Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boot Camp Memories

A quarter-century ago tonight, I was just finishing up my first full day of boot camp at Great Lakes. That day remains the "longest" day I've ever experienced; I remember sitting around that night stenciling uniforms, and talking with people about stuff we'd done "yesterday", only to realize it had happened that morning.

Overall, I actually kind of enjoyed boot camp. My Company Commanders were two Filipino Electrician's Mates who were interested only in winning the competitions between the CCs, so they didn't feel the need to abuse us at all.

What are some of your memories of boot camp? (Or, for those who didn't get to go that route, OCS).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first official morning in bootcamp at Great Lakes in late 1984 didn’t go exactly as planned. With the obligatory trash can toss at 0430, I leapt from my top bunk only to lose my balance and back into an empty vertical locker. In terrifyingly slow-motion, the locker began its descent – right into the window overlooking the courtyard three floors below. CRASH!!! Deathly silence! ALL eyes on me! The Company Commander (ENC Greeno) made a beeline for me and by the time he arrived I was already at ramrod attention. I was then called names I had never before, and never since, heard uttered. For what seemed like a solid 10 minutes the onslaught continued. Yet, as an 18 year old I handled it remarkably well, knowing the full drill thanks mostly to several years participating in JROTC. After the CC had finished his tirade, which I was more for onlookers benefit than mine, the ENC leaned in and up close where only I could hear and said, “Son, you’re gonna do ok here.” When I left for BEE two months later, the missing window pane was still covered over with tape and cardboard – and that was one cold winter in North Chicago!

4/20/2008 8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I became the mail PO for my divison. On one of the first days we were in our ship I sought out the guy who wrote the watchbill. Sitting down close to him so only he could here me I whispered, "Let's make a deal. I promise you here and now, no matter what happens, I will always have your mail to you every night by seven."

He looked at me and said, "What's the other side of this deal."

I tell him, "You never put me on the compartment watchbill except when I say I want to be on it."

He looked left, looked right, and nodded his head. We shook hands and I stood watch a grand total of three times in boot camp.

4/20/2008 9:14 PM

Blogger Dale B said...

San DIego, March 1969. I was standing a battalion phone watch (MId Watch) and at the end of the watch I was supposed to sign the watch log. Since my handwriting was illegible even then, I decided to be helpful and printed my name instead. It's always a bad idea for a recruit to think. Up until this time I'd managed to stay mostly anonymous.

The next morning I was informed by my CC, at great volume, that when they said sign the log they meant there was supposed to be a signature in the log; No Printing. To reinforce this lesson I was assigned three evenings of extra military instruction during the study period.

EMI was an hour of intense calisthenics dressed in all your cold weather gear. By the time I got back to the barracks I was filthy and drenched in sweat. The CC then would chew me out for another fifteen minutes for being such a slob. I then got to go down to the clothes washing tables and wash my clothes, in the dark.

For the next seven years my watch logs were perfect and I closed out every watch with a totally indecipherable signature.

Ah, the memories.

4/20/2008 10:06 PM

Blogger pbsterling said...

I went through Boot Camp in Orlando at NTC (now an upscale housing development).

The first week I was in shock, "Holy crap what the hell did I get myself into?". After that, it was routine until Work Week. I did galley duty everyday. The Work Week work day started at 2:30am and we would get to bed at 9:30pm.

4/21/2008 7:10 AM

Blogger Free The Nucs said...

It sucked being treated like property, but it was better than going to sea.

It did teach me to obey every asinine order a zero cared to give, even if I knew it was wrong and that it put my life in jeopardy, simply because the alternative (NOT obeying) would be even worse.

Case in point: while I was there I got sick. Life-threatening sick. However, the zero on duty at the clinic announced I was faking after a cursory examination. He ordered me back to work, and threatened to call the MPs if I didn't leave. Having no options (I was property, after all, not a human being) I pushed on until I woke up in intensive care.

