1.0    Introduction

This article provides an overview of United States (US) Navy Officer Development School (ODS).

The programme of instruction undertaken by officer candidates during ODS was designed by Navy officers and educators to give candidates a basic working knowledge of the high-tech Navy establishment afloat and ashore.

It prepares candidates to assume responsibilities as Navy Officers by pushing them to work to their full potential. ODS is demanding, both physically and mentally, and only those with a strong desire to become Navy Officers will successfully graduate. Upon completion, future officers are commissioned as Ensigns with a minimum 4-year obligation from date of appointment.

This article is divided into four parts for easier reading. Part One is the background. Part Two describes the training hierarchy, whilst Part Three outlines the training undertaken during ODS. Part Four provides some useful publications and links, and finally references.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the training process for those seeking to become a commissioned officer in the United States Navy through the Officer Development School.

ODS is one of five officer training programmes offered by the US Navy (Section 2.3).

1.2    What is the Purpose of ODS?

The purpose of the US Navy’s ODS is to introduce the newly commissioned officer (Staff Corps and Restricted Line designators) to the military structure of the US Navy, the rich history of traditions and customs, the naval legal system and finally, military etiquette. ODS is extremely demanding both physically and mentally, and is the foundation for the candidate’s success as a member of the US Navy officer corps.

1.3    Who is ODS for?

ODS is a 5-week programme of instruction delivered to already-commissioned officers who are pursuing careers in a specific field of study such as:

  • Nuclear engineering;
  • Chaplaincy;
  • Oceanography; or
  • Health care.


2.0    Introduction

This section of the article outlines the personalities and organisations that have an impact on the training process of US Navy officers during ODS.

2.1     Naval Education and Training Command

The Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) is an enterprise level shore command of the US Navy that is responsible for the training, education and professional development of active duty and reserve Sailors through accession, continuing education, and advancement training.

The NETC is headquartered at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. It is led by the Commander NETC, a Rear Admiral, Upper Half (OF-7) who is assisted by:

  • Executive Officer: A civilian of the Senior Executive Service.
  • Chief of Staff: A Captain (OF-5).
  • Force Master Chief (FORCM): A Master Chief Petty Officer (OR-9).

2.2     Naval Service Training Command

The Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) is a one-star Echelon III command of the US Navy that is responsible to the Commander NETC for the indoctrination and training of all new accessions into the Naval Service, with the exception of Midshipmen who access through the United States Naval Academy (USNA). This includes:

  • All new recruits through Recruit Training Command;
  • All officer candidates who are seeking a commission through the Officer Training Command; and
  • The various Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units in colleges and universities across the US.

The NSTC is headquartered at the Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. It is led by the Commander NSTC, a Rear Admiral, Lower Half (OF-6) who is assisted by:

  • Deputy Commander: a Captain (OF-5).
  • Chief of Staff: A Captain (OF-5).
  • Command Master Chief (CMDCM): A Master Chief Petty Officer (OR-9).

2.3    Officer Training Command

The Officer Training Command Newport (OTCN) is a command of the US Navy responsible to the Commander NSTC for the initial training of naval officers.

The OTCN is located at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. It is led by the Commanding Officer OTCN, a Captain (OF-5) who is assisted by:

  • Executive Officer OTC Newport: Commander (OF-4).
  • Senior Enlisted Leader: Master Chief Petty Officer (OR-9).
  • Director OCS: Commander (OF-4).
  • Deputy Director OCS:
  • Lead Class Officer OCS:
  • Class Officer: oversee every aspect of class development and is responsible for the safety, training, discipline, integrity, conduct and general performance of assigned students from the reporting date to graduation and commissioning. The Class Officer’s role and involvement is constant, but becomes most critical in the later part of “applied leadership” training.
  • Assistant Class Officer:
  • Class Chief Petty Officer: is detailed as Recruit Division Commander (RDC) qualified (9508 NEC) and are entitled to Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP), if assigned to a 9508 NEC billet per EDVR. They function as senior enlisted technical experts and are responsible for the training, administration, good order and discipline and general welfare of assigned students throughout all phases of training.
  • Class Drill Instructor: is assigned to OCS to indoctrinate candidates in basic military procedures including ceremonial drill and physical fitness, and adapt the class to the military lifestyle and intense environment expected during fleet assignment.
  • Section Leader:
  • Academics Instructors: are assigned to the Academics Department and are responsible for delivering all instruction to every school house at OTCN. These include subjects such as: Navigation, Seamanship, Pay and Allowances, Naval Warfare, Engineering, Military Indoctrination, Damage Control, Division Officer Leadership Course and much more. They use their leadership experience to bring real life experience to the material so students get first-hand knowledge of how it is applied in the fleet.

The OTCN offers five officer training programmes, including:

  • Officer Development School (ODS) which provides Staff Corps Officers and several Restricted Line designators with training necessary to prepare them to function in their role as a newly commissioned Naval Officer.
  • Naval Science Institute (NSI), aka the Seaman to Admiral 21 Programme (STA-21), which provides a unique officer accession education and training programme. It provides an opportunity for enlisted personnel who possess outstanding qualifications and motivation for a naval career to obtain a commission.

