Navy - Surviving Military Boot Camp

Recruit Training Command

The Navy only has one location for boot camp: The Great Lakes Naval Training Center, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, near Chicago. The Recruit Training Command processes more than 54,000 recruits through Navy Boot Camp, per year.

There are several things you should do in advance to prepare yourself for Navy Boot Camp. First and foremost is to get into some semblance of physical shape.

I recommend you read and follow the U.S. Navy Personal Training Plan Booklet several weeks before you depart. You should also practice the rudiments of drill and ceremony, as well as memorize Navy rank and ratings.

Additionally, your recruiter should have told you to memorize the 11 General Orders for a Sentry, and the Navy Chain of Command, as it relates to a Naval Recruit.

As if that's not enough to study in advance, you should also learn the Navy Core Values. Navy Boot Camp is probably one of the most "classroom-intensive" of the four primary military services (including written tests!), so the more you can get out of the way in advance, the less you will be struggling with when the stress really hits the fan.

If you're a tobacco user, give it up. As with the other services, smoking, or the use of tobacco products is not allowed in boot camp. In fact, the Navy probably has the most restrictive tobacco policy in this sense.

Smoking, or use of tobacco products is not allowed by anyone, either inside, outside, or within vehicles, on the Recruit Training Command Base (this includes visitors who may come to see you graduate).

If you don't know how to swim, try to learn before you leave for boot camp. Soon after you arrive, you'll be screened for swimming skills, and those that can't swim will have to undergo special instruction in the Kiddy Pool (General Advice: when in boot camp, it's always better not to require "special instruction" in anything).

All military pay is done by "direct deposit." This means, in order to get paid, you must have a checking or savings account established at a financial institution. It's a *very* good idea to have an account with an ATM Card or Debit Card, so that you can access your money without writing a check

Some Tips from a Shipmate

  • KNOW the 11 General orders.
  • KNOW all of the details pertaining to rate/rank recognition.
  • Learn how to make a rack (bed) with 45 degree corners.
  • Practice ironing military creases in a long sleeve, button down, collared shirt (which would be similar to the Utility shirts issued in Boot Camp)
  • I strongly suggest reading the Bluejacket's Manual. Pay particular attention to Damage Control, Seamanship, First Aid, Uniforms and Grooming, and History.
  • Memorize the phonetic alphabet.
  • Attend all DEP meetings!
  • Stay fit (or get fit). Jog, do push-ups, sit-ups, etc., The PT is not hard, but if you're in shape, it can be fun.
  • At least advance to E-2 by completing your DEP PQS. You may not care now, but I'll tell you, it sure is nice to graduate with a couple of stripes on your sleeve, instead of nothing. And, of course, it will help you out down the road!

 

Navy Boot Camp consists of eight weeks of training (nine, if you count the first week, which is set aside for "processing").

P. Week. The first few days at the Recruit Training Center (RTC) is a whirlwind of activity, which begins just as soon as you walk off the bus in front of the Recruit In-processing Center. Recruits arrive at all hours. On some nights, the RIC processes more than 300 recruits. While this is not counted against your official eight weeks, as soon as you walk through that door, the training begins. The first military drill you learn, you'll learn here -- the position of attention (you'll also learn how to shut up, and not speak unless someone asks you a question).

Then, record keeping begins. Once all of your records are accounted for, you'll be permitted to make a phone call.  After that, you'll move orderly from station-to-station, while the staff of the in-processing center systematically create a "record" of you.

Once the paperwork is completed, you'll be issued Navy sweat suits which you will wear until your first uniform issue a few days down the road. At this point, you'll be told to box up all of your civilian clothing, and any personal items that you brought that weren't on the list, and be given the choice of shipping them back home, or donating them to charity.

Next you will be taking a mandatory drug test by urinalysis.

After that first day, your normal days will run from 0600 (6:00 AM), with a loud whistle to joust you awake to lights out at 2200 (10:00 PM). Precisely at 10:00 p.m., lights go out.

Even though your uniform items at boot camp are issued (free), many items are not. Your first night at boot camp you are given a number of hygiene items, shoe polish, sewing kit, t-shirts, PT-Shorts, sun tan lotion, some other miscellaneous items plus a Chit book for the Navy Exchange. A good $60-$80 of that chit book will be spent within the first week buying extra items from the exchange that you'll need for the rest of boot camp (most of it being more shirts, underwear, etc.)

