1ST LIEUTENANT JASON D. GROSE
1ST TANK BATTALION
JUNE 4, 1999
Being a successful graduate of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning
Education Program (MECEP), I am often asked about the program.
So I thought I would sit down and write out all the things
I like to cover when it comes to the program. This written
collection of advice is not intended to replace my face-to-face
explanations, but rather to reach a greater number of people
with the attributes of this wonderful program. For a Word
97 version of this program, click here.
All I ask is for some feedback if you find this useful.
I break down the program as follows:
WHAT IS IT?
PHILOSOPHICAL REASONS FOR BECOMING
Packaging the Goods
Additional Application Information
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF ACCEPTED
Your Reserve Commission
Arriving at college
What should you major in?
Downhill slide the BEGINNING of the adventure
Uniform and other costs
MECEP PREP SCHOOL
I hope this explanation will help young Marines. The official
order that outlines the program is MCO 1560.15L and can be
found at: http://www.usmc.mil. Click the Information
for and About Marines and then chose the Orders and Directives
Good luck, God Bless and Semper Fidelis.
Jason D. Grose
United States Marine Corps
WHAT IS IT?
The MECEP is a commissioning program that allows an enlisted
Marine to go to college, earn a degree, and graduate while
still on active duty. Upon graduation, he or she receives
a reserve commission as a Second Lieutenant. There is no broken
time, meaning that the time you spend it college counts toward
your time in the service.
The BOOST program is a different program. In fact, the
BOOST program is not even officially a commissioning program.
It is an education program that, until recently, was intended
for the type of Marine who was educationally challenged by
their situation during their upbringing. The parameters have
changed and now there is no longer the requirement to have
a “sob story” to be competitive. The BOOST program is covered
in MCO 1560.24D.
Although not automatic, the majority of Marines that graduate
the BOOST program are picked up for the MECEP.
The BOOST program is much like the MECEP Prep course (see
below) but lasts about 13 months. As I understand, it is a
rigorous course and by the time you get to MECEP prep and
college, you are getting rather tired of the scholastic realm.
Despite the rigors, the results are the same. You will be
on your way to those gold bars.
Historically, a Marine Officer that has risen from the
enlisted ranks enjoys a heightened respect from juniors, peers,
and seniors alike. The “Mustang” Officer has worn the boots
of an enlisted man and can identify with the trials and tribulations
of being a troop. This special bond he or she has, plays a
vital role in becoming the kind of Officer every Marine enlistee
But be forewarned; while your new designation as a Mustang
will harvest a certain amount of instant respect from others,
it is not a guarantee you will keep that respect. In fact,
it is a challenge to uphold the reputation as a “former enlisted”
that you must never, ever compromise.
PHILOSOPHICAL REASONS FOR
BECOMING AN OFFICER
Before we get to specifics, I want to cover the reasons
to become an Officer. If your response is “more money” or
“for the education,” you need not apply. There should be one
and only one overriding reason to become an Officer of Marines.
You must want to be a Marine Officer in order to lead the
most valuable component in the Corps: the Enlisted Marine.
When you decide to become an Officer, you must make a
very sober commitment. You no longer exist for any other reason
than to take care of your Marines. If you do this, you will
build a team that is invincible which, by the way, is your
mission. You must be the Officer that you wish you had leading
you when you were wearing those enlisted boots. It is summed
up in the often-repeated advice “Never forget where you came
You will know what they are going through. You will have
been where they are and you will know what they are thinking.
They will respect you unquestionably just by the virtue of
your background but with that respect comes a mountain of
responsibility. You MUST live up to the almost spiritual expectations
they have of their “Mustang Officer.” You exist for no other
reason. No longer does your comfort, your free time, your
self-preservation exist. You are simply their insurance that
they will survive in a combat environment. You are their father,
mother, preacher, teacher, disciplinarian, praiser, and defender.
If you are any less than this, you have done them a grave
injustice and your existence is wasted.
When I went through bootcamp, I, like millions of other
privates before and after me, was convinced that there was
no higher pinnacle of military excellence than a Marine Officer.
The mere presence of an Officer made me wonder in awe how
such perfection could be attained. From the start, I always
knew that my ultimate, if not unreachable goal was to become
one of these almost spiritual icons of military existence.
