USMC OCS Graduation

Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA is home of Officer Candidates School and the crossroads of the United States Marine Corps. No matter if your candidate is in the first few weeks of training or nearing completion, one thing is certain – graduation can’t come soon enough. Here’s our overview of USMC OCS, Quantico.

Right now, your candidate is being tested physically and mentally to ensure they will have the leadership skills to lead Marines and win battles. OCS graduation is an incredible experience creating lifelong memories –  memories you won’t want to miss. 

OCS has three different courses designed for individuals in three different stages of their college career and Commissioning source.

Officer Candidates School Commissioning Sources

Platoon Leader’s Course (PLC) Juniors and Seniors

These are students in their first two years of college. These candidates will enter into their first 6-week training cycle at OCS called Platoon Leader’s Course (PLC) Juniors. These candidates are enrolled into India Company. Upon graduation, India Company candidates will have the opportunity to return to OCS to complete their training during the following summer for their second 6-week course as PLC-Seniors. PLC Seniors are enrolled into Lima Company. Following PLC-Seniors, Lima Company graduates will either return to finish their college degree, or Commission as Second Lieutenants at OCS graduation if they have already obtained their degree. PLC-Juniors and Seniors attend OCS only during the summer months.


These are students that are enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at their college or University. These students attend the 6-week PLC-Seniors course only. ROTC students are enrolled into Lima Company with other PLC-Seniors. Upon graduation, ROTC students return to finish their Bachelor’s Degree and then are able to Commission as Second Lieutenants when they obtain their degree. ROTC students attend OCS as PLC-Seniors only during the summer months.  

Officer Candidates Course (OCC) and Platoon Leader’s Course-Combined (PLC-C)

OCC and PLC-C are students that will complete the 10-week training course. These students will be combined and enrolled into Alpha and Delta Companies at OCS. Upon graduation, OCC students will commission as Second Lieutenants. PLC-C students will return to their college or University to finish their degree. They will Commission as Second Lieutenants when they have obtained their Bachelor’s degree. OCC has the opportunity to attend OCS during the summer, fall, and winter cycle. PLC-C attend OCS only during the summer months.

While your candidate is actively in training, they must focus all of their attention on the assignments and tasks of OCS. Your encouragement through letters is undeniably vital to your candidate’s success and morale while they await the next liberty period where they are able to call you. 

If there is ever an emergent situation that arises where you would need to reach your candidate that can not wait until they have their phones on a liberty period, we encourage you to reach out to your candidate’s commissioning source staff. This staff would be your candidate’s Officer Selection Office (OSO), ROTC unit’s Marine Officer Instructor (MOI), or for the prior service Marines it is their command at their home unit. These individuals will help determine if your situation qualifies the need for a RED CROSS message. RED CROSS messages involve the death or terminal illness of a loved one.

Officer Candidates School Graduation: FAQ

With over 100 years of military experience, Sandboxx has compiled some great graduation FAQs and tips to make your trip to graduation very rewarding. Before you know it your loved one will be commissioned a United States Marine 2nd Lieutenant and begin their journey as one of America’s best leaders.

Officer Candidates School (OCS) is located onboard Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, VA nestled among thousands of northern Virginia trees. Your candidate is becoming very familiar with those trees as they spend a majority of their time running the trails, scaling obstacles and hunting for checkpoints to hone their navigational skills.  Quantico is 35 miles south of Washington D.C. and 20 miles north of Fredericksburg, VA. 

How do I get on base at MCB Quantico?

The base can be entered from two exits, exit 150 and exit 148, north and southbound lanes of I-95. Exit 148 leads to the gate closest to the Marine Exchange. Exit 150 leads to the gate closest to the Quantico golf course. MCB Quantico is divided into two separate areas, the OCS training area is on the backside of the base. There will be signs directing you to OCS from both entrances, but feel free to explore the base if you arrive early. Families are allowed to enter the Exchange as well as the stores located in Quantico Town (Q-Town). Don’t worry – if you get lost there will be plenty of young Marines in uniform at the ready to provide directions.

What airports should I fly into?

