SE: Goodin Taking OCS Training into Final XC Season

Physically exhausted and mentally drained, Blake Goodin stared at a 20-foot rope he needed to climb. 

He jumped and fell. He jumped again, and fell again. Four straight attempts went like this: climb a few lengths and fall. On his fifth try, however, Goodin summoned strength that may not show in his build but is there nonetheless.  

“I was completely staggering and I don’t know how I did it,” said Goodin, a senior cross country runner for K-State, “but I climbed that rope and slid down.” 

Goodin, who spent 10 weeks this summer in the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS), reflects on moments like climbing that rope with a newfound sense of self-confidence. 

“That’s the kind of stuff that I think about now when I’m imagining how far can I go, how far can I push myself,” said the Princeton, Missouri native. “I climbed that rope against everything in my body. I found a way to the top of that rope. So what am I going to be able to do running now?” 

Last school year, Goodin found himself in a somewhat similar situation. Instead of climbing a rope, however, he was scaling his way to interviews for internships. 

Multiple interviews ended with nothing to show, leading Goodin to lean on his faith for an answer. What he got, Goodin said, was a sign. 

“I remember one night, I spent a lot of time praying, ‘What do You want me to do?’ Within a couple hours, I got an email from an Officer Selection Officer from the United States Marine Corps,” recalled Goodin, who, despite not having any military background, ran with the opportunity. “I just thought it was a sign. I got that email and thought this is what God wants me to do, so this is what I’m going to do.” 

When the militarily green Goodin reported to the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, he entered a completely new world inhabited by candidates from The Citadel, the Naval Academy and the NROTC. 

“When I got there I barely knew the difference between the Marine Corps and the Army,” Goodin said, smiling. “I learned pretty quick.”

Through OCS, Goodin learned as much about himself as he did the Marine Corps. These lessons were not always taught in the most pleasant ways, however. 

Days started at 3 a.m., with nonstop activity until at least 8 p.m. For the first four weeks, Goodin said daily calories burned outweighed calories consumed by more than 2,000. 

He was berated frequently and pushed beyond previously held physical and mental limits, all while being closely watched. Goodin endured Leadership Reaction Challenges (LRCs) — seemingly impossible tasks meant to see how candidates handled failure — and Small Unit Leadership Evaluations (SULEs), which put teams into different simulations to see how they dealt with adversity. 

“Everything you see on TV, that happens,” he said. 

One day, Goodin recalls hiking countless miles with 40-pound assault packs on and finding blood running down his legs afterward. 

“That was the point, that was the test,” Goodin said. “They wanted to put you in that situation and see how you felt and see how you reacted to being completely destroyed. Would you still fight on?”

Goodin and his fellow candidates also had to fight the urge to sleep in the classroom, where hours upon hours were spent absorbing various lessons. With five hours considered a good night’s sleep, avoiding it in class required some teamwork — an awakening pinch or grab, for example. 

“It’s not like college where you can fall asleep in class,” Goodin said. “If you fell asleep in class, it was not good.” 

Goodin estimated the OCS attrition rate at about 40 percent, adding that the thought of quitting entered everyone’s mind at some point. 

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this,’ just over and over,” he said, crediting “liberty periods,” 24-hour segments where candidates could leave base and use their cell phones, with helping create camaraderie within his 66-man platoon. “That brotherhood started clicking and it became more of a support system. That’s when we really started figuring out that we’re not getting through this unless we do it together.” 

Sure enough, it was because of his platoon members that Goodin made it through OCS. After he climbed the rope to complete the obstacle course — a requirement to graduate OCS — Goodin began to fall to the ground. 

“That adrenaline or whatever it was I summoned ran out,” said Goodin, an agribusiness major. 

If he had fully collapsed, he would have been considered “a heat causality” and forced to leave. Fortunately for Goodin, he was caught by a platoon member and saved from losing what is now a future career with the Marine Corps, which he will start after graduating from K-State.

Until then, Goodin will transition back into civilian life and, more specifically, into the daily routine of a collegiate cross country runner, where 6 a.m., workouts no longer seem so rough. 

“This is a bit of an adjustment for him just because things are too relaxed around here,” said K-State head cross country coach Ryun Godfrey, whose team opened the season last Friday at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “He’s grown up, matured a little bit more, and I think it’s an experience we can only imagine.”

For Goodin, who didn’t race in the season opener, OCS was an experience that changed his perspective on just about everything. 

“Physical pain now is something I’m very, very used to. Not giving up is something that I’m very, very used to,” said Goodin, who now sits and stands at attention without thinking about it. “It’s part of my personal identity now.”