After bootcamp, the average Marine is then exposed to
Fleet Officers and they realize that this holy vision is more
human than they were led to believe. They realize that an
Officer, while highly trained and a true professional, is
a regular Marine with strengths and faults who has chosen
a different path than an enlisted Marine. Many Marines are
even disappointed if they encounter an Officer they do not
believe lives up to the sterling image of an Officer of Marines.
After bootcamp, I was trained in Avionics and was sent
into an environment void of all Officers. Staff NCOs ran the
entire Avionics field. Therefore, I never had “my bubble burst”
when it came to Officers and I still thought them to be immortal
superheroes. I carried this view through my enlisted career
so when I had the audacity to apply for a program that sought
to include me in their ranks, I felt a great weight to live
up to that view.
Continuing on into MECEP Prep, I encountered a group of
NCOs that were hand-picked out of 1200 applicants and were
considered to be the best the Corps had to offer. This solidified
my view that Officer HAD to be immortal and my intensity to
live up to this view increased.
They thought I was crazy when I got to TBS. I could not
handle some of what I saw to be substandard Marine Officer
behavior and was not shy about letting them know. This made
more enemies than friends but I always stayed true to my beliefs.
I tell you this because you will encounter people who
do not hold the title of Officer of Marines to this level.
My challenge to you is that you cherish and protect the title
of Marine Officer, not letting anyone lower your standards.
The reason for this comes back to my original point. Whether
they will admit it or not, your troops are depending on you.
They need that icon. They need to know you exist only for
their sake and that you will do anything to see that they
are trained to win and will come home safe with victory in
For years, I held a vision in my head of a group of young,
faceless Marines looking at me. They did not know me and I
did not know who they were. All they knew is that I was their
Lieutenant and they wanted to know what to do next. Whenever
I got tired of studying, felt like falling out of a run, was
bored at another endless history lecture, I thought of them.
The harder I trained, learned, ran, studied, sweat, endured,
the better prepared I would be when the day came that those
faces came into focus. Never do you want to have to knock
on a door and inform someone’s mother that her son was killed
while under your command because you were not prepared or
had not properly prepared her son.
Those future Marines of yours are probably in junior high
school right now. They have no idea they will even be a Marine
but your dedication to them starts now. They do not know it
but your paths’ will cross in a few years. By then, you had
better be ready for that level of responsibility. That Marine
will not question your ability. You will be his concept of
perfection. You will be his Lieutenant.
You apply by submitting a package outlined by the order.
Headquarters will hold a board and choose the selectees depending
on the submitted packages. The competition is very high, as
you can imagine from such a great program. When I was selected,
there were over 1200 applicants and only 66 of us were picked.
But this changes every year depending on the competition.
A package that would have been competitive one year might
no be the next.
Packaging the Goods
The best place to start is the basic requirements for applying
to the program. They are:
a. Status. Personnel of the Regular Marine Corps.
b. Grade. Corporal or above.
1. There were several Corporals
in my class and you will usually pick up Sergeant while in
the program. While being a Corporal falls within the criteria,
the competition for this program is so tight that it may hinder
your package. Additionally, the board might consider a Corporal
eligible to re-apply in subsequent years when there are Sergeants
that are nearing the age limit and have less chances left.
2. The good thing about promotions
in this program is that you are put in the “non-competitive”
category. Because you are not in your MOS (which you retain
all through school), you are unable to compete with your peers
for promotion. So what do they do? They put you at the top
of the list and the next available promotion in your MOS is
yours, as long as you meet the time in grade and time in service
requirements. You pass over all those other Corporals or Sergeants
back at your old command that were senior to you. Ah, the
cup runneth over!!
c. Age. At least 20 but less than 26 years old
by 1 July of the year applying. Consideration will be given
to waive this requirement based on previous college credit.
The intent is to commission the applicant by age 30.
1. Watch out for this. Calculate
for the year you would begin school! The packages are due
in September of 1999 so when you calculate this, use July
2. If you have to waive this,
include a paragraph in the Battalion endorsement and that
is all that has to be done. This is where prior college credits
come in because if you can show that you will graduate with
your degree before you are 30, then they will consider the
d. Education. High school graduates must have
ranked in the top 50 percent of their class. Non-high school
graduates must have a minimum of 3 years high school and have
successfully passed the GED high school level tests with a
minimum score of 75 percent in each of the five areas of the
GED requirement. This may be waived in cases of otherwise
highly qualified applicants.
