Recruit Journal November 188 Week: 06

Recruit Journal November 188 Week: 06
Formed: June 25, 2013
Graduate: August 16, 2013

International Maritime Signal Flag November

International Maritime Signal Flag November

Monday 29JUL13
This morning we woke up to “Fire, Fire, Fire”. We threw on our operational dress uniforms. In many respects, it was a normal day. There was one small thing that made a pivotal difference though, we didn’t do anything stupid. That’s not to say we didn’t have to work hard today; we had morning incentive training with Petty Officer LaFrance, a fairly rough water workout, and an evening I.T. session with Petty Officer Matthews. The big difference was we got treated like adults. We got to check in with our units, or at least check them out online. We all know this week is heavy. We’re running a 25% attrition rate in the company. We’ve lost 18 of 81 recruits, but those left are tighter and stronger than ever before. So the next 17 days will blow by, and we’ll be ready for the fleet.

Tuesday 30JUL13
Someone told me once that bootcamp has two parts – the breakdown and the build-up. Today, we experienced the build-up, big time. November-188 earned Company Colors, no more rag on a stick. Again today started normally, we had a morning firefighting class and then we returned to Healy Hall for our manual of arms test. For the past 5 weeks, we’ve been spending hours every day drilling with our pieces. The test had to be performed in front of the Section Commander. We slayed our test. Our movements were crisp, our voices were loud, and the Section Commander was impressed. Petty Officer Matthews and Petty Officer LaFrance, however, didn’t seem to be as impressed. They ordered us to return to the squadbay and pack everything we owned into our seabags and get back outside. What a lovely way to say “Good Job”, Right? So, we threw our stuff in our seabags and tumbled outside. Petty Officer Matthews marched us out into the brush that separates the regiment from the beach. We went for a “little” walk. We were moving fast and our seabags were heavy. The pavement turned to loose sand. Slowly our formation disintegrated into clumps. But those clumps were recruits encouraging those who were close to falling out. We’re a team. We rounded a bend and the ocean came into view. Petty Officer Matthews halted us, and for the first time, we noticed our company colors snapping in the breeze on the dune in front of us. “You see something you want November?” He asked, and we replied with a roaring “Yes, Petty Officer Matthews!” “Squad Leader, go get it”. Our squad leader stepped up and held the guidon high in front of us. “You’ve earned this because I know I could graduate every single one of you in two weeks.” Petty Officer Matthews pointed out to where a response boat medium was making a boarding on a small recreational boat. “He is out there, protecting, defending, and saving. In two weeks that is your job.” Sometimes in boot camp you feel like the lowest organism on the food chain. Most of the time, that is true. But there are moments when you hold your head high and you are unstoppable. We are unstoppable. We are November-188. One – Six days left!

Wednesday 31JUL13
Back at Sexton Hall, our first home here at Cape May, there was a large whiteboard with important company information on it: Chain of Command, Company name and flag, and some important dates. 25JUN13 – Our first arrival date. 28JUN13 – Our forming date, or the date we met our Company Commanders. 16AUG13 – Our graduation. I remember looking at it and thinking about the gap between 28JUN13 and 16AUG13: Those truly are important dates. Tomorrow morning we will wake up to August. Our final two weeks. Things are starting to feel more like the “real” Coast Guard. Today we suited up in Kevlar and Nomex and advanced on some hose lines on some “fires”. We got our military IDs. Our travel plans are solidifying. We’re starting to become Coast Guardsmen. For those in the company who are a little behind, that’s bad news. Our Company Commanders expect confidence and professionalism. Now, instead of our usual “Panic and demoralization” to prove this, Petty Officer LaFrance took 20every recruit who had screwed up during the day and put them through the most intense two hours of pain we’ve seen in weeks. So lesson learned – now that we’ve earned our colors, we have to act like we’re earning them everyday.

Thursday 01AUG13
Today seemed to fly by. After our usual morning fire drill and breakfast routine, we all had some administration time. Petty Officer Matthews just gave us orders of what needed to get done, and we dispersed across the regiment. It seemed a little surreal to be finalizing the details of household food relocations and airfare, but that’s most of what we did. After lunch, we took some time to learn about our roles in graduation tomorrow. With Lima Company’s graduation tomorrow, we will be providing parking and usher support. That also mean we’ll be the second most senior company on the regiment! With that in mind, we’re still not safe. We lost shipmates this week, and we’re in danger of losing more. The one ugly thing about boot camp is that small mistakes are critical. Smile in the galley? You’re looking at a two week reversion. Show up late to watch? Same deal. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s still a lot of tunnel left. But we’ll walk it together in step, dressed to the right.

Friday 02AUG13
Friday’s tend to be a slightly hard day for us emotionally. Friday’s are graduation day. Seeing the regiment mobbed with graduating recruit’s families is an all-too real reminder of what we have still to weather. And weather it we will have to. Petty Officer LaFrance literally just told me “there’s a calm before the storm”, and then walked away laughing evilly into her office. She seriously has mastered the art of psychological warfare. It was probably the scariest moment of my boot camp experience. This weekend, hopefully, will remain calm. We have Coast Guard Day festivities to set up for tomorrow, followed by on-base liberty. This evening we received our cell phones for on-base liberty. A lot of us found the devices totally alien- adjusting back into civilian life in 02 weeks (and for some of us 04 weeks) this will be a challenge. However, before we can really consider home, we have the next two weeks to tangle with. Petty Officer LaFrance will have her storm. So from the eye of the storm, things look clear. But week 07 is looming. This is not over.

Saturday 03AUG13
Today was an oddly enjoyable day. We worked all morning at Coast Guard Day, staffing moon-bounces, pony rides, and climbing walls. Some recruits painted little kids faces, some just picked up trash (This was the greatest work detail we’ve ever had at boot camp). After a junior company came in to relieve us, we got liberty. There’s an old country song called “Letters From Home”. It’s somewhat appropriate to our situation. Hearing from home keeps us motivated. Now, phone calls to or from home. There is no country song to describe the feeling of hearing a loved one’s voice; liberty was basically dedicated to calling home and havning an actual conversation. A lot of recruits teared up (though they denied it to the people they had on the line…) ,we live for that kind of thing. After we got back from liberty, things got even better. Petty Officer Matthews put us to bed, and for the first time, he showed a glimmer of something that almost resembled “liking” us, or caring for us. I wouldn’t call it affection by any means, but it was the first time he cracked a joke in front of us. Jokes or not, we’re locked back on. Tomorrow we’ve got a parade and our uniforms need work. Our shoes need shining. “Tomorrow is a new day”, as Petty Officer LaFrance would say.

Sunday 04AUG13
Sundays are usually good days for us. Today didn’t exactly follow that pattern, but we made the best of it. We had our usual routine of divine hours, followed by a round of required knowledge quizzing that ended up on the concrete outside sweating over our pieces and pushing the deck. After that little party, we started to practice for the sunset parade. Unlike last time, November recruits played important roles in the event. 01 recruit was selected to perform with the recruit drill team, 03 were asked to march with the color guard, and several more did colors detail. Of course, no week is complete without moving. We packed up after our parade and moved into Mike-188’s squadbays. Interestingly enough, 12 years ago, a young Seaman Recruit Matthews called our squadbays home. It’s strange to consider how things come full circle. 12 years from now, at least one of us will be running around with a campaign cover. For now though, we’ll try to rinse some of the salt and funk out of our recruit ball covers and brace ourselves for the oncoming week.

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, so as to ensure authenticity of the content and messages.