FORT McCLELLAN, Ala. - A local Soldier made history at Fort Hood as the first active-duty Soldier on the installation to complete the National Guard accelerated Officer Candidate School program.
Sgt. John Nuzzela, a cavalry scout, participated in the accelerated officer's course held at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in January. He was one of 85 Soldiers enrolled in the class and the first Soldier accepted from Fort Hood.
The accelerated course is a fast-paced program that allows Soldiers who are within one year of their expiration term of service to become commissioned officers in eight weeks. The traditional OCS program is a 14-week course.
"I knew that I wanted to become an officer because of the strong influential commanders that I have worked with, so I thought this accelerated program was the best choice for me," Nuzzela said.
The course, much like the basic combat training course, consists of three phases. Phase I is the first step in the OCS commissioning process. During this phase, candidates conduct land navigation, a field leadership exercise, a five-mile march and they cover Army training management and advanced map reading.
Phase II makes up most of a candidate's OCS experience. During this phase, candidates conduct a field leadership exercise, a seven- and 10-mile foot march and a three-mile formation run. Phase III is the last step in the process and covers troop-leading procedure, the leadership reaction course, the final field leadership exercise, infantry squad tactics, combat water-survival training and a tactical exercise without troops.
"The course was a major adjustment because I had to revert back to the basic training style of things and even turn in my cell phone again," Nuzzela said. "But it was also rewarding because I got the opportunity to offer the things I learned from being active duty to the new Soldiers."
Nuzzela graduated from St. John's University in New York with a bachelor's degree in Human Services in 2011. He is a native of Binghamton, New York, and plans to further his education at Hunter College in Manhattan to become a math teacher while he continues his military service as a National Guard officer.
"There are some requirements that must be met prior to applying for this course," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Wienczkowski, a career counselor. "Soldiers must have a minimum GT score of 110, be within a year of their ETS date, have a bachelor's degree and be able to physically complete the course."
The program is offered twice a year and candidates must have packets completed at least two weeks prior to ensure that no one is rejected upon arrival.
"This program is a great opportunity for Soldiers to be able to complete this course prior to getting to their National Guard units," said Sgt. Maj. Lisa Porillo-Birkhead.
Nuzzela graduated from the course March 20 and received the highest peer rating in his class. He has served a total of four years in the active component of the Army and is ready to switch gears to become a Citizen-Soldier.
"It is going to be a bitter-sweet departure," Nuzzela said. "The camaraderie between the active-duty Soldiers will be missed, but being closer to home is what I am looking forward to."