This is kind of a guide for new sailors and loved ones to get a look at what boot camp will be like. My son helped me work on this and some of what I remember from boot camp. I hope it helps someone and gives you the answers to some your questions. As you will see I started off with P days going day by day…but later on I go to week by week. Most of the days are pretty much the same routine with different classes, tests, and inspections thrown in. Depending on your RDC’s you could have different things scheduled for different days, but always during the same week. So I made them week by week just to give an overview of what to expect…..
Make sure you try and Sleep and Eat on the plane before you get to Great Lakes. My son said that he got no sleep the first night and no food until Morning Breakfast.
MEPS processing can be a lot of waiting around. Family members will be allowed to take pictures/video when you swear in. They will also do another Urinalysis and you will get instructions on where/when flying to Great Lakes, IL.
Family members are allowed to go to the gate with you to see you off. You will have to get a pass from the ticket agent for all members who need passes. They must have proper ID to get the gate pass. Family Members should try and spend as much time as they can until you board the plane. You will miss them!!!
When you get to O’hare Airport try to eat if you have time. You have until 22:30 to go to the luggage area or Terminal 2 where the yelling begins. They will yell at you…get used to it!
Petty Officers will get you in formation, make sure you listen and follow directions. They go through items you brought and if they don’t like it they throw it away right then and there, or donate it.
You get on the RTC bus which is your last time to talk and ask questions to the Sailor that’s accompanying you. You might not see them again.
Arriving at “Recruit Training Command (RTC)”
In-processing Day (P-days)
“Received Day” – the day you get to Great Lakes.
“Training Group (TG)” – all the divisions that are going to go through Pass In Review together.
“Pass In Review (PIR)” – Graduation
“P-days” – are processing days. They can last anywhere from 4 days to 10 days depending on when you get into a division.
“P-hold” – these are still processing days, you are just waiting to get enough recruits to form a division
“Push Division” – Usually the last division in a TG is designated or called a push division. My son was in a push division. They are the last division to join the TG and they have to be “pushed” or hurried up to catch up with the others. This is a great thing believe it or not. My son had PIR exactly 8 weeks from his Received Day. You will be at RTC anywhere from 8 weeks to 10 weeks depending on when you get there and what division you get in.
The next 4-5 days after receipt day are known as Processing Days (P-Days). Medical and dental indoc gets done here to make sure you are able to train properly and efficiently. Haircuts are issued and pictures for the ID cards are taken. Most of these P-Days you will wake up at 0400 and tap out at 2000. They will be long and boring days. I told my son before he left that the first time he wakes up there he will think life ended and it was the worst thing ever. But I kept telling him that every day would get better. He said he kept telling himself that, and it did. He was grateful for that!
The chain of command is vital to know. You must never jump up the chain of command but if all else fails, the next person up the ladder might be able to help.
At the end of P-Days you will end up moving to your permanent ship/home: My son was in Ship 12, the USS Triton. Soon after you will begin your training.
“P-Days at a Glance”
P-1 DAY or Received Day
You walk inside, get in a line one on each side of the bulkheads. You will be given a phone call home to let somebody know you are safe. You will get to just say that you are there and safe. It will be quick. If you take your cell phone with you, you can use it for the last time here. It will be faster and you may get an extra second to talk LOL. They will send your phone home in “The Box”.
You will then go into “initial issue” where they will issue your “Ditty Bag”. A ditty bag is kind of like a duffle bag, it’s just a cloth bag that holds all of your small stuff. They will issue the basic hygiene items and clothing, things that you need to survive.
Your personal items will be inspected. Most items are not allowed in boot camp, except for important paper work (ie copies of SSN, Marriage certificate, Education records…etc).
You will change into your Smurf’s (New clothing). All of your civilian clothes will either be donated, sent home, or thrown away. Anything you want to send home you will place in a cardboard box, which everyone calls “The Box”, and everything is mailed home. In this box will also be items that you are not allowed to have in boot camp, like unneeded paper work, cell phones, etc. Keep in mind that you have to pay for the shipping of “The Box” so don’t take unneeded items with you. You can’t write a note and put it in “The Box” so if you want to add anything, write it on the plane and put it in your pocket!