1. I hate to say this but if
you have a GED, your chances are slim. They set these standards
and allow you to submit with a GED, but with a competition
level this high, there are plenty of competing applicants
that have a high school education. GEDs are just not competitive
in this program.
e. Classification Testing. Applicants are required
to have a minimum Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score of
1000 combined math and verbal score. Minimum verbal score
is 400. Waivers to these requirements will be considered only
if the applicant has an EL score of 115 or greater.
1. If your SAT is LESS THAN
5 years old, you do not have to retake the test. You must
write the SAT headquarters and get them to forward a copy
of the results to the MECEP board. Remember, if your EL score
is 115 or higher, you can waive this entire requirement.
f. Obligated Service. Applicants must agree to reenlist
or extend or a combination thereof as necessary, to have 6
years of obligated service in the Regular Marine Corps upon
assignment to college. Prior to graduation from the MECEP
Preparatory School, students will be extended/reenlisted to
acquire this 6 year obligation. The minimum obligation while
enrolled is 4 years. Therefore, upon successful completion
of the second year of college, steps will be taken to acquire
a 6-year obligation. Upon graduation and commissioning, all
formerly incurred enlisted service is vacated, and the officer
is required to serve a minimum of 4 years.
1. This simply means that you will have
to get an extension so that you have six years on your current
contract. While in school, you will have to maintain that
so when you are down to 4 years, you will extend for two more
years. This requirement covers for the off-chance that you
flunk out of the program; they have you for six more years
on active duty. There have been some cases where someone went
to college for 4 years and purposely flunked out the last
semester, got kicked out of the program, and then only had
a little time left on his contract. So he got out, finished
up his college, and basically swindled a free college degree
out of the Corps.
g. End of Active Service. In order to allow for
sufficient time to complete the MECEP Preparatory School prior
to attending college, MECEP selectees must have an expiration
of active service (EAS) no earlier than 30 September of the
year their college program is scheduled to commence.
h. Physical. Must meet the physical standards
for officer candidates prescribed in reference (b), except
as modified herein. Final determination of physical qualifications
rests with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).
1. You have to take a full
physical and be in almost perfect health. The details and
parameters of these requirements are outside the scope of
this paper but you can read the details in the order or from
your local Doc.
j. Marital Status. May be either married or single.
k. Citizenship. Must be a citizen of the United
l. Security Clearance. Must be capable of obtaining
a satisfactory national agency check and be eligible to receive
a SECRET clearance.
m. Previous Participation in Other Commissioning
Programs. Must not have unsatisfactorily participated in any
other officer commissioning program.
Additional Application Information
From the above requirements, you can see that there is NO
PREVIOUS COLLEGE PARTICIPATION REQUIRED. That is part of the
beauty of this program. I had no previous college credits
when I was accepted. College experience is recommended, though,
because it accomplishes three things:
a. It shows that you are serious
about going to college
b. It shows you have the skill and
commitment to excel academically
c. It cost the Marine Corps less
to put you through three years of school than four, making
you a sweeter deal for the budget-minded board members.
You are able to choose any college that has a Navy ROTC
unit (there is a list of them at the end of the yearly MARADMIN
covering the program). You can also go to the Naval Academy,
VMI, or the Cididel.
You apply to the college just like any other student and
fork over the non-refundable fees to even be considered. Do
not go overboard with this because it costs money. The acceptance
letter will be part of your package but do not fret too much
if you have not received word by the time you have to hand
in your package. Many colleges (mine included) will not release
notices of acceptance until after the packages are due to
the board. Just put in your package that you have applied
to the college and are awaiting notification of acceptance.
When you get your letter, forward a certified copy of it to
the board and they will marry it up with your package. Roughly
30% of the selectees in my class did not even have a college
until days before they left.
One of the requirements of the package is a handwritten
statement covering biographical information. There are two
reason for this. First, they want to make sure that you can
put together a coherent paper and they are not sending a baboon
to college. Second, they want to know a little bit about who
you are. Do not feel you have to stay within the guidelines
when it comes to the length of this paper. The order states
that it should be 500 words but since this was my shot at
the big time, I wrote a thesis! The bottom line is that you
should say what you have to say and ignore the length requirement.
But remember that it must be handwritten.
