The second era of OCS is known as Officer Candidate Phase. It’s a six-week period comprised of Junior Officer Candidate and Senior Officer Candidate with the only difference being a change in uniform about halfway through. Other than that the same rules of engagement apply to both phases regarding combatting the final boss of sleep deprivation and Death by PowerPoint.
The biggest change from INDOC to Officer Candidate is that you now get an extra three minutes at chow. These three minutes can be used however you choose but were most commonly spent: actually chewing your food, staring at your food a bit longer, staring at the wall a bit longer when your food starts to look boring.
At this point in your training, you should be familiar with the idea of being told what you can and cannot wear every single day. Feel like taking the fleece liner out of your parka because it’s 60 and sunny but there’s been no update to the Uniform of the Day? Demerit. -20 below zero with wind chill? Don’t even think about putting that neck gaiter on unless directed by whichever divine power the Section Leader gets their orders from.
This will continue on into Officer Candidate Phase as you start wearing more uniforms for different reasons. As a JOC, you’ll continue wearing the NWU Type III but will don a gold anchor on your chest to distinguish yourself from the lowly INDOCs. As a SOC, you will start wearing your Navy Service Khakis at which point you will realize how amazing the NWU Type III’s are at hiding spaghetti stains.
I know what you’re thinking, “Wait a second, you said CandiO’s wore the khaki uniform?”. They both do. And although this may seem confusing, you’ll always be able to tell them apart because a SOC will wear the garrison cap (probably backward) and the CandiO will have significantly more stains on their uniform.
During Officer Candidate Phase, you can expect to have two uniform inspections: 6th Week Khaki Inspection and 8th Week OPI. Neither will be nearly as bad as RLP but both will require knowledge memorization and some level of military bearing.
The khaki inspection will take place in Kay Hall and is the easiest of the three inspections that you will have. Chiefs will be conducting the inspection which means you will at least get a hit for having wrinkles in your pants and an improper shave. No one fails this but you’ll still tell everyone how you had the toughest Chief and everyone else got off easy with their inspection.
OPI, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge. It’ll be your first inspection by an officer and the breadth of knowledge required to pass can be overwhelming. To help with this, in the days leading up to OPI the CandiO’s will host “Mocks for SOC’s” where they simulate a fifteen-minute quiz of your knowledge of Appendix Delta. If you fail the initial inspection, you get a chance to reinspect the following day while everyone else is studying for the Watch-O exam. Just bribe the officer inspecting you with some chocolate contraband and make sure you pass the first time.
These six weeks are undoubtedly the most grueling. You are in class upwards of seven hours a day and are always in a transient state somewhere between awake and asleep. You dream of coffee and stimulation… You’re unsure if the instructor has ever reviewed the material they’re delivering or if they too are figuring it out along with you… The priors are now teaching the class… It is confirmed they’re figuring it out along with you.
Oh yes, the reason you can’t stay awake is that you had the midnight watch last night. This is the phase where you start to stand watches which can be at any hour of the day in any variety of weather. It is also the part of OCS where you realize just how many bunnies are on base—it still blows my mind. Like, so many bunnies.
On To Candio Phase
Officer Candidate Phase culminates with Battle Stations—a super-duper secret test of will and seamanship—and eating as much junk from your CandiO box as you can. You’ll also get your phones back as you enter CandiO phase so that you can carry out your CandiO billets as well as text all your friends and be shocked that they didn’t even realize you were gone all while the last two months to you felt like a lifetime.