By Joshua Kelly
In this article, we take a look at something different from the Marine Corps experience. For those joining the Navy, it is still important to prepare yourself for Boot Camp. As a Navy Veteran myself, I feel that it is very neat to be able to share this information with you.
First is the great luxury plane ride. For most recruits, getting to Great Lakes, Illinois will consist of a plane ride from the nearest airport of your home residence to metro Chicago. Some (including myself) were even lucky enough to get the first night (before starting the Navy) in a hotel, free of charge. The Navy had to bring me in the night before and put me up in a hotel due to the flight schedules. This was awesome as it started to paint a mental picture in my mind that Boot Camp might not be so bad after all.
The Fun Ends
So the adventure started out great with an awesome plane ride to Chicago. I even had time to sit down and enjoy the USO at the airport, and I was on Cloud 9 thinking that if this is what the Navy was all about, this will be easy. But about 2100 hrs (or 900 PM for civilians), events started to change fast. We were lined up outside the USO single file and told to face forward. I was thinking “oh no, now what did I get into”? Then the RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders) started hollering and screaming at all of us in the line. Marching out to the bus single file, I was asking myself if I can still turn around and go home.
The bus ride consisted of about one hour of peace and quiet. None of us recruits were talking, as we knew that we had entered a whole new world. Once we arrived at the RDC Center in Great Lakes, we were offloaded from the bus and sent inside the staging room of the building. There, we were given a brief phone call to let our loved ones know we made it and not to expect another call for a while. Next, we were told to sit on the floor in rows with an arms-length distance apart between the person in front of you and behind you. We sat for about one hour before we moved forward to the drug test. Then we had to stand outside and wait our turn to pee for about another hour.
Clothing Issue and Haircut
Next, we were marched into a room and issued our Navy clothing. We were given a small mailing envelope to place our civilian attire and items to ship back home. We then changed into our SMURFS (indoctrination week uniforms) and sat back down in the hallway for another hour. Finally, we were marched over to the barber shop and had to sit waiting our turn to get our BUZZ cut. It was quite a sight to see all the hair hitting the floor. All the long haired kids were suddenly bald and sure looked different.
From there, I think we were now at about 2 AM or 3 AM in the morning, we were marched over to a “ship” (as they call it), and given a blanket, one pillow and assigned a cot to rest on. It felt good to rest, but such a shame it wasn’t longer. Soon the RDCs were knocking over the trash cans and waking us right up, and hollering at us, letting us know we were pretty much on the bottom of the Navy food chain.
We started off Day Two with a good old run and exercise workout, followed by a five minute shower and then put back into our SMURFS. The we got lined up for a march to the chow hall. In the chow hall, you find that it is very quiet and not a lot of talking going on. No one wanted the RDC to holler at them (or even worse, force them to hold their plate and eat standing up), but the chow hall food was pretty good for what you can taste in ten minutes.
Day Two consisted of a lot of classroom work, allowing us time to sleep – oh wait no – don’t sleep or you will find that you become a pushup king very quickly. These classes consisted of administrative material such as setting up all your payroll information. We also learned about the Navy inside and out. The classrooms were pretty warm. I guess that was to see how strongly you were willing to stay awake. Throughout Boot Camp, you also drink a lot of water in order to stay awake and to hydrate for physical training.
This pattern of activity continued for the next five days – a time frame at Basic Training that is referred to as “P-Days” or “Indoc Days”. In a future article, I will discuss the subsequent stages of Navy Boot Camp.
With the first week now in the books, beginning the second week you will start getting into a basic daily routine. You wake up at 6 am (usually getting hollered at by instructors) and told you have five minutes to get your rack made and your physical training clothes on before lining up at the end of your rack for inspection. Once this is done, you are then marched out to the physical training area and begin doing a pretty intense workout, which includes everyone’s favorites: pushups, sit-ups, bear crawls, and running in place. Sometimes your unit will get to do the exercises in intervals – meaning that you start with 30 reps of each and then work your way down by increments of 5. Afterwards, you then find your unit lining up to do some running. Usually the instructors have a set distance they want the recruits to run each day, along with a set pace to get everyone into that good old team spirit.
After your morning workout session, you usually find yourself marching back to the barracks. You will then be given usually 15 minutes to shower and get into the uniform of the day, before lining up beside your rack for inspection. This inspection can consist of two types: a personal inspection and a rack inspection. Men, make sure that you are good and shaved during your shower time, or you may find yourself in a world of hurt. If the instructors decide to do a rack inspection, they look at the uniform items in your rack and also the neatness of your rack. If they do not like it, don’t be surprised (or upset) when they throw all your stuff on the deck and give you a wonderful 5 minutes to get it fixed up and back into your rack neatly. Remember, this is all part of the fun, with the purpose of teaching you attention to detail and teamwork.
Chow Hall and Classroom
For the next item on the agenda, you will line up outside and head to the chow hall. You might feel a little more important during the second week as you are now in the uniform of the day (recall that new recruits are in their processing uniforms (aka the “smurfs”)). Being in a regular uniform should make you feel a tad bit better with yourself. Usually you will be given 20-30 minutes for chow. Then turn your plates in and line up outside the chow hall in formation. Get ready to march over to the classroom, where you will find yourself for most of the day.
