A Change in Lifestyle
The end of P-week and onto the first official week.
The first three weeks of Navy Boot Camp
are clearly the toughest both physically and mentally. If you can get through the first three weeks then you'll pretty much be able to go all the way to graduation. The key is getting used to a whole new life routine. They will always push you into quitting and they will use that as a tool to make you want to succeed. Nobody likes being told they can't do something. They will tell you things like, "I guess you are not cut out for this opportunity", etc.
Marching and Drilling
In the first week of boot camp you will be learning the all about the basic foundations of what it means to be a sailor in the United States Navy. You will spend hours and hours learning the complexities of marching and drilling moving as one entity. You will march EVERYWHERE! The first couple of weeks, you'll notice that everyone messes up on everything. It is actually funny to watch total noob recruits trying to march, as they all stare at their feet while they walk and bump into each other. It is stressful. On multiple occasions I saw two recruits break out in a fist fight because one was stepping on the others boots while they were trying to march.
Marching is all about learning to move with others as one. There are strict patterns you must follow depending on where you are in the ranks. There are simple terms you need to understand:
* March - To start marching from whatever position you are at.
* Ranks - This term describes the rows of people in the group. "In the ranks" means, "in the lines of people".
* Left Face - To turn your body facing 90 degrees left from where you are now.
* Right Face - To turn your body facing 90 degrees right from where you are now.
* About Face - To turn your body facing 180 degrees from where you are facing now.
* To the Rear - To suddenly start marching in the opposite direction.
* Dress - To execute a dress order. To line your self up with other people in the ranks.
* Dress right - To line yourself up to the person on your right.
* Dress Left - To line yourself up to the person on your left.
These are some basic terms involved with marching. Marching terminology is much more technical and can get very complex. There are trick drills and complex formations and more. We will speak of the basics for now. We have many posts to talk about marching as it is a constant throughout all of your time in boot camp. For full details on drilling and marching terminology and procedures you should go to your local recruiting office and join the Navy. Haha! Just Kidding.
You Have to Learn to Swim
Also in this week you will be required to take your initial swim qualifications. Before you can graduate boot camp, you have to be able to swim on one level or another. Even if it is doggy paddling. They call basic swimming 3rd class swim qualifications. I already knew how to swim so this was easy for me but not so for others.
When they test you initially they separate the people who already know how to swim from the ones that need to learn. I am not lying when I say this: but when they separated us, the group who couldn't swim was about 75% African American. I know this is a cliche but I am telling you from experience it was true. It is irrelevant though because they all eventually learned to swim anyway. It was just interesting to note.
You ever heard that when someone is drowning and they panic they will drown someone else to stay alive? Well, when they started to train the ones who couldn't swim they would throw a group of them into a small circular area the pool. They would yell at them to doggy paddle around this little area to stay afloat. This may seem cruel but there were professionals around that would not let anyone drowned. RDC's also had these long sticks to help control each person.
Well, during the training one guy panicked and started to literally drowned the guy in front of him to keep afloat. I remember watching him doggy paddle toward the guy in front of him and literally start to try to climb on his back like he was climbing a ladder. The RDC's noticed and started yelling at him to stop and swim on his own. He stopped ,then again began to climb on the person again. This time the RDC's made him get out of the pool and he was disqualified. I think he may have been dropped from boot camp also, but I am not sure.
Classroom Time Does Not End with High School
We spent hours in the classroom each day learning about about rank/rate recognition, rape awareness, equal opportunities, sexual harassment and fraternization, core values and more. It was horrible, trying to stay awake during these classes because you were always so sleepy. Most instructors would allow you to go in the back of the class room and do push-ups and sit-ups if you were unable to sit without falling sleep. Many times did I get caught sleeping and had to go in the back to workout to stay awake.
I remember they would always tell us, you can sleep, as long as you can sleep with your eyes open. The crazy thing was I saw someone do it before, it was creepy!
The Ship, Organization and Neatness, and Uniforms
In boot camp you don't waste much time sleeping. You use all but a couple hours thought the day learning and organizing, everything! The barracks was considered your ship. We slept in very basic and uncomfortable bunk beds which were lined up perfectly inside the ship so the RDC can see all the way down the row to the end and carefully watch each and every recruit.
We spent lots of time inside the ship organizing, stenciling, ironing and listening to the RDC tell us stories and more. Once you pass P week you will get your first official uniform, the dungarees. This is the uniform you will be wearing most of the time you are in the Navy. It is a utility uniform used for general tasks and working.
In boot camp you get to learn the very technical skill of stenciling your uniforms with your name in very specific places, with very specific measurements. It was amazing how much you had to pay attention to detail during this part of the training. You would be doing push-ups and sit-ups for even the simplest mistakes on your informs. During the first week you will spend lots of hours getting this part right so that all 80 or so folks in your division look exactly the same.
Interesting Details About the Ship
The ship always had to be perfect, you could not leave it at anything but spotless at all times. Every detail of the cleaning was handled by the recruits on a daily basis. There was a soda machine at the end of the hall that could not be touched, ever! This was an interesting psychological test and it will come into play later on in this series. There was a gun rack for M-16s that always had to be cleaned, but we had no guns! It was a circus of things that didn't make any sense throughout boot camp but there are reasons for it.
Stay tuned for the next post where I will go into week 2 of boot camp.