Yankee 188 Recruit Journal: Week 03

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

Formed: Sept. 24, 2013
Graduates: Nov. 15, 2013


Saturday of week 02 deserves the title the ‘Never Ending Day.’ Yankee-188 started the day dark and early once again. Our Lead Company Commander, Petty Officer Garver, informed us that today was a new training day. As long as we worked to meet all of our goals it would be a good day for us. We started off by meeting all the time objectives set out for us and generally being on point. As the day progressed however, we rapidly started to lose our composure. Every time we received 03 strikes we earned ourselves a remedial or incentive training session to fix our mistakes. The first remedial of the day was a fun exercise pertaining to the slashing of our zeroes. “I’m slashing my zeroes! I’m slashing my zeroes! I’m slashing my zeroes!” rang out from the quarterdeck as we all faced the bulkhead and slashed zeroes on a piece of paper. That would be a total of 30 by 31 zeroes on the page. Recruits’ eyes began to swim and get disoriented from staring at the page for so long. This Saturday was a day full of physical activity. After slashing those hundreds of zeroes, we marched to the track to workout with our good old sister company X-Ray 188. For a “warm up” we ran 01 mile. For some that’s nothing. For others, that’s an entire workout in itself. Our main exercise involved hopping onto the stationary bikes with the goal of burning 400 calories. After the biking was complete, I’m afraid to say things went downhill for Yankee-188. We still don’t fully know how to “lock on” and “lock off” at appropriate times. For this folly, we were introduced to piece incentive training. It’s a lot like our usual incentive training; only it involves our 10-pound piece (training rifle) in hand while we do various calisthenics. We topped the evening off with a joyous gathering in the drill hall with our sister company X-Ray. For around 40 minutes, we slipped and slid on the sweat of our fellow shipmates as we engaged in conducting right and left facing movements. We screamed “Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty!” at the tops of our lungs as we spun around. After we successfully turned the drill hall into a sauna, we piled into the stairwell and headed upstairs for some more fun activities. We all hoped the torture was over, but with 02 hours left on the clock, we all knew we still had more time to kill. Everyone carried with them the look of exasperation and defeat on their faces. Now it was sniper position time. This is the latest incentive training bit. You sit crossed-legged, back straight hold your piece up, and peer down both sights as you aim it into the distance. Do this for over a few minutes and you will really start to feel it in your arms and back. Do this for over 20 minutes and you’ll probably feel it in the morning. I know we will.


As far as days go here at recruit training, Sundays are like a vacation. That’s comparatively, of course, but you take what you can get. We get a whole extra half hour of sleep! We snooze complacently all the way until 0600. We need as much time to recharge our batteries while here, so it feels like a godsend. As a whole, the day was a little less physically and mentally taxing than usual. Which is funny to say now, because even a week ago I would be harping on how today was a huge challenge. I suppose every day we are just getting more used to the rigors of training. I would be doing divine hours a disservice if I didn’t give them their due regards. I can’t overstate how helpful they are in so many ways. You have time to square your rack and square your mind. Along with our sister company X-Ray 188; we continued to practice our running on the track. We’re building up our endurance so we can complete a 03-mile run later on in training. For some that’s no big deal. For others it sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. Regardless, the 03-mile run will happen. That’s what this training is all about: pushing yourself. Speaking of which, we had another opportunity to do just that tonight. We were tasked with the dreaded “sniper position” incentive training technique. Sitting with legs crossed, we sat strewn across the quarterdeck, holding our 10-pound pieces straight out. The butts dug into our shoulders as we tried to steady our arms and shoulders straight. We would sit like this for periods of 20 or so odd minutes. This part of training really hits on mental and physical discipline. I realize it may sound sort of easy, but go try and hold a 10-pound oddly shaped weight straight out in front of you for an undisclosed period of time. It turns out it really isn’t that fun. As the sweat poured down and the grunts filled the air, another day in the life of Yankee-188 slowly (and somewhat painfully) came to an end.


