Officer Candidate School

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Officer Candidate School or Officer Cadet School (OCS) are institutions which train civilians and enlisted personnel in order for them to gain a commission as officers in the armed forces of a country. How OCS is run differs between countries and services. Typically, it is of a short duration (less than a year), and the focus of the course is on military skills and leadership. This is in contrast with service academies which include academic instruction leading to a bachelor's degree.


Officer Cadet School of Australia – Portsea (OCS Portsea) commenced training officers for the Australian Army in 1951 and continued through to the end of 1985. Since OCS Portsea's closure in 1985, all Australian Army Officer training has been conducted at the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra.[1] During the Vietnam War, the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville was used to train and commission National Servicemen as 2nd Lieutenants between 1965 and 1972.[2]


In the Philippines, Officer Candidate School was originally formed out from the defunct School for Reserve Commission or SRC that was established in the 1930s pursuant to the provisions of then Philippine Commonwealth Act Number 1, otherwise known as "The National Defense Act of the Philippines". This was created in preparation for the defense of the Philippines, establishing a 10 year program of training for Filipino Servicemen and Civilian Volunteers (Reserve), and forming the Philippine Army as the main ground forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. A transfiguration took place with some military personnel from the Philippine Constabulary being transferred to form the nucleus of the Philippine Army. However, the 10-year program was incomplete by the time World War II broke out in the Pacific and ROSS training was subsequently stopped. Nevertheless, many of its trainees were called to active duty to serve throughout the war mainly with the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

Philippine Army officer cadets march on the parade grounds during Balikatan 2013 at Camp O'Donnell, Philippines, April 6, 2013

The need for commissioned officers after the U.S. liberation of the Philippines in the 1940s prompted the establishment of the School for Reserve Commission, which later became the Officer Candidate School. Early training was held at Camp Tinio, Bangad, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Nichols Air Base in Pasay City and Fort Bonifacio in Metro Manila. Some graduates of these classes were sent to conflicts in both Korea and Vietnam. Later, the OCS training location was moved to Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal from where 27 classes graduated between 1987 and 2005. Officer candidates with the rank of Probationary Second Lieutenant and Probationary Ensign have to undergo and pass the 12-month Officer Candidate Course before they can be commissioned as Regular and Reserve Officers in the Philippine Army, the Philippine Constabulary, the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Navy and the Technical Service (Medical Administrative Corps and Women's Auxiliary Corps).

In 1993, OCS started accepting two foreign officer candidates from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces who joined the Officer Candidate Course "Balikatan" Class 12-94. In 1994, five female OCs belonging to AFPOCS "Balikatan" Class 12-94 graduated to become the first female officers of the AFP and were not included anymore as Women's Auxiliary Corps officers. Some Filipino officer candidates were also sent to train in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Today, each of the three armed services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – Army, Air Force and Navy – run their own officer training in separate locations such as Philippine Air Force Aviation OCS in Fernando Air Base, Lipa City; Philippine Army OCS in Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac; and Philippine Navy OCS in San Antonio, Zambales.


In Singapore, Officer Cadet School is a school within SAFTI Military Institute, which serves as the main center for training officers of all ranks. Other schools within the SAFTI MI complex include SAF Advanced Schools and Singapore Command and Staff College. Like the other schools on SAFTI MI, OCS is a tri-service institution which trains officers of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. A great deal of symbolism exists within the SAFTI MI complex to remind officers and aspiring officers of the tri-service nature of the Singapore Armed Forces. Unlike other countries, OCS is the only route to a commission in the SAF. Even selected cadets who hold scholarships to train in friendly service academies must complete two thirds of OCS and receive their commission before undergoing further training overseas.

OCS in Singapore lasts approximately 38 weeks. The first term consists of military knowledge applicable to all services, including military history and military law. Subsequently, Officer Cadets are streamed into their services based on aptitude and personal preference, and receive training specific to their service.

United Kingdom[edit]

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is the British Army's initial officer training centre and is located in the town of Camberley, near the village of Sandhurst, Berkshire, about 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest of London. The Academy's stated aim is to be "the national centre of excellence for leadership." All British Army officers, including late-entry officers who were previously Warrant Officers, as well as many other men and women from overseas, are trained at Sandhurst. The Academy is the British Army equivalent of the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, Royal Air Force College Cranwell, and the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines.

