Officer Candidate (OC) Alexander Nispel, a Montgomery, Texas native and 2015 graduate of Montgomery High School, is hoping to launch his career in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. He’s currently at Newport, RI’s Officer Candidate School in a morally-, physically-, and mentally-taxing 13-week-long program. If he passes, he’ll graduate in March and be commissioned as an Ensign. HFM spoke with OC Nispel about his experiences at OCS.
Serving in the armed forces is an incredibly noble career choice. When did you first think you wanted to become a Navy officer?
It started after college. I’m a big fan of adventure. And I figured the best way to continue that would be to join the Navy. I’ve always wanted to serve my country. And sacrifice is the key to success. The Navy fits all those values and just seemed like a great place for me to set my path down.
Did your childhood impact your decision to become a Navy officer?
I’ve never actually stepped foot on a ship. It just seems like a really fun time, fun being the right word there. I’ve always grown up in a household that takes service as a very serious commitment… just a very standard American upbringing.
What’s an average day like at OCS?
We’ll start between 3:30 and 4 in the morning. At about 5 o’clock, we get started with PT (Physical Training). We try to fit in a shower. Then there’s chow. And then we either have classes or different case studies, or different lectures. And that basically continues throughout the rest of the day. We’re done at about 10 o’clock at night.
The case studies sound interesting. How are those reviewed?
They’re really in-depth studies of different combat situations or situations that ships have been in. The Navy has taken those experiences and is learning from them and creating better new officers to avoid some of the mishaps of the past.
Tell me more about the physical training and conditioning you go through.
The Navy focuses a lot on HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). We’ll go out and for about 30 minutes to an hour, we do push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, lunges, anything you could possibly want.
Past physical training, is there any mental and moral conditioning that occurs?
The Navy focuses quite a bit on what they call warrior toughness, getting into the mindset of the warrior and preparing yourself for stressful situations. And the Navy has ethical guidelines that they’ve really tried to make sure are imbued in every naval officer-in-training; that will definitely help you in the long run, and really serve to guide you on a successful path.
What would you say to someone who’s looking to take part in OCS? What do you wish you were told before joining?
Before this, I wish I would have been told to eat very well, eat a lot before you come here. Also, get used to waking up early because that’s going to be your life for the next few months. Other than that, just be very, very certain this is the right decision for you, and that you’re really committed to becoming a naval officer. This will stress you in ways you haven’t stressed before.
Military camaraderie is legendary; have you felt that there’s a brotherhood at OCS?
I’ve definitely made some of the best friends in my life in the last three months, and I know that I’ll definitely continue communicating with them, hopefully for the rest of my life. And I was, I was really surprised at the sense of camaraderie that you can achieve in just a couple of weeks when you’re put into a situation like this.
What would you advise a kid with an interest in the armed forces to do? What would you have done?
I would have definitely worked out a lot more, especially in high school. Then, becoming acquainted with a lot of the Navy’s protocols and the way of doing things. If you come into the situation with a good understanding of the branches and an understanding of their history, I feel like you would have a pretty solid grasp, and this would be a much smoother process.
The life of a civilian and the life of an OC are very different; how did you adapt to the culture of the Navy?
You learn to adapt very quickly: you adapt or you’re done. And I think that’s one of the best things the Navy has taught me, that when something you’re not expecting comes your way, you better start expecting it. You just have to switch your mindset. And that’s where the warrior toughness training also comes into play. It teaches you to be agile and on your toes at all times.
What’s your message to the world?
I would say that, to anyone that is thinking about joining the Navy, it’s not the worst thing in the world. You will make great friends, you’ll have a pretty good time, even throughout all the sandpit trips. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the program.