A final note about your package: Consider it a request
with many parts. Some of the parts will not automatically
disqualify you if they are missing but you must make as perfect
a package as you can with the above-stated competition. Send
in what you got and try to make arrangements to fill in the
holes. THIS SHOULD BE THE EXCEPTION! The board does not look
kindly on procrastination or half-baked attempts. Go at it
with fury! Get a folder and on plain sheets of paper, write
what piece of the package it represents. When you get that
piece, replace the piece of paper with the item. Once you
have replaced all the sheets, you are done.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF
After you send in your package, you wait for a message
to come out on the MARADMIN system. Your command will notify
you if you are selected.
Your Reserve Commission
There are two kinds of commissions: reserve and regular. Do
not confuse this with the Reserve and Regular components of
the Marine Corps. They are two totally different things. The
Reserves are the “weekend warrior” types that train every
other weekend and two weeks in the summer. These are the ones
that add “USMCR” to the back of their title. A “Regular” is
a Marine that is on full active duty.
A reserve commission means that you are basically in an
evaluation status. You have an EAS and must compete for augmentation
after about three years of service. This means that you will
go to the Fleet, do your job, and then apply to be augmented
when you have enough time in as an officer. You submit a package
and a board convenes and decides who will be augmented and
who will not.
The minimum number of years you can serve as an Officer
in this program is four years after commissioning. At about
the three-year mark, you have to decide what you want to do.
When you apply for augmentation, the Marine Corps decides
whether or not they want to keep you. You decide if you want
to stay or not. If the Corps decides they want you and you
want to stay, you are augmented and receive a regular commission.
If they decide they do not want you but you want to stay,
you might be able to get an extension so that you can apply
for the next year’s augmentation board. If they decide they
want you but you decide to get out, you serve your last year
and you are free to go. Obviously if they decide they do not
want you to stay and you also do not want to stay, you serve
out your last year and go on your way.
Once you accept the regular commission, you no longer
have an EAS and your ID card states “INDEF” which stands for
“indefinite.” As scary as it sounds, you are in the Marine
Corps for as long as they want you to. But the difference
is that you can resign your commission at any time (actually
4-14 months prior to the date you want to leave). The hook
the Marine Corps has is that if you resign before they release
you, you lose all the benefits of retirement.
The majority of the time, you can apply for retirement
at 20 years and there are no problems. There have been cases
where an Officer has wanted to retire but due to the importance
of his MOS, was not allowed. He did not want to lose his benefits
so he stayed on. They had him over a barrel but, like I stated
above, this is very rare and not worth worrying about.
When I started the program, they required all selectees to
go to the MECEP Preparatory School. Because the average MECEP
participate had been out of high school for a few years, the
Corps had a problem with sending them straight to college
and then having them fail out of the more academically challenging
courses they tended to run into their Freshman year. So the
Corps set up a 10-week prep course that covered the basics
at double-time. See enclosure 1 to get a feeling of what this
course was like.
The course used to be right on MCRD, overlooking the drill
field. They have since moved it to Newport, Rhode Island.
Because of budgetary restraints, they have cut back on the
number of seats available and therefore have slackened the
requirements for who has to go. Basically, they rank all the
selectees using calculations such as previous college, SAT
scores, EL scores, shoe size, who knows? But somehow they
rate you and then they take the bottom of the list up to however
many seats they have and voila! If you are one of “the chosen
ones,” then off to Rhode Island you go.
Arriving at college
After either completing the course or ordered to report straight
to school, you will proceed to your college’s NROTC unit where
you will meet two Marines that will have a rather large influence
on your future. The Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) is usually
a Major who is third in command of the unit (behind the CO
and XO who are Navy Officers). The MOI is in charge of all
the MECEPs and the Marine Option Midshipmen. Working for him
is the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor (AMOI) who is usually
a Gunnery Sergeant and ex-drill instructor. He is in charge
of the overall discipline of the unit and, as you can imagine,
is the hammer in the unit. He is there to guide you on your
fledgling steps to becoming an Officer.
Depending on the college, you might be integrated into
the midshipmen battalion or not. At the University of Washington,
where I attended, you are totally integrated and must do everything
they do. The good thing is that you are a Sergeant and are
treated as such. The staff use your experience to help shape
the young midshipmen who have never seen a day on active duty.
You will be put in the leadership positions right away and
will be looked upon with respect and a little fear. You will
maintain all Marine Corps regulations such as haircut, uniforms,
conduct, etc. In fact, you will be held to a higher standard
not only by virtue of being a Marine Sergeant, but also because
you are aspiring to become an Officer of Marines. The AMOI
will let you know what is expected.