As we were startled awake by the familiar howl of Petty Officer Ruff, we jumped out of our racks. In a manner of seconds we all stood outside in front of Healy Hall, waiting to see what the day had to throw at us. Belay my last. I should say we were waiting to see how we would define the day for ourselves. We hoped we would be on point. Things started off shaky I’m afraid and they only got progressively worse for us. We were quick to anger Petty Officer Ruff within our first few minutes. Thus, our morning run was cancelled and good old incentive training took its place. “You’re going to do ‘fire, fire, fire’ until one of you pukes. Then we’ll stop.” That little piece of wisdom basically set the stage for the entire day in Yankee-188. It was definitely one of our darker days so far. We were just off the entire day, much to the extreme dismay of our Company Commanders. They want us to succeed. We all know this and in return need to give them 100%. Today wasn’t that day. It really is a shame we wasted our own time. We are bringing this physical stress and anguish of incentive training on ourselves. Our Company Commanders have made it abundantly clear they won’t destroy us for no reason – we dictate with our attitudes and actions if we train and learn or if we get physically punished. Some recruits have unfortunately had enough of this. Every day it seems like we are losing a recruit here, a recruit there. It’s hard to see them go. I hope they are at peace with their decisions and won’t foster a sense of regret. They say that as the days go on in Coast Guard training they’re supposed to get easier. This will only happen though when we come together as a team. Those of us that remain in Yankee-188 are struggling to gel together seamlessly. Every day, just as we think we are going to get the chance to move forward with our real training, we find a way to hold ourselves back. We need to hold ourselves accountable for this. I know you are looking at this post for some form of entertainment, but tonight I have no witty anecdotes or clever stories to tell. It wasn’t that kind of day. The day we start meeting the expectations set in place, will be the day Yankee-188 learns the true meanings of discipline, respect, obedience, honor and devotion. We are still trying to prove that the Coast Guard core values can and will align with our own. A cherry on top of the day was our dual remedial training session with sister company X-Ray 188. By the time we had completed it, the air smelled of “sweat, feces and lavender” as Petty Officer Garver so eloquently put it. First, we were instructed to retrieve our boondockers, black socks and blousing straps. Over 100 of us gathered into the cramped and sweltering quarterdeck as we attempted to change between our ‘go-fasters’ (military issued sneakers) and boots in under 60 seconds. This is how the quarterdeck received its first glistening layer of sweat of the night. Crowded, hitting one another as we attempted to change out of our boots and shoes, we clearly were all struggling. Second, we re-entered what felt like the Sahara desert with full canteens in hand and stuck them out straight in front of us. As the burning in our shoulders commenced and the sweat on our foreheads rained down, the quarterdeck received its second coating of sweat. As we held our canteens out we screamed at an admittedly mediocre volume about discipline and the punishments that follow disobeying rules, orders and regulations. Third, full canteens still in hand and with arms fully extended, we took our measly hand-drawn pictures of boats we had made earlier and chanted, “Eyes in the boat! Eyes in the boat!” This went on for longer than any of us had expected. Fourth, we gathered on the quarterdeck one last time. Holding the sniper position, we sweated out the last drops of defeat onto the floor. Make no mistake; everything that was thrown at Yankee-188 tonight was necessary and well deserved. Our list of infractions ranged from looking around at times when we needed to be “locked on”, to acting like children, to not sounding off properly. The list seemed almost endless. Every session of remedial training was to get us to learn how to properly “lock on.” Every drop of sweat was a small piece of our old civilian selves leaving our bodies. Yankee-188 may have lost today, but we still have tomorrow.


I think today may have been a turning point in Yankee-188. I know you have all been waiting to hear something positive like that. That’s what’s really important about this entry. I could tell you about our classes, our handful of incentive training sessions, and all the daily grind-type stuff that is in essence part of the day-to-day life of a recruit at Training Center Cape May. But you’ve come to know about those types of things. I feel those topics have become a bit mundane for now. What’s really important is what’s going on in our company as a whole, on a personal level. I don’t mean personal in the sense of each individual. As a company we are one single entity. I think tonight we may have finally let go our egos and personal differences and connected as one symbiotic team. I know the last few days of updates have been especially dark and rough. They’ve been true, though. I wouldn’t want to sugarcoat anything just for the sake of it. We were failing as a team and getting rightfully punished for it. Our Lead Company Commander Petty Officer Garver gave us a frank talk about our shortcomings and allowed us to hold an open question and answer session with him. He then gave us 05 minutes to talk privately as a company and to also elect a new squad leader. We hatched things out as a team and had a rousing talk about the realities of where we are, what we’ve been doing and what we need to do to get to where we want to be. If we all take what was said between us to heart, this may be the dawn of a new company. All of us in Yankee-188 have decided that coming together as a team is our number one priority. Our colors hang on the bulkhead of the quarterdeck as our incentive. Our goal is to earn them. Our hard work and dedication will all be worth it when we hold up our colors proudly. Yankee-188 has made it a goal to earn our colors as soon as possible. We want to be better. We want to prove to our Company Commanders that we want this more than anything. We just have to show them that Yankee-188 can and will do anything for our company and for this service.


