Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It was a numb feeling turning away in the rain. The rain started as my wife and I began to hug for the last time. Her tears were camoflaged by the rain, but I knew they were there. I had to say by goodbye's, turn and just walk in to the hotel. Even now as I write this, I can't believe it seemed so effortless at the time. But I was numb. That night I just layed in my hotel bed and watched TV. It was there the anxiety started to creep in. All I had was some personal information, travel soap and toothbrush/toothpaste.

The morning came quickly. 4am, I was up. Ate breakfast and the MEPS bus was there to pick us all up. MEPS... I am so glad I don't have to go there anymore...As a civilian anyway. They did some final medical stuff, then it was some more paperwork, we swore in to active duty and a travel brief. Then it was off to the airport. I was to travel with two others, a cranky immature girl from my recruiting office and some other young guy. I don't remember him well because once we began in-processing I never saw him again. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 1900. Well, the weather was bad that day so flights were being delayed. At that point in time it was just about noon. So we went to check in and the Rep at the counter asked if we wanted to leave now. We all were like...YES! We did not want to be stuck sitting at the airport any longer than we had to. So the flight she switched us to was departing in 30 mins. So we got through security and went straight to the gate with the girl lagging behind texting as she walked.

The flight was a tense one for me. I was feeling dread and fear. We were to report to the USO office as soon as we arrived and ate something. We ate at McDonalds... Not the best choice, but I needed calories. Once at the USO we just chilled and waited. There were some sailors there that were on their way to their first ship from A school. They gave us some pointers and wished us luck. Then a USO guy gathered us and walked us down to the main level. He offered some smokers a last cigarette and after about 30 minutes the RDC came in. I am not going to exaggerate anything so what I say is how it was. This guy looked mean. And he was. That's just how they are. Now, during our travel briefing we were all split up into groups. And each group has a leader. The leader is responsible for the airline tickets and keeping the envelope with recruit records safe. The RDC "instructed" us to open the envelope. Then it was a cluster of trying to sort through the envelopes and disburse the records. Of course as fast as we were moving it wasn't fast enough. Get used to that. It's all meant to introduce you to working under pressure. All through Bootcamp you will be exposed to never moving fast enough for the RDCs. Then after the paperwork cluster, we sat facing the windows in rows and were not permitted to talk or look behind us. We sat for a good hour. Now, you may think it's ridiculous, but the purpose is a double edged sword. One reason is they were waiting for more recruits to arrive and the other is just make you uncomfortable. One thing you will do a lot of is waiting. Hurry up and wait. There is a reason for this. The reason is there are a crap load of recruits that have to be processed. You hurry up through each evolution of the process and wait for all the rest of the recruits to hurry through. Then you wait for the next evolution. You have to remember that while you are waiting there is a lot going on in the background to make sure that the information collected during processing only has to be collected once. So therefore paying attention is critical. Regathering information is a pain for both RDC and recruit. It slows down training by having to send the recruit back to in-processing which is on the opposite side of base from the barracks (ships) and by having to catch the recruit back up on what they missed while they were gone. The hurry up and wait is tiring and seemingly pointless, but to have so many recruits being processed in, there is no better way of handling it. Once on the bus to RTC, we watched a Bootcamp video. There is no talking. Once the video is done, it is an eerie silence. The engine of the bus.... The bus enters the base and stops at the Golden Thirteen Bldg. You will learn the historical significance of the name at Bootcamp if you don't know already.

From there we dashed into the building, and oddly enough there was not an RDC biting at our heels to move faster. Once inside we lined up shoulder to shoulder in the receiving hall. An RDC brief's you on addressing command and some other things that are blurry. Then you make your "Hey I made it, I love you..." phone call and then it's on to the next evolutions of processing: The pee test, info gathering, ditty bag issue, weigh-ins, waiting... I was the first group to arrive that day I think. And we arrived at around 1700. Once we were done with our initial processing (there will be more), we sat and waited for reasons I didn't know at that time. It was hot and you could not sleep. Believe me...you don't know how hard it is to keep your eyes open when BOOM! and RDC is yelling at you for sleeping. Holy Crap I fell asleep and didn't even know it. It will happen. A trick is to go to the Head and splash your face with water every 30 mins or so. Then at what I think was 2am or so, two RDC's began to ask recruits if they had any musical experience whether instrumental or vocal. After that they asked who had ASVAB scores above a certain number. I raised by hand seeing I had an ASVAB score of 82. I did play Saxophone, but wasn't interested in being apart of a Navy Band. I had no idea what was going on. But after I verified my score I was told to go sit in this other seat. There I waited for another hour or two and we were all moved to another room. There were about 170 of us in this room which quickly became very conductive to sleepiness.