United States[edit]

A Gunnery Sergeant Instructor corrects an officer candidate

In the United States Armed Forces, Officer Candidate School (OCS) or the equivalent is a training program for college graduates and non-commissioned officers, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen to earn commissions as officers. The courses generally last from six to seventeen weeks and include classroom instruction in military subjects, physical training, and leadership.

People may earn a commission in the United States Armed Forces through OCS or OTS, by staff appointment, through Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), or through one of the five federal service academies.

  • The Officer Candidate School of the United States Army is a 12-week-long program held at Fort Benning, Georgia for both prior service and non-prior service candidates. Candidates with no prior military service will first attend Basic Combat Training. There are also National Guard Officer Candidate Schools that allow a National Guard soldier to train without deviating from the "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" training program; this is called 'Traditional', as it is the original method for the National Guard, and takes 18 months to complete. In addition, National Guard soldiers do have the option to attend the Federal course (if offered), or to attend an accelerated eight-week program which happens in conjunction with other states. Both Federal and state programs are accredited by the U.S. Army Infantry School. Upon completion of either OCS programs, graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants (2LT) and then attend the rest of their Basic Officer Leadership courses. In 2006, the officer commissioning programs changed, making the entire process, 'Basic Officer Leadership Course', occurring in two phases (BOLC-A and BOLC-B). Phase A is the original commissioning source (OCS, ROTC, USMA, Direct). BOLC B is the Officer Basic Course which trains the new officers into their Basic Branch skills and includes three weeks of basic soldiering skills.
National Guard officer candidates, 2011
  • The Officer Training School of the United States Air Force is located at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. There are three programs offered at OTS. The first is Basic Officer Training (BOT), for those seeking a commission to the active duty USAF. It is a 9-week long program consisting of two parts. In the first part, officer trainees will learn military skills, USAF history, and other classroom and skill courses needed for serving in the Air Force. In the second part, trainees are given ranks from Officer Trainee O-1 (2d Lt) to Officer Trainee O-6 (Col), and will learn how to be a leader and be given the opportunity to lead other Officer Trainees. Graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants (2d Lt) in the U.S. Air Force. The second program is Commissioned Officer Training (COT), a five-week introductory program to the USAF for those who have been directly commissioned in the USAF, primarily as chaplains, doctors, and lawyers. Trainees in COT range in rank from O-1 to O-5 and will report directly to their respective units after training. The third program is the Academy of Military Science (AMS), a detachment of the Air National Guard Readiness Center that is embedded at OTS. AMS is a six-week program designed to train and commission officer candidates to fulfill USAF and Air National Guard (ANG) requirements. The AMS program covers the same subject areas as BOT and COT, but also provides education in ANG heritage and the role of the "Citizen Airman". The majority of AMS students are prior-enlisted and many may also have civilian careers. Once AMS candidates successfully complete all OTS graduation requirements, they receive the oath of office and receive state and federal commissions as second lieutenants in the ANG with both state and federal responsibilities.
  • The Officer Candidate School of the United States Coast Guard is at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where it has been located since August 1998. Prior to August 1998, Coast Guard OCS was located at the Coast Guard Reserve Training Center (RESTRACEN) in Yorktown, Virginia. OCS is a 17-week-long program, the longest of the 5 military services. Graduates are commissioned in the rank of Ensign (ENS) in the U.S. Coast Guard and may report to Coast Guard cutters, sectors, or directly to flight training.
  • During WWII, the U.S. Army Signal Corps ran an Officer Candidate School located in the war zone labeled as the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), at Camp Columbia, Brisbane, Australia. From photographs taken by the U.S. Army, it is apparent that this course was integrated with the U.S. Army's Signal Corps OCS program at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. Contemporary records indicate that the course was branch immaterial — perhaps the first branch immaterial course in the Army. Unfortunately, there is little information about the particulars of how SWPA OCS was operated, such as its length, subject matter content, training routine, etc. In particular, its years of operation and other reliable statistical information are not readily available.[3]


  1. ^ Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin (1995). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (1st ed.). Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press. p. 523. ISBN 0-19-553227-9. 
  2. ^ Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan & Prior, Robin. (eds.) (1995). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press. p. 531. ISBN 0-19-553227-9. 
  3. ^ U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS Association;