They tell you that a zero can knowingly order you to your death for no specific purpose, but you really don't expect it to happen in the first 3 weeks.

The worst thing? I wasn't the last time that it happened during my career. Some time I'll tell you what it's like to get sick on a carrier.

4/21/2008 8:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Uncle had been a Drill Instructor(DI) in the Army and in Recon during the Korean War. He gave me some very sound advice:
• Show up in Boot Camp in clothes you want to throw away. Nobody cares what you look like until after you get your uniform.
• Do what they tell you. They can’t draw blood and they can’t kill you. Everything else is fair game.
• Volunteer for everything. After doing it twice, the DI will pass you over.
• When asked a question, scream the answer as loud as you can. Either you’ll be right or wrong but eventually the DI will stop listening.
I showed up in San Diego on May 28th, 1976. I was eight days out of high school and scared. When we got to the airport, we all got in line with this Marine DI screaming at every one. I only had a carton on cigarettes and he told me to throw them away cuse for the next two months my ass was his. I threw them away and we all got on a bus. The bus dropped us off at NTC and we got in the little yellow footprints for roll call as the bus was pulling away with that DI screaming about doing pushups. Some RCPO called roll call and said these famous words. “I’ll be about 30 minutes till we get to you. Smoke em if you got em.” I didn’t have em. I had thrown them away.
Boot Camp was a lot easier than farming and the hours were about the same so I didn’t have any problem. I got chosen as 6th squad leader and was one of two that made it through Boot Camp without getting fired. Every thing my Uncle had told me was true and worked to my advantage. More than anything, Boot Camp allowed me to be who I wanted to be. Nobody knew me and I could reinvent myself, change things I didn’t like.
My CC was a 1st Class MM by the name of Wayne Parker. I was the only MM in the company but he rode me hard because I was going on Submarines and he thought every bubblehead was a pushbutton and didn’t have to earn rate like a surface guy.
14 years later, when I was on the USS McKee as a Ships Sup, some guy put his head in the office and came over to talk to me. Turns out he was my Boot Camp CC and he had recognized me after all that time. We went out for a beer, reminiscing and I learned some insight to his side of the Boot Camp world.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa.

4/21/2008 8:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

San Diego, 1966 - After week one it was mostly fun in the sun .. much calisthenics, drill, interesting training, good chow and salty instructors that were tough, but honest men.

Everything was new to me like the summer camp the local newspaper had sent me to in eight grade, except so much more was expected individually. Once I caught on to how the game was played, I simply played as best I could.

The memory that most impressed this rebellious recruit was seeing Marine escorts running red-rimmed white hats (the disciplinary problems of Company 4050) all over the place with buckets of dirt they had to fill and empty all day. This was almost an everyday spectacle. We had a couple of problems in our company we never saw or heard about again, too.

One day as we entered the mess hall for lunch, a Marine escort was in line with a 4050 dude right behind me. As we passed through the chow line, the Marine whacked the dude soundly with his billie club.

Later, while seated, I saw the dude get whacked again at his mess table about 20 yards from mine. It had to hurt. No idea what the guy did, but the treatment reinforced my personal ideas of expected discipline for the duration (my father had predicted I would be thrown in the brig). I was never charged and the USN always treated me very well!

The CO of the Recruit Training Command, by the way, was Capt, Ralph H. Lockwood, USN, I found out later.

4/21/2008 10:02 AM

Anonymous steve said...

Lesson 1: Asked for glakes rtc in 1973. in january -

Lesson 2: My recruiter (BT1) said sub school would be no problemo. then he talked me into radarman A school ....said subs had radar.

Lesson 3: My company commander was a SEAL.

4/21/2008 10:26 AM

Blogger SonarMan said...

I got to RTC Sandy Eggo the evening of 10 SEP 1982. The plane I was on made several stops on it's way to SD, and each stop we picked up more recruits. By the end of the flight the plane was nearly full of guys going to boot camp. This one guy razzed the hell out of me during the flight. He quit four days into training, and we never saw or heard from him again.

