Understanding Your Chain of Command at Navy OCS

The Navy, like every other branch of military, utilizes a chain of command system and Navy OCS is no different. In your first few weeks as an INDOC Candidate, you’ll be required to memorize your chain of command. However, knowing who’s who in your COC will also prove valuable when you have staff in your p-way so that you know when to not leave your hatch and when to really not leave your hatch.

Once you spend a couple of weeks through trial by fire as a candidate these roles will all make more sense to you. But maybe you’re a parent with a child currently at OCS and you just received a letter from your kid that their DI is “beating” them and you want to make sure it’s at least a proper, supervised beating so you need to know who the LCPO is. Whatever the case, read on to find out about the command structure at OCS.

Section Leader

The Section Leader is the first person in the chain of command and is a fellow candidate from the class company. Rotated daily, everyone will get a chance to be the section leader, responsible for directing the company of fifty candidates through the Plan of the Day (class, chow, drill, etc.) and ensuring accountability for the company at all times. The fun part is they are also responsible for other things, too, such as everything. Anything deemed “UNSAT” by your RDC’s or DI’s will usually come down on the shoulders of the Section Leader.

Candidates moving through a leadership exercise. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.

RDC’s and DI’s

Recruit Division Commanders and Drill Instructors are the senior enlisted responsible for the militarization aspect of training. RDC’s, usually Chiefs and Senior Chiefs, are focused on developing candidates’ military bearing and Navy professionalism. Drill Instructors, usually the rank of Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps, have a very specific focus—one which typically results in you getting a six-pack.

Beyond their roles as disciplinarians, the RDC’s and DI’s you are exposed to at OCS will inspire and motivate you. With diverse, accomplished careers, the second level of your COC will have a lasting impact on your Naval career and will set you up in knowing what kind of leader you aspire to be once you graduate.

A DI and RDC “beating” a class in the sandpit. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.

Assistant Class Officer and Class Officer

The third and fourth people in your chain of command are your Assistant Class Officer and Class Officer, respectively. As far as how you interact with them, the title of assistant holds little importance. Typically a duo of SWO (Surface Warfare Officer) Lieutenants, your Class Officers are there to provide professional guidance and mentorship and to deny your coffee chits.

The first few layers of the Chain of Command are the only people you will regularly interact with at OCS. There may be the odd time when the Chief DI chews you out for “looking disgusting” at your Drill Competition or you see the Skipper and shit your pants but other than that your relationship will be pretty limited. In any case, here’s a quick summary of the rest of COC from what I experienced:

  • Chief DI – a position that rotates among the DI’s every few months when not pushing a specific class. Usually a Gunnery or Master Sargeant.
  • LCPO – similar rotating position but for RDC’s. The staff member who is most likely to spot correct you for uniform or conduct deficiencies. Typically a Senior Chief but can also be a Chief.
  • Lead Class Officer – another rotating position but for class officers not currently pushing a class.
  • Deputy Director of OCS and Director of OCS – typically of Lieutenant Commander and Commander rank, the only time you see these two will usually be at some type of brief in your last weeks of OCS.
  • CMC, XO, CO – the command triad of Master Chief, Commander, and Captain. You will usually also only see them at end-of-course briefs or if you stand watch at the Main Quarterdeck.

That’s the basic guide to how the command leadership works at OCS. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about, head to the “About” and drop me a line.