What I didn't realize at the time was we were just put into our divisions. From there we met our RDC's. The guys were sent to the Head to shave. That was not fun, I had near a beard and shaving in a hurry caused some cuts. I advise shaving clean before leaving home. We got our guard belts and canteens, which oddly enough you will miss having after Bootcamp. That is one thing you will want all the time is a canteen full of water. It will help you stay awake, keep you from dehydrating and give you an excuse to get up during class for a refill. Refilling canteens is a way to recharge to stay awake.

From there it was haircuts. By then it was the next day. We did some more processing. Moment-of-Truth, where you have one last chance to disclose any secrets you have. There are more processing evolutions but I can't remember them all. I know you finally eat a meal in the afternoon following the day you arrive. More processing. From there our particular division was brought to our permanent ship and compartment. I was in the USS Reuben James. I was Division 904, State Flags. Some divisions get put on P-Hold. Where you wait around in the temp Barracks USS Pearl Harbor for the rest of your division to arrive and learn fold and stow and label gear. From there starts P-Days. You'll be called a P-Day recruit and you will stand out as such because you'll be wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and sweats. But that's not the tell-tale sign. The male's closely shaved heads give them away too. That look of confusion on the faces and P-Days always are carrying a "rickey notebook"(it's what our RDC's called it). In that notebook you have some very basic and what will become repetitive information to study while standing in chow lines and evolution lines until you get your Trainee Guides.

I was in compartment Delta-1. My first RDC was a Chief then 2nd was a 1st class and 3rd was a 2nd class that actually got promoted to 1st class 3/4 way through boot.

We were a push division. We completed our actual training in 6 training weeks. 7 if you count P-days. Normally it's 8-9 weeks. Sometimes 10 or 11 depending on holidays and other circumstances. Graduation was slated for December 17th.

I'm not going to go into much detail regarding actual training. As each person will have different experiences. But I will tell you this. Bootcamp was not easy at first for me. I had severe homesickness. I had alot of trouble adapting to the bootcamp way of life. Those troubles affected me through the first 3 weeks. I hit a major low point and set myself back in some of the evolutions which I had to take it upon myself to catch up on. I lied to my Chief about some minor things and it got me into trouble. I wanted to give up, I wanted to go home. I had had enough. Then LCPO, Senior Chief, gave me a talk. It was a good talk. He inspired me to tough it out regardless. He reminded me of why I joined the Navy. And from there on out I was highly motivated to pull myself out of the rut and excel. I became the most improved recruit and got an award. One thing to remember is that even when an RDC is screaming in your face and making you feel like a literal piece of shit on the bottom of their shoe. They care deeply. Their mission is to train recruits. Know that they have a job to do. They are being graded. And everything they put you through is scripted. From the I.T. (intensive training) to slamming the door in your face. From marching to folding. It all has an implication...it all has a reason. The reason for folding cloths is to teach you attention to detail. The reason for being inspected is so you learn to not be complacent with looking like a bag-of-ass in your uniforms and learning that being neat and squared away is so you know where all your shit is and you have that attention to detail when you recieve more complicated responsiblities in the fleet that if detail is not paid your attention it can kill someone.

I made it. I graduated. And because Bootcamp wasn't a walk in the park for me. I came out of it with a deep sense of accomplishment and appreciation for my RDC's who kicked my ass from the bottom of their heart to push me through and not let me give up.

I will tell you. Being married...I also came out of bootcamp with a deeper sense of Love and appreciation for my wife. The pain and tears... Seeing her on graduation day was one of the main things that kept me going. Her and most of all God. My faith deepened through bootcamp. Also being around different faiths and people with no belief in a god made me see things from different perspectives. We all are working towards a common exceptional goal. As my cousin says, we are apart of an Elite few of the general population serving our country. Bootcamp sucked, yet it was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Letter 1

The following has been copied directly from a hand-written letter. Some sections may be edited, due to personal nature.

