If you are looking to be prepared to serve as a successful platoon leader in today’s Army National Guard then enroll in the Officer Candidate (OCS) Program at the Connecticut Army National Guard’s (CTARNG) 169th Regiment Regional Training Institute (RTI).
That is the message from the commander of the 1st Battalion (OCS), 169th RTI, Lt. Col. Mike Dodson, as he and his staff prepare to train the largest number of officer candidates (OCs) in a decade in Connecticut during phase one of the three-phased program that starts this July.
As a result of a regional realignment of OCS companies assigned to individual states, the Pennsylvania OCS program now falls under the 1st Battalion’s oversight along with the other Region A states of New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The traditional, three-phased National Guard OCS program is 14 months long and includes two, two-week consolidated annual training periods at the beginning and end of the program (phases one and three) plus 10 months of IDT training conducted in each individual state (phase two).
The 169th RTI is projecting more than 200 candidates to enroll in the 2014-2015 Region A OCS class. Pennsylvania alone expects to bring more than 60 candidates this year to the consolidated phase one that focuses on refining basic soldier skills while assessing the OCs’ abilities to lead platoon and company-size elements. Last year 1st Battalion began OCS phase one with 100 OCs and had 78 successfully complete it.
The OCS battalion commander sees this year’s doubling in size of the program as a significant training benefit.
“A 200-person company is a lot to handle,” said Dodson. “It will stress their ability to delegate all the way down the chain. Learning how to communicate effectively with subordinates and distribute essential information is critical. This is going to take a very
challenging program and make it that more challenging.”
Dodson was quick to emphasize that although the larger class size will be a challenge for his staff there will be no relaxing of the stringent leadership evaluation standards that helped the 1st Battalion recently earn an
“Institution of Excellence” designation from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) based on an accreditation inspection.
During phase one OCs are rotated in and out of leadership positions every 24 hours and receive in depth leadership evaluation reports from their platoon training officers (PTOs). Although the TRADOC standard is to have a ratio of one PTO to 15 OCs during training, Dodson expects to have sufficient PTOs from the region’s states to support a 1:10 ratio.
“The main focus of phase one is to determine whether the candidates have the potential to become a commissioned officer,” he said. “The whole purpose of our PTO staff is to develop the candidates – provide that close mentoring and evaluation.”
Dodson, points to phase two of the traditional OCS program as the real challenge and most beneficial experience for future Guard officers.
During phase two OCs must plan and organize their upcoming IDT training in detail, to include working together to produce operations orders, briefings and logistical support plans. Leadership positions are held for an entire month putting pressure on each OC to put in the necessary planning time to fully prepare for their upcoming drill while balancing the rest of their personal lives. In short, they experience the real-world pressures of what it is like to be a new Army Guard platoon leader and meeting the work expectations of a company commander.
“Having to coordinate IDT training and requirements during the month with others is one of the hardest things of being a National Guard officer,” remarked Dodson who earned his commission through the R.O.T.C. program at Syracuse University. “No other commissioning program or OCS format provides candidates that hands-on experience.”
So what does it take to complete and earn your commission through this intensive program?
“Be able to communicate; be able to work with your peers; and be a good follower and ready to help your peers out,” said Dodson without hesitation. “You have to be willing to lead – but also to pull your share of the load when not in a leadership position.”
The 1st Battalion is accepting applications now for
Connecticut’s portion of the larger Region A class. Interested enlisted Soldiers should work with their unit
chain of command or Recruiting Command (if assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program) to submit their application packages as soon as possible. Centralized selection boards will be held at Joint Force Headquarters from now until the start of phase one this summer.
The 1st Battalion cadre operates a pre-phase “zero” in IDT status from April through June to help prepare accepted candidates for the rigors of the program with an emphasis on land navigation training, physical fitness and basic soldier skills.
2014 will mark the 60th year that OCS has been conducted by the CTARNG.
(For more information about OCS or for application assistance, please contact Capt. David Lord, 169th RTI, at (860) 691-4236 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
OCS Applicant Basic Requirements
1. U.S. Citizenship
2. Completion of Basic Training
3. 90 College Credit Hours (B.A. Degree for Federal OCS)
4. General Technical (GT) Score of 110 or higher
5. Be able to pass a Chapter 2 Physical
6. Pass Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and Meet Height/Weight Standards
7. Be able to obtain a Secret Clearance prior to Commissioning
8. Age: be < 42 yrs old at Commissioning; Federal OCS – be < 34 yrs old
9. Demonstrate potential for leadership at higher levels
10.Chain of Command/Board Recommendations