The real fun begins when you are assigned to a Recruit Division, and get to meet your instructor. In the Air Force, instructors are called MTIs (Military Training Instructors). In the Army, instructors are called Drill Sergeants. In the Navy, the instructors are called RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders). It's vital that you address a Petty Officer as "Petty Officer so-and-so," and a Chief as "Chief so-and-so." As with MTIs and Drill Sergeants, Navy RDCs are hard-of-hearing, and you'll have to yell at them in order to be heard. Never, ever forget, especially when it comes to Navy Chiefs.

You cannot wear contact lenses during basic training. You also cannot wear your civilian glasses, once you have been issued your official government-issue glasses. During your first couple of days of basic training, you'll undergo a complete eye examination. If you require glasses to have 20/20 vision, you will be issued BC Glasses (takes a few days after the examination to get them).  However, if you don't really need glasses to see, you won't be required to wear them. Once you graduate basic training, you can wear your civilian glasses again, as long as they conform to military dress and appearance regulations.

You'll be assigned to a Division, consisting of about 80 men and women. The Divisions are housed in gigantic 1,000 person dormitories, which are called "ships" in the Navy Recruit Training Command. While men and women train together, they do not room together.

In the Navy, guard duty is called "Standing Watches." It means that you get to spend significant amounts of time (which could otherwise be used for sleeping) guarding the ship to make sure someone doesn't steal it. In addition to the "Security Watch," if you're unlucky enough to attend boot camp during the winter months, you can look forward to "Snow Watch," in which you will be woken up in the middle of the night to shovel snow if it gets to a certain depth.

After observing the recruits for a few days, the RDCs will select "recruit leaders," known as "Recruit Petty Officers" in various areas of responsibility. The RDC will select those recruits who, during the first few days showed that they were "squared away."

Recruit Petty Officers have authority over other recruits in the division within the scope of the duties to which they are assigned. Orders issued by Recruit Petty Officers, acting within their authority, have the full weight of those orders issued by an RDC. Recruit Petty Officers are responsible to RDCs for the proper execution of any orders they receive.

Recruit Petty Officers are charged with preserving good order, discipline, and security within their respective division. Any violation of good order, discipline and security will be reported by the Recruit Petty Officer to the chain of command for disposition.

In order to distinguish recruits placed in a position of responsibility, Recruit Petty Officers will wear an appropriate collar device.

The standard Recruit Petty Officer Positions are:

Recruit Chief Petty Officer

Recruit Leading Petty Officer

Recruit Master-at-Arms

Port and Starboard Watch Section Leaders

Recruit Yeoman

Recruit Medical Yeoman

Recruit Dental Yeoman

Recruit Section Leaders

Division Laundry Petty Officer

Recruit Education Petty Officer

Recruit Athletic Petty Officer

Recruit Religious Petty Officers

Recruit Mail Petty Officers

Recruit Damage Control Petty Officer

During the remainder of P week, while learning from your RDC the correct way to make your bed and fold your underwear, you'll also complete your processing, which includes medical and dental exams. You'll also get some classroom time, learning the basics of grooming and uniform wear, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), standards of conduct, discrimination, and a few hours with the chaplain about values. Additionally, your RDC will introduce you to a couple of sessions of physical training.

Week 1. The real Navy training begins, and if you think your RDC was tough during the first couple of days, wait until the first week officially begins. The first three weeks of Navy Boot Camp are clearly the toughest (physically, and stressfully). Get through the first three weeks, and you'll almost assuredly graduate. During the first couple of weeks, you'll find that no one can seem to do anything right.

During the first week, you'll be required to take your initial swim qualifications. Before you graduate boot camp, you'll be required to pass the requirements for 3rd class swim qualifications. Also during this first week, your RDC will introduce you to the complexities of military drill (marching). Classroom learning during week one will be about rank/rate recognition, rape awareness, equal opportunities, sexual harassment and fraternization, and core values. The first week is also your most intensive week of physical conditioning.

