Yankee 188 Recruit Journal: Week 05

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


Another Sunday rolls by at Training Center Cape May. Of course, this also means another week has been marked off the calendar for Yankee-188. All of us are certain to make note of this and tuck it away in our minds as a small bit of success. We’re still here and time keeps moving closer to November 15th. We just need to stay the course and keep our eyes on the prize. After a relaxing morning by Cape May standards (Sundays are of course our time for divine hours) we had our first ever company run. We formed in our usual marching squad formation, but this time we would be moving at a swift jogging pace and sounding off in cadences. We formed up and took off, using the first few minutes to find our rhythm and set our pace. Running in a precisely aligned formation takes a little getting used to, but we soon found ourselves in step and running together as a single cohesive unit. By far the best part of the run

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

was practicing cadences. The feeling of running together and belting out those words was indescribable. I’m not going to quote the lyrics here (admittedly because I don’t remember the words) but trust me when I say they helped to fill us with company pride. We held our heads up proudly and found a new sense of urgency and pride in our step. The feeling of positive energy hanging in the air around us was evident. As we took a detour to a new part of the base we had not seen before, we came face to face with a docked medium endurance cutter and a myriad of other Coast Guard ships. We’re not supposed to look around while in formation, but as we ran by these sights many heads turned inadvertently. Everyone had to sneak a peek at this sight. It was an inspiring reminder of what awaits us in the future. When the run concluded, the recruits of Yankee-188 felt invigorated. It was the perfect ending to a tumultuous week. Let’s see if we can keep the energy flowing into tomorrow and start the week off with a bang.


As Monday morning crept upon us, we were greeted with our first day of clear skies in four or five days. This was a welcomed change of pace after dealing with such dreary weather. Lucky for us, the nice crisp fall morning also signaled the return of “Fire! Fire! Fire!” Petty Officer Ruff was kind enough to introduce us to some new moves to add to our morning routine. One of these was called the “Dead Cockroach.” It was about as fun as it sounds. Holding our legs out at a 45-degree angle, arms straight out trying to grab our shoes, we balance precariously on our tailbones. A morning with Petty Officer Ruff is like a morning with a hand grenade – and the pin has been pulled out. You just hold on for dear life and hope you don’t make a mistake and drop it. If you do, BOOM: get ready for the performance trackers and incentive training sessions to rain down from the heavens. It’s part of the experience though. We all know that he wants to see us live up to the standards expected of us as Coast Guardsmen. We should look to exceed those standards. When we can do that, is when we will truly be ready to graduate. Today we also took one of the most important classes that recruit training has to offer – colors. Not just how to complete the evolution of morning and evening colors, but also the importance of it. We were shown a touching video of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. This helped put into perspective the importance of colors and the importance of our future career. This video was more than fitting following the earlier class we had that was about commitment. All of us had a difficult time sounding off with the emotion we attempted to hold back. When the video ended, most of us remembered why we were truly here.


Tuesday, October 15th, a day that will live in Yankee-188 infamy. As we tore through a piece incentive training session underneath a clear, warm night sky, we all couldn’t help but think back to the day’s events that had brought us to this one grueling point.
We began the day with a little chip on our shoulders. The past two days had been mildly solid for Yankee-188 and we all rode that high into this Tuesday. Unfortunately, as our history goes to show, it’s typically been one step forward and two steps back. We proved that yet again today.
If a new order was passed tomorrow that allowed whole companies to be reverted, Yankee-188 would surely make history by being the first. Our list of infractions multiplied by the minute. We sucked so bad it hurt, literally, in our knees, in our shoulders, in our backs. There is no way to get used to piece incentive training. All we can do is fix the constant mistakes we make. Once again tonight our flaws were recorded and broadcasted. Fists not tight. Pinkies off trouser seems. Not sounding off. Not flipping cups in the galley when finished. Not brining hand down properly after saluting. Moving in formation. Running in our boots. Running to formation. Smiling. Giving narratives to yes or no questions. Not stepping over deck plates. Eye fornicating permanent party members (one of our favorites, it seems). Today we won the pennant for totally sucking. As a company, our Record of Counseling would probably say: “Said name recruit is failing in the core values of absolutely everything. Especially teamwork. Yankee-188, although a week 04 co mpany, you exhibit signs of a forming company. Welcome to Alpha-189.”