We got off the bus, about 140-150 of us, we formed up on the white squares. Then, this gorilla looking SCPO with tattoos all over his arms and hands came in and started calling us names.

He asked if any of us had ever been in a marching band or had played a musical instrument. A bunch of guys raised their hands. He told those guys to go with PO So-n-so, and proudly told them that they were going to go be in a special company, a drill company and rich rewards were going to fall out of heaven for them. They left.

Next he asked if there was anybody who thought they couldn't run 2 1/4 miles in 18 minutes. A bunch of fat guys raised there hands. He spat out for the non-run shitbags go stand to the side.

Next he asked if there was anybody who didn't think they could float in a swimming pool for five minutes. Most of the black guys raised their hands, as well as some really skinny guys. I'm not trying make a racist comment and I'm not making this up. This is just how it happened. He told them to go stand with the fat f***s.

Then he asked if there were any buddy program faggots, and started disparaging their manhood. Being taught to always be honest, I raised my hand. I figured for sure that if I didn't, they'd find out because it was in my record (how was I supposed to know they wouldn't really know). The guy I went to HS with shot me a glance that could melt steel. I didn't care. He raised his hand along with me. Two other guys raised their hands, as well. Maybe there were more - we'll never know. He told us buddy program faggots to go stand with the other shitbags.

To the rest of the 70-80 guys that were left on the white squares, he told them that they were his company, company 168. The rest of you scum were company 169. Since this was his last company, he was allowed to hand pick his company. He told them to follow him, and they all left. A PO2 came in and herded us to get our ditty bags, linen, and then to the temp barracks.

As for the actual training period itself, that's a story all by itself. But just to give you an idea, our CC had a part time job (he was a skimmer MM1 and he was working HVAC repair), and was gone after 4PM everyday. Because he was never around, we never got any gedunk, or other privileges that guys in the other companies were getting. Since he was gone, all we could do was drill, train, and clean. We were absolutely miserable. However, it paid off in the end; we never got in trouble (amazingly), and we won all (including the physical training) awards. We came in second for honor company, but we had all the honor men. It's politics.

4/21/2008 11:02 AM

Blogger SonarMan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/21/2008 11:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boot camp sucked for the first week. Then (except for work week) it was cake all the way. Some stress about the PRT and occasional fantasies about going over the fence (it was right behind our division), but I was an easily intimidated lad, so boot camp worked out well. I still remember my CC's (I think they call them something different now), and I recall, at graduation, my father thanking them for making me a man.

Some folks got it better than others in boot camp. I didn't realize until later that I got a pretty good deal, and that some guys got a real bad time.

I tend to think that everyone in the Navy, officers included, should have to go through boot camp, as a shared experience. I suppose USNA and OCS guys get the same (and more), but ROTC mids always seemed to miss out. "O-Week" at an NROTC detachment doesnt count, from what I saw.

4/21/2008 11:48 AM

Anonymous another AW1AW SW said...

I never went through Navy Bootcamp. I had to be a Marine...

We had lots of yelling and endless visits to the "pit". We even had to "throw dirt on your neighbor". I found much of the three months in Platoon 3001 (17 Jan to 04 Apr 1979) to be largely comic. Very serious training, with unemployed comedians as our Drill Instructors. (Yes, I mean you, Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Santiago!)

Just keep moving, don't get noticed and a person could get by fine. Oh yeah, keep up and exceed expectation on any physical activity.

Strange enough, though, it sounds like Navy bootcamp was in some ways tougher than MCRD San Diego. we never had to organize our footlockers, or figure out neat ways to fold our uniforms and skivvies.

4/21/2008 1:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was another guy in my company that with our heads shaved and the wonderful BCs on looked exactly like me, so we traded off. One of our CCs lived in Orange county and was never there and the other was drunk most of the time. We were able to pull this off for about three weeks until the other guy didn't show up for one of my medical appointments.

4/21/2008 5:02 PM

Blogger beebs said...