Washington DC offers several airports: Dulles International (IAD), Reagan National (DCA) and Baltimore (BWI). Most families fly into the convenient Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport 36 miles from the base which often has the lowest fares. You can also choose Richmond International Airport (RIC) located in Richmond, Virginia 86 miles south of the base. Keep in mind your new Marine will want to enjoy the sites of Washington DC after graduation, such as the famous Iwo Jima Memorial. If you are staying overnight, you may consider reserving a hotel near Washington DC.

Where are the best hotels near MCB Quantico?

Quantico is conveniently located near several communities offering a wide range of affordable options for hotels. Sandboxx Travel recommends staying in a hotel located near Stafford, Dumfries, Garrisonville or Woodbridge. If you are visiting Washington D.C. and northern Virginia for the first time be aware there is always traffic. Staying close to the base will save you lots of time in driving. Please be mindful that OCS is a challenging school. Travel insurance is recommended in case your candidate must return home early and re-enroll into training for the next course dates.

What do I need to get onto base?

A government issued photo ID is required for anyone 18 years or older and are checked by the military police at the gate. Anyone 18 and older who does not have a form of identification will not be permitted on to the base. MCB Quantico is a working facility, which means both military and civilian personnel will be arriving the same time you are, so you might arrive 30-45 minutes early to avoid the long lines at the gate.

To drive on to the base you will need your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If you rent a car the rental agreement will serve as your proof of insurance. We will also release an access pass that you can show the Marines and military police at the gates.

Once on base you can use google maps or one of the many interactive maps that the OCS Training Command has put together for families and friends.

How many people can attend Officer Candidates School Graduation?

OCS Graduation does not limit the number of people attending Family Day or Graduation. Graduating as a United States Marine Corps Officer will be one of the greatest accomplishments of your loved one’s life, and all family members and friends are encouraged to attend. It is not uncommon for families with a party of ten plus to make the trip to graduation to celebrate the success of their new Marine.  

If there is inclement weather the day of Graduation, we will communicate the inclement weather plan: time and location via push notification. If relocated indoors, there will be a guest limit per candidate to ensure each candidate has the opportunity to have their loved ones present for this momentous event. 

For those who can’t attend graduation, you can view the video recording on the OCS Youtube page or Facebook page.

What do I wear to family day and graduation?

The majority of activities are held outdoors with no shelter, so make sure to check the local weather and bring an umbrella if it is rainy. If graduation is scheduled for the summer or early fall you will want to wear appropriate clothing for high heat and humidity, it can get sticky! However, Virginia can get cold and bitter during the winter months. The weather can play havoc on the candidates training – ask your candidate about the Quigley.

Casual dress is recommended for Family Day, as well as comfortable shoes for walking. Don’t worry about clothes for your candidate, they will be wearing the uniform of the day. But if you’re already thinking about a gift for graduation, the Sandboxx Shop has a variety of apparel to choose from.

Graduation Day is considered a more formal event as your candidate transitions from candidate to Second Lieutenant of Marines, so business casual is appropriate.

Where can we eat on base?

A steady diet of military rations and 10 minute meals has readied your candidate for some non-military chow. During Family Day at MCB Quantico you can take advantage of several venues throughout the base, including The Marine Corps Exchange. The exchange has a food court offering pizza, Mediterranean food or subs (and yes, McDonald’s is close by). You can also head off base, but don’t wander too far away. Your candidate must report back that afternoon – on time.

Quantico also offers a downtown (Q-Town) which has several restaurants Bap Zip Burrito House, Sam’s Inn Restaurant, Filipino Kitchen, My Deli, S & G Restaurant, Q Town Cafe, Domino’s Pizza, and Mulligan’s Restaurant. Q-Town even has a coffee shop offering a cup of joe your candidate might be craving. You can also choose the Clubs at Quantico for meals, but your candidate may choose to stay clear of too many high ranking officers.

What happens on Family Day?

Family Day marks the first day you will get to see your candidate! The Command at Quantico recognizes families and friends are anxious to see their loved ones and have graciously scheduled events beginning early in the morning (or maybe early morning is just a Marine Corps thing).

