by LTC George J. Bayerle, Jr
The Officer Candidate School Department, Antiaircraft and Guided Missles Branch, The Artillery School was activated on 15 October 1951. A small, initial cadre was assigned to the department to effect the activation. For a two month period prior to the activation, however, an officer in the office of Coordinator of Instruction had prepared a staff study and a plan for the operation of the Officer Candidate School which at the time was based on an Army Field Force plan for activation during January 1952. The large backlog of selected applicants for Officer Candidate caused Army Field Forces to move up the date of arrival of the first candidate class to 15 November 1951. This then accelerated all plans for activation. COL Robert H. Krueger was designated Director, LTCOL George J. Bayerle, Jr, Assistant Director, MAJ Asa P. Gray, Jr., Plans and Operations Officer, and Major James A. Sullivan, Coordinator of Administration. Shortly afterwards, Major Forrest I. Rettgers was designated Senior Team Instructor for the first officer candidate class.
The first problem facing the small cadre was the finalization of the Table
of Distribution. A tentative table had been prepared prior to activation,
but it was felt to be weak in certain respects. The first actual
table which was approved and under which the department operated
was based on the operating plan directed by the Commanding General,
AAA & GM Center, in which all branch material subjects would be
taught by certain departments in the AA & GM Branch, The Artillery
School, and all common subjects were to be taught by the team of
tactical officers working with each candidate class. In short, each
team would be responsible for conducting instruction in all the
common subjects to the class to which they were assigned. Because
of this, each team was provided with a larger group of officers
and enlisted men to out the directive. The team then had the double
responsibility of performing leadership evaluation and instruction.
Time and experience proved that while this plan could work if officers
with proper background and experience could be provided, practical
dictates called for a revision in the Table of Distribution, and
so a section of instructors or instruction pool was organized and
the officers assigned to the teams working with the candidates were
reduced in number. As the department gained operational experience,
the Table of Distribution was modified by Army Field Forces, the
table was further revised until the final table was approved.
The department at its close was organized with the usual staff
officers with the exception of an intelligence officer. Specifically,
in addition to the Director and Assistant Director, there was an
adjutant and personnel officer, a plans and operations officer and
a supply officer. In addition, there was provided an officer known
as the coordinator of administration who provided staff supervision
of internal housekeeping, supply and personnel activities. Also,
and because of the mission of school, a permanent president of the
officer candidate board, assisted by a recorder, was set up to process
candidate cases submitted to the board for disposition. This board,
composed of permanent members and alternate members, reported directly
to the Director, OCS.
The department was organized to handle six candidate classes with
a maximum strength of two hundred simultaneously. At full strength,
it was prepared to receive one class per month and graduate one
class per month. Actually, although the department reached capacity
status for a two-month period in 1952, the average number of classes
present throughout the history of the school did not exceed five.
This situation existed because projected inputs were not fully realized.
The OCS department eventually settled down to a system whereby
a team of tactical officers consisting of six officers, one major,
one captain and four lieutenants were provided to evaluate leadership
wise a class of two hundred candidates. These known initially as
instruction teams and later designated tactical teams. The major
provided the required supervision, the captain or executive handled
the administrative work incident to evaluation and the four lieutenants,
each working with a platoon of fifty candidates provided the close
hour-to-hour supervision. Initially six of these teams were organized,
one per class; however the number of teams depended on the number
of classes in residence. Each team was provided with the necessary
clerical help to assist them in their mission.
The organization of the Officer Candidate School was centered
on the organization of each candidate into a candidate battery.
Emphasis was placed on the necessity for the candidates governing
their own organizations. The tactical teams in no way fulfilled
command position within the structure of the organization of the
candidate battery. Their mission was solely evaluation. The candidates
performed the required command functions. On this rested the key
to the evaluation of candidates by the tactical teams. Each tactical
team although working closely with candidates, was regarded as separate
and distinct entity from the candidate battery.
As pointed out before, the instructional mission was taken from
the tactical teams and placed in a pool of officers know as an Instruction
Pool, under an officer designated the Coordinator of Instruction.
He was directly under the Director, OCS, in the chain of command,
but he worked primarily with the S-3, or Plans and Operations Officer.
The pool was responsible for conducting instruction in the common
Not mentioned before was a detachment called the Permanent Enlisted
Detachment, which as a morning report unit carried the enlisted
cadre personnel assigned to the department’s various sections.
The detachment, in addition to its other duties, was responsible
for the operation of the candidate messes, providing the necessary
cooks and kitchen police. No candidate performed any work in the
messes. All help was provided by the Permanent Enlisted Detachment.
Among the many problems during the period of organization was
the selection of a suitable area for the quarters, messing and incidental
training and instruction. Because of the rigorous training and schooling
given the candidate, it was apparent that only the best type quarters
should be used, quarters which could provide the candidate some
measure of privacy in quiet and tasteful surroundings. Many areas
were studied, but it was eventually decided to locate the Officer
Candidate School in the Fort Bliss 2700 area. A total of 56 temporary
buildings were ultimately assigned to the department. Of these,
36 barracks were assigned to candidate batteries, seven building
were converted to classrooms, five buildings were used as warehouses
and supply buildings, two were mess halls of the large consolidated
type, each capable of feeding five hundred men, three were barracks
housing enlisted cadre men, two were department headquarters buildings
and the last, a large recreation hall for officer candidates.
