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In this post, I discuss my first week at the Army’s direct commission course, or DCC. 

Army DCC

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I just completed my first week of the Army’s Direct Commission Course, or DCC. This course teaches basic soldiering skills to officers who have received a direct commission. (These officers received their commission without completing the traditional commissioning routes through West Point, ROTC, or OCS.)

The Army typically reserves direct commissions for professionals. These officers serve very particular functions within the Army. So, typical recipients of direct commissions are doctors, chaplains, and—as in my case—lawyers.

(Occasionally, however, other officers may receive direct commissions. This, however, is relatively rare and generally reserved for experienced enlisted personnel.)

This means that everyone in this class showed up as a commissioned officer. The purpose of DCC, therefore, is not to provide a means to earn a commission. Everyone is already a commissioned officer. Instead, DCC functions as a means to train commissioned officers how to act appropriately in the United States Army.

Structure of DCC

NCOs primarily lead DCC. (There are, however, a few captains that provide instruction from time to time.) This is not unusual. NCOs have traditionally served as instructors in officer candidate courses in every branch but the Air Force. DCC, however, is unique because the students are not officer candidates—they are already officers. This means that the students technically outrank the teachers.

This creates an interesting atmosphere. The stereotypical military environment characterized by loud yelling is generally not present. The enlisted leadership still provides instruction and corrects our mistakes. It nevertheless creates a unique situation where the words “sir” or “ma’am” follow a reprimand.

The NCOs running our class are exceptional. I think my class is lucky to have received the leadership it did. They all seem to take their responsibility very seriously. I, therefore, believe the entire experience will be much better as a result.

Another interesting aspect of the class is the presence of those with prior commissioned service. It is my understanding that the Army recently decided to require all new entrants to the JAG Corps to attend DCC. This includes those who were not direct commission officers.

So, we have several ROTC and OCS graduates in our class. Also, while our class doesn’t, previous classes have had West Point graduates as well. Consequently, we have some captains in our class and prior classes have even had majors.

Since the purpose of the class is to teach basic soldiering skills, I don’t know why the Army requires these individuals to attend. DCC provides instruction on rudimentary skills. Perhaps their presence is more to assist the direct commission officers during the course.

Fort Benning

Fort Benning is a massive Army post. Growing up on Air Force bases—my father was career Air Force—I have minimal familiarity with Army facilities. (I am in the Arkansas National Guard. So, I am familiar only with Camp Robinson and Fort Chaffee. Neither has served as an active duty post for some time.)

Fort Benning houses an extraordinarily large number of Army units and schools. The Army’s Armor School, Infantry School, Airborne School, OCS, the NCO Academy, and basic training all live here. In addition, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment have a presence here as well.

As you can see above, our rooms are pretty nice for an initial training program. They are much nicer than I expected. There are two of us to a room with each room having its own bathroom. So, this is not exactly basic training.

Week 1 of the Direct Commission Course

This week was devoted to in-processing. We waited in a lot of lines and completed a lot of paperwork. There was some classroom time where the cadre provided instruction on various topics of Army life and tradition. We also had some time to learn drill and ceremony, which essentially means marching.

I suppose the most memorable part of this week was the physical training. The Army has a unique physical training program that consists of a lot of strange exercises. It does, however, help break up the running.

We also conducted our 1-1-1 evaluation, which is essentially a half-PFT. (The Army physical fitness test consists of two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile run. So, the 1-1-1 required one minute of pushups, one minute of sit-ups, and a one-mile run.) This evaluation is mostly to show where we need to improve.

Overall, it was a pretty slow week. We are off for the three-day weekend. So, unless we have CQ—or charge of quarters—we are pretty much on our own during this time. Our barracks are right across from that of OCS’s, and I doubt they enjoy the same privilege. We haven’t had much interaction with them, so I don’t know if they find that aggravating.

Of course, the Army is about to thrust a much more significant responsibility upon them. As lawyers, we will not be leading any troops into battle. They very well could. I suppose the future level of responsibility determines the intensity of training.

Since we have already been trained to be lawyers, we have already received significant training for our profession. This is not the case for the infantry officer, who may have to lead men into extremely challenging situations. A civilian education could not prepare him for that.

Next Week

Next week we are learning land navigation. I’m looking forward to that week. It should be fun, and the week should move a lot faster than this one. I will continue to blog as I have the opportunity. Please check back regularly if you’re interested in learning more about the program.

I provide a more expansive account of my experience at DCC in my book The DCC Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Direct Commission Course.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, the National Guard Bureau, the Arkansas National Guard, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.


See also:

Army JAG Training
Week 2 of the Army’s Direct Commission Course (DCC)


18 Comments

Garrett Ham · December 30, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have here. I’m happy to provide whatever additional information I can.

