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The author, winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, has served the Navy in many capacities, both as an enlisted man and officer, and he brings that experience and his devotion to the service to these pages. He explains new terms and such concepts as leadership and core values in both inspiring and pragmatic terms. Relevant photographs, diagrams, and tables enhance the presentation, and accompanying appendixes include a glossary and a wealth of reference material that every sailor will want to keep at hand.
Copyright © 2002 U.S. Naval Institute.
All rights reserved.
Introduction to the Navy
Welcome aboard! These words carry a world of significance. They mean that you have made one of the biggest decisions a young person can—you have volunteered to enlist in the United States Navy. By raising your right hand and taking the oath of enlistment, you have become a member of one of the most important military services in the world and joined one of the biggest businesses in the United States. Not only have you proved your understanding of citizenship by offering your services to your country, but you have also taken the first step toward an exciting and rewarding career.
If you are not already familiar with names like John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, Doris Miller, William F. Halsey, and Marvin Shields, you soon will be. And you will feel honored to be serving, as they once did, in the United States Navy.
Today's Navy is a massive and complex organization, a far cry from the makeshift fleet that opposed the British in the Revolutionary War. Hundreds of ships, thousands of aircraft, hundreds of thousands of people, and an annual budget in the billions of dollars go together to make the U.S. Navy a powerful and important component of the American defense establishment, playing a vital role in maintaining our national security, protecting us against our enemies in time of war, and supporting our foreign policy in peacetime. Through its exercise of seapower, the Navy ensures freedom of the seas so that merchant ships can bring us the vital raw material we import from abroad, like petroleum, robber, sugar, and aluminum. Seapower makes it possible for us to use the oceans when and where our national interests require it, and denies our enemies that same freedom.
You are now a part of all that—a vital part, for the ships and aircraft of the Navy are only as good as the people who operate them.
Your introduction to the Navy probably started at your hometown recruiting station, with interviews and processing conducted by a Navy recruiter. He or she was specially trained to compare your desires and your qualifications with the needs of the Navy to establish the terms of your service. Your "contract" with the Navy is officially called an enlistment, but you will sometimes hear it described as a hitch. It began when you took the oath of enlistment, and it will last from two to six years, depending upon the terms agreed upon by you and your recruiter.
Naval Training Center, Great Lakes
All recruits begin their naval careers in what is officially called Recruit Training Command (RTC), but is more traditionally referred to as "boot camp." Although you may have relatives who once trained at boot camps in other parts of the country, currently the Navy is operating only one RTC, located at the Naval Training Center (NTC) in Great Lakes, Illinois. This 1628-acre training facility, on the shore of Lake Michigan about 40 miles north of Chicago, has been training Sailors since July 1911. During World War II, nearly a million Sailors were trained there.
You and the other recruits will make the transition from civilian to military life in the time you will spend at RTC. Nearly every minute of every day will be filled with military drills, physical training, hands-on experiences, and a busy schedule of drills and classes on naval history, traditions, customs, operations, and regulations. At first you will probably find the transition challenging—you will have completely changed your environment, diet, sleep patterns, climate, clothes, and companions—but within a relatively short period, you will make the necessary adjustments and find a great deal of pride to replace your initial anxiety.
First Weeks in the Navy
The day of arrival at RTC is called receipt day, when your initial processing begins. The next three to five days will be your processing days (P-Days). The procedures may vary from time to time, but in general go like this: Report in, turn in orders, and draw your bedding and bunk assignment for your first night aboard. You will also fill out a bedding custody card, a stencil form, a receipt for a "chit book" (to be used instead of money for purchases at the Navy Exchange), a safe-arrival card for your parents, and other forms.
Every recruit will get a haircut and, chances are, it will be different from what you are used to. While male recruits won't get their heads shaved, the barber won't leave enough hair to comb either. Female recruits have two options: they must wear their hair up or get special haircuts to conform to Navy standards. Later, at your first duty station, you will have more choice in hairstyle, but you will still have to conform to Navy regulations.
