Officer candidates prep for final phase of OCS

Approximately 30 National Guard officer candidates from Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., train together during a regional Field Level Exercise May 5, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The exercise aimed to prepare the candidates for the third and final phase of Office Candidate School, which they will attend later this summer. (U.S. National Guard photo by Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Officer candidates from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., spent a long weekend in May preparing for the third and final phase of Officer Candidate School during a regional Field Level Exercise held May 4-6, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

The training, hosted by 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, brought 29 candidates together, divided them into four squads and then pushed them through a total of six lanes, all focused on basic warrior tasks and battle drills and heavily emphasizing basic troop leading procedures.

“They’re big event will be in July, during annual training,” explained Maj. Eric Quinn, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School. “They actually get evaluated on a must-pass grade on troop leading procedures and planning for leading a squad through a mission.”

Quinn explained that the candidates, who have been in OCS for around 18 months, have learned how to create an operations order and how to conduct battle drills, but that the FLX took their many months of training to the next level.

“This is putting it all together, actually running through a lane and then giving them an assessment on it,” Quinn said. He explained that the training aimed to show the candidates what they need to work on before entering the final phase on their way toward becoming officers.

A Virginia officer candidates trains during a regional Field Level Exercise May 5, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Terra C. Gatti)

In addition to testing the candidates on their knowledge and skills, the training also created a environment similar to the one the students will find when they start the third phase of OCS.

“When they go to Phase III, they’re going to intermingled with other states anyway, so we’ve already intermingled them and they’re already starting to make contacts and communicate and work on their skills together,” Quinn said.

Officer Candidate Robert Ingersoll, a Virginia OCS candidate who plans to branch armor, said his favorite part of the training was being able to interact with candidates from other states, as well as to learn from cadre members sent by the participating states.

“I’m really thankful for this opportunity and we’re getting really great training from the RTI,” Ingersoll said. “We’ve got great cadre here who planned all of this for us.”

Ingersoll graduated from Liberty University in 2013 and started OCS in 2016.

“My great grandfather was an officer during World War II and he’s pretty inspirational to me,” Ingersoll said on why he joined the Virginia National Guard. “I also spent some time in Afghanistan working for an NGO and was impacted by some officers I met over there and I came back here and wanted to give back to my state.”

Of the 29 candidates who participated in the regional training, 10 were enrolled in the Virginia’s OCS. Phase III is the final obstacle for the candidates on their path toward earning their commission. Candidates who successfully conquer Phase III will graduate OCS in August and receive their commissions and lieutenant bars at that time.