The Commanding Officer’s Motivational Run will kick start Family Day.
The motivational run will be the first opportunity to see your Candidate, that is if you can still recognize them. At this stage of training, all of the Candidates look similar to each other and fashion the famous high & tight haircut or the sleek Marine Corps bun. You’ve had weeks of practice playing “Where’s Waldo” on the OCS Facebook page so we have confidence you’ll spot them. If you miss your candidate running by the first time don’t worry they’ll run back the same way and pass you once more, have the camera ready (and Kleenex)!

Space for best viewing of the motivational run is limited. Families will have the opportunity to pre-stage themselves along the run route so plan to arrive early. It may take 15-30 minutes to find parking and walk to the run route so make sure you give yourself plenty of time in the morning. 

Immediately following the motivation run your candidate will be dismissed to change over prior to being released for liberty (yes, liberty means FREEDOM). Get ready, this is the moment you’ve been anxiously waiting for, the first embrace!

During liberty, your candidate is free to explore the base, including the Exchange, Q-Town, or the surrounding off-base communities. It is not recommended to travel too far away from the base, such as Washington D.C. since your candidate has a designated time they must report back at the end of liberty. If you leave base make sure you head back at least an hour prior to the end of liberty.

One attraction we recommend as a must-see is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The museum is filled with the rich history of the Marine Corps past, present and future.

End of Liberty – Early Afternoon
Depending on your candidate’s company, they will have a very specific time they will need to report back and be accounted for. Don’t worry, your candidate will be all yours the next day.

Family Day Orientation Brief
The Family Day orientation brief will be concurrent to when your candidate has to return to OCS for Graduation practice at the close of Family Day. The Family Day brief is an hour long presented by the Commanding Officer of OCS. The brief will provide an overview of everything your candidate has accomplished over the last ten weeks followed by a session of FAQs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions the CO has heard and answered them all.

The briefs are scheduled by company and you can find the exact time and location of your brief on the OCS Facebook page

What happens on Graduation Day at Officer Candidates School?

9:00 a.m. –  10:00 a.m. Graduation ceremony
The graduation ceremony will be held outside (unless an inclement weather call is called) on the famous parade deck aboard Brown Field. The seating is first come, first serve for most friends and families so make sure you set your alarm early enough to get a good seat. If you want to get the perfect picture of your candidate make sure to sit in the right company section (follow the signs). 

Handicap seating is also available at the front of the bleachers.

VIP seating: Family members and friends holding the rank of E9 and O6 and above, who have pre-reserved with the OCS Protocol Officer, are seated in the reviewing stand and under the red tents. 

The graduation ceremony recognizes all candidates who met the required challenge and successfully completed the demanding curriculum. These candidates are ready (and very eager) to take their next step in becoming leaders of Marines. The top-performing candidates will be acknowledged during the ceremony. You will be notified if your candidate is one of the top performers during Officer Candidates School.

The candidates will demonstrate their close-order drill with an impressive pass and review, which offers a great time for pictures. This is followed by a short presentation by the Commanding Officer and special guest speaker.


It is finally here, the commissioning from candidate to 2nd Lieutenant. The pride and honor you will feel for your newly commissioned Marine will be overwhelming so be sure have your tissues close by.

After the official ceremony, the Lieutenants will be dismissed to conduct their personal pinning ceremony where individuals, of their choosing, will officially pin on the famous gold bars, the insignia of a Second Lieutenant.

Following the pinning ceremony, your new Marine will receive their first salute from an enlisted member of any military service they choose (this is a big deal, so make sure you have your camera ready). Candidates will often choose their first salute to come from a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) from their platoon staff, as they have played a significant part in the development from candidate to Marine officer. Don’t forget the long-standing tradition of your new Second Lieutenant presenting the gift of a silver dollar to the individual rendering them their first salute.

What Happens After Officer Candidates School Graduation?

After OCS Graduation is complete, your Lieutenant will need to check into Camp Barrett, the home of the 6-month Basic School (TBS). Your Lieutenant will receive orders from OCS with a check-in date and time on their orders. 

The time it takes to report to TBS will vary so please be patient. Checking into TBS can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. 

The feeling you will get when you see your new Marine for the first time will be more than you could ever imagine. It is truly a special day and time to enjoy and celebrate with your Marine and family.

Happy travels, and congrats to you and your soon-to-be new Marine!

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