In this post, I discuss my experience during the second week of 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.
I just finished week 2 of the Army’s Direct Commission Course. We are just now completing the in-processing tasks we had to do. The medical in-processing requirements—shots, blood work, etc.—delayed the process. It appears, however, that we finished most of the necessary paperwork this week.
We also spent about half a day at the CIF—which I believe stands for central issue facility. There we received the gear that we will need during our training. This included a rucksack, body armor, a helmet, and a variety of other items.
Direct Commission Course Classroom Instruction
This week contained a significant amount of classroom instruction. We learned battlefield first-aid, which was pretty interesting. The bulk of the direction, however, centered around correctly applying a tourniquet.
Most preventable battlefield deaths occur as a result of blood loss. First aid, therefore, focuses on stopping bleeding until the casualty can be evacuated to a hospital.
Other classroom instruction included a lecture on military legal history and resiliency training. (The Army appears to have implemented resiliency training in response to the rise in suicide rates among soldiers.)
We also spent an entire day on Thursday learning how to read maps. We were preparing for land navigation on Friday.
Physical Training at the Direct Commission Course
Physical training this week was light. We missed two days of PT to do delayed in-processing tasks.
On Thursday, we did a two-mile ruck march. So, we essentially walked two miles with a large backpack full of gear. To graduate, we have to do a six-mile ruck march in no slower than one hour and forty-eight minutes. We are starting to prepare for that.
On Friday, we didn’t do any PT because we spent the entire day doing land navigation. We walked several miles through the woods during the course of the day. So, there was little need for dedicated PT time.
The highlight of this week was land navigation. We devoted Thursday to classroom instruction, and we spent Friday practicing what we learned.
On Friday, the cadre drove us to a large wooded area. They divided us into three-person teams and gave us three points to find. We had three hours to discover the points in the morning. Then, we had two hours to find three other points in the afternoon.
Once we received our points, we had to plot them on our map and plan our routes. We could then use our map and compass to find our points. The points we were trying to find were marked with small, numbered signs. When we reached a point, we had to write down the number on the sign.
There are several marked points in the area. So, we had no way of knowing if the point we found was our point until we got back. (The point’s coordinates are not written on the sign. So, we could not verify whether it was the point we were trying to find.)
Several points were near each other. So, if we were just a little off, we could find the wrong point thinking it was ours. (We did this once.)
Finding a small sign in the middle of the woods is not exceptionally easy. The dot you make on the map to mark the point could itself cover about 100 square meters.
With all the brush and obstacles in the woods, it was also easy to get off the original angle of approach. If you leave the road traveling at a 270-degree angle to your point and you readjust to move around brush, you can very quickly end up several hundred meters from your goal. The farther you have to go, the easier it is to wander off course.
(You estimate the amount of distance you have traveled by measuring how many steps it takes you to go one hundred meters. We did this before we started.)
Overall, it was a lot of fun. We got to spend several hours walking through the woods. I have never done anything like this before. It was fun to learn how to find an exact point using only a map and a compass.
I am also becoming familiar with MREs—meals ready to eat. They are not nearly as bad as their reputation suggests.
The National Infantry Museum
On Saturday, the entire direct commission course went to the National Infantry Museum. (The museum is located right outside the gates of Fort Benning.) This was an enjoyable experience. The museum traces the various conflicts of the United States with a particular focus on the infantry. There are a lot of interesting exhibits.
Since Fort Benning is the home of the infantry, the exhibits also tend to connect history to Fort Benning. Armor has recently moved to Fort Benning from Fort Knox. A cavalry and armor museum should open in the next few years.
There is also an IMAX in the museum. Most of the shows are educational—such as National Geographic specials. They do, however, occasionally screen mainstream movies. I saw an advertisement for a Hunger Games movie coming to the IMAX later.
Next week we continue land navigation. Monday and Tuesday we continue to practice, and Wednesday is the test. We each have to find three out of five assigned points in four hours by ourselves. If we fail, we cannot pass the course.
Next week we also have our combat water survival test and some rappelling. Then on Friday, we start basic rifle marksmanship.
I will continue to write about my experience, so if you’re interested, please keep checking back regularly.
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.