"First thing, Tuesday the 26th, I woke up at 0400 at the hotel. I was just numb. I was kind of just existing at that point. I felt like I just was there to ride the ride. Well it's been one helluva ride. MEPS was the typical crap of being treated like a kindergartner, but at 1130 we all finally loaded on a bus to the airport. Our flight was supposed to depart at 1900 but when we checked in at the ticket counter, it was noon, they said they had a flight leaving in a half hour, so we took it.

"Flight was nerve-wracking. The whole time anxiety built up.

"We arrived in Chicago and reported to the USO Lounge. Two hours later and we were taken down to the "pick up" area, basically 100 or so recruits, in the lobby of O'Hare airport. The RDC/Drill dude that showed up was freaky. It all began there.

"At MEPS we were given manila envelopes with our military record. We were instructed to give them to the RDC. Well the "asshole" routine started right there.

"I mean, from that point till now it feels like we haven't been viewed as human... I suppose I knew it would be like that, but physically being exposed to it has been taxing. You ask a legit question and my - well, any one of the RDCs - will say any number of things:

"What do you think, fuck face?"

"You know? You're a real fuckin' idiot."

"Stuff like that...

"We share our compartment, that's basically our room with our racks, with a senior division, 902. I made a friend and he told me: "It's all just a game. You have to turn your head off and just do it."

"I talked to a chaplain yesterday and he said pretty much the same thing, only he divulged more info. (redacted, just in case)

"In-processing was a nightmare, I didn't sleep till Wednesday. And even then I only got 2 hours of sleep Wednesday night. While at in-processing, two RDCs walked into the room where 200-some recruits were being staged and sorted. The first started pulling people with musical ability. I considered raising my hand from my saxophone experience, but I wasn't in the mood, so... After that they started asking for the "smart" people... college, high ASVAB scores. I raised my hand, the RDC checked my record and said: "Okay, you got an 82, go sit over there..."

"Ok...long story short, we - my division 904 - are a "push" division. We are being pushed through Boot in 6 weeks instead of 8 or 9. And we're performing at graduation! We're a flag division, we do a ceremonial show with the state flags. We had our first practice today.

"Being in a push division is just insanity. Everything is rushed. We have to figure a lot out on our own. One problem we have is our division can't follow direction well, nor shut up.

"Boot camp is the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is for sure testing my limits. But being away from you (wife) and the puppies is the hardest. Sometimes I feel it was a mistake. I feel like I abandoned you. Other times I'm motivated to get it done. Other times I just want to give up. I've been thinking and relying more on God (that guy I met is a Christian) and also you're a major motivation for me too. The thought of seeing you on December 17th is pushing me.

"Well, its 2300 right now and reveille is at 0600. I will write more tomorrow!

"Love, Mark"

Monday, October 25, 2010


Aurora, in Latin, means Dawn. Tonight, Monday October 25th, 2010, marks the dawn of a new chapter in our lives. It is 1335 currently and around 2100 I will say goodbye to my wife, sister and our roommate. The last three people to say goodbye to. I was again, trying to think of what this feels like. I told my wife I feel like this whole experience has been like when one decides to be adventurous and go on the big scary ride at the theme park. You see it from a distance and are all pumped up and you march across the park with your chest puffed out, people get in your way and you just blast through because you have business to take care of. Then you get to the queue and suddenly things get real. You want to save face as friends are asking if this was a good idea, but deep down you're like, "Oh Crap I am doing this.". But now you're committed. With us it's a water slide. And now we're both sitting in the rushing water looking down the dark tubes of our slides waiting. Each of the slides twist and turn in different directions and different drops. But, we can't see each other until we come out in the pool at the end.

I guess maybe you had to be one of those kids who gets psyched out from the "Big" rides with scary names like "HELLS HILL" or "BLACK MAMBA'S REVENGE" or "FLESH RIPPER". But once you take the plunge and get through it the Adrenaline rush is awesome.

