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History of the Antiaircraft Officer Candidate School

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 subjects,

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.

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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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