Other colleges just have their MECEPs sign in once or
twice a week but I think this is a great tragedy not only
to the future Officer, but also to the midshipmen and Marine
After going through a week’s worth of Battalion Orientation
(BattO), which is a watered down bootcamp processing phase
where you will know more than the midshipmen supposedly running
it, you will go to college like any other student. The only
difference will be that you will also have responsibilities
to the unit and might be on the drill team, PFT team, Battalion
staff, Bulldog, etc. All tolled, I spent more time doing NROTC-related
duties than I did both going to class and studying combined.
I also had a wife, two kids, an extra job, and maintained
a 3.3 GPA in an Engineering degree. Still, my busiest day
in school does not even touch a half-day in the fleet.
What should you major in?
My thoughts about college and what to major in falls into
two categories. What you want and what the Marine Corps wants.
To tell you the truth, the Marine Corps does not really care
what you major in. One of the prerequisites for a commission
is a college degree and your mission while attending school
is to get that diploma. Within limits, the Marine Corps not
only has little interest in your choice and does not take
into consideration your education when assigning you to any
particular job once you are in the Fleet.
For example, my background as an enlisted Marine was a
highly technical field as an avionics technician for Harrier
aircraft. I went to a full year of training after bootcamp
and was taught how to repair over 40 pieces of complicated
avionics gear using computers. Additionally, I was trained
how to repair the test computer, including rewiring, in the
event that it broke down.
After being accepted to the MECEP, I took the ten-week
prep course to get ready for a technical, college-level course
load. In college I studied calculus, chemistry, physics, and
an endless line of computer programming and engineering classes.
I majored in technical communications (an engineering degree)
with a focus on computers and web page design. Additionally,
I worked on my own projects at home designing web pages, learning
HTML, and teaching myself the ins and outs of upgrading my
own computer system. I graduated college with honors and wanted
to be a communications officer, thinking I was best qualified
for the job.
The communications field and the data processing (DP)
field had just combined and I was hoping to land a job doing
the DP, specifically something to do with computers.
Despite this extensive background, I was assigned as an
adjutant with not much chance of changing over since adjutants
are hard to come by these days. I petitioned to Corps for
reassignment stating the above facts but to no avail.
Now do not get me wrong, I enjoy what I am doing and get
a great deal of satisfaction as an adjutant. It fits my personality
and work ethic and I consider myself well-suited for the job.
But it supports my view that it does not really matter much
to the Corps what you study.
If it does not matter to the Corps, then it falls on what
you want. I knew some people who were aware of this fact and
concluded that they would take an easy degree and have a good
time in college. My take on this was this: How many times
in my life am I going to go to college? How many times in
my life will the Corps pay for a four year degree and have
my GI bill pick up my tuition? With this in mind, I decided
that I had better take advantage of this opportunity and make
the best of it. So I chose a good degree that, while not being
the easiest road, provided me with a solid technical base
and was also marketable to a large part of the job market,
in and out of the military. It was the best decision I could
have made and the knowledge I gained from this degree touched
many areas of my military life including the job I am doing
So my advice is to work for a degree in something you
like. As the world gets more and more technical, technical
degrees become more valuable. But if you do that, make sure
you balance that out with classes in psychology and history.
On leadership, history and psychology are invaluable!! Keep
yourself well-rounded and learn how to learn. THAT will be
your most valuable lesson out of college. As an officer, you
had better know how to learn, how to absorb information, process
it, and them make an educated decision for action in a short
amount of time.
If you have the GI Bill, you can use that to pay for your
tuition but you will only get the exact amount of your tuition.
I learned this after I got to college and up until that time,
I thought that I would get the flat rate sent to me in monthly
checks. I was aware that the money the VA sends usually exceeds
the cost of tuition so I was looking forward to the little
extra cash each month. But if you are on active duty and use
your GI Bill, they split up the cost of tuition for the quarter
and then send you checks every month.
Unfortunately, the school wants their money at the beginning
of the semester so I would take an “Emergency Loan” out every
quarter and then reimburse the loan with the monthly checks.
You must cover the costs for your own books but sometimes
you can borrow them from the NROTC library if they have extra
copies. Check with the Supply Officer when you get to your
Scholarships are often overlooked when it comes to this program.
