STATE CAPITOL BUILDING, Mo. –
Officer Candidates from Class 60 gathered inside the Missouri Capitol Rotunda on September 10, 2022, for a graduation ceremony that culminates their commitment to becoming commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. The Officer Candidate School (OCS) trains new and prior enlisted service members to become second lieutenants. The candidates had to rely on their intellect, mental fortitude, and physical fitness to be successful and meet the required expectations to graduate.
According to 2nd Lt. Emily Pickerell, Distinguished Honor Graduate, phase one was most challenging. When she arrived at OCS, she was initially concerned about her ability to finish. "I didn't think I would graduate at the top of my class or be in the running for any of those awards presented today. However, by the end of this program, I was filled with a lot of confidence from my classmates, my cadre, and even myself," she said.
The graduates from this ceremony came from two cycles; one was a traditional course lasting eighteen months over the soldiers’ drill weekends. The other was an accelerated course that spreads the same course load over eighteen weeks. Pickerell chose to attend the traditional course to achieve her dream of becoming an aviation officer. However, understanding the roles and responsibilities of becoming a commissioned officer wasn't the only thing she learned. She and her classmates also discovered what they were truly capable of achieving. During the OCS training, candidates confronted many challenges over three phases. Phase one focused on training, with an emphasis on physical challenges. Officer candidates require intellect to navigate Army operations, training management, land navigation, and leadership but also require physical strength and mental toughness to sustain their resolve to graduate. During this phase, the cadre constantly tested candidates by implementing physically and mentally demanding situations to mold them as future leaders. "You don't know what you're getting into," said Pickerell. "As soon as you're standing on that parade field and they fire that cannon, they start yelling at you and making you do exercises. It was chaos."
Phase two focused on combat service support, military intelligence, field artillery, communications, tactics, and leadership. Though most of this phase is in a classroom environment, the course covers the Army warfighting functions and how these functions intersect in mission command. “Phase two was all classroom,” said 2nd Lt. Noah Gledhill, a fellow graduate. "I studied hard, took my tests, and did what I had to, but it took its toll."
Phase three saw candidates conduct field leadership exercises demonstrating their tactical leadership ability through platoon operations. In a highly stressful situation, the goal is to test their reaction and apply strategies the course had taught them. It is the final stage in the evolution from an officer candidate to graduating as a commissioned officer for the United States Army.
“If you really want to challenge yourself, this is the program for you," said Pickerell. "All those stories of when I was having a rough time are funny to me now. I would tell someone in my position back then to keep pushing because you are capable of a lot more than you think."
During the graduation ceremony, the Staff Award and Army Achievement Medal were awarded to Pickerell for her high motivation and strong leadership skills, which earned her the respect of her peers and cadre. Now, she is closer to achieving her goal to fly by being selected for the aviation branch. 2nd Lt. Emily Pickerell is one of many successes for a program that develops great leaders and furthers their goals as commissioned officers in the Missouri National Guard.