Graduate Commissioned as Marine Officer

Southern Virginia University graduate, Ben Woods, from Pocatello, Idaho, was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on Monday, February 1 in the Southern Virginia ballroom.

Woods comes from a family of military officers. He’s wanted for years to follow in their footsteps. The commission as a second lieutenant is a huge step in carrying on the family tradition.

Becoming a Marine Officer is a grueling process. Candidates must go through selection boards and have multiple good references. There are then three routes by which they may earn a commission: finish Officer Candidate School, complete Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) or attend one of the service academies, such as West Point or Annapolis. In the Marine Corps, for every 10,000 contacts made by recruiters and Officer Selection Officers, between five and six of them earn a commission.

Southern Virginia is honored to have one of its students commissioned at the university. Generally, Marine Officers are commissioned only at a university that offers a Navy ROTC program. If no Navy ROTC program is available, previously enlisted potential Marine Corps officer candidates can apply to Officer Candidate School (OCS) through the local Officer Selection Office. Roughly 10 percent of all Marine Corps officers come from enlisted ranks.

Woods enlisted in the Army after high school then switched to the Marine Corps in 2007. As a previously enlisted candidate, Woods was recommended by his superiors for Officer Candidate School. He attended the ten-week Officer Candidate Course at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va., where candidates are trained, screened and evaluated as potential Marine Corps officers. Of those candidates who attend OCS, about half graduate.

Woods graduated from Officer Candidate School in August 2008. Before he could receive his commission, he needed to graduate from college. He accomplished that step in December 2009, when he completed a philosophy degree here at Southern Virginia University.

Currently Woods is at the Virginia Military Institute helping prepare Marine Officer candidates for OCS and working to certify as a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor. In September, he will enter the “The Basic School” at Quantico, which trains new Marine Officers. From there he will be assigned a specialty field, which could be anything from infantry to military police to naval aviation.

“There is no better feeling than accomplishing one of your life goals,” Woods said. “This has honestly been my biggest goal in life since I was about four years old.”