Remember, the University couldn’t give a rat’s behind that
you are an active duty Marine. To them, you are just another
student. As “just another student,” you can apply for scholarship
When I attended college, I received a Pell Grant every
quarter. I also got a certain amount from being a gulf War
Veteran. Look into these programs for opportunities to save
Three important things I want to cover about grants. First,
make sure that you include your non-taxable income on all
of your applications ONLY IF THEY ASK!!! The only part of
your income that is taxed is your base pay. Your BAH, COMRATS,
etc are not taxed so should only be included if the application
specifically asks for them. The Pell grant DOES ask so make
sure you include it.
Second, such things as the Pell grant are reported to
the VA and they compute your GI Bill entitlements after the
Pell Grant is subtracted from your tuition. You do not see
the cash but what this does accomplish is to extend your finite
amount of GI Bill entitlements to last your entire college
career. My GI Bill lasted through four years and two summers
Third, other grants and scholarships do not have to be
reported to the VA and if you get these, it means more money
in your pocket. The best of these are grants because they
do not have to be paid back. You simply apply for them and
a lot of them are based on grades or merit so if you do well
in your first years, you could get financial boosts along
the way. Many of them require you to write an essay but the
investment is well worth the extra work.
Make sure you go to the Scholarship Office at your school
for more information. Many of them have an online database
where you enter a bunch of information about yourself and
it spits out hundreds of possible scholarship and grant opportunities
for you. Some of them you might find surprising and obscure
such as a fund that you can get if your father worked in the
coal mines in Nebraska, etc. THIS IS THE BIGGEST UNDER-USED
RESOURCE I ENCOUNTERED DURING THIS PROGRAM!!!!
During the Spring semester of your freshman year, things get
busy. You will go through a semester-long extracurricular
activity known as Bulldog Prep. This course is intended to
prepare you for the rigors of Officers Candidate School (OCS)
you will be attending in Quantico during your first summer.
Depending of the school you go to, you will have some combination
of early morning PT sessions (oh, yeah, FROM HELL!!!) coupled
with academic classes and weekend field evolutions. Along
with your normal class-load and the stress of the upcoming
summer, your days are long and difficult. Take the lightest
class schedule you can during the Spring (you must maintain
a “full-time” status).
By the way, do not think that once you get past OCS, you
are exempt from the Bulldog Prep. Normally, you will be in
charge of the logistics and leadership of the subsequent springtime
There are a few different OCS courses and the one you will
be attending is called the 6-week Bulldog course.
Another one is the Platoon Leader’s Course (PLC) and it
is for a college student that does not participate in the
NROTC program. Because he or she does not get the benefit
of NROTC training, he or she is required to go to either two
6-week courses over two summers (PLC Juniors and PLC Seniors)
or one 10-week course.
The difference between OCS and bootcamp can best be summed
up from exchange I had via email from a young man thinking
of joining the Corps:
The young man writes: “Could you tell me about life in
OCS? I heard that it's even tougher than bootcamp, which makes
it all the more challenging. The recruiter I spoke to mentioned
that integrity and leadership are very important considerations
in OCS and that an officer candidate will not be given a second
chance for a violation in these areas. Could you tell me about
“That is pretty much true. I do not think OCS and bootcamp
are fair comparisons because they are different. Yes, the
environment is harsh and they are both mentally and physically
difficult. But OCS, as you pointed out, is about leadership
and integrity. It is a weeding out process to see if you have
what it takes to be an officer. Bootcamp is teaching you more
of the basics about being a follower and learning all the
basics about being an Enlisted Marine. In bootcamp, if you
get to the end and the DI still can't remember your name,
you have done well. You want to be a brick in the wall. But
this cannot happen at OCS because you are constantly being
put in leadership positions and then evaluated on how you
The one thing I would add to this is that bootcamp is
a tearing down and building up process. You are expected to
come into the Corps “an average young American” where you
are then molded into a Marine. It is different at OCS. They
are there to strip you down to see what you have and if it
is good enough to be an Officer. You have to go into OCS in
the best possible shape (hence the Bulldog Prep course) and
then you are spit out to recover on your own. If you pass,
you will be over the hardest part of becoming an officer.
OCS sucks. There is no other way to put it. For six weeks,
you pop off those chevrons and are known simply as “candidate”
with the same insulting insinuation as “private.” I think
there is more internal pressure to do well, especially since
you are already a Marine. But do not let this go to your head
or you will make many enemies really fast. You will be ahead
of the game at first and will be put in charge first just
because you are a “Mustang.” But at the end, you will finish
depending on who you are, not what you have done prior to
OCS. If you are a superstar Sergeant, you will be a superstar
candidate. If not, well, you will fulfill your potential.
