California State Military Department
The California Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
California State Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
The History of the California Military Academy and the Officer Candidate School at Camp San Luis Obispo
By Colonel John M. Menter
Regimental Commander, 223d Infantry Regiment (Combat Arms)
 
 
The idea of an "Officer Candidate School" (OCS) being established at Camp San Luis Obispo in the summer of 1950 was merely that, an idea. However, because of the need for junior officers in the California Army National Guard, Major General Curtis D. O’Sullivan, then Commanding General of the 49th Infantry Division, conceived a program to establish such an academy within the State of California, outside the exiting Army Program located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The newly created State OCS program graduated its first class in 1951.
 
Soldiers who entered the program became "Cadets" (later on becoming Officer Candidates or OC’s for short in the 1990’s) came from the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. During the next 10 years, OCS came under close scrutiny from Active Component officers from Fort Benning, but proved highly successful and began to expand its format. The Program of Instruction was provided by the US Army Infantry School, ensuring the training was conducted to the same standard as taught at Fort Benning. Emphasis was placed on the very best instruction available. As the academy grew in size and importance, facilities for academic training became necessary. In 1961, OCS training officially came under the newly created California Military Academy (CMA) with its home at Camp San Luis Obispo. For the next 35 years, the term "CMA" would be synonymous with OCS.
As the program developed and matured, Cadets would initially enter as juniors, advancing into senior phase at the completion of their first summer camp. On an average, there were three OCS companies located throughout California (North, Central and South), but such was the popularity of the program that at its peak in 1968, 6 companies were in existence in addition to a 7th Senior Company. Approximately 280 Second Lieutenants were commissioned in the summer of 1968. As of this date, a little over 5,000 soldiers have received their commissions within the United States Army and the California Army National Guard.
 
One of the more recognizable signs of the program is the famous Eagle, found on the side of Guard Mountain. The Eagle was the creation of an enterprising young civil engineering Cadet in the mid 1960’s. Using a telescope mounted on top of a hutment, this Cadet guided his team via radios in positioning each rock into its place, forming the shape you see today. Each year, the class that is scheduled to graduate takes time off to paint the rocks and perform basic maintenance, changing the year’s designation in the process. Many a time, junior’s will sneak up at night and change the senior class designation to that of their own; no small feat considering the Eagle is nearly ½ an acre in size.
 
The Eagle itself severed as a magnet of controversy in the early 70’s as the anti-war movement made military involvement a highly unpopular act. The Eagle became a cause celebre with the anti-war faction at Caliifornia State Polytechic College (Cal Poly), necessitating the Camp San Luis Obispo Post Commander to order it dismantled. As the Eagle was taken apart during the day, each night the Senior Cadet Company snuck up and had it reassembled to the early morning frustration of the Post Commander. Realizing he was whipped after several go a rounds, no further orders were given for its dismantlement. The Eagle has remained in its "perch" ever since.
 
As the 1970’s emerged, the OCS continued to evolve. In 1974, the first women graduates were commissioned from the program, six years before West Point started. College credits were now available to each graduating Second Lieutenant for successful course completion due to the school’s sustained accreditation by the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
 
Prior to 1979, a dedicated formal education for Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) leadership training within the California Army National Guard did not exist. Very few NCOs were allowed to attend any type of formal leadership training; therefore, the only NCO education available was "On the Job" training. At the urging of Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Hester Parker (then State CSM), funding was set aside to train 200 NCO’s. A Program of Instruction was fashioned using one obtained from Colorado. Pilot program training was conducted at the E-6/7 level and was conducted in August 1979 and 1980 in conjunction with OCS. With the inception of the NCO Education System or NCOES in 1981, NCO Leadership training became a staple within CMA and remains with the school house to this day.
 
By the early 1990’s, it became apparent that many soldiers within the California Army National Guard needed Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Reclassification. As CMA had done an outstanding job with OCS and NCOES, the school house was tasked with developing select MOS reclassification training courses, such as 88M (truck driver), 94B (Cook), 19E (Armor Crewman) etc, each one receiving acclaim from soldiers who attended from throughout California and the western United States for the programs excellence and professionalism.
 
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent drawdown of the US Army, a major restructuring took place across the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command or "TRADOC". In 1996, State Military Academies were redesignated as Regional Training Institutes and incorporated into "The Army School System" commonly known as TASS. Each of these RTI’s was one allowed to select a historical regiment that best represents the spirit of State and the school. The 223rd Infantry Regiment designation was nominated by then commander Colonel Ron Flynn due to the historical affiliation the regiment had with the 40th Infantry Division (Mechanized), the California Army National Guard’s largest formation. Additionally, the 223rd Infantry Regiment distinguished itself during the Korean War with three of its soldiers receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, two of which having received it from the same battle, a rare occurrence since only one other regiment within the Army National Guard can claim such an accolade.
 
Today, the 223rd Infantry Regiment (Combat Arms) carries on with the traditions established over half a century prior. In addition to its traditional OCS and NCOES mission, the Regiment also teaches a variety of Professional Development, Armor & Infantry MOS qualification training such as M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Mortar, and Cavalry Scout training. It has hosted M1A1 Abrams and M2 Bradley Displaced Equipment Transition Training for the combat elements of the 40th Infantry Division, the Non-Prior Service training course for newly recruited soldiers, Company Level Pre-Command Courses for current and future Company Commanders and First Sergeant, and in October 2001 will commence with Military Intelligence training for the MI battalions of the 49th Combat Support Command. Finally, the Regiment not only works for the California Army National Guard, but also serves as the Combat Arms Headquarters for the western 14 States making up TRADOC Region G, the largest training region found within TASS.
 
The name may change, but the tradition of excellence continues well into the next century. With the support of the Adjutant General and the commanders in the field, the 223rd Infantry Regiment continues to accomplish its most import mission: Train Soldiers to Lead Soldiers.
 


Regimental Heraldry
 
For information of the California Military Academy's heraldry, CLICK HERE


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