by N.A Miller
First night of arrival Bootcamp at Ft Moffett Naval Recruit Command.
|“I am a United States Sailor. |
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”
The Sailor’s Creed, United States Navy.
Those immortal words are pounded in your head all during the time while you sit in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), at your receiving station, waiting a patiently for a place in Boot Camp and the first day you arrive there. When you arrive there it is on a long six hour flight and you get off the plane, tired, exhausted and hungry. You report in to the USO in Chicago O’Hare’s cavernous terminal, located across it and on the second floor. There you get a bite to eat and wait for several hours, waiting for the Petty Officer to arrive who is in charge of taking you to the Naval Training Center. You wait with your party for both the man and woman who will orientate you to the waiting buses at the Airport that will take you to Camp Moffett, your destination. When they come, you are screamed at, and all personal space goes away. You are front to back, male and females separated and standing in formation. This is the Navy… Welcome Aboard.
You sit stuffed on a bus and remain silent, taken ultimately to your destination where you are stripped of anything civilian and made into a soldier in the service. When you arrive you stand in the main building where the administration is located. The hall is long and ominous with red striped along the edge of the wall. There is a dim light here, and ominous doorways leading into different rooms in this building. A man dressed in khakis stand before there, holding a clipboard, next to a cart with two other people with him whom you do not recognize.
“You will be called by last name, first, you will respond with ‘Here’, and give the last of your Social Security Number.” The Petty Officer shouts and you wait.
“Here in this building, you will be waiting for your Company Commander and as you wait will be forming companies. Drop all the stuff you carry onto the floor when instructed, and all at the same time.” He shouts, “Ready… DROP!”
Your mind obeys the command without question. When you hear your name with fifty other people around you respond accordingly. You are exhausted and stand at attention until it is done.
“Take your gear and walk down three doors to the left to the Communications Room here you will call your parents or whoever and you only are allowed to tell them that you have arrived safely and hang up the phone, and then muster in the hall outside.” The P.O shouts again, “You do not walk in the middle of the hall, but follow the stripe along the wall, double time but do not run.”
“Aye Petty Officer.” You all shout, and after your name is called you grab what you bring with you and double time down the long ominous hall, following the red stripe along the edge of the wall.
When you arrive at the Communications room, it is a room with many phones and you step up to one, buy a calling card and dial. It rings and you hear a ‘Hello’.
“This is Nathaniel, I made it to the Recruit Training Command safely and I can’t talk, I have to go.” You say quickly, “Good-bye.” Here you hang up the phone, and glance at the Petty Officer who stands ominously in the room shouting instruction at you as you muster in the hall outside the Communications Room.
You stand in formation, and are herded to a large open room that has a door and a water fountain. Here you are given instructions for a urine test. You drink if you do not have to go right away to the head and are instructed to march in the room and walk until you have to go to the head, report to the Petty Officers who waits at the door to the restroom when that happens.
“Keep in mind when you urinate there will be someone there watching as you do it, to ensure that there is no tampering and it is your urine. Any drugs in your system will be detected and action will be taken.” A shout says over the low murmur of the others in the room. Here you take many drinks, marching for an hour along the perimeter of the room, until the water takes affect and you hurry to the restroom. They watch you go into the cup they hand to you and you seal the lid and exit into another room where you stand in a line.
The room is the same as the last one, open airy and there is only a low murmur as recruits chatter among themselves. You are told to hold your finger on the cup as you sign your name, stating it with the last four digits of your Social Security Number. You comply and are ready for gearing, the next step of your change into a Navy Recruit.
You wait until everyone is ready and are herded to the supply area, a set of long tables three deep and you stand in a line. There are boxes of stuff on tables, stacks of clothes, toiletries, socks pack, underwear packs, shower shoes, towels, stamp kits, polish. You are overwhelmed by the sight and not sure what to do. More instructions are shouted at you and you march down the line, given a sea bag first and you walk down the row.
“What is your waist size?”
“Thirty-four.” You answer, and you hold out your sea bag as helpers throw various items into it as you walk down the row. When you are done, you walk toward the table and stand in front of it with a box before you.
“Place all items you brought with you on the table. All contraband items must be shipped home, including your civilian clothes, you are only allowed personal items such as necessary medicinal items, toothbrush, roll on…” The list goes on quickly and you place everything onto the table as Petty Officers go down the row. All items considered contraband are placed in the box first.
One by one, you strip and all at the same time you are changing everything. There is no modesty here. They give you a pair of sweats to wear, called Smurfs. It is a blue set of sweats with the Navy Logo on it. The rest is stored in your sea bag. All items in the box are sealed up and as they tell you, you write with a pen the address of home.
“Take the box after you are done through the door to the Fed Ex truck waiting at the end of the hall.” They shout and you take up your box and in a line you take your box down the hall and place it on the truck. You report back to the supply area, and more instructions are given in which you quickly seal up your sea bag and heft it on to your shoulder and follow the rest of the cadets to a hall where you watch a safety video as you wait for your Company Commander.
Several hours have elapsed, arriving at six in the evening, and through this process it is now about one to three in the morning. You are disoriented and unsure as you sit in the hall, forbidden to sleep. There are one hundred people, plus staff of the NTC, but for some you blend and close your eyes anyway.
“Stand!” A voice shouts. One by one you are moved to a group of sailors around you and your Company is formed, The Company Commander arrives. He is a wiry looking man, dressed in brown khakis, and wearing the brimmed hat with the familiar collar pins, an anchor and his M.O. He has the familiar patch of his rank and rate on his sleeve. Unlike any other Chief you have seen at the other receiving stations or at your receiving station are these wear a red braid on their uniform, marking them as Company Commanders. You remember what the chief from the receiving station said that they are fanatical, fanatical about being company commanders and to not provoke them or they will unleash their fury like a rabid dog. They are someone that will make your stay at the Recruit Naval Training Center very bad for the next 9 weeks.
You try to behave and do everything they tell you, no matter how stupid you think it sounds, again remembering what the Chief at the Receiving station told you. If you do not understand, raise your arm only to waist level and sound off and ask your question. If you raise your hand over your head it is constituted as an attack on the authority in charge and you will be hurt, either punched kicked, or even decked. Discipline is tough in the Naval Training Center. They break you down and when you are at “Witt’s End” They build you back up, making you into a compliant, Navy Regulation, Navy Soldier to serve your country.
You are lined up in the massive quad between buildings, or called a grinder, and here you are taught to march in unison. Your hoods are up and carrying your sea bag you are marched to medical then over to the barracks. Here you are allowed to go the bathroom and drink putting yourself in your bunks and introduce yourself to your bunk mate. The rest of your life is at hand, and the next eight weeks a challenge.
Memoirs of a United States Navy Soldier.
Fort Moffett – Naval Training Center (NTC)
Great Lakes, Illinois