August 27, 2008

Virginia OCS celebrates 50th year

By Spc. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

2nd Lt. Aaron D. Pennekamp is sworn in as an officer during the graduation of the Virginia National Guard's 50th OCS class Aug. 23 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Spc. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — History was made in the Commonwealth this year when the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School graduated its 50th class in its 50th year of operation. The Commonwealth welcomed 19 newly appointed second lieutenants to the ranks of the Virginia National Guard Aug. 23 at the Post Theater on Fort Pickett.

The majority of the graduates, 16 of them, were from OCS class 50. The remaining three graduated from class 51B, an accelerated class.

The 19 newly-appointed officers will go on to many different branches and serve in a wide array of positions within the Virginia National Guard. From Artillery to Quartermaster Corps, all of the graduates are now and will forever be Warriors.

“I am proud you have chosen the path of the Warrior,” said Maj. Gen. Carroll D. Childers, a retired general officer of the Virginia National Guard, during his address to the graduates. “It will determine the quality of the rest of your lives.”

Childers requested that the new lieutenants go out and do good things for their country and state.

“Make all of us that went before you proud,” he encouraged them. “Be the very best Warrior you can possibly be.”

Childers served as the commander of the 29th Infantry Division from 1996 until his retirement in 1999. He graduated from the Virginia OCS as the honor graduate of class six and received his commission as an armor officer. He later went on to be a well-known tactics instructor for 19 different classes of OCS.

 The 19 new lieutenants are: Eddie D. Bailey, III, John R. Crocker, Robert A. Ellis, George E. Fontaine, III, John F. Grilli, Andrew C. Johnson, Timothy A. Martin, Lamont Q. Ming, Aaron D. Pennekamp, Brian C. Scanlon, Brian A. Todt, Yessika V. Valenzuela, Bonnie L. Van Loon, Peniel R. Vinegas, Jodie L. Warren, Jr., Kim D. Wynn, Aranzamendez, Efren A., Jr., Antonio C. Nash, and Oliver G. Glover, IV.

Newly appointed 2nd Lt. Eddie D. Bailey, III has his rank insignia pinned on his epaulettes by his mother and girlfriend following the 50th graduation of Viginia National Guard Officer Candidate School. (Photo by Spc. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The OCS program, which falls under the command of the 183rd Regiment (Regional Training Institute), was first accredited April 16, 1958. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the school opening its doors to train Commissioned Officers of the United States Army.

The primary mission of the Virginia National Guard OCS program is to train selected warrant officers, and enlisted men and women to become effective military leaders.

Furthermore, the OCS program’s secondary mission is to prepare the students to become branch qualified second lieutenants.

The 22-month long course begins with a two-week Phase I where the candidates learn and master land navigation and Warrior Core Tasks. During the land nav portion the candidates must find five out of seven points during the day and two of five points at night, according to Capt. Crysti Greenway, OCS training officer.

As a part of the WCT training the candidates are expected to give an instructional briefing on one of the many tasks from the book of common Soldier skills.

“They must teach one, and show task mastery in all of them,” said Greenway.    

In addition to the land navigation and WCT, the candidates are expected to execute a five-mile forced road march to be able to move on to the second phase of the school.

During Phase II, the candidates attend the school one weekend a month for approximately one year. Throughout the year the students are given classes and leadership tests on military justice, supply management, military tactics, military intelligence, military history, and call for fire techniques.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Carroll D. Childers addresses the crowd and graduates at the post theater on Fort Pickett. Childers was a keynote speaker for the graduating classes of OCS 50 and 51B. (Photo by Spc. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“It is a lot of classes,” said Greenway. After all the classes the potential leaders are tested on their knowledge during a field training exercise.

For the Phase III portion, which is a two-week phase at Fort McClellan, Ala., the candidates are given the opportunity to show off what they have learned by running through lanes that test their ability to lead troops at the squad and platoon levels.

In addition to the leadership testing, the students must pass a combat water test. The combat water test forces Soldiers to jump in a swimming pool with their weapon and all their gear. In order to be successful, Soldiers must hold their weapons above their heads, tread water for five minutes, remove their load bearing equipment, and swim the length of the pool.

The candidates in the OCS program must do everything a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps student or a student at a military academy must do to be commissioned, according to Greenway.

“They have the same requirements for commissioning,” she explained.

The staff at OCS is a very diverse group, according to Greenway. There are three officers who received their commission from the Virginia OCS program. They also have an officer who was commissioned through the federal OCS, as well as two who graduated from ROTC.

“We have many different outlooks…several (of us) have been on active duty, and been deployed overseas,” said Greenway. “It brings a lot of different backgrounds to the table.”

This year the Virginia OCS program had the distinct honor of being awarded the Institute of Excellence award.

“There is only one other company and two battalions that have received the Institute of Excellence award,” said Greenway. “It’s a highly coveted award.”

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