July 12, 2011

Virginia OCS hosts Regional FTX

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen      
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — During an atypically long National Guard drill weekend, Soldiers looking to begin their careers as commissioned officers through the Officer Candidate School participated in a regional field training exercise, or FTX, at Fort Pickett June 23- 26. The 89 candidates from the region, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and D.C., spent the weekend conducting battle drills and land navigation.


Officer candidates conduct squad movements and battle drills June 25 at Fort Pickett during the 2011 Regional Field Training Exercise as part of their monthly drill. The candidates of the Officer Candidate School attend drill as traditional Guardsmen on their path to becoming comissioned officers in the United States Army. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

In addition to the out of state candidates, the FTX also required more instructors from other participating states to handle the influx of out of state candidates for the weekend-long exercise.

“We also hosted 13 additional OCS cadres,” said Capt. Carlos Maldonado, Virginia OCS training officer and senior platoon trainer for Virginia OCS class 54. “This is a yearly event that brings the Region together, but this was the first time in many years that the event was hosted in Virginia.”

According to Maldonado, the junior candidates conducted land navigation in preparation for their Phase I at Camp Fretterd, Md., in August. The juniors honed their skills during day and night conditions using compasses.

While the junior candidates spent most of their weekend wandering the training areas of Fort Pickett searching for “known points,” the seniors were busy sharpening their troop leading procedures to prepare for Phase III held at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., this September for their two-week annual training. The candidates ran through several lanes where they encountered varying degrees of enemy fire and were forced to rely on their battle drills to safely maneuver their squads through the scenarios.

“The biggest thing is that they learn how to work with other OCs they have never seen before. Before the FTX, they had been working with the same candidates for at least six months,” said Maldonado. “This gave them a chance to work on their leadership skills with new people. This will be very beneficial for them because once they get to their respective phases this summer; they will be thrown into platoons with OCs from all over the country.”


An officer candidate takes notes during an after action review following a field exercise at Fort Pickett June 25. The Virginia Officer Candidate School welcomed 89 candidates to the 2011 Regional Field Training Exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The senior candidates went through their battle drills at the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center’s Urban Assault Course, where the Soldiers practiced room clearing procedures and reacting to enemy attacks, as well as Maneuver Area 11 where they conducted overnight patrol base operations.  The Soldiers from the different states were forced to work together as a team to meet their squad’s objectives as they would in a real-world situation.

“We’ve trained them on different warrior tasks and battle drills, and focused on troop leading procedures and the orders process to help prepare them for these events,” said Capt. Martin Bush, OCS Cadre. "A handful of these candidates will be going into combat arms branches and may be deployed as platoon leaders, so a lot of things we are doing here will have direct impact on missions they will be running in combat."

Throughout the training, the candidates took turns being the squad leader and were forced to be the Soldier making the decisions on the ground throughout the scenarios. This gave every candidate the opportunity to harness their leadership potential and apply it to the situation. The Squad leader must produce an operation order, brief their troops and conduct the mission.

“Our instructors are tough, they put us in stressful situations as part of the training to learn to react under stress, but it’s realistic,” said Candidate Asa Miller, a prior enlisted Soldier with prior deployment experience. “Everything they do is for a reason and we are definitely learning a lot. In the end, the ones that do graduate will be ready to be leaders, and that is the intent of the program.”

Upon successful completion of the OCS program the candidates will commission in to the U.S. Army National Guard as 2nd lieutenants.

The National Guard OCS Program uses the same program of instruction and evaluation requirements dictated by the United States Army Federal OCS Program, Fort Benning, Ga. These requirements are met through two different programs: the traditional program, and the accelerated program. The traditional 17-month program is designed for the typical Guardsman and consists of fifteen monthly drills and two annual trainings. The accelerated program is designed for Guardsmen with advanced skills that require an expedited commission. It consists of no more than six drills and eight weeks of active duty.

The OCS program is divided into four segments. The first segment is OCS orientation/in-processing. The second segment is Phase I Preparation. The third segment is OCS Phase I annual training. OCS Phase II is conducted as monthly drills the following year.  The final segment is OCS Phase III annual training. OCS accelerated programs can conduct OCS Phases I and III in two week periods and a four week Phase II.

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