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.