Tonight I would like to start with addressing you, the reader, directly. Yes, all of you family and friends out there. The other historian and myself have frequently been taken aside by our fellow shipmates to tell us that you are out there reading this and following along with our exploits and endeavors. They always remind us of this eagerly. They want to know what we’re writing about, if we can add messages in this for you all out there on their behalf, things such as this. They get excited about this blog even though they’ve never gotten the chance to read it. I think them knowing that you’re reading this gives them comfort – a kind of connection to the outside world. As we pull into the halfway point of our training, I just wanted to let you know we are all in high spirits. I know at times what we write might be hard to swallow for a parent. We don’t want to worry you. Just know that we are all progressing and we are confident we will all achieve our goal.

Ok, with all that out of the way, let’s get down to business. The main attraction of the day was our physical fitness assessment – part two. Just as in week 01, we had to go through a gauntlet of sit-ups, pushups and a 01.5-mile run. This was the same battery of tests we had before, but now we had 04 weeks of physical training under our belts at our disposal. For many of us recruits, the difference from our previous scores was dramatic. Many of us saw substantial gains in our abilities. If you’re looking to get fit, all of us at Yankee-188 can attest to the boot camp program. Unlike other workout programs or a gym membership that will cost you an arm and a leg, you can enroll in the Coast Guard recruit-training program and the government will actually pay you! Score. After our test, we were taken over to the cybex gym for a weight lifting session. Our physical strength and endurance is of the utmost importance to our Company Commanders. Even the Battalion Commander, Master Chief Berry, is invested in our physical achievements. Our final workout consisted of a bike workout, led by Master Chief Berry himself. He encouraged us to push ourselves and embrace the burn we felt throughout the workout. This workout only marks the beginning of our involvement working out with Master Chief Berry. The real test comes in week 08, when we strive for the Battalion Commander Pennant. As we pedaled with the resistance fighting against us, it felt as if our stationary bikes had caught on fire and were scorching our legs. This fire was creeping from the bottom up, crawling and quickly rising from our toes, to our calves and on to our knees and thighs. The only way to overcome a bike workout such as tonights is to embrace all the feelings of pain and just let everything else go. If we can do this, if we can just push through, we will make it. This rings true for every part of our training here at Cape May.


Another Thursday at Training Center Cape May. As they typically do, the day started out with a bang. Torn out of the arms of sleep by the call of “Fire!” we were up and out the door in seconds flat. We all held our heads a little higher this morning though. Today was set to be a life-changing event – one that would define our Coast Guard careers and our lives for years to come. Today was the day of “dream sheets.” You may or may not be familiar with this term. Regardless, I will get into what those are later. Before the fun came the work. Seamanship was the name of the game this morning. We had two major practicals to cross off the list. These were helm commands and basic knot tying. The knot tying practical is fairly self-explanatory: five different knots in five minutes. We all passed with flying colors. The helm commands practical was the closest thing to a video game we have here at recruit training. Standing in front of a screen with a digital layout of a cutter, each of us took a hold of a helm and steered the ship in accordance with commands given by the computer. For those starved of their PlayStations and X-Boxes, this simulation was the closest thing they’ll have while at Cape May to satisfy their appetite. As we finished at seamanship, we all had our minds focused on the next class. It was dream sheet time. We built the dream sheets up in our heads to be more than their title. In a week, these pieces of paper will transform from just dreams to reality. Building up the moment of filling out these forms, we spent any free minute we could ‘dreaming’ about Coast Guard stations throughout the country, circling, underlining, highlighting and making any possible symbols to indicate certain geographic areas of the country. When it finally came time to fill out the sheet and write down our top 04 choices, it wasn’t all we had built it up to be. It was just simply filling out a basic form. There was a large amount of excitement that came with thinking about the beginning of our future careers as Coast Guardsmen. However, there was just as much anxiety that came with the realization of our chances to get our number one choices. These dream sheets had to be vague on our part. They could only include types of cutters or the option of small boat station. Our dream sheets could not include specific areas in the districts we picked. More than half of us from Yankee-188 will be stationed on cutters, probably much more than that. Not everyone will get what he or she wants. The needs of the Coast Guard are what we are here to fulfill. In a week we will find out what those needs are. As the next generation of Coast Guardsmen, we will serve with pride no matter where we get stationed.


