Female CSU students complete Marine Officer Candidate School

Austin Fleskes

Colorado State University senior Sydney Murkins poses for a portrait at the Oval on Monday afternoon. Murkins recently completed the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Roughly 75 females nationwide entered and completed the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School program this past summer, including two Colorado State University students.

According to Capt. Ryan Hart, the officer selection officer of the Marine Corps Officer Program, participants are placed through a rigorous training process.


“It is one of the most physically, mentally, and morally challenging leadership schools in the world,” Hart wrote in an email to the Collegian. 

Hart expressed his excitement and pride for the two participants that finished OCS school. Hart emphasized its importance by adding that the last female to commission as a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps from CSU was in 2011.

The mission of OCS is “to educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled and challenging environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer,” according to the Marine Corps website

Participants in OCS complete either a 10-week program over the course of one summer or two six-week programs over the course of two summers. 

The school breaks down its evaluation of participants into three categories: leadership, academics and physical fitness. By the end of the course, participants are expected to “command presence, communication skills, decision making, and leading subordinates,” understand and learn Marine Corps  history, tactics, operations and more, as well as complete a list of different physical tasks and courses, all of which is laid out in the OCS website’s general information page. 

Senior Sydney Murkins did not grow up in a military family, but was drawn to the idea of joining the military when she was figuring out what she wanted to do.

Kaitlin Derrick, who recently graduated from Colorado State University, also completed the Marine Officer Candidate School. Photo provided by Kaitlin Derrick

“I was always really drawn to heroes and I guess I just ended up with the military,” Murkins said, adding that after talking to an officer she realized that it was what she wanted to do. 

Murkins contracted with OCS in September 2014, and did her first six-week program in summer 2016 and her second in summer  2017. 

“(The program is) challenging but it’s the best and worst time of your life,” Murkins said.

After finishing her OCS training, Murkins also described her graduation as a very surreal event, adding that she cried during the ceremony.


 “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to do it,” Murkins said. “I’m incredibly excited. I would literally give up everything for this. It’s what I’ve always wanted, and I hope I can make a difference.” 

According to Murkins, while the program is difficult, it should not stop other women from pursuing it.

“I think it’s weird for females to go through this,” Murkins said. “(But) just because we’re females shouldn’t make a difference.”

Colorado State University senior Sarah Accardi poses for a portrait at the Oval on Sept. 7. Accardi was a member of the Marine Officer Candidates School, but sustained a leg injury during her Officer Candidates School training earlier this year. Once she is fully healed, she plans on returning to training. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Another one of the females that completed the program was recently graduated student Kaitlin Derrick. 

Contrary to Murkins, Derrick grew up in a military family and from a young age was inspired by having a military career.

“The military really seemed like a good option,” Derrick said. “I think it is a really good career opportunity.” 

After contracting into OCS in January of this year, Derrick entered the 10-week program and realized how difficult it  was for her. 

“It was really kind of difficult for me at first. It was completely different from anything I had ever known,” Derrick said, adding that at first she was not physically ready for the program and had to adjust to it. 

Derrick finished out the 10-week program and described her graduation as a great sense of accomplishment and something that made her feel very strong and confident.

“It was amazing to graduate,” Derrick said. “The feeling of graduating was sort of surreal because at points I didn’t think I would make it.”

The third female student that entered the program was senior Sarah Accardi.

Accardi became interested in the military in her junior year after attending a Marine Corps event. After contracting in February, Accardi began her first six-week program during the summer. 

“Its a very interesting experience,” Accardi said. “You’re pushed to your max every day constantly, and you were constantly on. The main mission of OCS is not to make you a leader but to screen your potential for leadership.” 

During her fourth week, Accardi was running a timed stamina course when she fell and broke her fibula in her left leg. She was unable to finish the program.

However, Accardi is still pursuing her program and will continue her training after she is cleared. 

“I can’t wait to go back. I miss it there,” Accardi said. “While I was there, I was challenged a lot, but it was a great experience. I can’t wait to be back.” 

Collegian news reporter Austin Fleskes can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Austinfleskes07.