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To acquire Marine Corps commission, students flock to Officer Candidate School

An increasing number of few, proud, Princeton students have shown they have the mettle to be Marines.

Capt. Ed Floyd, recruiter for University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, said the Marines have become more popular on campus. "We've had tremendous success here the past year and a half," he said.

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In order to get a commission with the Marine Corps, officer candidates must undergo training, evaluation and officer screening over the summer at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va., Floyd said.

He noted the stamina of Princeton's Marine candidates. "They're outstanding. We haven't had a single one get dropped or fall out of OCS," he said. "Nationally, the attrition rate is 25 to 30 percent."

Erik Limpaecher '01 said the enthusiasm of recruiters spreads across campus as an increasing number of students become involved in the Marines. "Also, the candidates on campus now are really enthusiastic and get people excited," Limpaecher said.

"The military is something Princeton students don't have lots of exposure to. It's something different — a non-academic challenge," he added.

Many University students said they are attracted to the program because of a dual desire to serve their country and to be the best. "Part of me has always wanted to serve my country," Tom Pohl '00 said. "Lots of Princeton students serve our country in civilian professions, and this is a little bit of a different way."

"Like everyone here at Princeton, I came here because I wanted to be part of the best institution in the country," Pohl said. "In the same way, I want to be a part of the Marines because they are the most elite of the armed services."

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Floyd holds optional training sessions at nearby Fort Dix to prepare candidates for the intensity of the summer OCS experience. "We do no on-campus training for the Marines. Everything is optional and voluntary," he said. "I like to prepare them for the summer as the summer gets closer, so it's less of a shock when they get to OCS."

Alan Oquendo '03, who is preparing for his first summer of OCS, got a taste of the program's intensity during the training session Saturday. "I have my work cut out for me," he said. "I have to act so much differently than I do normally."

"After a long run, I needed water and asked for it, and the guys told me that as OCS you can't do that," Oquendo said. "This will be a quite interesting summer. It's not exactly my old job back in Florida."

Candidates who decide during their freshman year to join Marine officer training attend two 6-week programs during the summers following their freshman and junior years. Those who decide later to train as Marines can attend one 10-week OCS program after their junior year.

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"The goal of OCS is to evaluate prospective Marines," Floyd said. "OCS is a great summer leadership experience and a boot-camp experience. There are people yelling and it's very physical," he added.

Floyd noted that the Marines try to develop leadership skills by teaching stress management in high-intensity environments. "We try to raise the stress level of the candidates by placing them in leadership positions when they might not expect it," Floyd explained.

"One day a candidate will be just one in 50 people in his group, and the next day we might designate him a platoon leader or squad leader," he said.

He also explained that there are two components to OCS — garrison training and field training.

"In the garrison environment, you go to classes, and the main concern is keeping canteens filled and keeping your uniform straight," he said. "The field environment might involve carrying blanks or being a squad leader responsible for leading your group through woods."

Limpaecher said the OCS experience changed his outlook on life at Princeton. "During my freshman and sophomore years here, I'd sleep through my classes. Now I wake up at 6 or 7 every morning and go for a run. I learned discipline and integrity, and I've gotten in incredible shape. OCS instilled motivation in me to do things like that," he explained.

Pohl experienced a similar change of perspective after beginning his training. "The OCS goal is to create the most stressful environment possible. It overwhelms you with tasks to see if you can do them, a lot like a day at Princeton," Pohl said.

"Nothing at Princeton has seemed quite as hard as the OCS experience."