OCS History

A History of Air Force Officer Candidate School

Written and compiled by Don Wilkinson, Officer Candidate Class 60-B, Third Squadron
(stolen from Class 60-B – with permission)

The beginning of Officer Candidate School (OCS) actually occurred on 19 February 1942 in several Miami Beach, Florida, resort hotels. Officer candidates were former aviation cadets, eliminated for medical or flying deficiency, active-duty warrant offices, and enlisted men under 36 years of age. OCS adopted the class divisions, student ranks, and hazing of the United States Military Academy, but, because of its four months’ duration, was as much a test of students’ endurance as academic proficiency.

OCS was relocated to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center (later to become Lackland AFB) in April 1944. After only 14 months at Lackland, the school was relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama. OCS was returned to the Army Air Forces Military Training Center at Lackland on 1 February 1946. The OCS that returned to San Antonio in February 1946 was a shell of its former self. It consisted of two classes (1946-B and 1946-C) that would graduate a total of 33 men. Classes during the second half of 1946 (i.e., 1946-G to 1946-L) averaged 48.5 enrollees per class.

When the United States Air Force was constituted in August 1947, the fledgling Air Training Command began work on organizing the 3700th Officer Candidate Training Group, which was finally established a year later in August 1948. The school remained at Lackland Air Base (so named on 3 February 1948) and was extended from four to six months in length. The West Point-type class system, with its attendant hazing, was subordinated in 1947 to a student organization with flights, squadrons, and groups as a means of inculcating military discipline and command.

After this transition year, the Air Force OCS, or officer candidate training program, continued to graduate newly commissioned reserve officers at a rate of 300-600 per year for the next 16 years. The Korean War saw a temporary increase in OCS production, from 970 graduates in 1951 to 1,494 in 1952 and then to 2,085 in 1953.

OCS, the main commissioning program for enlisted personnel, produced about 450 new officers annually between 1953 and the middle of 1957. Most went to non-rated duties, although a few did earn wings. Unique among the commissioning programs, OCS grew, if only slightly, during the last years of the decade when its annual quota was raised to 600 in 1958.

Then, with the Air Force Academy and ROTC, the Air Force found itself with two major sources of rated officers capable of furnishing numbers far in excess of need. Cuts had to be made, and the deciding factor on where to make those cuts was the service’s long-standing goal of having a college-educated officer corps. Since Aviation Cadets attracted few with college degrees, the cadet program was an obvious target. Once the primary source for rated officers, the Aviation Cadet program’s percentage of newly rated officers fell from 70% in 1957 to just 12% in 1959.

With all this turmoil, it also became obvious that the Air Force needed to develop a procurement program that could produce college-educated officers and still respond to the rapid changes in manpower needs. The answer was a program for which only college graduates or those within six months of graduation could apply. That program was the Officer Training School, or OTS. The first class of the Officer Training School (1960-A), consisting of 79 men and 13 women graduated at Lackland AFB on 9 February 1960. Quickly, the OTS shadow fell most heavily on the Aviation Cadet and OCS programs. They were, in a sense, waiting for the OTS numbers to catch up with them and for their status to change from obsolescent to obsolete.

With the success of OTS, the Air Force OCS program was terminated 1 July 1963 after twenty-one years of service and over 41,000 officers produced. The final OCS class (Class 1963-D) of 119 was graduated on 21 June 1963. Interestingly, in a study of undergraduate pilot training attrition for 1962, OCS-trained officers maintained academic, flying, and military grades equal to Air Force Academy graduates and superior to those of aviation cadets or officers from OTS and ROTC.

Although all other U.S. military services still have OCS programs, the AFOCS program officially closed its doors on 1 July 1963. During its 21 years, over 41,000 officers were commissioned, including 47 who attained general officer rank. There were two generals who graduated with the final class, 63-D: MG Charles D Link and BG Lawrence A Mitchell.