If you take a Bible, you can write all your addresses in the back and skip bringing an address book.
You will then have to provide a urine sample for drug testing again. If you can’t provide a sample, the you will stay there until you do. There is no getting out of the urinalysis, you will stay there until you complete the urinalysis. So do it as soon as you can.
Listen to the Chief’s and Petty Officer’s (Know the difference between them).
Walk in a military manner. Walking in a military manner means you not goofing off, talking, joking around. You are focused. Remember 1st impressions are lasting. If you want to be micro-managed in boot camp, this is a great opportunity to make yourself known by talking and goofing around.
They take your picture for your I.D. card, remember you keep this for 4 years!!! Make it a picture you want to keep. LOL
They will ask for those that have any experience or are interested in drill, musical instruments, or singing. If you do, then you will put you in a special division called the “900 Division”. The 900 division recruits will do everything the other recruits do, in addition, they also practice to put on shows at events such as parades, and recruit graduation ceremonies. My son recommends that you don’t say you know anything because it doesn’t give any more benefits, it actually makes your time in boot camp harder.
They will also form a special division, called “800 division”. All 800 divisions contain Navy SPEC OPS which include SEAL’s, Navy Divers, EOD & Special Boat Operators. They have different physical requirement in boot camp.
For the others, they will randomly form a division with 80 to 90 other recruits.
You will be taken to a temporary in-processing barracks called a “ship” where you will meet your RDC’s and start the inprocessing Days (P-Days). This ship is called the USS Pearl Harbor. All the barracks at RTC are named after Ships. This ship is where you will sleep. In your compartment, which is a large open area which has about 80 racks (beds) lined up.
Finally you will get some sleep. But you will get up early!!
Up at Midnight. This is the hardest time to stay awake.
Once your RDC’s receive the division they will start to get you ready for the day. First thing you will do is shave (for males). All males will shave!
After that they will give you a green guard belt with a canteen. You will be instructed on the proper wear of your guard belt and the importance of proper hydration. You will be required to drink 8 to 12 canteens of water a day.
Around 0500 they will take you to the galley for breakfast. It’s buffet style. There is no talking in the Galley. I inquired about why no talking in the galley when I was in boot camp back in 1988 and here is the answer I got…I don’t know if it is true, but this is what I was told..LOL…When someone dies on a ship, they wrap them in plastic and put them in the freezer. The freezer is located under the galley on most ships. So everyone pays their respect for the dead by keeping silent in the galley.
After breakfast you will get your haircut. Haircuts are for both male and females, Females should get there haircut before they get to RTC. If it meets the navy specs, you will not have to get it done.
You will then go to Moment of Truth. This is where the Navy will ask you if you ever lied or not spoken the truth about joining up. Everyone gets nervous. They will ask you if you have lied or left anything out when you enlisted. They will ask you to stand up if you have something to confess. One thing for sure, at the moment of truth, if you stand up, you’ll will be going home. DON’T STAND UP!….
They will also ask if you are homesick, or have you ever been depressed, or sad”? Just say NO!…. We all know the true answer is yes, However, if you say yes, and you go see a counselor, you’re coming home. Try and suck it up. Remember, it takes longer to process you out, than to finish boot camp! If you truly need help talk to the Chaplin/CARE person, if needed. Try not to even do that, because you will be labeled. The Navy is all about seeing if you can handle stress. In a war zone they can’t have someone that needs to see a counselor or Chaplin all the time. It’s wasting their time. But lets say their is a death, then by all means see the Chaplin only!
Nukes, EOD, Aircrew, etc are set aside. Nukes go to a Nuke briefing for further criminal record information as well as the CT’s and IS’s, etc.
After that it’s back to the galley for lunch.
Write down the Chain-of-Command in your notebook. Make sure you know it and the 11 general orders and rank and recognition. You should learn all this before you leave!!
Go back to ship and get ready to stamp Last Name, Last four of SSN, and Division number on items as well as initial with permanent marker!
17:00 Dinner and then return to the ship for showers and get ready for bed. Taps it at 2200 every night.
