You asked. A Coast Guard company commander answered.

Editor’s note: We gave our Facebook friends the opportunity to ask a company commander some questions about basic training. We chose the five questions with the most likes and had Chief Petty Officer Matthew Fredrickson respond to them. Fredrickson is an experienced company commander and is the section chief for Munro Hall responsible for more than 100 recruits and numerous company commanders. He is also the chief of Company Commander School responsible for training future company commanders. Here’s how one of our most intimidating company commanders responded…

By Chief Petty Officer Matthew Fredrickson, company commander

Have you ever felt bad for a recruit? – Question by John C. Ware

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matthew Fredrickson pauses for a photo during recruit training with Recruit Company India 188 June 25, 2013. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matthew Fredrickson pauses for a photo during recruit training with Recruit Company India 188 June 25, 2013. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

No, I have never felt bad for a recruit; EVER!
Just kidding – Absolutely, I feel bad for recruits all the time. Mainly, I feel bad for recruits who are motivated and end up becoming injured and leave their company. Sometimes these recruits could be in a hold status for several weeks before they begin training again. However, feeling bad for a recruit will never sway my ability to make a decision based on what is best for the Coast Guard and the readiness of the recruit. Just recently, I had to place a recruit in a hold status due to an injury. This recruit was one of the highest performers in the company, and it was hard to delay this recruit’s training.

I sympathize with recruits when they are home sick, get bad news from home during their training, etc., but my mission is train them to the best of my ability for the rigors of service in the U.S. Coast Guard. This is critical for their safety and success in our service. A recruit will only become stronger and more capable when they overcome obstacles and become successful in basic training. On the other hand, I will never feel bad for recruits who are constantly breaking rules, taking shortcuts, and/or violating our core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. These behaviors have no place in my Coast Guard.

Do you find it difficult to “turn it off” when you are off duty, at home with a significant other, with your kids, etc? …and then turn it back on when you show up the next day? – Question by Juraj Jánošík

For starters none of the company commanders act like this on a full-time basis. We probably have to think harder about “turning it on” than “turning it off.” Keep in mind, company commanders are regular Coast Guardsmen. Most of us are husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. We are all professionals, and once we “turn it on,” we have the ability to “turn it off” at a moment’s notice. It is not even a matter of having to think about it. There would be a lot of CC’s in the dog house if we couldn’t “turn it off” at home. My

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Edmund Lewis, a company commander at Training Center Cape May, motivates recruits carrying a life raft packed with sea bags while reciting the Coast Guard's Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion during incentive training July 31, 2012. The Coast Guard's Core Values are instilled in the recruits from the moment they step off the bus at the training center. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Edmund Lewis, a company commander at Training Center Cape May, motivates recruits carrying a life raft packed with sea bags while reciting the Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion during incentive training July 31, 2012. The Coast Guard’s Core Values are instilled in the recruits from the moment they step off the bus at the training center. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

wife would definitely “turn it on” and put me in my place if I brought that type of atmosphere home from work. My family did not sign up for basic training so I never bring my work home with me.

I was in Yankee 151. I believe (my company commander) said some of things…on purpose just to make us laugh. Then we’d get yelled at for laughing. Are CCs trained in stand-up comedy specifically for that purpose, or is there a book with all of those one-liners? – question by Chris Swenk

Humor has its place in training. I will tell you that no one is making a recruit laugh on purpose so someone else can scream at them or jack them up. Recruits learn self-discipline through a variety of lectures, drills and incentive training. If they choose to have a lapse in self-discipline, then they are choosing to be on the receiving end of what comes next, which is usually screaming and incentive training. No part of basic training is supposed to be funny, but when you put a bunch of people from various walks of life together in a highly stressful environment, funny things are bound to happen. We expect recruits to have the self control to not respond to those situations. If they don’t, then there will be consequences.

If you could offer one piece of advice for an incoming recruit, what would it be? – Question by Coast Guard Recruiting Office Hampton Roads.

I would like to offer two pieces of advice. For those who expect Coast Guard basic training to be easy: think again. I see recruits come to Cape May with a mindset that “it’s just the Coast Guard, how hard could it be.” Once their company has formed and their being pushed to their limits, those mindsets change to “oh crap, what did I get myself into?” That’s how a lot of recruits wash out of training. They underestimate the difficulty of our program. There are no guarantees here. You don’t get a trophy for participation. You’ll only graduate if you meet or exceed every standard.

The second piece of advice would be to come here ready to pass the minimum physical fitness standards. It boggles my mind when recruits show up and cannot do any pushups or run 1.5 miles. Put the video games down and get into shape now so you don’t have to spend extra time in Cape May with me and my fellow company commanders. If you come physically, mentally or emotionally unprepared to Training Center Cape May, you are likely to reverted, injured or wash out of training.

What is the toughest point in your training process with the recruits? – Question by Dawn Springer

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Edmund Lewis, a company commander at Training Center Cape May, motivates recruits carrying a life raft packed with sea bags while reciting the Coast Guard's Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion during incentive training July 31, 2012. The Coast Guard's Core Values are instilled in the recruits from the moment they step off the bus at the training center. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Torres, a company commander at Training Center Cape May, motivates recruits as they study the Coast Guardsman’s Manual Jan. 17, 2013. Coast Guard Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska.

I would say the later weeks of training are the toughest. The early weeks are easy. You have maximum supervision and are basically doing everything in “baby steps” to ensure you are able to grasp the basic concepts. If you don’t perform in the early weeks you are held accountable through incentive training (pushups, crunches, etc.), remedial drills and constant repetition. You are expected to make mistakes and do things wrong early in training. Once the later weeks begin, the stakes get much higher. A small mistake in the later weeks of training could mean extra time in recruit training. You are expected to perform with minimal supervision and little task direction. If they are not living up to the standards later in training, you have to rely on RAMP (Recruit Aptitude and Motivation Program) or reversion as a training tool, and these are both very bad things.

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2 Responses

  1. Scharazard Gray says:

    Would like to give everyone my encouragement and congratulations. The Coast Guard had a most profound impact on my life. Took my first plane ride from Tampa to Philly headed to Cape May. Remember seeing barbed wire fences, guards with weapons and wondered, Oh Oh what have I done now. Pretty much followed the advice given to me before I left home which was, Keep your mouth shut, your eyes and ears open and don’t volunteer for anything. Did my share of high-porting my weapon. The guys in the pool were the meanest I’ve come across. You will know how to drown-proof before you leave. But, of all the cruel things I think looking across at the lights in Wildwood at night and being in bootcamp was the worse. I was an Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman; toady I’m a physician. The Coast Guard had a lot to do with that. From time to time still reach out to old shipmates. By the way the best company every formed was Uniform-18. You can imitate but you can’t duplicate. Scharazard Gray, M.D. (HM2 Gray Go Coast Guard

  2. old man says:

    uniform 188 you mean…aug 27 -oct 18 2013