I recently had the privilege to attend my Aviation Officer Candidate School reunion a few weeks ago. Aviation Officer Candidate School was the Navy’s gateway from a civilian to becoming a commissioned Officer and Aviator. In fact, just outside the main academic building, hung a wood sign with gold lettering that read, “Through These Doors Walk The Future of Naval Aviation.”
It was an extremely intense 4 months of breaking you down and building you up as a leader and it was run by the best of the best Marine Corps Drill Instructors. The movie “Officer and a Gentleman” was based loosely on this school. This program ran from 1947 to 1994. Unfortunately this program is no longer in existence and the reunion was the first reunion ever held. We had over 300 graduates and Drill Instructors from class 1961 to 1994 attend the event.
My class was 02-88 and unfortunately my drill instructor couldn’t make the event. However, my Chief Drill Instructor, Master Gunnery Sergeant D. W. Bearup USMC, did attend. It was extremely gratifying seeing him, now in his 70’s, and getting a chance to talk with him. I made sure to let him know how much of an impact he had on my life. He spoke to all of us with tears in his eyes, how this tour of duty from his entire career in the Marine Corps was his most rewarding. In fact, EVERY drill instructor in attendance felt the same way! All 300 of us graduates agreed that this short 4 months of our lives changed all of us forever!
So what does this all have to do with the title “There are Pretenders and Contenders: Which one are you?” Well upon graduation and becoming commissioned as an officer (if you made it, as attrition was very high) our Chief Drill Instructor, Master Gunnery Sargent D.W. Bearup USMC gave each of us a piece of paper that he had written to each of us and it read;
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