Navy Boot Camp

Image shows a person in navy uniform standing on top of a fighter jet, with two others flying through the air. Text reads: "Requirements for qualifying as a navy airman: combined score of 210 on the verbal, arithmetic, mechanical knowledge, automotive, and shop sections of the ASVAB tests; normal color perception (no colorblindness); U.S. Citizen status; secret security clearance from the dept. of defense involving background check of finances and character, plus past drug use of alcohol abuse" "

Image by Nusha Ashjaee © The Balance 2019

Almost every week a new bus of recruits arrives at the Recruit Training Command - also known as Navy Boot Camp. Navy Boot Camp is held at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes), north of Chicago, Illinois. It is the only enlisted basic training location for the Navy since 1999. The first few days are not too challenging as they spend their time in the day waiting in lines to process into the military. This requires medical check ups, briefings, and other administrative hurdles each recruit must perform.

Navy Drill Instructors - Recruit Division Commanders

The real fun begins when you are assigned to a Recruit Division, and get to meet your instructor. In the Navy, the instructors are called RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders). Addressing an RDC as "Sir," or "Ma'am" will find the recruit some added attention. 

The RDCs are Chief Petty Officers or Petty Officers and can addresses as such. It's vital that you address a Petty Officer as "Petty Officer_______," and a Chief as "Chief ______." Navy Chiefs wait with eager anticipation for new recruits to address them as "sir," or "ma'am." This is normally followed by a tyrannical display, intended to throw recruits into a total disarray of confusion, while demonstrating that it is really Navy Chiefs who are in charge of the Navy (and new recruits).

Boot Camp Week By Week

Processing Week

Boot Camp begins with P-days, approximately five days long. During P-days you will undergo medical, dental and administrative screenings, get inoculations and be issued uniforms. You will learn the basics of watch standing, chain of command and the organization of Navy life. During your in-processing, you will complete paperwork to begin your military pay. At the end, you will have a commissioning ceremony and at that point your boot camp training will officially start. 

Week 1

After P. week, the real Navy training begins, and if you think your RDC was tough during the first couple of days, wait until the first week officially begins. The first three weeks of Navy Boot Camp are clearly the toughest (physically, and stressfully). Get through the first three weeks, and you'll almost assuredly graduate. As with Army and Air Force Basic Training, during the first couple of weeks, you'll find that no one can seem to do anything right.

During the first week, you'll be required to take your initial swim qualifications. Before you graduate boot camp, you'll be required to pass the requirements for 3rd class swim qualifications. Also during this first week, your RDC will introduce you to the complexities of military drill (marching). Classroom learning during week one will be about rank/rate recognition, rape awareness, equal opportunities, sexual harassment and fraternization, and core values. The first week is also your most intensive week of physical conditioning.

Week 2

During the second week, you'll receive your dress uniforms (More clothes to stencil.). You don't get to keep your dress uniforms, however. Just as soon as you stencil them, you'll take them over to the tailor's to be fitted correctly. Your classroom work will consist of a course on professionalism, test taking, Navy chain of command, watch standing, and customs and courtesies. You'll also take your first written test, covering all the subjects that you've learned so far. Of course, physical training, drill, and general getting yelled at will continue through this week.

Week 2 of Navy boot camp wraps up with your first visit to the confidence course. If you're in any kind of shape at all, you'll enjoy this part of the course. The Navy Boot Camp Confidence Course is designed to simulate obstacles one may have to encounter during a shipboard emergency.

Recruits don OBAs (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus, standard equipment for shipboard fire-fighting) carry sandbags, toss life rings, and climb through a scuttle (a small circular door) with full seabags. The Confidence Course is not an "individual" event. It's a team effort. Recruits complete the course in groups of four. The object is to cross the finish line as a team, not as individuals.

Week 3

During the third week, there is less classroom learning, and more on-hands learning. Your classroom work will consist of training about Naval history, laws of armed conflict, money management, shipboard communications, navy ships and aircraft (fixed wing and rotary wing), and basic seamanship. You'll recap these with your second written test.

After that, put on your gloves, and dust off your knot-making techniques, as you'll get to practice basic line-handling skills (after all, we can't have new recruits tying a slip-knot and allowing that aircraft carrier to drift away from the dock. This would upset the Captain, and would undoubtedly irritate your chief). You'll also get direct experience and practice in first aid techniques. Of course, during week three, the yelling, drill, and physical training will continue.

Week 4

During week 4, you'll note that you're not being yelled at quite so much. It seems that either the RDCs are slacking off, or you and your shipmates are starting to get your act together. Depending upon what kind of shape you were in to start with, you may also note that your muscles don't hurt as much when you wake up each morning. This is a good thing, as week 4 will be your initial Physical Training Test. If you don't do well on this test, you'll find yourself in line for some "individual training," and remember what I said about not wanting to do that. Nope. No fun at all.

The Navy PT Test consists of sit-reach, curl-ups, push-ups, and running/or swimming. The Navy is the only military service which tests for flexibility. They do this by means of a sit-reach test. The testee sits on the ground with his/her legs stretched out in front, knees straight, and toes pointed straight up. Without jerking or bouncing, you lean forward and touch your toes with your fingers. You must continue to touch your toes for at least one second. You get three tries.

Curl-ups are just sit-ups with knees bent, and arms crossing your chest. You must score a "Good" or better on each area of the PT Test in order to graduate Navy Boot Camp. (After Boot Camp, it's merely necessary to score a "Satisfactory" or better on the PT Tests).

Also during the fourth week, you'll pick up your dress uniforms (hopefully, they fit now!), and get graduation (yearbook) pictures taken.

Week 5

The fifth week adds the following tasks mainly in the classroom, at the firing range and in the computer / online classroom:

  • Increasing the number of live rounds fired with the M-9, 9mm handgun from five rounds to 40 rounds.
  • Firing five “frangible” training rounds on a Mossberg shotgun.
  • Extensive anti-terrorism/force-protection briefings on threat conditions, history of terrorism and steps sailors can take to present less of a potential target.
  • Computer classes and familiarization with the Navy Knowledge Online Web site.
  • Eight one-hour mentoring sessions, with RTC staffers and an RDC.

Week 6

The sixth week the recruits start to apply some of the many things they have learned. Protection from chemical, biological, and radiological situations as well as anti-terrorism force protection training using all the available protective gear. Also basic damage control for shipboard emergencies and fitness and health awareness is experienced by the recruits. 

Week 7

Week 7 is Battle Stations Week! This week is a capstone of all the skills learned so far and applied in a 12 plus hour event that is both tiring, stressful, and exhilarating team work event. The live fire test at the range, final PT test, and the Command Assessment Readiness Test (Battle Stations) is conducted this week. 

Week 8

Graduation Week. Recruits are officially sailors and pass and review at a graduation ceremony. Afterwards, they check out of basic training and move onto their follow-on rating schools where they will learn specific job skills that they signed up for prior to Boot Camp.

Getting Paid At Boot Camp

Direct Deposit is mandatory for military pay. You should already have a bank account set up before you leave for basic training, and bring your account information and an ATM/debit card with you. If you don't have an account set up, one of the first things the staff will do is require you to establish an account at the Navy Credit Union or base bank. However, it may be several weeks before the bank can give you a debit card, which will impact on your ability to access your pay.  Military personnel are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. If those days fall on a non-duty day, you are paid on the preceding duty day. Your pay is direct-deposited into your bank account.