As a Sailor, you will have to be in excellent health and good physical condition to perform your duties properly. Navy medical personnel will examine you from head to toe, run blood tests and urinalysis, take X-rays, and give you a series of inoculations—the works. If you need dental work, it will be scheduled.
At first you will receive an initial clothing issue that includes enough uniform clothing to make you look like a Sailor and to allow you to perform your duties while in boot camp. Eventually you will receive a complete outfit, called a seabag, worth hundreds of dollars.
You will not need money while in boot camp. You will be issued a chit book of coupons to be used in the Navy Exchange for toilet articles, sewing kits, shoeshine gear, notebooks, stationery, postage stamps, and pens and pencils. The total cost will be deducted from your pay.
You will be issued an Armed Forces of the United States Identification Card—"ID card"—which identifies you as a member of the armed forces. While it is unique to you and in your possession, it remains government property and must be returned when you are discharged. Altering it, damaging it, counterfeiting it, or using it in an unauthorized manner (such as lending your card to someone or borrowing another person's card) can result in serious disciplinary action.
Your card shows your name, Social Security number, and the date your enlistment expires. Carry it at all times. Besides granting you access to ships, Navy Exchanges, and other government installations, it will identify you as one protected by the provisions of the Geneva Convention should you become a prisoner of war.
If you lose your card, you will have to sign a statement detailing the circumstances of the loss.
Boot Camp Routine
Soon after reporting in, you will be placed in a division and will meet the people you'll be with for the next several weeks. Then, during a formal commissioning ceremony, an officer will welcome you, give a brief talk on the history and mission of the Navy, assign your unit a division number and name (after a Navy ship), present a division flag (called a guidon) bearing that number, and introduce your recruit division commanders (RDCs).
Recruit Division Commander
Each division, usually about eighty-four recruits, is taken through training by its RDCs—outstanding petty officers who are intimately familiar with instructional techniques, principles of leadership, and administrative procedures. The RDCs will instruct you in military and physical drills and show you how to keep yourself, your clothing, equipment, and barracks in smart, ship-shape condition. While at boot camp, your RDCs are the most important people in the Navy. Keep in mind that your RDCs once went through recruit training just like you; by now, they have many years of naval experience. Follow your RDCs' example and you'll make a good start toward a successful Navy career.
Chain of Command
The Navy is organized like a pyramid, with the President of the United States at the top as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. There are many levels below the President leading eventually to you. This is known as the chain of command. Just as you must follow the orders and guidance of your RDCs, they must, likewise, follow the orders and guidance of the ship's leading chief petty officer, and he or she must follow those of the assistant squadron commander, and so on. Your chain of command will change somewhat each time you report to a new duty station, but while you are at RTC, your chain of command is as follows:
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Education and Training
Commanding Officer RTC
Executive Officer RTC
Director of Training
Department Head (Squadron Commander)
Assistant Squadron Commander
Ship's Leading Chief Petty Officer
Recruit Division Commanders (RDC)
Because you are new to the Navy, you will start out at the bottom of the pyramid, but time, training, experience, hard work, and the right attitude will change that. Keep in mind that everyone in the Navy began at the bottom, and your seniors were once recruits like you.
Nearly everything you do at boot camp is designed to prepare you for service in the Navy. On ships, submarines, and naval stations throughout the world, the daily routine is prescribed by a bulletin called the "Plan of the Day" or, more commonly, the POD. At RTC, the daily routine appears as a schedule on the compartment chalkboard. It issues the special orders for the day, gives the hours of meals, inspections, parades, and other events. Using the master training schedule as their guide, your RDCs will post the information you need to get through each day. Once you leave boot camp, it will be your responsibility to read the POD each day to find out what uniform to wear, what special events are taking place, and so on. A typical day at RTC is outlined in Table 1.1.
