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Officer Candidates School prepares future soldiers while learning about the past

Officer Candidates School prepares future soldiers while learning about the past


Overlooking the Olympic Peninsula on a pristinely clear day, Officer Candidates School Class 58, 2nd Battalion (OCS), 205th Regiment explore and learn during a staff ride at Fort Worden in Port Townsend.

Fort Worden, along with the heavy batteries of Fort Flagler and Fort Casey, once guarded the nautical entrance to Puget Sound. These posts, established in the late 1890s, became the first line of a fortification system designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching such targets as the Bremerton Naval Yard and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. 

The purpose of the staff ride is to get the candidates to appreciate the operational and strategical significance of terrain and battles, as well as learn about history in the U.S. Army. 

“This experience is absolutely worthwhile, said Officer Candidate Sarah Drerup, class platoon sergeant. “We have been looking forward to this event after being out in the field for the last two drill months. Seeing a new part of the state and a place with historical significance for the Army is an important connection for me to have, since I will serve in Washington.”


The class platoon leader and platoon sergeant are evaluated on their mission planning and execution of the weekend. They are responsible for the logistics, transportation, coordinating the tour, physical fitness and more. Their attention to detail and success of the mission is critical for them to graduate and become lieutenants.

“This has been the busiest drill thus far,” said Officer Candidate Lee Roach, class platoon leader. “We conducted a team recon. We came to identify buildings, walk through the barracks and dining facility, verify times and locations of ferry transport and had many conversations via telephone with a tour guide. There were a lot of moving pieces, but I learned from past mistakes and applied tactics that worked well in previous drills to ensure we have a successful plan.”

Their physical fitness plan included a group run, which incorporated sprints and the stairs at Kinzie Battery, then finished on the beach front conducting circuit training. “I knew I needed to include the terrain,” Drerup said. “It is an experience I will remember for a long time -- group sit-ups on the beach were hard but fun.”


The trip also solidifies esprit de corp amongst the candidates. “This drill feels slightly less formal, which allows for more informal conversations about our families, each other’s military experiences and affords the opportunity for information sharing with our platoon trainers,” Drerup said. “It is nice to receive more advice instead of corrections.”

“The change of scenery is great, but taking our group dynamic we have developed and watch the teamwork solidify through this experience is the best part about the staff ride,” Roach said.

As the class is entering into third phase next month, the staff ride is the culminating event of the second phase. In addition to learning about the coastal artillery forts, the candidates discover which branch they will commission into upon graduating the course.


“We started a new tradition with this class, which is unique and special,” said Maj. Michael Vincent, the company commander. “On the bluffs of Fort Casey, we pin the branch insignia on their uniforms; we just want it to be an experience for the candidates.”

Knowing their branch is half the battle, now they need to focus on Phase III, which has an intense training agenda and many challenges they must pass to earn the coveted gold bar.  Their success and improvements up to this point prove they are ready for the next challenge.