So here I sit, trying to just relax. My wife is emotional, to be expected. But, for me to see her like that I can't help but feel like I am abandoning her, or hangin her out to dry. I know it's not really like that, but those feelings emerge.

Well, I may or may not have her update this with all the news as she gets my letters or just wait and go through the letters and update all at once. Guess you'll just have to wait and see.

Thank you to all who are and have been reading this. I hope it helps those who are thinking of enlisting or have enlisted and those who have wondered what it's like to enlist or whoever is just plain curious.

Next you actually hear from me and I will be a US Sailor.

Monday, October 18, 2010


This past weekend was the closing of a chapter. I had my last day of work on Friday, October 15th. Then on Saturday I drove down to a good friend's place. Two of my other good friends are room-mates with him so it was *bonus*. We had a mini-LAN party playing Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath. Then we went to see the movie "RED", came back to his place and cooked two Tombstone pizzas, always a staple for impromptu LAN parties. After we ate, we played more CNC3: KW until 3am.
The thing about my friends is we're all so weird in our own ways. Sean is loud and obnoxious and can't keep his hands to himself. He's always grabbin someone's butt or twisting their nipples... You see he isn't Gay. We have our way of interacting and as odd as it is to outsiders, it's how it rolls. Below all that is true friend though. We both like to enjoy a good cigar with my other good friend, his room-mate and brother, Sam. It's at that time that the calming scent of cigar smoke bends conversation into something more serious and we just relax. Sam is a Psychology major, and has OCD tendencies. However sometimes his room says otherwise. Sean is scatterbrained and one would think his room would look that way. Oh well, maybe he just had a lazy week??? nahhhh... Sam likes zombies, which was one of the things that allowed our friendship to take root. He also likes, as well as I, playing Ultimate Frisbee. Sean, is always molesting him(not in a sick, bad way. But in a figurative way). Sean will come up and try and lick his cheek and Sam, who used to have the look of horror, now just holds him just far enough away and makes noises. But it's all in good fun. Those two, even though they are not true brothers by blood, are "blood" brothers. They are close.

I put this post on hold for a week. Now I am up in Duluth visiting my parents. And am watching this show on Child Beauty Pageants... Those parents are the most selfish and ignorant people... Children are not meant to hold such rigorous schedules and are not meant to be exposed to attention they can't comprehend. They are teaching their kids that beauty is something you can use to get what you want.

I am sure there is some parent out there that will read this and be outraged that I have such strong feelings against this, but I have a solid reasoning behind it. But this blog is about my military career, so why would I write and gripe about what I am watching on TV? Well, this the eve before my last three days before I leave. And I am enjoying just chillin out with my Wife, Mom and Wife's Cousin before I don't see them and sitting here in utter shock at the life that these little girls have to endure just to make their parents happy is nice because I am thankful that my Mom and Dad didn't put my sister through that.

Going into the military knowing that I have a good solid family behind me makes things much easier. I can't imagine going in to the military with no family support. A documentary I watched highlighted a few sailors that had parents that were drug addicts, prostitutes, etc. and I wonder how they deal. I suppose they are so tired of the life their family is living and they figure they just want to start over... I dunno, it will be interesting to meet those sailors and ask.

In keeping with the title of this post, I will close with this. The memories I will get to bring along with me to Boot Camp, at School and on Ship will be what gets me through. In addition creating new ones to share with my wife and future kids.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Time is quickly drawing near. October 26th, 2010. The date I ship out. On the 25th is the day I officially say goodbye to home, to my Wife and my Family. The clock is ever ticking with a near audible effect. And there are times when I am excited. Other times I am terrified of the change. It's hard to fathom that my life is really going this direction. I mean I have had a pretty stable daily/weekly schedule. Five consecutive eight hour days of work followed by a two day weekend. I could pretty much do things how I wanted. Now I have volunteered to put myself in a position where I have no control.

I know that I have not posted much lately but I have been out-of-sorts trying to prepare for this.

My wife will be Head-of-Household meaning she will be responsible for paying the bills and taking care of everything here at home. Plus, work near full-time and have no time to herself to take care of the emotional adjustment... Let's just say, she's my favorite. I am so proud of her.