Downhill slide the BEGINNING of the adventure
After finishing OCS, you will return to your college and finish
out your education. Because you will be required to finish
as soon as you can and you are being paid, you will be required
to take full-time course loads even during the summer. At
my school, full-time status dropped during the summer so that
I usually only took two or three classes as a welcome break
to the monotony.
The day that you graduate, you will be commissioned a
Second Lieutenant. From there, you can take some leave but
will receive orders to The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico,
TBS is a six-month school that teaches you everything
you need to know to be an Officer. It gives you all the basics.
The pace is fast and the curriculum is diverse. You learn
everything from etiquette to attacks and everything in between.
It is classwork, field work, inspections, discussion groups,
physical training, exercises, tests, and much more. It is
basically six months of total emersion into the Marine Corps
where you learn about everything the Marines do, see, use,
and believe. No other service does this and it is the hallmark
of the Officer Corps.
You will arrive at TBS and start training immediately.
You are allowed to bring your dependents if you have them
but plan on getting an apartment in town. You are only there
six months so will not get base housing.
The Company is broken down into six platoons which is
further broken down into two sections, A and B. You will be
assigned to a section and will be led by a Special Platoon
Commander (SPC). Your SPC is a Captain that will guide you
through everything during TBS and has a large role in your
Everything you do at TBS is run by a schedule. Every single
hour of the course is pre-planned and the weekly schedule
is published on the read board. This is key since you can
copy it down and plan accordingly. After the first week, you
will be assigned billets and you will be in charge of keeping
the Company on schedule. Throughout the schedule, you will
have “SPC time” or “Company Commander’s time.” Depending on
your SPC, this could mean extra PT or free time to catch up
on studying (OK, rack ops).
Uniform and other costs
You will get a one-time allowance of $300 for initial uniform
costs. Unfortunately you will be required to spend ten times
that amount to get your new uniforms. Cammies and maybe some
green trousers will be about the only thing that you will
be able to recycle. You could have your Service A’s converted
(the pockets are different) but after 4 years of college,
your Alphas will most likely be worn out.
As an Officer, you do not rate a uniform allowance so
you can kiss that little yearly bonus goodbye. Also, COMRATs
take a plunge into a flat rate of about $150 per month. I
guess they think Officers eat less than enlisted Marines.
All complaints aside, I got a 73% raise the day I got commissioned.
My wife was happy about that.
At TBS, you will be suckered into the package deal and
will be pressured to buy every little trinket with the Eagle,
Globe, and Anchor on it. Resist this or you will be nickel-and-dimed
to death. You do not need the jewelry box because the contents
can be bought separately for a fraction of the cost. I suggest
you buy your Dress Blue coat from The Marine Shop since it
has the quilted lining. Do not let The Marine Shop pressure
you into over-spending and for the love of God, minimize your
dealings with the Boulinese money magnet (Baloney-Nose, we
Two unavoidable scams exist within the TBS continuum.
First, your “Social dues” will cost you about $50 per month.
Don’t fight it, just pay it and complain like everyone else.
Next, you will be “highly encouraged” to become a member of
the Officer Club. This is another $13 per month you will throw
in the round file because you will not have time to frequent
the Club despite your membership dues. And if you decide not
to join? Well you will be explaining your views to the Colonel
on a Saturday morning while doing some menial duty you just
happen to be assigned by pure coincidence.
But not is lost. You will have the opportunity to go into
severe debt while at TBS. The good thing is that you will
be charged very low interest rates for these loans. The two
biggest and best loans you can get are $5000 each. One is
from the Marine Federal Credit Union, with a 5% APR, conveniently
located right on the TBS complex. The other is from the Navy
Mutual Aid Association which requires you to get insurance
from them. But their rate is 1.5 APR and you only have to
keep the insurance until you pay off the loan. They set up
allotments for you so payment is easy. With these loans, you
can either get yourself set up with uniforms and consolidate
all your debts, or you can be an idiot and buy a “Lieutenant-mobile.”
