Yet Another Ending

by Steve on July 3, 2007

Rhino sends news from Pensacola that the last class of Officer Candidates is about to embark on their transformation after which the program will move back to Rhode Island. Used to be if you were headed to Pensacola it was Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS). Knife and fork school for the “shoes” was up in Rhode Island (OCS). Back in ’94 the government combined the programs at Pensacola under the all-inclusive title of OCS. Once this class graduates in late September the program will return to Rhode Island. I’m not sure about the logic involved in that decision.

I weighed 185 when I reported for AOCS in May of ’87 – when I graduated on my birthday, the very last day in July, I was down to 170! Constant PT in the middle of summer on the Florida panhandle will do that to you. Only my mother can remember when I last was that light and I assure you it hasn’t happened since leaving the care and tutelage of the Marine Drill Instructors that hammered us into officers.

Waking up to the musical sound of metal trash cans being slung down the passageways without care. Forming up in the street out front for an early morning run in formation as the sky started to brighten ever so slightly. I swear there were times when I didn’t really wake up until we were a mile or two into it.

The sand on the obstacle course was the finest, deepest, and softest on the planet. Some said it wasn’t sand at all – it was the salt from the sweat of all those who had gone before us.

Running on the seawall along the old hangars and ramps down to the bay, reminders of an earlier time, another war when Penasacola was a seaplane base.

Rifle drill for hours on end out in the summer sun until we all moved and thought as one.

Memories of all these things and many more belong to the collection that is Pensacola, AOCS (or OCS for the younger ones), and flight training. Names and faces, some already gone ahead, others I struggle to remember and many I will never forget. Several I call on to this day – I may go a year or more without communicating with them but it doesn’t make any difference, the bond is still strong as ever.

I distinctly remember wondering if it would ever end or, more accurately, if I would still be standing when it did. After starting with class 19-87 and persevering through most of the program under SSGT Hancock USMC, utter fatigue caused my eyes to close during an academic test. Hard to pass that way. I ended up graduating with class 21-87 but since I had so much invested with my original drill instructor it seemed appropriate to bring him back for the traditional “first salute.”

It’s a shame that it has to end or at least change and move away from the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” The constant sound of aircraft overhead certainly served as a motivator for me. The trick was to take a quick peek at the “carrot” but don’t let the DI catch you looking or there would be hell to pay.

{ 1 comment }

SoCal Pir8 July 8, 2007 at 6:17

Indeed a sad day when the last AOCS class graduates. I was in 18-73, Batt III. Started 1 May 1973 and was commissioned 24 August. GySgt “MadDog” Delaney USMC push my class thru and gave me my first salute.
I went back to NASC in 1977 serving as OIC of BATT II.
I’ll have to say that the ‘shoes’ stole one from us to get this moved out of P’cola. It was truely motivating to be at the Cradle of Naval Aviation running on the sea wall where the old sea planes used to roam. Motivational runs out to Sherman to watch the Blues practice before heading out on the road. Going to the Naval Aviation Museum when it was just a small wood building next to the bowling alley. Memories are really flowing back. What a great way to start a Naval Career.
Ended it 20 years later retiring in Coronado, the Birthplace of Naval Aviation.

Fly Navy!!!

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