[Boot Camp was a lot easier than farming and the hours were about the same.]

I found that to be the case also. I went the USNA route. They couldn't haze us anymore [1975], so we did a lot of uniform races and "locker clip inspections" followed by formal room inspections.

I got heat exhaustion and they thought I was malingering until I passed out during drill. Whoops. I got to spend the rest of the day in sick bay and my bunk.

My plebe summer squad leader turned out to be a nice guy later that year.

4/21/2008 8:06 PM

Anonymous Paul said...

I went to Glakes on September 10, 1982. I recall sitting in a huge room filling out papers until about 2 am. We were issued our ditty bags then marched (?) to a temporary barracks. Our company commanders came and got us the next morning with the requisite garbage can toss. Scarred one fellow so much he jumped up and hit his head on the rack above him and started to bleed.

Since it was the weekend, we didn't get our haircuts and uniform issue until Monday. We spent the time marching around in our civilian cloths, which, after three days were becoming a little rank. After getting the hair cuts, I couldn't recognize anyone anymore.

The rest of boot camp was spent on the third floor of the farthest back building in the RTC. We had a long way to march to anywhere except the drill hall. The one thing that always stands out in my memory is the CC yelling "How do you spell Navy? T-E-A-M!" It was a great lesson, often re-enforced.

4/22/2008 9:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember many things about Bootcamp in the summer of 85.

Worst: Shots ... where the "pecker checkers" ran the gun down our arms and the blood was streaming.

Best: A great CC who cared and taught.

4/22/2008 2:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

C059. January 1990 in Orlando. Little did we know that one of our Senior Chief CC's had just gotten a DUI and was in trouble. We did all the things we were supposed to. We folded clothes like Alice, made beds like a Holiday Inn maid, and Marched like the Stanford band. In the end we ended up Hall of Fame. Got the last weekend off. The whole weekend. That was nice. I was a sports PO and I spent most of my time swimming. I had to take the guys who couldn't swim to the pool every morning. We stayed there for hours. I think some of them figured out that if they were at the pool then they would not have to PT and they milked it. I did not care in the least. All and all, it a fairly benign experience, accept the time I got drilled for having a sheet come up long. Come to find out my rack had shorter bars, and the next time they visually inspected racks and they started in on me I asked for a ruler measurement. They caught it then. I smiled, but only inside.

4/22/2008 5:56 PM

Anonymous gomerb said...

Co 250, Great Mistakes, Sep1979: One memory stands out most clearly. We marched to the classroom, ready to take notes in our little blue books again. (Still have yours?) In walks a cool PO1, joking around before starting. Then he begins by writing the title of his talk on the board: "Mission of the Navy." He turns and asks, "OK, so how many of you guys joined the Navy for the education?" A lot of hands go up. "All right, good. How many joined because you needed the money?" With a few chuckles, some hands go up. "Right. How many joined to see the world?" Laughter now, and a few hands. "OK, how many joined for the adventure?" Big laughs. "And how many just joined to get out of the house?" As we howled, he had us in the palm of his hand, just five minutes into his 20 minute talk. Then his face fell deadly serious as he boomed "WELL YOU'RE ALL WRONG. YOU JOINED THE NAVY TO BE AN INTRICATE PART OF A KILLING MACHINE. DON'T YOU EVER FORGET THAT." and he stormed out of the room. We sat for the next 15 minutes in the most complete silence I have ever endured, before or since.

But I never forgot.

4/22/2008 9:52 PM

Blogger cheezstake said...

I guess I'm a youngin' in this group, but it's nice to see that some things didn't change before I got to Great Lakes.

Co 95-902

We started as a company and finished as a division, as the Clinton era brought those wonderful "kindler, gentler" changes.

I was the YN, not by choice but by direct order after the first YN was yelled at and made his own lake beneath his feat after an hour of PT. I still have the "book". I found it a few months back while going through boxes in the attic.