OTCN trains approximately just over 5,000 students/candidates each year on the above courses.

2.4     Naval Station Newport

Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport is home to approximately 50 US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Coast Guard and US Army Reserve commands and activities.

NAVSTA Newport is the US Navy’s premier site for training officers, officer candidates, senior enlisted personnel and midshipman candidates, as well as testing and evaluating advanced undersea warfare and development systems.

For many years, NAVSTA Newport was Rhode Island’s largest single employer (both in terms of personnel and payroll) and is still the largest single employer in Newport County, and third overall in the state of Rhode Island.


3.0    Introduction

This part of the article outlines the training undertaken by candidates during ODS.

ODS is a brief mixture of mental training (e.g. memorisation of military knowledge, academic courses, and military inspections), physical training (e.g. running and swimming), leadership training and the profession of arms (e.g. discipline and bearing).

ODS is a 5-week course designed to provide a basic history, traditions, and structure of the US Navy so that the candidate can quickly apply leadership skills and professional expertise in their respective field.

3.1     Recruit Division Commanders

Within the US Navy, recruit instructors are known as Recruit Division Commanders (RDC’s).

RDC’s are Chief Petty Officers or Senior Petty Officers specially selected for their leadership and teaching abilities. They must attend and successfully graduate from their ‘C’ school in order to train recruits and officers.

“OTC annually graduates more than 2,900 students per year under the instructing guidance of 39 RDCs, Marine Corps drill instructors and technical trainers.” (Thornbloom, 2019).

3.2     Outline of Training Syllabus

ODS is currently 5-weeks in duration and candidates are accommodated in King Hall (Building 291), with the first evolution occurring on the Sunday at 13:00. Below is an incomplete outline of the ODS training syllabus.

During their 5-week course, candidates will receive instruction in the following topics:

  • Naval leadership.
  • Naval administration.
  • Naval organisation.
  • Sea power.
  • Military law.
  • Military indoctrination.
  • Naval warfare.
  • Damage control.
  • Seamanship.
  • Division officer.
  • Special emphasis programme.

Other elements or training evolutions to note include:

  • In-processing including administration and medical readiness (e.g. physicals and medications).
  • Non-prior service candidates should estimate to spend approximately $2,000-$3,000 for their uniforms.
  • Day two is uniform issue.
  • Physical readiness tests (PRT):
    • In-PRT.
    • Mid-PRT.
    • Out-PRT.
  • Third Class swim qualification, which includes:
    • Deep water jump: Jump from a three (3) metre tower to simulate abandoning ship.
    • 50-yard swim (any stroke).
    • Minute prone float (face in water).
    • Shirt and trouser inflation: Fill a shirt and pair of trousers with air to remain afloat.
  • Candidates who are unable to complete the Third Class swim qualification will not receive graduation credit.
  • Physical training (PT):
    • Up to five days of strength and conditioning exercises.
    • Exercises include press-ups, sit-ups, non-continuous (e.g. sprints) and continuous running.
  • Personal fitness assessment (PFA) consisting of:
    • Height, weight and body composition analysis (BCA).
    • Press-ups (push-ups).
    • Sit-ups (curl-ups).
    • 1.5 mile (2.4 km) run.
    • Three PFA’s: In-PFA; Mid-PFA; and Out-PFA.

3.3     Academic Training

ODS is designed to provide a baseline level of knowledge required of all commissioned officers in the US Navy. During the course candidates are instructed in the following:

  • Military Indoctrination: During military indoctrination candidates will be taught basic military customs and courtesies, naval terminology, basic uniform assembly and requirements, inspection procedures and training requirements.
  • Damage Control: The damage control curriculum is designed to familiarise candidates with the types of damage, which can occur in the naval environment due to accidents, warfare and nautical disasters. Damage control also includes instruction in fire fighting theory and prevention of different kinds of fires common to sea, shore and air commands. It also includes principles of chemical, biological and radiological warfare defence. Practical demonstrations of flooding control are given in a mock-up of a shipboard space. Completion of both Damage Control (‘wet trainer’) and Basic Fire-fighting are required for successful completion of ODS graduation requirements.
    • Further information on fire-fighting and damage control can be found here.
  • Naval Leadership: Subjects include leadership qualities, motivational theories, team building, management skills, decision making, goal setting and action planning, communication processes and public speaking skills. Candidates will have many opportunities through practical application to demonstrate leadership skills.
  • Division Officer: Subjects include military rank structure, performance evaluations, educational programmes, enlisted records, classified material handling, naval correspondence, officer designations, promotions, pay and allowances, junior officer administrative duties and advancement.
  • Military Law: Subjects introduced include the Military Code of Conduct, The Geneva Convention, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, investigations, non-judicial punishment, court-martial procedures, apprehensions, jurisdiction, pre-trial restraints, administrative discharges and claims.
  • Naval Warfare: During this phase candidates will study the equipment, shipboard spaces and weapons used in various operations. Amphibious, Mine, Strike, Electronic, Submarine, Surface and Air warfare tactics will be studied. Candidates will also examine the problems of detection and learn the weapons systems used in various types of combat.
  • Programmes and Policies: Subjects include suicide awareness and prevention, Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA), Human Resources, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) and Safety Programmes. It also covers programmes such as Tricare, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and the Montgomery GI Bill.

