TORRINGTON – On Thursday, May 27, Torrington native Spencer Derr had his officer commission ceremony for the United States Marine Corps at The Loft in 21st and Main.
Derr officially became a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and now the wait begins for him to leave for The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, Virginia. Derr thinks he will be leaving for TBS in either September or October.
Once Derr is finished with the six-month TBS, he will be attending the specified school for his Military Occupational Specialties (MOS). He currently doesn’t have an MOS assigned to him, but his top three choices are Combat Engineering, something in Intelligence or an Infantry Officer.
“I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wyoming,” Derr said. “They don’t have a Mechanical Engineering field, but they have a Combat Engineer. I’d say my top three are probably Combat Engineer, Intelligence Officer or Infantry Officer.”
Derr said while he’s in TBS he will fill out a dream sheet of different jobs he would like to do in the Marines and once he’s finished, they will assign him a job and he will then head to his MOS school.
Before joining the Marines, Derr had considered joining the United States Navy when he was in high school. He instead decided to go to Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) before transferring to the University of Wyoming.
While Derr was attending the University of Wyoming, his previous captain in charge of recruiting contacted him and asked if he would be interested in joining the Marines. Derr said when he signed up, his captain told him if he didn’t like it, he could leave at any time, but Derr said he enjoyed it and decided to stay.
Derr spoke to a former teacher's son before deciding to become an officer. He considered going the enlisted route but received advice he should finish out his degree and to go the officer route instead of being enlisted.
While attending the University of Wyoming, Derr said he was not required to join an ROTC program, but it was his responsibility to work out on his own and attend monthly pool functions.
Pool functions occur once a month and are designed to improve the fitness, leadership and camaraderie of the poolees before they are shipped off to Quantico, Virginia for Officer Candidate School (OCS).
“Once a month we have pool functions,” Derr said. “We just meet for one day and do things like paintball where we would learn different tactics. They also try to simulate things as close to OCS as possible.”
Derr did his OCS training in the summer of last year and then returned to the University of Wyoming for his final two semesters. He still had to attend the monthly pool functions but took on more of a leadership role since he already went through OCS.
OCS is a ten-week course where recruits go through an intensive basic training. During the ten weeks, recruits at OCS will be evaluated on leadership skills, academics and physical training. Recruits won’t be commissioned until they finish their bachelor’s degree.
“It was hot and humid in Virginia,” Derr said. “It was pretty fun, and I didn’t mind it all. We just got yelled at a lot, stayed in the field for three or four days, did various hikes and [physical training] tests, we only shot blanks there, but I’ll do all my qualifications when I go to TBS.”
Since Derr had to attend OCS during the pandemic, he had to take a COVID test and quarantine for two weeks before moving into the restricted section of the base. After those first two weeks, Derr said everything was normal for the most part in the restricted area, but there were a few places where masks were still required.
When reflecting on his time at OCS, Derr said his favorite part was when they would go out camping and had to do different obstacles and field training.
“My favorite thing was staying out in the field and camping, even though it wasn’t fun camping,” Derr said with a laugh. “You’d go out there and hike out for six miles and then you’d stay and sleep on rocks. You had all your gear inside your tent with your rackmate in a little two-man tent. We’d wake up, pack it all up and do field events; that was probably the best part.”
Derr said one of the more difficult parts was staying awake during the classroom portions of OCS. He said people would do all types of things to stay awake like blowing menthol cough drops into your eyes, smelling hand sanitizer or standing up in the back of the classroom.
The classroom portion of OCS consisted of four or five different exams which covered various different aspects of life in the Marine Corps.
Once Derr finishes TBS and his MOS school, he will be active duty for at least three years. He is unsure if he will stay in longer but said he will if he enjoys his time. Going to OCS counted towards one year of his service which is why he only has three years left.
While Derr is waiting to leave for TBS he will be spending his summer getting in better shape to prepare for training and enjoying time with friends and family before he leaves. He will also be working part-time with his dad helping him out with construction and doing a lot of fishing.
When Derr was asked about why he serves, he said it’s for people who were unable to raise their hand and serve their country. He also wanted to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and join the military since no one else in his family has done it before.
“It’s my way of helping people,” Derr said. “I know there’s some people who don’t or couldn’t do it, so if I can, I might as well.”