In this post, I discuss my first week at the Army’s Direct Commission Course, or DCC.
For more detailed information, please see my book The DCC Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Direct Commission Course and its companion work The JAG School Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course.
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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, often in the Reserves.)
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 serves to train commissioned officers on 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 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 seriously. I, therefore, believe the entire experience will be much better as a result.
An 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.
DCC at 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 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 in my book The DCC Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Direct Commission Course and its companion work The JAG School Survival Guide: Succeeding at the Army’s Judge Advocate Officer Basic 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.