This routine continues until around the fifth week, at which time you get introduced to Service Week. During Service Week, you will find yourself working at various places throughout the recruit base. Some of you will get lucky and work at the chow hall, others will get sent to yard detail. This allows you to have a different feel to Boot Camp life after the past five weeks of adjusting.
The difference to the above daily routine takes place on Saturdays and Sundays. On Saturdays, the Boot Camp routine is dialed back a bit, while Sundays are everyone’s favorite day. The mornings are given to you so that you may attend religious services. You also have time in the barracks to write letters and postcards to friends and family. It does not take long in Boot Camp to find yourself looking forward to this day each week.
Finally, you get down to your final weeks at training and you will see that classroom time becomes less and you start spending more time preparing for your Battle Week. During these final weeks, you will be working on board a ship simulator in many different scenarios to prepare yourself for the fleet. Then the last week is when you have Battle Week. This is the final test in Boot Camp, when you are faced with various simulated shipboard emergencies and scenarios. This tests you as an individual and as a unit on various aspects of ship life. Once your unit passes Battle Week, you will find yourself ready to march down the drill hall in preparation for graduation from Boot Camp.
Be advised that this is just some information in regards to Boot Camp. You may find your experience different when you arrive, so remember to keep your mind open, stay fit and keep yourself prepared for anything that may come your way. This includes the gas chamber, Battle Week, testing, and the physical readiness test(to name a few). Just remember that when you graduate from Boot Camp, all these skills will come into future use during your career in the United States Navy.
After Boot Camp
Once you graduate from Basic Training and A or C School, the United States Navy will then send you to a shore duty station or a sea station. These initial duty stations will either be stateside or overseas. As a new sailor, the first duty station after Boot Camp can be very intimidating. Almost everything you experience will initially be “new”, requiring you to spend time to learn how it all works.
Common Duty Stations
Stateside duty places range from San Diego, CA to Norfolk, VA, with smaller stations in Florida and Washington. The final location to which you get sent will really depend upon your job description. I will look at a meteorologist for this article. The meteorologist/weather forecaster/weather observer will most likely get sent to San Diego, CA, Pearl Harbor, HI, Stennis, MS, or Norfolk, VA. Now if you get sent overseas, Spain and Japan are the likeliest two locations. You can also be sent directly to ship’s company either in Sasebo or Yokosuka, Japan.
If you’re a new sailor reporting to an overseas command, you will first get signed in and then will meet the chain of command, from your division officer, to your leading chief petty officer and your leading petty officer. You should get assigned a sponsor. The sponsor will take you around the base or ship and get you introduced to all the locations and also get you signed in with your personnel department and all the other major components of the command. Then you will be issued a date to go to base orientation. Here you will be given all the information about the local base and you will also be given a brief time period of orientation to your new host country (including your new host country’s culture, how to adapt to living away from the United States, what to expect when you are out in the country, how to respect the country and what your responsibilities are as a United States sailor). You will be held to the highest of standards as you are representing the United States.
Return to Division
Once you have completed the orientation, you will then return to your division for follow-on training. If you’re on board a ship, you will be required to attend a ship orientation. Here you will be given a lot of information from shipboard firefighting training to medical training, ship qualifications training, how to live on board the ship, and different responsibilities you will have while a member of the crew.
Once you have completed all of that training, the great news is you are now ready for even more training. This time you will be doing your job-specific training, which will be related to the day-to-day operations that you will be doing at your new command. For example, if you are working on the flight deck, you will be given training on flight deck procedures. If you are working as a weather observer, you will be given the training on how to do your job on a moving ship.
One other item that you will run into once you get to a new shipboard command is that you will be sent TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty). On board the ship, this means that you will be required (for 90 days) to spend time working in the Mess Hall as a member of the dining facilities. You will work from the dishwasher, to the table cleaners, to the food handling and also supply inventories and stocking. This is a pretty standard requirement all throughout the Navy. You may also find that instead of going to the Mess Hall, you are sent to Security Duty. Here you will be trained and qualified in the 9mm and shotgun and then sent out to stand sentry post duty.
So as you can see, once you leave Basic Training, the training doesn’t stop. You will be training for at least the next three months. Then after all your initial duty station training, you will find that it never really stops as you will always be learning. All new sailors that are leaving Basic Training and their initial schools need to prepare for what’s next in their lives.
Joshua Kelly is a 13-year United States Navy Veteran. Joshua holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Science and Math. Along with several military decorations, Joshua was certified as a Community College of the Air Force Instructor. Joshua is currently self-employed with Dakota Weather Consultants.
“I am passionate about the military way of life and also the self-employed way of the future, and of course, the weather. You will find me, every day, running my weather consulting firm when I am not spending time with my family. I enjoy sharing information by writing to help others prepare themselves and learn from my experiences”. Joshua Kelly
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