Kathryn · January 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm

SIR – how did your program turn out? I’m enrolled for law school this Fall and the direct commission is the route I will take as well.

    Garrett Ham · January 12, 2015 at 10:59 am

    It was a good experience. I’ve blogged about all seventeen weeks here, so you can read about the entire process.

    Good luck to you! Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

Dede · April 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

Thank you for writing about your experience. I found it to be very helpful and well-written.

    Garrett Ham · April 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I appreciate that. If you have any questions, please let me know. I’m happy to help however I can.

Scott · August 13, 2016 at 8:22 am

Is this the same training an experienced physician assistant would receive entering as an officer? The differences are confusing but I was told that I would go thru AMEDD and be a commissioned officer…. Entering as captain with my experience

    Garrett Ham · August 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I’m not sure what the process is for physician assistants. When I went through, DCC was only for JAG and line officers who received a direct commission. Chaplains and medical personnel had different training at a different location. I do not know how similar the two trainings are, but I imagine noncombatants like medical personnel and chaplains would not receive weapons training.

    There was some talk of combining training for all commissioned officers into one training program, such as the Air Force has, but I don’t know if anything ever became of those talks.

Justin · December 21, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Good Afternoon. I am a 1LT with 7 years of service (5 enlisted and 2 as an officer). I just found out that I was selected for Army Reserve JAG. I am trying to figure out if DCC is required for me or not (I would much rather NOT do this since I went to Basic Training and did this again before commissioning). Do you know if I would need to attend DCC? Thank you and I found these entries very helpful.

    Garrett Ham · December 28, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    When I went through, everyone had to go. West Point, ROTC, and OCS graduates all had to attend with the direct commissioned officers. (The rationale I received was that they wanted experienced officers to help the new officers along.) It’s possible they’ve changed it in the last three years, but, if so, I haven’t heard about it.

Mike · February 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Hi Garrett:

Thank you so much for your detailed guide–I was accepted into JAG Reserves and am navigating the processing paperwork!

Anonymous · February 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Hello Garrett. Thanks for your great writeup. Did you receive BAH while at DCC? Thanks.

    Garrett Ham · February 27, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Yes. If you are single with no dependents and don’t have a lease or a mortgage, you may not get it. Otherwise, you should.

Timur · April 23, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Mr. Garret, thank you very much for your book and for being responsive to emails.

I had one more question about the 1st week, what is the initial “health” inspection all about? I heard everyone goes through it during in-processing. Is it like a medical exam all over?

Thanks!

    Garrett Ham · April 24, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    It’s mostly verifying you got all your shots and things like that. You receive an extensive medical examination prior to receiving your commission.

      Brian P Sullivan · June 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Garrett thank you for your excellent articles. I have also ordered your paper back which Have earned excellent reviews. I am an attorney, with six years prior reserve infantry experience. My first question is can you tell me a little bit about the qualifications with respect to the medical exam. And second, I will be applying to the Army Reserve. Did you have anybody in your training cycle that had applied for and received an age waiver? Thank you so much for taking the time to help all of us, much like yourself, who would like the opportunity like to serve their country. God bless!

        Garrett Ham · July 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm

        Brian,

        I think a recruiter may be better suited to answer your question about medical qualifications. The disqualifying conditions, including which conditions are eligible for a waiver and which are not, seem to change constantly.

        As far as an age waiver, I’m not extremely familiar with that, either. I understand that it’s easier to get one if you’re prior service, but I’m not sure how stringent the criteria is. We had a guy in my class who received a waiver, but he was a veteran of the first Gulf War.

        I’d recommend speaking with a recruiter. They have a wealth of information, and they should be able to answer all your questions. Since these things are usually very fact specific, that’s probably the best way to go.

        Good luck to you.

James T · June 15, 2019 at 11:13 am

Sir,

Are vitamins and prescription medications allowed? I have a prescription for sleeping medications and wasn’t sure if I could bring my own. Were you allowed to bring your own laptop and any small personal items? I’ve done some research but haven’t found an answer yet.

I appreciate that you took the time to write about your experience at the DCC. It’s the most informative blog I’ve found on the topic. I’m currently a civilian attorney and hoping to apply for JAG in the Guard or Army Reserve.

    Garrett Ham · June 17, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Prescription medications were allowed. Of course, if your prescription is for a condition that would disqualify you from military service, then it would be a moot point. (So, for example, prescription inhalers for asthma wouldn’t be allowed because an asthmatic wouldn’t be allowed, if that makes sense.) Unfortunately, I’m not an authority with regard to what conditions are allowable, what conditions are allowable with a waiverable, and what conditions are disqualifying. And this seems to change constantly.

    I was able to bring my laptop and a few small personal items. These rules change from class to class, though, so I’m not sure if that is still the case.

    You should be provided with in-depth information about what you can and can’t bring prior to reporting.

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