From here on out, you will get up between 0400 and 0500 depending on the day and your RDC’s.
The first thing you will do is go to medical (Red Rover) to get your blood drawn. They will serve chow here Brown Bag Style. This day will be full of marching lessons, going to NEX to get personal items, stamping your items with your name and learning about watches. You will have lunch in the Galley (remember no talking) and then get your TB shot. After that, you will get your uniforms issued (NWU’s Navy Working Uniform). After Dinner in the Galley you will go back to your ship and clean, shower, and start your Roving and Night Watches.
This day you will go back to Medical and Dental for screening and vaccine shots. You will most likely eat bag lunch while at medical. They will clear you for FFD (Fit for Full Duty) and you will be medically cleared for training. More marching lessons and Intensive Training (IT) will begin. IT is calisthenics on steroids..lol It isn’t fun! You will go to a briefing for the Montgomery GI Bill and get a chance to sign up your bank account on this day if you don’t have one. After all that, off to the Galley for dinner and then back to the ship for more training. You will learn to fold and stow your uniforms and gear and prepare for taps.
This is the last of P-Days. You will go to a class on the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) which is the LAW. You will finish all the medical and dental and if you scored low on your ASVAB you will be placed in a program to help you with basic english, math, and elementary areas. This programs is calls FAST. After Lunch, you will go back to your ship and clean it before you move to your new ship. You will have to walk with your seabag on your back all they across the base. Be prepared. When you get to your new ship, you will unpack and organize your gear then go to chow. All day you will be getting various lectures on procedures, routines, and how to address everyone. After chow you will go through Laundry Handouts which is done every night. Get ready for the next day will start boot camp…LOL
Unlike normal Sundays, there will be no holiday routine this day. But you will get a lecture on religion and have a chance to go to chapel. You will go to the NEX again and have a chance to purchase more hygiene and other supplies. You definitely want to buy more socks….
From here on out if anyone in the division screws up, you will be issued some intensive, or sometimes known as instructional, training (IT). IT consists of various exercises that are designed to make you hurt! When I was in boot camp we called it MASH (Make A Sailor Hurt). An RDC’s IT card would consist of:
50 Jumping Jacks 50 Leg Lifts (left and right sides each), 30 8-Count Body Builders, 30 4-Count Mountain Climbers, 30 4-Count Sit-ups, and 25 slow count down – up Push-Ups.
The hardest for me was the push ups. They would say up…..and about 3 minutes later say down…even sometimes half way down…lol One time I remember my company commander stopping in the middle and realized he was out of coffee…he left us in the up position for 5 minutes while he went to get more coffee….From here on out, prepare for PT (or IT if your division screws up during the day) every night. I won’t say it every day, but you WILL every day!!
This whole week is practice for the second week’s test and inspections. You will have bunk and locker drills every day. You have to fold and stow your gear perfectly and make your bunks with precision and care…all under a time limit.
The first test’s study materials are for uniforms and grooming, rate and rank recognition, Navy ships and aircraft, and first aid. At the end of the week is your Baseline Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA). It isn’t counted against you if you fail. They just basically want to know where you are at and if you can perform the tasks required for the regular Navy Physical Readiness Tests (PRT’s). For my son who was 19 it was a minimum of 46 push-ups, 54 sit-ups and a 12:15 mile and a half run.
You will also have the DEP advancement test this week. It is on Naval History, Rank and Recognition, Chain of Command, and the 11 General Orders of the Sentry. Study these before you go. You also have to have passed the PQS test at the recruiters officer prior to this to get the advancement.
You will send a letter home at the beginning of this week to give your address to your families. You will also set up your service record, direct deposit, life insurance, and receive your military ID. You will also go to the eye doctor if you need glasses. You will be given a new pair of BC Glasses…(Boot Camp but we always called them Birth Control Glasses..lol). Females will go to wellness center for birth control issues. Back to medical and dental this week again. More shots and some may have their wisdom teeth pulled during this week. This week you will get the peanut butter shot…make sure you roll on your butt to get it to go into your system…if you don’t, you will have dead leg the next day!! It will hurt…..lol They do pull most everyone’s wisdom teeth at boot camp (mostly during the 1st or 2nd week). It isn’t that bad, and you will get 2 days of SIQ (Study in Quarters).
