As a Yale undergraduate, Ben Klay was admitted to study in a unique year-long seminar on “Grand Strategy” taught by three of Yale’s most distinguished professors including John Lewis Gaddis. Only 20 students are admitted to the course each year, and applicants for admission to the course come from throughout the university.
While taking the course Klay completed Marine Officer Candidate School. Klay used his academic experience in the “Grand Strategy” course to reflect on his training to become a Marine officer. Klay wrote about his OCS training with profound insight for one of the class’s required papers:
Gratification in the civililan world is connected with immediate physical and emotional pleasure, which, being absent from war, must also be absent from training. Knowing few other pleasures but these, a fresh student will most likely find himself despondent at first. Yet in the long run, training produces its own unique pleasures, the pleasures of the soul…pride, honor, justice, accomplishment and the supreme pleasure of self-satisfaction. These come from within and are not the result of opinion. They even sometimes come in spite of others’ opinions, and they surpass any pleasures that could be wrought from instant self-indulgence.
Klay proceeds to recount his experience in OCS in graphic detail that is far from theory or exhilaration: “My initial reaction to this bold new experience was one of despondency and disgust…I hated every second of it.” Klay brings his graphic account of his OCS training back to his classroom experience in the conclusion of his paper.
Klay graduated last spring and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He is serving at Quantico while awaiting further orders. His paper is a magnificent piece of writing that warrants much further consideration. It includes photographs deriving from Klay’s training — he is depicted in the center of the left marching column on page 19 of the paper (linked in PDF): “The Spirit of Grand Strategy.”