Your assignment after TBS is dependent on how well you do
at the school. You are rated in order from one to however
many Lieutenants are in the Company. This rating depends on
your academic scores, peer evaluations (Spear Evals), input
from your Captain, etc. These scores are always changing so
there is no way to tell for sure where you fall at any particular
At the end of the course, they take the list and break
it into three equal parts: the upper third, middle third,
and lower third. Then they go to the top third and ask #1
Lieutenant what he wants from a list of available Military
Occupational Specialties (MOSs). He picks and then they go
to the #1 Lieutenant in the second third who is actually about
#80 overall. He picks and then they go to the #1 Lieutenant
in the bottom third who is actually about #160 overall. After
he picks, they go back up to the #2 Lieutenant in the top
third who is actually #2 overall but gets 4th pick. They #2
in the second third and then #2 in the bottom third. This
goes on until everyone gets an MOS.
You are probably asking why they do this. It is called
quality spread. To explain, I will show you what would happen
if they DIDN'T do this.
Say you have 300 Lieutenants in a class and you let them
pick an MOS without the quality spread. For some reason, the
majority of Officers want Tanks. I don't know why but it is
probably because it is considered a "sexy" MOS. Historically,
there are about 3 slots open for tanks so you would get the
superstars (1, 2, and 3) pick tanks and the tank community
gets the cream of the crop. Now you get to the end and you
have the MOSs that not a lot of people drool over: Supply
Officer, Motor Transport (Yes, Adjutant is in this group,
too). Now you get the bottom feeders (those Lieutenants who
are less than stellar compared to their counterparts) and
they are "stuck" in a bummer of an MOS. As this process repeats
itself class after class, you get a great tank community because
all the water-walkers are being fed into it. But your Motor
T and Supply section keeps getting the leftovers. Over time,
the Corps suffers because you have a collection of weak officers
in one MOS.
To try to alleviate this, they came up with the quality
spread. That way, you get good officers and less-than-outstanding
ones in all MOSs. It is good for the Marine Corps because
you get the two mixed where the good can help the needy. But
it is sometimes bad for the individual because you could work
your butt off at TBS and not get what you want while a bottom-feeder
gets a great MOS.
Case in point, I came out 78/236 (the 66th percentile)
but the cut-off for the thirds was 80. Therefore the picks
went something like:
1. 1st place
2. 80th place
3. 160th place
4. 2nd place
5. 81st place
6. 161st place
As you can see, I was at the bottom of the top third and
out of 236 Lieutenants, I got about 230th pick. Adjutant was
my 5th choice out of 25 so I was not as jammed as you would
think. In fact, I feel lucky to get what I got but I originally
wanted to be a communications officer so I could get into
data processing. But alas, it was not to be and I am happy
with my current assignment.
TBS is one big endurance course. The pressures you will
have will be mostly internal: trying to excel and live up
to your own expectations. Like in bootcamp, you will see the
best and worst in yourself and in others. Many times you will
feel like a “Third Lieutenant” or “Lieutenidate” but remember
that you have one and only one purpose there. You are there
to learn the basics and absorb as much knowledge as you can.
You will be an Officer of Marines. Your respect for that will
MECEP PREP SCHOOL
The first thing we were told when we got to MECEP Prep
was that it was not a PT academy. The second thing we found
out was that the first thing we were told was a lie. Like
it or not, MECEP Prep was intense academically, physically,
You will choose between two courses of study when you
get there. You can take the technical course or the non-technical
course depending on your intended degree. I took the technical
course and therefore subjected to calculus, physics, chemistry,
and English. The non-technical students learned philosophy,
political science, etc. all I remember is that there was a
lot of reading on that road and I was glad I was on the technical
Your days at MECEP Prep consist of arriving in Service
“C” for formation followed by a full day of class. The pace
is double of that you will be exposed to in college. After
a short lunch break, more class. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
are PT days that make any PT you have ever done before seem
like the daily seven. Afterwards, it takes everything you
have to crawl back to the barracks, iron your uniform, and
study until you collapse.
Every Friday there are tests so every Thursday night is
spent staying up most of the night studying. All day Friday
is testing followed by the most intense PT of the week. The
gunny in charge made sure we remembered him all weekend. The
weekends are spent recovering and catching up on papers you
did not have time to do the previous week. I lived in Yuma
at the time so would some how make the three-hour trip back
there on Friday nights and come back on Sunday night.
You get no college credit for this course but are well-prepared
for your Freshman classes. The PT cut my initial PFT run for
21:30 down to 18:46. It is another portion of your Marine
Corps career where you can say you were glad you did it but
would not like to ever do it again!