Ninety-two U.S. Army National Guard officer candidates from across the country attended their Officer Candidate School graduation ceremony at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, July 26.
Among the 92 graduates included eight from the South Dakota Army National Guard: Staff Sgt. Steven Edoff, Rapid City; Staff Sgt. Zachary Erickson, Rapid City, Staff Sgt. Tyler Gregor, Black Hawk; Sgt. Tyler Jacob, Rapid City; Staff Sgt. Katie Mack, Sioux Falls; Staff Sgt. Erin McGaugh, Huron; Staff Sgt. Jarod Morken, Crooks; and Staff Sgt. Matthew Nedved, Sioux Falls.
The ceremony symbolizes the completion of eight continuous weeks of training and evaluation for officer candidates to become commissioned as second lieutenants in their respective states or U.S. territories. The Fort Meade-based Officer Candidate School, hosted by the S.D. Army National Guard’s 1-1-196th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), this one of the nation’s four consolidated OCS programs.
“We watched as each of these candidates struggled, and ove-rcame personal and group challenges to become better decision makers, better leaders, better followers, and better soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Shay, 1-196th Regiment, phase senior NCO. “We do everything we can to prepare these young officers to take on challenges, and become successful, and we hope they embrace these challenges.”
Soldiers selected for the OCS program have the option of attending an accelerated eight-week course, or the traditional 16-18 months of attending drill weekends and two summer annual training events. The OCS program is meant to be challenging, both mentally and physically for participants. There are three-phases that include academics in leadership, military history, and a field portion that includes unit tactics and unit leadership.
“It has been an eye-opening experience,” said Jarod Morken, SDARNG graduate. “I look back on the camaraderie we built within our class during the last 16-months. Drilling with such a small group, and going through strenuous things that happened at OCS, forced us to become close, very fast, but I think it’s something we will be able to take with us forever.”
The graduating candidates will now return to their home states to receive their commission and will soon follow on to the Army’s Basic Officer Leadership Course, which will be branch-specific for each officer, such as infantry, artillery, engineering, logistics and many more.
A commissioning ceremony will be held for the SDARNG officer candidates Friday, Aug. 16, at 5 p.m. at Joint Force Headquarters on Camp Rapid