Holiday routine 07:00 – 13:00. You can go to chapel, write letters, and clean your gear.
After Lunch, you will have Field day (Clean compartment)
After Dinner you will have more Lectures
This week has 3 Inspections and the Academic Test. The first two inspections are the Personnel Inspection (PI) and the Dynamic Material Inspection (DMI). They could be on the same day, but that all depends on your RDC’s. You will also by now have a Recruit Chief Petty Officer (RCPO -Pronounced R-POC) and he will give the commands for the PI. These are marching commands and you are tested on how well you do as a group. Some of the commands will be 1 pace forward march, hand salute, cover, uncover, attention, and parade rest. The inspector goes around and checks every single person for uniform infractions. A couple of the infractions, or hits, you could take on your uniform are: gig line not even (shirt to belt to pants line), gear adrift (loose threads), dirty boots, dirty uniform, metal to metal on belt not even, bootlaces not tight enough, all buttons not buttoned, belt not through all of the loops, etc. The inspector will also be asking different people questions about the 11 general orders of a sentry, rank and rate recognition, chain of command, etc. You have to give the correct answer and maintain your posture and bearing at all time. If you break military posture or bearing, or give an incorrect or no answer at all, you will be given a hit.
Next is the DMI. DMI is inspections on your bunk and locker areas. Generally one side of the barracks will have bunk inspection while the other side has locker inspection. On the locker inspections, you must make sure that everything is stored in its correct spot and folded correctly. You will have to take items out, unfold them, refold them and put them back. Everything has its place and way to be stowed. The bunk making side has to remove their bedding and remake the rack. Must be done correctly. If one side or the other does poorly, the entire division will have to pay. So make sure you do your part right!!
The 3rd inspection this week will be the zone inspection. This inspection will be where they inspect every part of your compartment. They will make sure all areas are clean and every thing is stowed properly.
The acedemic test is on First Aid, Enlisted Rank/Rate recognition, Uniforms and Grooming, and US Naval Ships and Aircraft.
This week you will start to carry an 9mm pistol during watch and start training for your Weapons Turnover Inspection (WTI). You will go back to uniform issue this week to your 2nd issue of uniforms.
Week 3 is pretty much the usual of Training. PT, Cleaning, Standing Watches, and Practicing. You will learn about seamanship this week, and lots of weapons training. You will keep practicing weapons turnover drills and learn how to properly turn the weapon over to the next watch. Be prepared and know your knowledge of the weapon. Also know all the FPCON Phases: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. And know what actions take place during each FPCON Phase. You will be inspected on this and how well you can perform a weapons turnover. Most of boot camp watches are 2 hours long and you are responsible for the area of your watch. You have to keep a log book an note any areas not up to standard, the current temperature in the unit, and anything that happens during your watch. This week will be just the normal routine and classes. At the end of the week you will have MarlinSpike. MarlinSpike is where you will learn how to prepare a ship for getting underway and mooring. This means you will learn how to untie the lines holding the ship to the pier and getting out to sea, and then tying the ship back up to the pier when you come in to port. You will have a man overboard drill to learn during this exorcise.
Week 4 is the middle of bootcamp. This is also referred to as “Hell Week”. This week will be early mornings and lots of activity going on. The beginning of the week is more weapons training and live fire. If you score above 180 you will earn a ribbon to wear on your uniform. You will learn the 9mm and the shotgun and their components. During this week you will also be tested on everything you have learned up to this point. Make sure your uniform is squared away and you do everything just right. If you get too many hits (or points) during inspections, they will set you back and you will not have PIR with your division. Also if you fail any academic test, you will be set back. So learn it all the first time!!
The two major events this week, other than the firearms, are the drill inspection and The academic. The drill inspection tests your ability to execute commands that are given by recording and you must follow them to a T. You are inspected on the way to the drill hall and in the drill hall. They will check your uniform, hair, shave, boots, gig line, and your marching abilities. You will be tested as a group. If someone is holding back the division, they will be sent back to relearn everything and move to a different division. This will prolong your boot camp experience and you will not be graduating with your division. So don’t let this happen to you!! The academic test this week is on marlinspike terms, gun components, US Naval History, and anything else you might have learned up to this point.