I, too, had the traditional first morning trash can toss. I spent two weeks plus on Service Week due to the government budget hold of FY 96. We all lost motivation after doing nothing together for so long.

My CCs were a good mix. A MT1 and a crusty MM2(SW). I was in good, having listened to my grandfather's advice about boot camp.

The MM2, having realized that after we had finished doing the old pump-and-dump, that the compartment hadn't been inspected yet, asked RCPO, ARCPO and several others to "occupy" the stalls so they could not be inspected. Needless to say the female PO1 who inspected the head made a very quick inspection.

The night before leaving RTC, we had a big elbow match with a rival division which resulted in 1/3 of the division going to IT at 0300, returning to the barracks to only get right into their dress blues and leave for A School.

A week after I made E6, I bumped into the MT1 in a bar. He looked at me and instantly remember exactly who I was. We didn't speak one word about those 8 weeks at RTC, but we did talk for about 2 hours about life and the Navy.

I learned some lessons at RTC:
1. Never bet on a football game with your CC.
2. Making a snowman in the courtyard during field day is NOT a good idea (I didn't do that)
3. That first cigarette after graduation feels SOOOOO good.

Thanks for trip down memory lane.

4/23/2008 1:04 PM

Anonymous Alex said...


You wrote, "That day remains the "longest" day I've ever experienced; I remember sitting around that night stenciling uniforms, and talking with people about stuff we'd done "yesterday", only to realize it had happened that morning."

You wouldn't happen to be the author of a manuscript entitled "Shut All Four and Hit the Shore: Life in the Nuclear Navy," would you. I found it linked at the Navy Nuke forum, still incomplete, and it had what I believe to be the same sentence in it. Though we all felt that way, I recognize that sentence in particular.

If you are the author of that mysterious manuscript, did you ever finish it? I would love to read the rest of it.

5/02/2008 9:08 AM

Blogger withroaj said...

Wait a minute, FTN, you're the guy who wrote it, aren't you? The Doc threatening to call the MP's. It has to be, unless that is a common condition: misdiagnosis from 'LCDR Special(?)' and subsequent protest.

If so, did you ever complete the book? A portion of the manuscript is available at:

Sue 'em for copywright infringement if you didn't consent to publishing, I guess. I would love to finish reading that little gem of malcontent if you ever finished it, and I wanted to ask if you were really just a closet diggit, frustrated at the enlisted scum's inability to create a true impact on the downward sprial which is the NNPP.

5/02/2008 10:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oct 3 1984 started at orlando. Bootcamp gave me a serious case of the giggles. I saw everything as funny. unfortunately the people across from me did not. I giggled at every inspection and never got caught. My bunk mate and I "hosed" up our bunk. after we were told to "get on the line" and await inspection of our bunks... i noticed that I left my pen on top of the locker. I had people next to me cover me by leaning foward. I quickly grabbed th pen and placed it carefully in my left breast pocket. then the booming voice of the inspectors shouted" who moved". well, that unleashed a fitful of giggles barely suppressed. as my bunkmate and i composed ourselves, my bunkmate whispered "our s*it, i made my bunk like yours". (pillow over pillow instead of pillow over blanket.) Oh god, that was it the laughter could no longer be contained and passed down the ranks. since we were at the end of the row of bunks we were not suspects for the giggles. When it came for us to be inspected we were "SAT". NO WAY!!! We were only a few that were "sat" in our company. You could only imagine the hyperventilation that went on after that. we still needed to suppress our giggles. I found myself thinking at attention "wholly cow, I joined the navy-what was i thinking?" I had a great time. I found ways to sleep in class, spend an entire day in the "fishbowl" calling everyone i could. work week in the chow hall giving passes to people and flirting with a few of the cute men. i went to church for the social aspect and passed notes. I had a seriously good time. you make it what it is. I made the most of it and spent 10yrs in active and reserves. I loved every single moment and dont regret anything. I had great assignments in newprt ri and penscacola fl. would love to know where our company commander cpo wicks is. she was great "always a lady" My bunk mate and i now live 1block from each other. we both are married with kids around the same age. I married a fellow corpsman in p'cola. we have a nice hectic life and both are fond of the military. as bob hope said "thanks for the memories"

7/13/2008 8:28 PM

Blogger Jon said...

gomerb's experience was something that keyed off an experience of mine, though it didn't happen to me until EM A School at NNPTC Orlando...