There is so much we have to try and prepare for and yet we have no idea what is really going to happen. We're just riding the military wave. It's probably like when an astronaut first feels weightlessness. Losing control over the anchor of gravity and having nothing to grasp on to regain some sort of control.

Well I suppose I will update right before I leave.

Monday, August 16, 2010


This is a little belated, but better than never. Wednesday August 4th, 2010: Met with the recruiter again and this time I have all I need to move on to MEPS. We met around 1730 and had to redo all the paperwork. In the military when a candidate meets with a recruiter and the process stops and restarted again after 1 month, they destroy all the previous paperwork because much can change in a month. With me, things changed for the better because I had my Bankruptcy discharge letter in hand. So an hour or so later we had all the paperwork filled out. The recruiter-in-charge (NC1) told me that I could go to MEPS on Monday and Tuesday. Cool. I get a few more days to study for the ASVAB. I had been studying quite a bit thus far, but the more the better.

After the meeting, my wife and I decided to celebrate the step forward and go to Sonic for some burgers. While at Sonic, I called my boss and told him I would not be at work on Monday and Tuesday. 10 minutes later I get a call from NC1. "Hey, can you go to MEPS tomorrow?" He asked. "Sure, but my boss won't be happy about it." I said.

You see, I have been on this track for along time, and at least in the Navy MEPS goes like this: ASVAB, Physical, Job Classifier (meeting where you pick your job and find out your ship date), sign the contract and swear in to DEP (Delayed Entry Program). The key is the Job Classifier. The Navy at this time is well-manned and many jobs are filled or over-manned. So when a recruiter calls and wants you to go to MEPS sooner it's probably because some jobs have opened up. My boss thought they just wanted me to get in quicker to meet a quota, but it is the beginning of the month and being processed on Thursday vs Monday isn't going to make that big of a difference. So, at this point in Navy enlistment, if one wants to just be in the Navy and the recruiter wants you to go to MEPS now, you go. And that's what I did.

I called my boss back and told him the change in schedule, which as I guessed he wasn't happy about. He wanted me to call the recruiter back to see if it could be postponed. I explained as quickly as I could that jobs are open for tomorrow and Friday's processing and I have to go. I called the recruiter back as a formality but I wasn't going to go later, as my future military career could be affected by the job selections. I asked the recruiter what the deal was and it was as I explained above.

Thursday August 5th, 2010.

I had to be to the recruiting station by 1030 to begin to continue more paperwork. This was to revise and make darn sure that everything was accurate. Paperwork was done by 1130 and NC1 told me to go and break for lunch and return around 1345-1400. So I went to Subway and then took a nap in my truck. I returned to the station and my actual recruiter, AO2, arrived. He had to drive 200 miles round trip to get a copy of my High School Transcripts. What a guy. We tinkered with the paperwork some more then the moment I have been waiting for arrived! The trip to MEPS.

When I arrived the first order of business was going through security, no biggie then to the MEPS front desk to check in. I was asked to put most everything I was carrying on me in a locker (backpack, phone etc.). Then AO2 said see ya later and good luck on the ASVAB. Now the ASVAB is something to study for. I think most kids don't realize it but it is a huge factor on their military future. I mean when you go to bootcamp or if you're in the Army or Marines, I know you don't get to select your job you have to make a list of jobs you'd like. Now if you take two younger guys and they each take the ASVAB... One comes out with a modest 60 the other a 45. Now at the time I took it I think the Marines were only taking people with a minimum of 50 or 55. The Army was taking 35 I think. So, one guy 60 the other 45. The guy with 60 we'll say studied or paid attention in school the other just took it and whatever happened, happened. The Marines would probably make the 45er retake, the guy with 60 would keep on going. Now for the sake of argument lets say they're both going Army, and skip ahead to where they talk to their Liaison (the people you talk to at the end of the MEPS experience to find out ship date, job blah blah). Who do you think is most likely to get a decent job? It ain't gonna be the guy with 45...

Studying for the ASVAB is worth it. I studied much. I have been out of High School for 10 years. Besides, I get to select my job. And I feel that even though a Grade E4 Cook and an E4 Machinists Mate make the same, if my score only allowed me a job as a cook...I would be more miserable than the Machinist Mate. So study.

