Ensign Nicole Bouchard is currently attending The University of Maryland School of Medicine under the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program. She recently completed Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island and was kind enough to provide feedback on her experiences.
1- What did you do to prepare for ODS? Was there anything that you over/under prepared for?
Aside from packing (which took way longer than it should have), I studied a lot of gouge before going – Sailor’s Creed, Rank Insignia, Code of Conduct, etc. Although we had time to study there during free time and at night, I felt much better already knowing all that information, especially the ranks! I didn’t get any knowledge questions wrong during my inspections and I owe that to the fact that I started memorizing early in a less stressful environment (i.e. on my couch).
Some other students said that I was over-prepared on this front, but those same people came to me to use my flashcards and study with me before inspections. I also, of course, got myself physically ready by running 3 miles in the morning 3 days a week and doing strength and conditioning on the off days. This really paid off, even though PT wasn’t at all rigorous. Some people struggled with our sustained run days.
2- What was your biggest challenge during the course?
The biggest challenge for me was not falling asleep in class, really. I spent most of my time standing in the back. I would recommend to future students that if they are big coffee drinkers that they ween themselves off of it before getting there. I ended up with caffeine withdrawal headaches my first 2 days (the longest 2 days) which made everything unnecessarily harder. The sleep schedule is hard to get used to at first, but this is another reason why I was so glad I studied ahead of time – I could go to bed earlier than most people who had to stay up studying.
Another challenge for me was, surprisingly, becoming accustomed to the “team” attitude. My whole life I have been used to being responsible for my own actions and my own actions alone. All of a sudden, I (and everyone else) was being held accountable for others’ mistakes. It was hard at first not to get frustrated by this, and I know I wasn’t the only one. The faster everyone learns to ask for help when they need it and offer help when they see others needing it, the better it will be…for everyone.
My company was a little slow on this learning curve. With most of us being medical students, we were all kind of used to competing against our peers. I spent a lot of nights earlier on becoming frustrated with people, and it wasn’t until I was the one who screwed up when it finally clicked. Once we really started working together, everything ran so much more smoothly.
3- What was/were your best experiences?
I met some great people that I know I will end up working with throughout my Navy career, and being able to make those connections, with people that I had so much in common with on so many levels, was amazing. You get really close with your peers in just 5 weeks, especially because there is no privacy, alone time, etc. I really did make some great friends. I’m still texting my roommate every day.
That, and saving the USS Buttercup from sinking. The wet trainer was definitely the most fun evolution we had the entire 5 weeks, and I think most everyone would agree with me on that.
4- Now that you are through with ODS do you feel any different?
I feel completely different, actually! I feel like I accomplished something really big. I feel proud to be in the Navy and don’t feel as weird telling people about it, mostly because I really understands what that means now.
5- Are you still happy with your decision to join the Navy?
I am, in fact, even more happy with my decision now than I ever was before! Even though there was a lot of nonsense we had to deal with while at training, I loved feeling like a real part of the military for the first time. I really think I’m going to have an amazing career and I don’t know how any civilian doctor’s experience will ever come close to mine.
6- After this experience, is there anything about the Navy that you are particularly looking forward to?
Adventure! There’s so many opportunities that the Navy offers, and I know I won’t come close to getting to experience them all. A new place every 2-3 years, meeting people from all over, working with the most courageous and honorable people this country has to offer – that’s what I’m looking forward to most.
Thanks to Ensign Bouchard for this feedback! To see a video about the USS Buttercup wet trainer click here. The video is nine minutes long with the real action kicking off at the five minute mark.
If you are in the Baltimore area and would like to learn more about Navy Health Professions Scholarship you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live outside of Balimtimore you can enter your zip code into the Recruiter Locator to find an Officer Recruiter near you.