Even though the day started with a session of incentive training, it was a good day overall. Petty Officer Garver made a point to tell us the “fire, fire, fire” we were woken up to was not because we had done anything wrong, but was meant to wake us up for the day ahead. This was refreshing to hear. Today was officially the halfway point of our training, we all made sure to make note of this mentally. In all honesty though that point was barely discussed amongst us recruits today. We are all too busy; our brains too jam packed with required knowledge to have the luxury to think about this accomplishment. Besides, time goes by much quicker here when you learn to divide it up by small increments. We also had the weight of two other very important things collectively on our minds – our squad bay inspections and our mid-term exam. If you remember from previous entries, Yankee-188 was not known for their squad bay cleanliness. Our first few practice inspections found our squad bays to be downright atrocious. Since then we have made it a goal to satisfy our Company Commanders, our Section Commander and ourselves with the cleanliness of our squad bays. During our dinner chow, our Section Commander, Chief Johnson, inspected our living areas for cleanliness and attention to detail. When the company returned from chow, we found score cards with the details of our inspections. In red ink the words ‘Outstanding!’ and ‘Good Job!’ jumped off the page. The minor discrepancies we had, cost us minimal points and provided us with items to focus on more for our future inspections. This was a huge moral booster for Yankee-188. Finally a job well done that was a result of our growing teamwork. Now, on the flip side, we had our midterm exam. Not a teamwork challenge, but a personal one for each recruit. 75 minutes and 50 questions stood in our way of continuing our training and staying with the company. That dreaded word “reversion” hung over everyone’s heads, adding to the stress of the test. But hey, we all passed with flying colors, all had good grades. The majority of them were extremely high, a lot of them perfect. All in all, a solid and positive day for Yankee-188.


The clouds hung low and grey in the sky. On the wind came the faint smell of the ocean. Seagulls circled overhead, calling out their bitter cries. The recruits of Yankee-188 and X-Ray 188 all stood around an enclosed padded square. Today this would be our Coliseum. Today was the great pugil stick battle.

We would each practice close-quarter combat techniques against an opponent from our sister company, X-Ray 188. We all had been waiting for this day with anticipation. Pugil sticks can best be described as giant Q-Tips with their sole purpose being to knock around an opponent during a match. The air was electric with excitement. We formed up outside and retrieved the gear. We then marched over to the ring, and the companies entered battle mode. We crowded around the ring like spectators at a heavyweight-boxing match. We were paired up with opponents of the same gender and height so all the fights would be relatively fair. We were equipped with full padding and helmets, so all you parents out there don’t you worry. It was a safe affair. One by one a recruit from each company would enter the ring and head to their respective corners to get some “words of wisdom” from one of their Company Commanders. Then it was time to rumble. Match by match, blow by blow, pairs of recruits battled it out while all of their shipmates cheered them on at the top of their lungs. The healthy rivalry between the companies helped fuel the fire. Even our Company Commanders got into it – we all saw Petty Officer Ruff and Chief Arseneaux crack smiles on the sidelines – but don’t tell them I said that. In all, the great inter-company pugil stick battle was one of the best things we’ve done. It added a huge boost of pride to our company and passionately brought us together. Needless to say, moral was on cloud nine after pugil sticks. Our good day did not end with the matches. This week we have earned the chance to have one of our shipmates march us. Furthermore, we earned a personal company ethos to recite during evening muster. To date, we have 52 highly motivated, truly dedicated, United States Coast Guard recruits. Yankee Company has made progress that was unimaginable a week ago. We have been practicing our manual of arms as a company without our Company Commanders monitoring us. This has allowed us to fix our mistakes as a team and we work together closer to perfection. We’re nowhere close to that yet, of course, but we have taken steps in the right direction.

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.