The 2700 area at one time had been a cantonment type hospital.
It had central steam heating, interconnecting corridors and generally
many facilities for comfort not normally found in a troop housing
area. A small portion of the area was occupied by the Leaders’
Course, AAA RTC. The remainder of the area, because of disuse, was
run down a bit. The Leaders’ Course, however, was in excellent
condition and the first OCS battery occupied this area. The barracks
had been cubicaled, providing desirable privacy, and the plumbing
was in good condition. Negotiations were immediately entered into
for the conversion of the unoccupied area into suitable classroom
and barracks facilities. Contracts were let, but it was not until
the summer of 1952 when the reconditioning and rehabilitation of
the entire area was completed. In the meantime, some of the classes
entering were required to live under conditions that were not as
desirable as believed warranted for officer candidates.
With the completion of contract work in the 2700 area, the school
was in a position to boast of a training and quartering area perhaps
second to none in officer candidate schools throughout the nation.
The barracks were decorated in tasteful pastel shades and fully
cubicled. Two candidates were assigned to each cubicle in which
were placed two beds, two desks, two shelves, two lamps, two footlockers
and two wall lockers. The total effect was to provide all candidates
in residence with proper living conditions conducive to effective
study and rest. The funds spent for the reconstruction of barracks
were well spent because the living conditions had a direct effect
on the morale, attrition rate and standards of the school. The area
was so well laid out and maintained that it was commented on by
every visitor to the school. It would not be exaggeration to say
that the area was cited as a model area and caused widespread comment.
Because of the area, the high standards so necessary to a successful
officer candidate school could be maintained,
Of course the major problem incident to the organization of the
officer candidate school was the operation of the school itself.
And in the operation of the school, the factor causing the greatest
concern was organization of an effective leadership evaluation system.
There was little time originality in the system eventually utilized,
and so key officers were dispatched to other officer candidate schools
then in operation to study their systems. IN the short time permitted,
attempts were made to select the best from each of the other Officer
Candidate Schools. However, it was difficult to determine what the
best and many mistakes were made. Because if this, the department
found itself saddled with a system, that to say the least, was complicated.
Briefly, a candidate was to be rated on ten different traits.
The total of these ratings would then determine the candidate’s
class standing in leadership and adaptability. Other factors affecting
his leadership standing were the comments of his classmates who
were required to evaluate him. All evaluations were totaled after
each four weeks of training, and the scrutiny of those in the lowest
and borderline areas was intensified. The biggest drawback to the
system, however, was the job of rating each man in ten traits. All
too frequently, the young tactical officer was not sure just what
some of the traits meant. Although he might have good understanding
of what constituted good leadership, he could not be sure that his
evaluation of a candidate’s cooperation was a valid evaluation.
Because of this, the number of observable traits was narrowed down
to five. Further, each trait was more lucidly defined for greater
clarity and understanding by the tactical teams.
The system was modified frequently as experience was gained. Modifications
were also made at the suggestion of army psychological research
groups. Every effort was made to evolve a system that would provide
the department with the finest evaluation system possible. At the
close of the school, the system was not necessarily perfect, but
at least almost all of the inadequacies were eliminated and a valid
system was in effect. This was verified by a study conducted in
December 1952. Basically this study consisted of research into the
performance of graduates with units in the field and a comparison
with their performance in OCS. The results showed consistent comparisons.
One of the big problems that had to be solved during the organizational
period was the program of instruction. The OCS graduate was to be
qualified in his branch as well as to be prepared for command responsibility.
This meant that crammed into the twenty-two week period of training
would be the required leadership training and technical branch training.
This indicated full days for the candidate with intensive classroom
instruction. Later, during the month of September 1952 and in compliance
with an Army Field Force directive, the curricula was expanded to
prepare graduates for duty as infantry platoon leaders in addition
to their training as antiaircraft battery officers. The Program
of instruction was expanded to a total of 1,056 hours over a twenty-two
week period, with the OCS Department responsible for 501 hours and
various other school departments responsible for 555 hours.
One of the most disturbing factors in the operation of an officer
candidate school is the attrition rate. Naturally, the lower the
attrition rate, the more economical the operation. At the same time,
if standards are to be maintained, no selection system can be instituted
that will reduce OCS attrition rate to zero. The selection system
should, however, eliminate those who obviously should never go to
an officer candidate school. The fact remains, however, that during
the period of operation of the Fort Bliss OCS, obvious misfits were
found in every class, although the over-all ration in each class
was reduced as time progressed. This indicated that selection procedures
were becoming more rigorous, although far from perfect. It may be
stated the factor of selection affecting attrition rates the greatest
was the factor of improper selection. Whether this evil can ever
be corrected is outside the province of the operation of any officer
candidate school, but it is a most disturbing influence in the operation
of a school.
The Officer Candidate School at Fort Bliss terminated its activities
with the graduation of the last class on 17 July 1953. Its operation
could be classified as highly successful and its product a credit
to the corps of commissioned officers.
- - - - - - - - -
Extracted from undated original
documents held by the USAADS Library
Fort Bliss, TX 79916
and edited by
Robert L. Manson
AAA OCS 11-53 (Bliss)
February 18, 2004
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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