RAPID CITY, S.D. – One hundred and fifty-four Army National Guard officer candidates, from 24 states and the territory of Guam, marched from Camp Rapid to the West Camp Rapid training area in Rapid City, Saturday, July 16, to begin their two-week long field leadership exercise.
The road march kicked off the third and final phase of officer candidate school training for these candidates, said Lt. Col. Charles Blasdell, commander, 1st Battalion (Officer Candidate School), 196th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) of Sturgis, S.D. This phase is the culmination that also marks the finale of 16 months of training for some of the candidates, and the last two weeks of accelerated eight-week training for others, said Blasdell.
These candidates will train at the 800-acre training ground of West Camp Rapid from July 16 to 29 in the final step before gaining additional responsibility by being commissioned as Army officers, said Command Sgt. Major Patrick Couser, the regimental command sergeant major of the 1st Battalion, (OCS) 196th Regiment.
Successful phase three candidates are scheduled to participate in a completion ceremony July 29 at Fort Meade outside Sturgis, S.D., before returning to their home states to await commission.
“The South Dakota Army National Guard has conducted officer candidate regional training for more than 20 years in the Black Hills, and there is a long history of getting along and working together with the Rapid City community,” said Couser.
Rapid City area residents can expect to see and hear the sounds of routine military training, he said. The candidates will use blank ammunition rather than live rounds at the rifle range, and military traffic near the entrance of the training site may be elevated on 44th Street near Stevens High School, he said.
Candidates were selected by their state’s Academic Leadership Board to attend OCS and become Army officers.
“Every state is a little different,” said Maj. David Evans, a service member with the Nevada National Guard working as the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion (OCS), 196th Regiment (RTI) senior platoon trainer. “Senior officers from the National Guard Joint Staff and the sergeant major of each state sit on the ALB that meets twice a year to select candidates recommended by their immediate chain of command.”