I think it was during the BE class that our instructor, an EM1, asked us what our jobs were. We all gave various answers, and then he told us we were all wrong.

Our job was to kill the enemies of our nation.

I never forgot that, and while I got out after six, I still respect it.

12/16/2009 2:29 PM

Blogger hap said...

August of 1967 company 441 RTC San Diego
0430 is the required time for the garbage can toss, and it was promptly on cue. Our CC was a black PO1 Don't remember his name because we didn't see him much, the CC I remember more was "Choker Carter" a squat, built like a brick black Bosun's mate who's habit of picking up recruits by the neck with their feet off the ground (this was before the "kinder gentler" navy) until their eyes bulged.

Lessons learned? Be invisible, do the work, don't complain, don't be first or last unless you're ready to explain why you were. I remember marching on the grinder in summer heat so hot you thought your boondockers were going to melt. Chow was good, but no matter where you were it seemed like you had to march past the sewage treatment plant to get to chow.
And then there were the 4050 pukes..don't look at em, don't talk to em..and just be thankful you're not one of em!
Guard duty consisted of guarding a hole in the fence between the navy bootcamp and the Marines bootcamp. Who were we guarding? No one wanted to trade places with the other (grin)!
Bootcamp is what you endure to get in the navy. Spent 6 years on the boats and if I hadn't gotten married I might have stayed on them forever! I still stay in contact with a lot of my old shipmates and the esprit de corps of boat sailors has always been the best!

5/27/2010 5:19 PM

Anonymous Vince Stead said...

I thought your article was really good. My name is Vince Stead, and I have my 2nd book called "Navy Sea Stories" just come out, it's only $2.99, and you can find it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, here is a link to it:

2/04/2011 2:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Lakes, 2000. The first week is a blur. I do recall our RDC's keeping us awake for four days straight. That was the first time I saw a human being sleeping while standing. Week 4 and on is clearer. Learn your general orders, volunteer for everything. I made one of the division leads and earned E2 while in boot. Drills on the grinder and guys passing out while being "cycled" (general quarters). We were treated like humans near graduation time. All in all, I miss it. Someone mentioned here about an RDC reminding recruits about the seriousness of their commitment. True. Ours said, "Have no qualms about where you find yourselves. You are here to learn how to kill" Good times.

1/25/2012 3:08 PM

Anonymous Wilhelmina said...

Here, I do not actually think this is likely to have success.

9/19/2012 8:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orlando NTC May of 1976. My 'fondest' memory is the nats or little fleas,,, whatever they were. If you even thought of shushing them away you were called on it. I can still here "THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO YOU!" I learned to blow air up and across my face without being detected.

12/31/2013 8:45 PM

Blogger HR2LCDR said...

1st day at RTC GLAKES, Sept 1984, we got our "money chits," then went to Dental. After each recruit got done, they came outside and stood in formation. We had our rain coats on, but it POURED rain, and since we weren't buttoned all the way up, the chest of our shirts got wet, ruining the money chits we'd been told to stow in our left shirt pocket. That night, CC picked up all the wet chits in a garbage bag and gave us new ones. Flashforward to two days after graduation. CC tells me to go out and clean out his car where I find...the bag of now dry money chits. I picked out about $200 worth and that night me and my shipmates had all we could eat at the pizza/snack bar!

4/09/2014 2:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

company 3226 d, a drill company may 1975 until graduation that july. met a lot of awesome people. the first morning i said as someone walked around my bed, what the hell have i done, but later realized it was the most significant move of my life.

4/13/2014 1:18 PM


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