Advice for USMC OCS Female Candidate

Thanks to 2ndLt “A” for sharing her insight into OCS as a female Marine Candidate and the challenges you will face there. Regardless of gender, OCS is about mindset. Female Marine candidates, your mentality will be the reason you succeed or fail at OCS.

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This post originally appeared on the USMC OCS Blog, the #1 site for future Marine Officers.

You better be prepared to be a servant.

As a female Marine candidate or any candidate, if you aren’t there for the enlisted Marines you may be leading someday, get out. You don’t need to be there if joining is about you. Be forward, but tactful. Keep your personal life, your personal life, and your work life your work life; be able to keep them separated. Whatever you do, make a decision. Not making a decision is the same as making a decision and it is the wrong one. Always be confident in what you decide and if someone doesn’t like it, be able to shift it. No plan survives first contact. If you remember that, you will be good.

Prepare for the hikes

As a female Marine candidate, in particular, you better be able to hike. Be physically fit and don’t let your head get in the way. Know how the boots should fit for extended periods of time and how to prevent blisters. You can do more than you think you can. The Obstacle Course is nothing. It just looks tall. That is it.

Make sure to stretch every single night, even if you are exhausted. A lot of candidates got hurt because they didn’t stretch adequately enough. When I say stretch, I mean stretch everything, even if you don’t think you used that muscle group.

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U.S. Marine Corps recruit during training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island

Don’t let another female Marine candidate get to you with the “spear-evals” (peer evaluations). It is just one of those things you have to deal with. Develop the mental fortitude to compartmentalize what is said, and still continue strong. Don’t hold a grudge with any one because they are under the same amount of stress as you are. Everyone handles stress differently.

You will know the ones that shouldn’t be there because it will be all about them

Know that OCS is a team effort, even if doesn’t seem that way. Some of your best friends will come from OCS once you all get through. So make sure to keep good camaraderie with them.

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U.S. Marine Corps recruits of Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, wait for the next command during a final drill evaluation Aug. 2, 2017, on Parris Island, S.C.

Sergeant Instructors (SIs) will find the one thing that gets under your skin and will poke, prod, and try to mess with you so you break. Just don’t let anything get under your skin. For example, I was horrible at keeping my bearing. The SIs knew it. There probably wasn’t a week that went by where I didn’t get at least three bearing chits. They know how to make you pissed off because that is their job. Know that, remember it, and don’t let them get under your skin once they have found that spot. If you are at OCS, the board selected you because they think you can make it. It’s all mental.

Be ready for mind games

In the squad bay, you will have a combination lock on your wall locker and footlocker. One of my Sergeant Instructors’s favorite ways to shake things up was to find locks that weren’t locked whilst we were sleeping and then lock them together and leave those locks by the duty hutch (where the staff sleeps) for us to find in the morning. Never a good day if your lock was one of those. They will also play games with you in regard to addressing them and the other staff. Even if you get every single word correct in the phrasing, just know you could have said it better and louder. So just go with it. Being a female Marine candidate means the mind games and petty critiques from the Sergeant Instructors are even harsher than what the males received.

Hygiene for female Marine candidate

Regarding female specific hygiene. I used coconut oil in my hair. I slathered my hair in coconut oil after I washed my hair and then put as much gel in it as possible to reduce the number of fly-aways (which will get you a chit). I didn’t do the sock bun because it took too much time. I usually did the “rose” or the twist bun. I was able to keep my hair in the bun for two to three days, depending on what we did, by using one of my shirts as a sort of pillow. I would twist my shirt into a whip, like when you flick someone with a towel, and then wrapped that around my bun. It allowed me to sleep on my back and not mess up my hair/bun. I never had a period at OCS but those who did usually just used tampons. They were the easiest and quickest way to deal with that whole thing. Just know that it is going to be gross no matter what happens. Deal with the fact that you are going to smell bad and you are going to be super gross. Don’t worry about it because everyone else is in the same boat. Embrace it.

Dealing with challenges

I struggled with the tests. I was able to always be “awake” during the classes, but studying later was difficult for me. Make sure to do well academically because that can send you home. If you have a good academic grade from the beginning it’s one less thing to worry about through the rest of the cycle.

Nothing was super difficult but dealing with an injury whilst trying to complete the Obstacle Course and Endurance Course is difficult. My advice, don’t get injured and don’t give up even if you are. If I had to choose a most challenging phase, it would be the middle of the ten weeks because that is when you can start to see everyone’s weaknesses and strengths. This is when you have to learn how to use people’s strengths and learn how to handle your weaknesses.

Medical is the equivalent of candidate death! So if you want to make it through, don’t go unless you are made to. Don’t leave until they force you to leave and even then, do everything you can to stay. If you are sent home for whatever reason, come back. You wanted to do it for a reason and that reason is good enough to keep trying. There were girls in my platoon that were there for their third time. If you want it badly enough, you are going to make it. Plus, if you do come back again, you will be held in great esteem because you “know the ways.” Share your knowledge no matter if it is your first, second, or third time being there. You aren’t fighting for an MOS yet. You are literally fighting against yourself and the limitations you put on yourself. Once you get past that, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

OCS is nothing like college. Expect to be blasted from all directions and you will be fine.

I honestly dealt with my stress by praying. I also had a great fire team and we all were good at keeping each other accountable.

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2ndLt “A”  with her brother, to her right, and sister to her left. Together we stand. Together we fight.

Lessons learned

My biggest takeaways were that I can do more than I ever thought I could physically, emotionally, and mentally. I can handle more than I thought and there are more limits I am willing to push. Have a reason to be there and remember what it is. I was there because I feel God calling me to be in the military and that He will use me here somehow. Others were there because they have always dreamed of serving their country and serving as a leader. Never let yourself be the reason you are there. It is not about you. The second you make it through OCS and head to TBS, your purpose is to serve. Get used to it.

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Graduation and Family Day

Whatever challenge they throw at you, hit it head on. Don’t hold yourself back.

About the Author Officer Candidates School Blog

Success in becoming an officer in the Marine Corps.

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