3.4     Military Training

ODS is designed to transform individuals into cohesive operating teams with the overall goal of training candidate officers to become professional, confident and competent future naval officers. Military training is comprised of the following:

  • Physical Training: Candidates will be taught numerous exercises and proper form. Physical training consists of running and strength and conditioning (e.g. calisthenics) exercise several days each week.
  • Room & Locker Inspections: Candidates will be taught how to maintain a living space to military standards. Living spaces may be inspected daily.
  • Personnel Inspections: Candidates will be taught and inspected on military hygiene standards, uniform wear, and general appearance.
  • Drill: Candidates will be taught the basics of drill commands and practice marching as a group, approximately 20-25 hours.
  • Commissioning Ceremony: Candidates will be taught military customs, courtesies, and traditions used during their commissioning ceremony.

As per OTCINST 1530.6K (Appendix B), candidates are expected to master certain knowledge which must be memorised verbatim:

  • Mission of the US Navy.
  • Navy core values.
  • Chief of Naval Operations core attributes.
  • Anchors Aweigh (song).
  • Chain of command.
  • Articles of the Code of conduct.
  • General orders of a sentry.
  • Officer rank structure and insignia (Marine and Naval).
  • Enlisted rank structure and insignia (Marine and Naval).
  • Phonetic alphabet.
  • Fifteen leadership traits.

3.5     Graduation Requirements

There are several graduation requirements including:

  • Pass Third Class swim qualification.
  • Pass all academic tests (70% or above).
  • Pass BCA.
  • Pass PFA.

3.6     Graduation Ceremony

There is a group reception during the last week of training, usually on the Thursday before graduation and typically held in the officers’ club. This ranges from $20-$50 per person. If family is attending, candidates must pay for each family member.

The graduation ceremony is held in Kay Hall at 09:00 on the last Friday, usually lasting 45 minutes. Candidates are not released until 12:00.


4.0    Summary

This article provides a broad outline of the basic military training undertaken by the US Navy’s ODS.

4.1    Useful Publications

  • Secretary of the Navy Instructions (SECNAVINST):
    • SECNAVINST 5300.26 (Series).
  • Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instructions (OPNAV):
    • OPNAVINST 1120.3B: Navy Reserve Direct Appointment Porgramme.
    • OPNAV 1420.1A: Enlisted to Officer Commissioning Programmes Application Administrative Manual. Change Transmittal 3. 07 June 2004 (Cancelled by OPNAV 1420.1B).
    • OPNAV 1420.1B: Enlisted to Officer Commissioning Programmes Application Administrative Manual. 14 December 2009.
      • Chapter 3: United States Naval Academy (USNA).
      • Chapter 4: Officer Candidate School (OCS).
      • Chapter 5: Medical Enlisted Commissioning Programme (MECP).
      • Chapter 6: Medical Service Corps – Inservice Procurement Programme (MSC-IPP).
      • Chapter 7: Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer (LDO/CWO).
      • Chapter 8: Seaman to Admiral – 21 Programme (STA-21).
  • Naval Station Training Command Instructions (NSTCINST):
    • NSTCINST 4100.1: Battle Stations 21 Change Management Policy. 18 March 2013.
  • Officer Training Command Instructions (OTCINST):
    • OTCINST 1530.6K: Appendix B – Required Knowledge for Inspections. 05 April 2018.
  • Other OTC Documents:
    • NAVCRUIT 1131/15: Commitment to Success (Version 2). 05 March 2018.
    • Naval Officer Delayed Entry Programme (DEP) Guide (Version 3). 06 September 2018.
    • Officer Candidate Regulations (OCR).
    • Navy Recruiting Command Fitness and Nutrition Guide (Revision 2/22/17).
    • Navy Officer Candidate School (24 January 2012).
    • OCS Inspection Knowledge (04 February 2014).
    • US Navy Reserve Direct Commission Officer Handbook (2015).
  • Magazines:
    • All Hands: Magazine of the US Navy.
  • Research:
    • Curry, Jr., T.F., Heidt, E.A. & Miller, H. (1977) Officer Candidate School Curriculum Optimization. Orlando, Florida: Training Analysis and Evaluation Group.
    • Lehner, W.D. (2008) An Analysis of Naval Officer Accession Programs. Master’s Thesis. Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School.

4.2    Useful Links

4.3    References

Thornbloom, S. (2019) Officer Candidates School Graduations Now Being Live Streamed. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 15 February, 2019].