Mitch Bruce’s work ethic that eventually made him a Marine was born on a cattle ranch outside LaSalle, Colo.
As a child and into his teen years, Bruce helped his family raise cattle and alfalfa on its 150-acre ranch. During high school, Bruce started his own business selling fresh eggs on the weekends.
“Because of my business, I was able to learn how to manage my time better and how to cooperate with other people,” Bruce said. “It’s a lot different when you’re working for yourself.
The 21-year-old’s parents were against him enlisting after high school and wanted him to get a degree before making any impulsive decisions.
With the influence of his FFA chapter, he decided to attend CSU mainly because of its agriculture program.
He became an agricultural business and agricultural education double major and joined the fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. Bruce is now the president of the College Council of Agricultural Sciences.
Still holding on to the dream of serving the United States, Bruce met a former enlistee in his fraternity who persuaded him to learn more about getting involved with the Marine Corps.
After talking to other Marines and speaking with Captain David Jones, a former officer selection officer (OSO) for the Marine Corps, Bruce applied to become a candidate for Marine Corps officer training. He was accepted as a freshman and today, as a junior, cannot wait to accept his commission.
The Marine Corps Officer Program has been part of Fort Collins since June 2006, but has been recruiting from CSU through the Denver office for 25 years.
Captain Matt Hager, the current OSO, chooses applicants from across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. CSU is their No. 1 recruitment school, where they get 80 percent of their candidates. Currently, there are 30 candidates in the program, 12 from CSU.
“We are looking for someone who wants the ultimate challenge and wants to lead,” Hager said.
Unlike the CSU Army and Air Force ROTC, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, the Marine office is not directly affiliated with CSU and doesn’t require their candidates to attend any special classes or trainings during the school year.
It is an all-volunteer program where candidates can join and leave at their own will until they sign their commission.
“We want people to know that there is a program that is an all volunteer, leadership oriented program,” Hager said. “The training is during the summer and the university does give internship credit for the trainings.”
There is no target demographic, and the program is open to all. They are simply looking for candidates who will maintain academic excellence, attend the training and remain involved in their community. Candidates are also eligible for up to $8,000 a year in tuition assistance.
Even though the candidates are not required to do any training during the school year, Bruce said most of them are self-motivated and remain physically active, while motivating fellow candidates.
“We believe the Marine Corps is a stepping stone to future endeavors,” Hager said. “Having that success as a Marine officer gives you the credentials and experience to make it in the business world.”
Having already finished his required 10-week training, Bruce will complete his degree next year and will accept his commission as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Marine Corps. He plans to stay as an active duty officer as long as he can, but after he retires, Bruce wants to return to his roots and teach agriculture and FFA at the high school level.
“There are always ten excuses why you can’t – it’s finding that one reason why you can,” Bruce said. “Just give it a shot because you may love it. You come back (from training) a completely different person. What it does for you personally, that’s the real value.”
Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Marine Corps and the Marine Officer Program:
Captain Matt Hager, USMC
-Each year around 1,100 candidates (currently enrolled students and graduates) are selected across the nation to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS).
-There are 71 Officer Selection Officers in the US who select these candidates.
-Most candidates are between 20-25 years old, but OCS does accept up to 30 year-old candidates.
-The mission of Officer Candidate School is to “screen and evaluate all candidates.” Race, gender and ethnicity are not taken into consideration.
-In all 1,900 candidates a year are commissioned as Second Lieutenants across the nation.