Recruit Company Hotel 188: Weeks 01/02

Formed: May 7, 2013
Graduates: June 28, 2013

07 MAY 13 – Ship Day

                Nervous energy was the order of the day for the recruits of Hotel Company 188. We awoke in all corners of the United States – from California to North Carolina, Oregon to the Virgin Islands. Most of us woke before dawn to complete our trek through MEPs to various airports and bus stations spread across the country and ultimately to

International Maritime Signal Flag Hotel

International Maritime Signal Flag Hotel

the USO in Philadelphia International Airport. We had our first small taste, and I mean infinitesimally small, of military training while boarding the bus for Cape May: “Stand in Line! Toe to Heel! No Talking! NO LOOKING AROUND!”

On the bus, some slept, some stared out the window at the falling rain, and some checked facebook one last time. After a couple of wrong turns – it had been a while since our driver made the trip to TRACEN Cape  May – We rolled up to Sexton Hall and the greeting “YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO GET OFF THIS BUS AND YOU JUST WASTED 5 OF THEM.” After a night of paper work and yelling, we hit our racks for a night of restless sleep.


Forming Week: 08MAY – 12MAY

                There’s a saying oft repeated in Cape May: “The days are long, but the weeks are short.” We spent our first days at Cape May Forming. Forming translates to lots of sitting, several medical exams, a copious number of needles, and even more yelling from our forming company commanders. We marched around (mostly out of step) and started learning how to talk Cape May Style (a slightly cumbersome formula that helps recruits learn how to properly speak on a radio. By our first Friday afternoon, we had accumulated a sea bag full of Coast Guard issued gear and said goodbye to our phones and civilian clothes. It was time for us to meet our company commanders: Petty Officers Garver and Milligan, who – over the next seven weeks – will be molding us into Coastguardsmen.

At the pickup ceremony, we heard from Commander Gibbons who exhorted us to put down an anchor, to think about why we are here, and hold on to this. He told us that winds will blow, and that they should. That is, after all, part of our job description – we go out when everyone else is coming back. He was right, incredibly right. The winds began to blow that very afternoon.

Over the weekend Petty Officer Garver and Petty Officer Milligan were with us almost every waking moment teaching, demonstrating, and doing a healthy amount of yelling. We began learning to march in formation, how much we can do in five minutes (hint: not quite as much as our Company Commanders would like), and how to iron our uniforms, blouse our pants, and fold our clothes. On our first Sunday, we had a brief respite during Divine Hours to start stenciling our gear and organizing our rack – an approximately ten-foot by ten-foot space beneath our beds where we keep nearly all of our possessions here at Cape May. Those who wanted to also had the opportunity to go to church.


Week 02: 13MAY-19MAY –

                On Monday, we started breaking away from the Company – or “stragging” as it is known here – to attend various personal appointments. This is a fairly terrifying experience for new recruits since there are tons of company commanders strolling around looking for nervous recruits unfamiliar with Cape May’s long list of rules and regulation. That afternoon, we had a wonderful couple of hours with Chaplain Miller, who taught us about stress and let us relax (and even laugh a little) for the first time in six days.

                On Tuesday, we had a chance to ask questions about all the rules and regulations that were pumped into our heads over the weekend. As a company we are definitely struggling to remember all of these, but being able to ask a few questions without being yelled at was quite helpful. On Wednesday, we started learning rates and ranks and the associated collar devices, shoulder insignias and covers. We also picked up our pieces at the armory. These M1 Rifles cannot fire; however, we treat them as operational weapons for training purposes. In fact, US soldiers fought and died with these rifles during World Wars I and II. The highlight of the day, for most recruits, was our first mail call. It was incredibly heartening to hear from our friends and family back home.

                Thursday was sink or swim day. We had our swim test: a 100 m circuit swim under five minutes and treading water for five minutes. The majority of the company passed. Those who didn’t pass now have to wake up at 0500 for remedial swim classes. After lunch, we had a class on saluting: who, when, and how. As many of our teachers and company commanders are fond of saying: “We’re not splitting the atom here.” We’re just leaning the fundamentals of military and Coast Guard life.


                Friday saw Hotel-188 marching in the parade for the graduating company on the regiment, Delta-188, a rarity for a week 02 company (since we’re just learning basic marching). Prior to marching we wrestled our uniforms into a state that managed to pass as moderately presentable if squinting into the noon sun from the Cape May bleachers. Aside from the bugs, which have been out with a vengeance over the past couple of days, the ceremony raised Hotel Company’s spirits. As our Lead Company Commander keeps telling us, “The train has just left the station;” however, seeing a glimpse of the final destination was inspiring.

This weekend we met one of our company mentors, Master Chief Isherwood. He told us about his thirty-plus years of Coast Guard Service and patiently answered questions about our Coast Guard futures for almost three hours. Before he left, he exhorted us to keep pushing, reminded us that eight weeks (now just six) will pass quickly, and even took the time to join us in the galley for lunch.

These first two weeks have not been easy, and Hotel-188 has  definitely struggled at times – missing time objectives, forgetting (or never learning) required knowledge, speaking incorrectly, walking incorrectly, being, in the word or our Lead Company Commander “COMPLETELY OUT OF OUR MINDS!” However, after Divine Hours today, we’re ready to roll into week 03 of training.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by a recruit currently involved in Coast Guard basic training. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this Journal do not necessarily reflect those of Training Center Cape May, the U.S. Coast Guard or the federal government and are the sole opinion of the author. Recruit Journals are written by personnel in a high-stress environment with little time, so please excuse grammar and punctuation in the above article. The staff at Training Center Cape May do not edit the journals in any way to ensure authenticity of the content and messages.


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