first meeting of the Washington, D.C. Area Chapter of the USAOCSAA. 

 

Are you in the Colorado Springs area? Are you looking to connect with your fellow OCS grads? James Earls is establishing a chapter of the OCS Alumni Association in Colorado Springs. Let James know if you are interested in participating in regional events. He can be reached at jearls6893@hotmail.com.

Are you in the Central Florida area? Are you looking to connect with your fellow OCS grads? Darrell Katz is establishing a chapter of the OCS Alumni Association in Central Florida. Let Darrell know if you're interested in participating in regional events. He can be reached at Dkatz6@tampabay.rr.com

Chapter Formation

Interested in establishing an OCS Alumni Association chapter in your area?

Association chapters are established to coordinate and promote activities and camaraderie at the local level. The chapters encourage fellowship and goodwill among the OCS graduate community and promote the purposes of the Association.

The Association has an SOP that describes the process for establishing and operating a chapter. To establish a chapter, a minimum of 10 founding members are required. The requirements for operating a chapter are submission of an annual report on the activities of the chapter and reporting any change in its leadership.

If any member in interested in establishing a chapter or would like to receive a copy of the SOP, please contact Tom Evans at ranger06tom@aol.com or 310-827-1491. 

Hall of Fame Inductees

Congratulations to the 2017 OCS Hall of Fame inductees! Join us as we honor their service at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Monday, May 8, 2017 at the National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning, GA. You can register at the OCS website. https://www.ocsalumni.org/events/cart.php?id=1

  • 1LT Joe V. Abernathy 
  • COL William A. Bonnick
  • COL Thomas A. Boone
  • COL Jeffery R. Broughton 
  • MG Douglas E. Caton
  • 1LT Hector E. Colon
  • 1LT Donald J. Dare
  • MAJ Thomas A. Davidson
  • COL Gene J. Del Bianco 
  • COL Wayne L. Ellis
  • CPT Harold A. Fritz
  • LTC Gregory K. Gandy
  • COL Earl D. Greer 
  • COL Richard D. Heyward
  • LTC Charles S. Kettles
  • COL Scott D. Kubica
  • COL Christopher J. Lackovic
  • COL Brian D. Lesieur
  •  LTC Carl B. Marshall
  • COL Remso J. Martinez
  • LTC Michael J. McCarson
  • COL Jan C. Norris
  • LTC Ralph H. Peters, Jr.
  • COL Robert E. Philpott
  • COL Larry J. Redmon
  • COL Bruno H. Repeta, Jr.
  • 1LT James E. Robinson, Jr.
  • COL John F. Rogan
  • COL Mark E. Rosenstein
  • COL Camelia J. Scott-Skillern
  • COL Jerry A. Smith
  • 1LT Patrick A. Smith
  • COL Frank J. Stanco, Jr.
  • CPT Antonio L. Suarez
  • MG David A. Whaley

Member News

  • OC Class 47/67 (74th Company) is planning a 50th anniversary reunion August 11 – 13. Contact John Shea john@sheanetwork.com for more information.
     
  • The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is looking for your history! By sharing your experiences, you are helping to ensure history is not forgotten. Thousands of veterans and their families have shared their stories with the USAHEC, but these individuals only represent a small fraction of the millions who have served. To truly capture the breadth of our Army veterans’ experiences and to protect and preserve information for future generations, the USAHEC team hopes many more Soldiers will decide to share their piece of Army history. If you are interested in telling your Army story, you may contact the USAHEC at (717) 245-3972 or usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.ahec-ves@mail.mil.
     
  • Attention FA OCS Class 31A-67: The sister of 1LT Jimmy Donald Johnson is seeking contact with anyone who served with or knew him. Jimmy was from Ashland, KY and was assigned to HHB, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, 25th Infantry Division. He was serving as a Forward Observer with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry and was one of nine members of that unit killed in action in Hua Nghia Province on April 27, 1969. Jimmy's sister, Sherry, can be contacted at mesher626@yahoo.com.
     
