Many times, candidates ask me what to study before attending Marine OCS. Usually, I say that you can learn most of the information when you arrive in Quantico during the in-processing phase and that studying before you arrive isn’t a massive necessity. I discussed this matter in pretty heavy detail in a recent post entitled “Tips for Academics and Studying at OCS”, which I would definitely recommend reading. However, there is one thing that you should definitely study and learn before you arrive at Officer Candidates School. What’s that you ask? The United States Marine Corps Rank Structure, for both the Enlisted and Officer end of the spectrum. Below I’ve posted the rank structures for the USMC and also added a funny story from my time at OCS below the pictures.
Funny but Valuable Officer Candidates School Story:
Before I arrived in Quantico, I did a fair amount of studying, but certainly not a lot. I had a basic understanding of the USMC Rank Structure, but never actually addressed any Marines by there titles outside of my Officer Selection Office. So on the first day of Marine OCS in Quantico, I was sitting down in the classroom eating boxed chow. Suddenly, a massive Marine sat down next to me. Just by the look of him, I could tell he was older and more experienced than most of the Marines that assist you in the in-processing stage.
As this massive, intimidating Marine sat down next to me, he engaged me in conversation. Without trying to look to obvious, I made a quick glance at his rank, attempting not to stare. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t make out exactly what his rank was. It looked a lot like Gunnery Sergeant but I really had no idea. So after he sat down and asked how I was, I gave my best attempt at a proper introduction, “Good afternoon Gunnery Sergeant! This candidate bla bla bla.”
Much to my horror, this Marine was in fact, not a Gunnery Sergeant. He was actually a Master Sergeant! How did I screw that one up? I thought I was about to be choked to death on my first day in Quantico. Lucky for me, this Master Sergeant knew it was my first day at Juniors, laughed it off, corrected my mistake and continued the conversation. If the Master Sergeant wasn’t in such a good mood, I could have been REAMED out. Was the mistake completely my fault? Yes, absolutely. I had studied the USMC Rank Structure before I got to Quantico, but I didn’t know it as well as I should have. I could identify the easy ranks but when I was placed in a tough position and couldn’t clearly see the Master Sergeant’s rank, I was screwed…
Moral of the story? Know your USMC ranks when you show up to OCS. You’ll be put in situations immediately in which you must know how to properly address a Marine by his rank and messing up something of that nature is a serious personal offense. Study it and practice addressing Marines by rank, even if it’s simply in your mirror at home.