Back to School
You have a lot to learn in order to make the transition from civilian to Sailor. Much of your time will be spent in classrooms. A typical day of instruction includes a dozen 40-minute periods with 10-minute breaks between periods. Many topics will be covered, including:
Career incentives/medical benefits
Chain of command
Chemical, biological, and radiological defense
Code of conduct/Geneva Convention
Deck equipment (basic)
Equal opportunity awareness
Hand salute and greetings
Honors and ceremonies
Naval history and traditions
Navy mission and organization
Officer rank recognition
Ordnance and weapons
Pay and allowances
Rates and ratings recognition
Sexual harassment awareness
Survival at sea
Uniform Code of Military Justice
Watch, quarter, and station bill
Some of your classroom training will be augmented by hands-on training, which will give you the opportunity to work with actual equipment and simulate real conditions. Examples of this kind of training are firefighting, seamanship, chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) defense, and survival at sea techniques where you will actually fight a fire, work with lines and deck equipment, put on a gas mask in a gas chamber, and learn to stay afloat using your clothing as a life preserver.
Few jobs in the Navy are completely independent, so a great deal of emphasis is placed upon teamwork during your training at RTC. Military drill (such as marching) is one way that you and your fellow recruits will learn the importance of instant response to orders and the value of group precision. Later on—when you are helping to launch and recover aircraft on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, or rescuing a shipmate from the sea, or taking a nuclear submarine into the depths of the ocean—you will fully understand and appreciate the importance of such training.
Training at RTC—which includes such things as the meticulous folding and precise stowage of clothing—may sometimes be seen as nitpicky or unnecessary, but in the highly technical, sometimes dangerous, and often unique surroundings you will find in the Navy, attention to detail can make the difference between success and failure, survival and disaster, victory and defeat. Everything you do in boot camp has a purpose, and the overall mission of RTC is to make you ready for the challenges and opportunities that await you in the U.S. Navy.
Boot Camp Life
Not all of your time at RTC will be spent in training. There will be administrative periods during which you will make pay arrangements, be fitted for uniforms, complete your medical and dental work, and make known your desires for future assignment. Based upon your Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test scores and your classification interviews, the initial path of your Navy career will be determined.
While at boot camp you will be given the opportunity to attend the church of your choice. Chapels are available in which Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and several other religious services are conducted by chaplains, who are also available for pastoral counseling and religious education. Recruit choirs are organized and often sing at the services.
Because of the tight schedule and the great number of recruits in training, you cannot receive telephone calls while at RTC, but on occasion, with permission from your RDC, you may make outgoing calls.
Visitors are not permitted during training, but you will be permitted to have guests attend your graduation review. Information about this will be provided for you to send home.
You will be paid twice while at RTC, but once you graduate you (and every other member of the Navy) will be paid twice a month. You will be paid by electronic transfer of funds through the direct deposit system to the banking institution of your choice.
The Navy relies upon competition as a means of enhancing readiness and promoting pride. Individual Sailors compete with other Sailors for promotions, and ships and aircraft squadrons compete with each other using appropriate exercises to measure readiness in gunnery, engineering, safety, communications, and other important areas. While at boot camp, your division will compete for awards in athletic skill, scholastic achievement, military drill, inspections, and overall excellence.
Special flags are awarded to divisions in recognition of their achievements, and at the graduation ceremony a number of individuals are selected to receive outstanding recruit awards. Honor graduates will be designated and other recruits will receive special recognition.
Near the end of your training at boot camp, you and your fellow recruits will participate in a large-scale exercise called "Battle Stations," which will place you in a realistic scenario designed to test what you have learned at RTC. You will simulate handling emergencies such as the kind you might encounter while serving in the Navy, and learn how to function as part of a team while demonstrating your endurance. This physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding exercise will test your abilities in meeting the challenges of fighting a fire, preparing for an approaching hurricane, conducting a search-and-rescue operation, transporting an injured shipmate, defending a position using small arms, abandoning ship, and so on. After successfully completing this "final exam," your achievement will be recognized by replacing your recruit cap with the Navy ballcap you will wear in the fleet.
Excerpted from The Bluejacket's Manual by Thomas J. Cutler. Copyright © 2002 by U.S. Naval Institute. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.