  • Ronald Herbert Brandt graduated from OCS at Fort Benning in 1957. Ronald's daughter-in-law is looking for a picture of him for her husband. Ronald passed away in 1996. If you have a class date or yearbook, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.
     
  • A researcher is looking for information on the Cavalry School OCS Class 17 at Fort Riley that was in session from 12 Oct 1942 to 31 Dec 1942. The researcher is looking for yearbooks, photos, class rosters, graduation programs. In addition, any information on the following WWII-era units is requested: 2nd Cavalry Group, 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 104th Cavalry Group, 104th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and 119th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. If you know of any resources or references for this information, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.
     
  • The Association is accepting digitized yearbooks which will be placed on the website – (Membership Area - OCS Yearbooks). This project is the beginning of an ongoing preservation of historic documents from OCS. If you are interested in having your class yearbook placed on the website, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at patocsaa@gmail.com or telephone him at 951-712-3240 for further information on how to participate. This will also help your fellow classmates who may not have purchased a yearbook or lost it since graduation.
     
  • In December 2015, the Association created a new website. All members are encouraged to log into the website and ensure the information in their profile is correct. If the information is inaccurate and cannot be updated or there is no profile listed, please contact Dr. Patrick Smith at 951-712-3240 or patocsaa@gmail.com.
     
  • If you have announcements you would like to have publicized on the USAOCSAA Facebook page or in the newsletter, please email the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.
     
  • USAOCSAA is looking for your personal experiences. We need to capture our history. If you would like to tell your story, please contact the Social Media Director. Contact information is at the bottom of the Association's website's home page.

$75 for 75 Years

A Presidential Challenge

In concert with the OCS Diamond Anniversary, Colonel Ionoff has issued a challenge to all USAOCSAA members…

“This is a call to action to help support and preserve your legacy! I challenge all OCS graduates to give one dollar for each year that OCS has been providing superior officers to our Army. That will be a $75 contribution from each of us. The funds from this campaign will be targeted for the four key areas outlined below. Let’s make the 75th anniversary a year to reflect, reinvigorate and reinvest.”

DONATE NOW

I Know What You're Thinking

Mike Harris

If you are like me, you have wondered where the money goes that seems to always be solicited by organizations like this organization of which you are a proud member. The U.S. Army OCS Alumni Association is a nationwide, 501(c)(19) non-profit organization. The Association is a completely volunteer-run organization. After paying the minimal cost of operating the Association, all monies collected are used to preserve and promote the OCS legacy through such service projects as: 

  • Renovation of Wigle and Nett Halls at Fort Benning. The new Wigle Hall will be an OCS museum and repository for artifacts and memorabilia for all OCS programs. The renovated Nett Hall will be a theater and presentation venue for use by the OCS Battalion and alumni.
  • Scholarships for family members of OCS graduates.
  • Support for the annual Patterson Award and the OCS Hall of Fame induction to include obtaining quality guest speakers and scouting superior meeting and dining venues.  
  • Expansion of regional alumni chapters.
  • Wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Viet Nam, World War II, and Korean War Memorials, and state-based veterans’ cemeteries.
  • Establishment of the OCS Memorial Walk at Fort Benning, honoring graduate names and the history of OCS.
  • Awards for leadership, academics, and physical training for each graduating class.
  • Prior projects include the movement and reconstruction of OCS arches in 2015.

You endured a life-changing event by surviving OCS. You are bound to a unique group who completed one of the most rigorous training courses imaginable. We know something about your endurance, tenacity, and character because only the strongest succeeded. The OCS Alumni Association is more than a fellowship of kindred spirits reliving the glory days. The Association has a mission to serve and honor the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School program and its graduates and to further the ideals and promote the welfare of OCS, the Officer Corps, and the U.S. Army. The Association actively connects with the OCS Battalion leadership and with each graduating class. The Association fosters fellowship amongst its members, highlights the history of OCS, and memorializes OCS graduates who have lost their lives in service to our nation.  

So when the Association asks for donations, you can rest assured the dollars will be spent furthering OUR common mission.                               

Mike Harris is a retired major, military intelligence. He currently serves as the President of the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Alumni Association.