During this week, the RDC’s will switch divisions to see how other division’s are doing. They will be very hard on other divisions because they want their division to be the best. So prepare and be all you can be!! Everything is done as a team and if the division listens and works together, they will excel!!!
Other key events during this week are zone inspections, Flag inspections (PFA and Drill) (if you score high enough on these drills you will get to carry that flag during PIR), SAMT Laser Gun Training, Live Fire with 9mm and Shotgun, Photo’s in Dress Uniform and in Compartment for the Navy Yearbook.
Week 5 is all about firefighting. Topics you will cover include: How to read Bullseyes (they mark every bulkhead on a ship to show where you are), Shipboard Damage Control, Survival Equipment, Firefighting equipment, and Fire classes. You will also go through a firefighting simulator and the Gas Chamber this week.
Shipboard damage control consists of all you have learned and different conditions set aboard a ship while at sea. Hatches on a ship are marked with different letters such as W- William, X-X-ray, Y-Yoke, or Z-Zulu. This means that doors marked with an X are supposed to be closed at all times unless logged open in a place called Damage Control Central. So when the ship announces to set condition to Zebra. All hatches marked with a Z must be closed at all times. This is usually during a drill or hazardous condition exists. You will hear the term Battle Stations in boot camp, but realistically, aboard a ship it is called General Quarters. You will hear over the 1MC (PA system located all over the ship) and say that it is General Quarters and all hands are to man their battle stations.
It is a must to learn how to read a bullseye. They are all over the ship and will let you know exactly where you are. The top line always tells you the deck your on, the frame number of the bulkhead you are by (they start at 1 in the bow (front) of the ship and go all the way to the back), and last number will tell you what side of the ship you are on and how far from the center (Even numbers are to port and Odd numbers to starboard (Even, Port, and Left all have 4 letters))..I also remember as There is no port wine left…port being left and the red running lights are on the left). It also has a letter that designates the type of space (L for Living, A for Storage, E for Machinery…etc). It will also designate which sector is in charge of cleaning the space.
There are 4 types of fires that can happen aboard a Naval Ship: they are classified as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Alpha is the most common being ordinary compustibles like paper. Bravo is your liquids such as oil and fuel. Charlie is an electrical fire. Delta is combustible metals such as if an aircraft is on fire.
You will learn about damage control, submersible pumps, SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus), OBA (oxygen breathing apparatus), EEBD (emergency escape breathing device), and SEED (supplement emergency egress device). All these devices are short term breathing apparatus to help you get to safety. They are not generally used for fighting fires with the exception of the SCBA which is carried on your back such as firefighters use.
You will have several classes this week on firefighting and damage control. This will be a busy week but lots of fun activity going on to keep you motivated and having some fun for a change.
This is the last week of actual boot camp. You will have the last of your drills, inspections, tests, and physical fitness tests this week. You will have a test or inspection every day and this will be a stressful week. All tests are must pass basis and this week will lead up to Battle Stations 21. You will have your final academic test about what you learned in firefighting and damage control, your final drill inspection, final PFA test, final static zone inspections, and final uniform inspection. This uniform inspection will consist of all your uniforms (working and dress). After you pass this week, you will have 1 final test…Battle Stations 21. Then the capping ceremony and off to practice for PIR…yeah!!!!!
This week is all about Battle Stations 21, some time to relax and call home, and preparation for PIR. Battle Stations is a twelve hour event held to test your entire division on how well you’ve absorbed everything you’ve learned so far. If you are present at the call for Battle Stations, this means you have successfully passed all academic and physical challenges presented to you up to this point, and are ready for this final test. You will be pushed to the very brink here, and will find that once it is over and you stand in the finishing room, dirty, beyond weary, emotional and drained. All that fades away as the Commanding Officer in charge of RTC Great Lakes comes in to personally congratulate you, presenting you and your division with your new status as a United States Sailor — your Navy ball cap.
Congratulations on becoming a United States Sailor!!!