I took a leak before I went in the ASVAB room. But 1/4 the way though I had to go again. The last test I took was Coding Ability. 6 problems in...I couldn't hold it no mo! So I guessed on the remaining 10 or so problems and called it good. I scored an 82! Not BAD!!! I knew I would qualify for some good jobs.

I thought that would be it for the night, but thankfully they decided to get some of our medical stuff done. So we were directed into Medical and got my Vision and Hearing tested then went into another room and did some more paperwork. This saved us much time the following day. The guy was in a bad mood. Understandably, he has to put up with some pretty dumb people day in and day out. Believe me, I saw them and had the wonderful pleasure of interacting with the imbeciles.
After that we checked out, and were filed down to the parking lot where a van that smelled like a bunch of old gym socks pulled up to shuttle us 13 recruit recruits to a hotel that no-kidding was 10 blocks from my apartment. Nothing eventful really happened except that one kid was offering 20 bucks to the guy that could score that night (I could have just called my wife and been 20 bucks richer). I also got him to admit that he smoked pot 2 weeks prior. But, he made it through just fine. It's like "DUDE!!! If that shows up you're wasting MY TIME, the MEPS staff and your Recruiters!" KIDS!!! Do Not Smoke the Marijuana! Your security clearance counts on your being responsible. Security Clearance = More interesting and better Job.

August 6th, 2010

Alarm goes off at 0430. Get up and eat the Continental Breakfast. Coffee = Required (in my opinion)

The bus showed up right on time, 0515. It will leave on time at 0530. Get there or miss it. That bus driver wasn't foolin around. He just checked his watch, got on the bus, closed the door and he was outta there.
Arrived at MEPS. They filed us off the bus. I have watched boot camp videos...Many of them, many many many times. This is a small taste of that. They lined us up and we single-file filed into the MEPS building.

Processing started with a briefing from the MEPS Lieutenant. This guy was extreme to the extreme. His aura was Respect. I liked the guy. He held my attention even though what he was saying was just common sense. There was one kid though who was Mister Non-participate. You see if he asked if we understood we all said "Yes Sir!" in a positive, active and participatory attitude. This idiot just sat there. Now Lieutenant caught this right now and immediately confronted him: "Does your mouth work?" "Yes" "Yes? Around here we respect authority. Yes what?" In a sheepish manner, "Yes sir..." Lieutenant stared at him good and hard then continued with his presentation. It was intense. Later he asked us to state our Name, Service we were enlisting in and the reason. The same kid said "Uh. Marines and uhhh I guess I want to kill people and uhh serve my country..." WHAT??!! Lieutenant asked him if he wanted to kill the good guys or the bad guys, thankfully he said the Good guys but my recruiter was surprised they didn't sent him off to Psych. for a Mental Eval.. So, Medical. This is just a series of hurry up and wait. Nothin special. I breezed though and was done by 0930. From there I was directed to go meet with my Liaison. I took my file and went to the Navy office and they said "Have a seat and we'll call your name." They said they had a conference call to finish. Ok, so I waited there until 1430. I watched 3 movies and ate lunch. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I was antsy and cold. It had to be 60 degrees in that place, I kid you not. So I asked the Processor Woman how things were comin along and she said she was just finishing something up and it would be a few more minutes. So I meandered and just as I was about to pick up a Navy book she came toodling past and said "Don't start reading, Come on in!" She is one of those women where no matter how much stress she has on her plate she always smiles. It made the wait seem like no big deal.

After she reviewed my file and fixed a few errors I met with the Classifier.

I qualified for whatever job I wanted but the bankruptcy affected my security clearance, but only Top Secret. So, I selected from: Sub Yeoman, Mineman, Meteorologist, Mass Communication, Hull Tech Welder, Sonar Technician Surface, Cook (haha)and a few others, but I selected Sonar Tech Surface (STG). After that I was told to run to the front desk because otherwise I couldn't swear in. I ran!

At 1630 I swore in to the US Navy!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Here are some pictures of USS Mount Hood and USS Cebu. The order of pictures are:
Mount Hood Exploding

USS Mount Hood

USS Cebu

USS Cebu