SALINA, Kan. – Class 64 of Officer Candidate School, 1st Battalion, 235th Regiment, conducted situational training exercises at the Kansas National Guard Range Training Complex in Salina, June 27 and 28.
Their training was geared toward increasing readiness to complete Phase III of OCS which will take place in Fort Lewis, Washington, in July and August of this year.
Phase III is designed to test the candidates leadership ability and knowledge of various Soldier skills they have acquired. Upon successful completion and graduation of Phase III, the candidates will move forward and commission as second lieutenants in the Kansas Army National Guard.
Maj. Eric Deeds, OCS company commander, has a hands-on approach in his leadership style and did not hesitate to jump right in on the training.
He followed along to observe the candidate-led missions and offered constructive input as they planned their attack strategies.
“This weekend our junior class, who are in pre-OCS stage, are doing land navigation to prepare for Phase I, which is coming up next month,” said Deeds. “For the senior class this is a much more stressful environment for them. They had a 12-mile ruck march this morning, and will be out here in the field conducting STX lanes the rest of the weekend so we can evaluate them on making decisions and controlling their teams and units through a mission scenario.”
Officer Candidate School is a unique unit to be a part of in the Guard. It is geared toward transforming individuals into competent leaders ready to accept the responsibility of a platoon leader position once they graduate. It is a lot of hard work, but it takes place in a fun and engaging environment.
“I was commander of a forward support company unit, but being here is totally different,” said Deeds. “Obviously we have a different objective and that is to train Soldiers to be leaders. It’s one of the best positions I’ve had in the guard; I thoroughly enjoy it.”
In addition to the training and the mentorship they receive from their program officers, OCS candidates benefit from the experiences and guidance of their NCOs. Non-commissioned officers serve a vital role in the OCS program by offering valuable insight as to what qualities a good officer should embody. Sgt. 1st Class Dominic Cantu has been a part of OCS for a year. Throughout the weekend he acted as one of the primary evaluators on these STX lanes, constantly offering valuable feedback to the candidates as they conducted their training.
“I really feel that being here I’m helping contribute,” Cantu explained. “As a platoon sergeant coming from an armor unit, I can help show them what a good platoon leader should do. I’ve seen some good ones and some bad ones. I’m giving them that knowledge and advice so they can go to their units they are assigned to and hopefully succeed and excel and take the knowledge we give them here and put it to good use.”
Officer Candidate School is a challenging program designed to produce ready and capable officers immediately following commissioning. There are a variety of factors that influence people in their decision to undergo the training. Officer Candidate Brandon Wall considered his family’s military legacy when he decided to join.
“My whole family has been active duty military, so I always knew it was in my future to do something military,” said Wall. “They were all enlisted and non-commissioned officers, so they wanted me to do something better and higher. So I joined the National Guard and wanted to go the officer route.”
Wall is set to commission along with his class in August and will enter the Quartermaster branch to work in the field of logistics in the Kansas Army National Guard. As he nears the end of his experience with OCS, Wall says he expects the knowledge he gained in the program will serve him well on future assignments.