The wind threw the fat drops of rain in our direction seemingly as a blatant consequence of our actions. 51 of us stood at the position of attention in company formation, clenching our arms as tightly as possible in hopes that it would reduce the sharp stings from the cold wind and rain. Yankee-188 marched to the galley as the overwhelming feeling of stupidity hung around us. We were apparently all smart enough to be accepted into the Coast Guard, but not smart enough to plan ahead for a bout of foul weather. As all the other companies marched comfortably in their Gore-Tex jackets, shielded from the elements, Yankee-188 enjoyed an early extra shower. On the sunny side at least we all messed up together as a team. Either we all bring our jackets or no one does. Clearly we went the wrong direction on this one. At least it provided some comic relief for the other companies at our expense. Throwing ourselves to the mercy of the elements was just what we needed too, since the majority of us have all come down with the “Cape May crud.” When you walk into our squad bay it sounds like it’s full of 60-year-old chain smokers about ready to cough up a lung. It’s quite pleasant. Anyway, there’s nothing like marching around wet and cold when you’re feeling under the weather. The sick hall hours at the ward have begun to swell with the ranks of our fellow shipmates. When you throw this many people together in this kind of environment sickness is bound to happen. So with sinuses stuffed up and heads chalk full of Sudafed and couch syrup, Yankee-188 wearily attended a slew of classes that pertained to our future careers as Coasties. Each one helped us reaffirm our commitment as to why we came here. We are all eager and excited to head off to the fleet. Until then we still have many hurtles in our way. Each day though we are getting closer.


The morning started off well for Yankee-188 (let’s be honest, you all know what the tone of this entry is going to be after reading that sentence). We were meeting time objectives, being locked on and generally feeling good about the day. Now, we knew come evening we were in for it due to some catastrophes during our section of the evening watch. We were ready for that beating though. What we were not ready for, however, was an afternoon surprise inspection from our Section Commander, Chief Johnson. Let’s just say things in the Yankee-188 squad bay were not up to par in the eyes of our leaders. While we sat blissfully unaware in class, back at the squad bay things were being utterly dismantled – racks torn open, trash strewn about – all to send us a message. However, that was only the beginning of said message. Chief Johnson relieved our Company Commanders of their duties for the evening and took over our company. Let the incentive training sessions and endless remedials begin. We retrieved our locks and gathered at our favorite spot – the quarterdeck. We put the locks on the tips of our fingers and held them out straight for as long as Chief Johnson wanted. Then, we were whisked away on a ‘field trip’ around Healy Hall. We marched through other company’s squad bays chanting, “Yankee moves slow! Yankee doesn’t care!” and other personal putdowns. Next, we marched around the entire Training Center doing much of the same, only this time in our boots and holding our pieces. Chief Johnson was determined to change us by sunrise. By the end of the night, we slowly came to realize all of our ‘beatings’ were for our own good. We also began to appreciate that our Section Commander truly cared about us. He took the evening away from his family to personally come in and try to change our attitudes. All the time, energy and dedication our leaders put into us is because some day we will take over their roles. We are the future of the United States Coast Guard. We must live up to this role.


As the rain and wind whipped about the grounds of Training Center Cape May, the recruits of Yankee-188 drudged about through the howling gale. Dawning our not-so-impermeable Gore-Tex jackets and faithful rucksacks, we spent the majority of the day marching to and from classes all around the Training Center regiment. Our days are progressively getting filled up by classroom sessions. We are all excited to get into some of the real practical and hands-on classes we have coming up. In the past two days we’ve begun our seamanship classes. These classes take place in a whole new building with dedicated instructors, so the classes have been a welcomed change of pace to our usual routines. The classes are also very important, as they are meant to teach us all the basic tenants of seamanship, much like the name of class implies. It’s everything we need to know for when we finally head to the fleet. Today it was the basics of different types of lines and knots. I know, maybe not the most exciting thing, but important stuff nonetheless. We also spent part of the day learning about units, vessels and aircrafts. This class taught us about the different cutters, small boat stations and air support used by the Coast Guard. After evening chow, stomachs still full, we went to a 01-hour bike workout session. We were encouraged to burn as many calories as possible. Although our night ended with double sessions of incentive training, we all considered it one of our most successful nights to date. Tonight, Yankee-188 did not feel defeated after the sessions. Instead we felt like we had come together to sound off and make it through the night. For the first time in 03 weeks we may have proven to ourselves that we can work effectively as a team.


Today was the day of seamanship. The recruits of Yankee-188 set off, marching to their classroom at 0745 after morning chow was had and some various squad bay chores and duties were completed. It was set to be a full day of class at the seamanship building. From 0800 all the way until 1700 (with a break for afternoon chow, of course) we were instructed on tying knots, performing lookout duties, manning a helm and other useful skills we can directly apply to our future jobs in the fleet. For some, the long day of class proved arduous. Recruits filled the back of the classroom on and off throughout the day. When we get tired we are allowed to get up and stand in back, thus warding off sleep. No harm no foul if you do this. When you are sleep deprived and sitting in a chair for hours on end sometimes those eyelids begin to feel a bit heavy. You have to make sure you never succumb to sleep during a class. The consequences can be dire. Although we spent most of today at seamanship, the highlight of the day came in the last few hours. We were able to have the chance to meet with our company mentors. We enjoyed a thorough question and answer session involving everything pertaining to Coast Guard life. The excitement and commitment of the two Chiefs was refreshing. Furthermore, their evident passion for this service was inspiring. It is safe to say that we are counting down the days until our next meeting with them.

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.

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