FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 26, 2013) -- In order to defend Soldiers in court, Judge Advocate General officers must first learn to be Soldiers.

The Direct Commission Officer Course, taught by E Company, 3rd Battalion, (Officer Candidate School) 11th Infantry Regiment, is a six-week course that provides commissioned officers with mental and physical skills to lead Soldiers in any operational environment.

"We teach them Army values and the Soldier culture," said Capt. Marie Hough, OIC for the course. "Some of them have as much as 10 years in the military or as Army Reserve officers, but for others this is their first week and they've only had four or five days of being in the military or having a uniform."

Hough said the course includes physical fitness training, combat training, land navigation training, weapons training and rifle marksmanship, practical exercises in leadership and several confidence courses featuring difficult obstacles that challenges students to overcome personal fears.

"We teach them how to shoot their weapons, we teach them how to navigate and get them physically fit … Army physical fitness tests and foot marches," Hough said.

After inprocessing and common core skills classes, 69 JAG officers spent a day of their first week learning rappelling and rope obstacle training at Thunderbolt Tower on Harmony Church. Hough said the training builds confidence and promotes teamwork and interaction with other Soldiers.

Students also build personal courage through other venues, including combat water survival tests, obstacle courses and leader reaction courses, she said.

"We also have Soldiers from the 14th (Combat Support Hospital) to keep training with us -- it's a chance to get the officers to interact with the other Soldiers that they may eventually be representing one day," Hough said.

Upon graduation, students will travel to Charlottesville, Va., for a 10-week Basic Officers Leadership Course for instruction on the organization, function and mission of the U.S. Army JAG Corps and an overview of the practice of law in the U.S. Army.

For former enlisted Soldiers like 1st Lt. Nikkole Butler of St. Petersburg, Fla., DCC combines familiar physical training with new leadership skills.

"I've been an enlisted Soldier since 2004, and the Army has helped me pay for my undergraduate degree and my juris doctorate. My goal has always been to become an officer and (join the) JAG Corps," Butler said. "It is different learning basic officer skills because I was on the enlisted side before, but being a better leader is helpful.

I'm sure some of our training is going to be difficult physically and mentally, but I think with this amount of people we have a good group who are motivated. I think it will be a successful six weeks."

For 1st Lt. Famose Garner of Pearyland, Texas, the decision to become an Army JAG officer is a Family tradition.

"The Army is my Family business because my dad, all my uncles and a few of my aunts served, so it's my turn," Garner said. "I think I'm the sixth cousin in my generation to go into the military."

Garner said despite the physical challenges of the course, he values the camaraderie between the students and leadership skills that will help him excel in his career.

"I don't know how many lawyers who get to say four days into their job they did rappelling," Garner said. "Everybody I know who has been in the Army has said 'The Army made me better,' or gave them better discipline or they became a better leader. I'm looking forward to the Army making me better."


•To go to OCS, Soldiers must complete an application packet that must be signed by their chain of command and pass a local board comprised of field grade officers. This panel conducts the local board process/interviews, which determine which applicants application will be sent forward to the Army Human Resources Command selection board. The entire local board process is monitored under the guidance of the Military Personnel Division's Personnel Services Branch point of contact.

•Soldiers must meet several basic requirements to be eligible to apply for OCS, including: having less than nine years of active-component service at the time the higher-level (HRC) board convenes, being no older than 34 at the time of commissioning, completing at least 12 months on station if based overseas, having a GT score of at least 110, and having completed a Bachelor's degree before applying.

•Warrant officers and chief warrant officers are eligible to apply if they meet all the requirements, as are Soldiers in the pay grade E-7 and promotable staff sergeants. Master sergeants and sergeants major are not eligible.

•The exact documents a Soldier must provide in his or her OCS application packet vary depending on whether a Soldier is an NCO and on a variety of other professional factors, such as previous assignments in the Army.