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What OCS Can Do for You

After nearly a decade in the Guard, then-SSG Katharyn Mudd of the 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Missouri National Guard, made a life-changing decision to attend Officer Candidate School. Now a captain and the battalion S-1, she shares her tips—and snake stories—that she acquired in OCS.

Mudd originally joined the Guard in 1999 as a way to help pay for college, but she quickly realized she also enjoyed the camaraderie and service of being a Citizen-Soldier. After enlisting, she earned three MOSs over the next few years—42A Administrative Specialist, 25M Multimedia Illustrator and 25B Information Technology Specialist. She constantly pushed herself to learn new skills.

During her deployment with the 35th Area Support Group, 35th Division Support Command, to Balad, Iraq, in 2005–2006, she was encouraged by officers in her unit to consider going through OCS.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to take on more of a leadership role,” Mudd recalls. She admired the qualities of her commander at the 835th and Missouri’s adjutant general—“they’re both Soldier’s Soldiers”—and saw some of their leadership traits in herself.

After her deployment, Mudd was accepted to accelerated OCS, an intense eight-week school at Fort Meade, SD. She prepped for OCS during a Phase 0 training course at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, which taught her what to expect and how to succeed. At OCS, days began about 0430 with PT. For the first few weeks, the Soldiers focused on land navigation, which tested their map-reading skills alone during the day and at night. During those exercises, she learned how to keep her cool.

“During my night land nav, I was doing my pace count, and all of a sudden something shot out in front of me and started rattling. It was a rattlesnake!” she says. “I took a couple more steps, and a turkey flew up in front of my face. Apparently I interrupted the whole operation of the snake trying to attack the turkey.”

The next four weeks, the Soldiers learned how to conduct and lead missions, specifically following operation orders. Mudd completed her training by taking charge of a troop in the field and leading a mission from start to finish.

As one of four Soldiers in her class to complete OCS (14 had started)—and the only female—Mudd graduated with her second lieutenant’s bar in September 2007 and received the leadership award for the course. “They set you up for success,” she says of OCS. “Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, you’re tired. But how bad do you want it?”

Today, Mudd works full time for the Guard as a company commander, leaning on the skills learned at OCS on a daily basis. “[OCS] has given me confidence and helped me develop leadership skills and a leadership style,” she says. “Now I handle situations differently. I take an observation approach before I react. I think through things.”

–Story by Camille Breland, Photo by Amy Knollmeyer