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The United States Navy's Officer Candidate School, currently located at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, provides training to become a commissioned officer. Attendance is one possible way for civilian college graduates (bachelor's degree or higher) with no military experience to earn a commission as a U.S. Navy officer. Additionally, the Navy also enrolls a significant number of candidates with current or prior enlisted experience in the military. In this way, OCS serves as a path to commissioned status for high-performing enlisted personnel. Alternatives include the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, Officer Development School (ODS), and graduation from the United States Naval Academy.
OCS classes are designated by the fiscal year of their graduation (e.g., 28-09 was the twenty-eighth class to graduate in fiscal year 2009; 01-10 was the first class to graduate in fiscal year 2010). Upon completion of the 12-week course the candidate is commissioned an Ensign (O-1) in the United States Navy (formerly in the Naval Reserve, or USNR). In previous years, Naval OCS was a 16-week curriculum.
Officer candidates are mustered in at the paygrade of E5 but hold a special title known as Officer Candidate. This title is held from the beginning of week 2 through the middle of week 9 when an Officer Candidate completes the "Victory Run" and earns the title Candidate Officer; Officer Candidates are regarded as basic recruits. As training progresses, Officer Candidates obtain more responsibility and are eventually given command authority over other Officer Candidates through use of a series of "positional ranks" denoted with small gold bars worn on the collar (typically referred to as "railroad tracks"). These positional ranks include "Regimental Commander", "Regimental Sub-Commander", "Regimental Adjutant" and other responsibilities. All positional rank assignments are competitively awarded from among the entire regiment. It is considered a significant honor to be selected to serve in any of the top leadership positions while enrolled at OCS. As training progresses over 12 weeks, individuals gradually move from Indoctrination Candidates, or "Indocs," to Officer Candidates, to Candidate Officers, or "Candios." The latter being a position of authority over less senior candidates.
Officer Candidates are assigned to battalions within a single regiment and are either quartered at Nimitz Hall or at King Hall at Naval Station Newport. Over the 12 weeks they are immersed in Leadership, Physical and Military training as well as Academics ranging from Navigation to Shipboard Engineering and Damage Control. Their every action is scrutinized and any shortcoming rigorously corrected. There is a strict Code of Honor that is expected; violators are removed.
Previously, OTCN operated out of 1940/50s-era facilities that present many shortcomings for the training and housing of students. Construction began in the spring of 2011 on an all-new Nimitz Hall to replace the aging building. Construction was completed in winter 2012-2013. Construction will soon commence on a modern King Hall.
The Navy previously operated two officer candidate programs, OCS at Newport, Rhode Island, and Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) at NAS Pensacola, Florida. AOCS trained prospective Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers, Aviation Maintenance Duty Officers, and Air Intelligence Officers, while OCS trained all other Naval Officer communities (i.e., Surface Warfare Officers, Submarine Warfare Officers, Special Warfare (SEAL) Officers, General Line Officers, Supply Corps officers, etc.).
AOCS contained two parallel track programs, the traditional AOCS for college and university graduates that operated on a year-round basis, and the Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate (AVROC) program during the summer and early fall. AVROC, similar in nature to the Marine Corps' Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program, split the AOCS curriculum in half, with college and university juniors attending the first half during the summer between their junior and senior years, then returning the following summer after college graduation to complete the second half of the program and receive their commissions. During the summer months, AVROC classes would typically enter every other week, with their graduations on alternating weeks from AOCS graduations. For AVROCs, the advantage of their program was that their Pay Entry Base Date (PEBD) was adjusted to the day they signed up for the AVROC program, typically two to three years before their commissioning. As a result, when they were finally commissioned, they received a higher base pay rate reflecting two to three years of service (i.e., O-1 over 2 years, O-1 over 3 years) versus their traditional non-prior service AOCS counterparts (i.e., O-1 less than 2 years). AVROCs were otherwise indiscernible from traditional AOCs.
Another subset of the traditional AOCs was the Naval Aviation Cadet (NavCad) Program. NavCads, who had some college, but typically lacked a bachelor's degree, attended their entire flight school program as non-commissioned candidates and did not receive their commissions as Ensigns until they completed flight training and received their wings as Naval Aviators. These former NavCads, commissioned officers without bachelor's degrees, would complete their initial fleet squadron tour and would then be sent to the Naval Postgraduate School or a civilian college or university as Lieutenants on their first shore duty assignment in order to finish their baccalaureate degree. AOCS stopped taking NavCad civilian and enlisted candidates in 1968. The NavCad program was reintroduced in early 1986 due to increased fleet requirements for pilots (Naval Flight Officers were not procurred via NavCad), but was eliminated in October 1993 as a result of the end of the Cold War and resultant manpower reductions in the active duty naval officer ranks.
The original US Navy OCS at Newport, Rhode Island began operation in 1951 and was closed down in April 1994 when the programs were merged into a single AOCS at NAS Pensacola. However, in September 2007 the U.S. Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) in Pensacola, Florida was closed after graduation of the last AOCS candidates there. The AOCS training program was moved to Newport, Rhode Island by direction of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission of 2005. A difference in class numbering between OCS and AOCS was that AOCS classes were numbered by graduation date in the calendar year versus fiscal (for example, the first class to graduate in January would be Class 01-YY as opposed to the first class in the fiscal year (October)).
In AOCS, all basic military training was administered by enlisted drill instructors from the United States Marine Corps, a holdover from World War II and the 1950s when AOCS and NavCad graduates were still given an option of a commission as an Ensign in the Navy or a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. This facet of the training (origin of the slogan "Navy owned, Marine Corps trained") at AOCS in Pensacola was considered a point of pride and mark of distinction by the graduates of AOCS that separated themselves from the graduates of OCS in Newport, as well as NROTC and U.S. Naval Academy graduates. When the single OCS was established in Newport, RI, the program retained both the Marine DIs of AOCS and the US Navy Chief Petty Officers of Newport. Newport's OCS now has both.