Week 2. During the second week, you'll receive your dress uniforms. You don't get to keep your dress uniforms, however. Just as soon as you stencil them, you'll take them over to the tailor's to be fitted correctly. Your classroom work will consist of a course on professionalism, test taking, Navy chain of command, watch standing, and customs and courtesies. You'll also take your first written test, covering all the subjects that you've learned so far. Of course, physical training, drill, and general getting yelled at will continue through this week.

The week wraps up with your first visit to the confidence course. The Navy Boot Camp Confidence Course is designed to simulate obstacles one may have to encounter during a shipboard emergency. Recruits don OBAs (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus, standard equipment for shipboard fire-fighting) carry sandbags, toss life rings, and climb through a scuttle (a small circular door) with full seabags. It's a team effort. Recruits complete the course in groups of four. The object is to cross the finish line as a team, not as individuals.

Week 3. During the third week, there's less classroom learning, and more on-hands learning. Your classroom work will consist of training about Naval history, laws of armed conflict, money management, shipboard communications, navy ships and aircraft (fixed wing and rotary wing), and basic seamanship. You'll recap these with your second written test.

After that you'll get to practice basic line-handling skills. You'll also get direct experience and practice in first aid techniques. Of course, during week three, the yelling, drill, and physical training will continue.

Week 4. During week 4, you'll note that you're not being yelled at quite so much. You will get to shoot weapons such as the M16 and shotgun.  You will also take the Navy PT Test consists of sit-reach, curl-ups, push-ups, and running/or swimming. Also during the fourth week, you'll pick up your dress uniforms (hopefully, they fit now!), and get graduation (yearbook) pictures taken.

Week 5. The changes in the fifth week has created more than 30 additional hours that can be used for recruit training and administrative tasks such as focusing on career selection / information. The Navy is using this additional time during week #5 to add the following:

  • Increasing the number of live rounds fired with the M-9, 9mm handgun from five rounds to 40 rounds.
  • Firing five “frangible” training rounds on a Mossberg shotgun.
  • Extensive anti-terrorism/force-protection briefings on threat conditions, history of terrorism and steps sailors can take to present less of a potential target.
  • Computer classes and familiarization with Navy Jobs
  • Eight one-hour mentoring sessions, with RTC staffers and a RDC.

Week 6. During the sixth week, you'll get your Division photos taken (you can buy these at Graduation, as well as "year books" at Graduation!). Of course, there's more drill, as well as more physical training. In between that, you'll receive basic training on damage control and fire fighting (pay close attention here -- this is highly important on a ship!)

You'll want to eat light on Gas Chamber day (Actually, the Navy Prefers to call it the "Confidence Chamber." You and about 100 other recruits will line up in multiple rows in the Confidence Chamber. You'll have 30 seconds to don your gas mask while the Petty Officer is lighting the tear gas tablet.

Once it's your row's turn, a Petty Officer will instruct you to take off your mask, and remove the filter cartridge, throwing it in a trash can, while stating your full name and social security number.

Week 7. During the seventh week, you'll receive classroom training on the history of the uniform, grooming standards, dependent care requirements, and terrorism. Another written test will document just how much you've learned.

During week seven, you'll also get to practice your fire-fighting skills in an actual "ship board" fire-fighting exercise (I told you this was important -- you should have been paying attention).

The week winds up with Battle Stations. Battle Stations is the culminating event of Navy Boot Camp. It's designed to wrap everything you've learned about swimming survival, teamwork, fire-fighting, damage control, and more into one massive 12 hour hands-on exercise. When you participate in the ceremony at the end of the exercise, and receive your hat, you'll know that you've become a sailor.

Don't waste time worrying about "Battle Stations." Without exception, every single graduate I've met has told me that "Battle Stations" was the most fun they had in boot camp. Many have said it's the most fun they've had in their entire lives!

Week 8. Assuming you pass Battle Stations, the final week consists mostly of out-processing, practice for the final pass-in-review, and (of course) a little more classroom training (more training in core values, professionalism, and the UCMJ; as well as training in rank of other services, and career advancement). Even though you've passed your final PT test, you still get more PT, just to show you that the RDC still cares.

Finally, on either Thursday, or Friday, you'll put on your dress uniforms and make that final pass-in-review.

If you've passed all your requirements (especially Battle Stations), you'll spend most of the following weekend on "Liberty," before continuing on to "A School" or a direct assignment.

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