Yankee 188 Recruit Journal: Week 05

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

SUNDAY 20OCT13

Today, our Company Commanders gave us extra responsibility before we even woke up. Our wakeup call was not done through one of their bellowing throats but by our very own company Yeoman (who is one of our own shipmates). Our Company Commanders weren’t even in the building yet as far as we knew. We were tasked with waking up, getting ready and marching to morning chow on time and all on our own. This was a big deal and an even bigger test of our integrity. We all made it to chow, fully clothed and on time – mission complete. Following our divine hours from 0800 to 1300, we all suited up for one of our favorite activities – company run. This run would prove to up the ante for us in more ways than one. First off, it would be a 05 K run, or 03.2 miles. This would prove to be our longest run to date. The biggest thing, though, was the fact that this run would take place off base. That’s right, off base. For the first time in 04

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

International Maritime Signal Flag Yankee

weeks we marched out of the gates of Training Center Cape May and took to running down the streets and avenues of Cape May in company formation. As we turned the first corner away from the Training Center the utter surrealness of the entire situation began to hit us. All of a sudden here we were, back out in the real world, surrounded by shops, restaurants and some of the luxurious and extravagant vacation homes that Cape May is known for. It was like being in another world; a world we could barely comprehend. As recruits, we were on the outside looking in. And it seemed strange. We could observe real life but we could not participate in it. This in no way is meant to suggest the run wasn’t enjoyable – on the contrary, I think we would all attest to it being amazing. As we ran through downtown Cape May, onlookers cheered, held banners and took pictures. As we ran in front of the beach, an elderly man made it a point to stop his car, roll down his window, and thank us for our service multiple times. We all felt a glowing sense of pride in ourselves, in our company and in the Coast Guard. As we ran we called out cadences at the tops of our lungs. As an added tease, our Guideon held our company colors high as we ran. When we returned, they were promptly put away again. We still need to earn them before we can actually march with them on the regiment. We had a short taste of our colors though, and now we want more. Venturing into the outside world was exciting and surreal, but it didn’t felt like we belonged in it yet. Which is good, because we do not. We are still recruits with much work to do. Luckily no one bolted away while we were outside the gates and we all returned back to the regiment. It was then time to get locked on and fully into recruit training mode. Getting fresh air out in public under a beautiful and cool blue October sky was an amazing feeling, but we can’t let it throw off our rhythm. We still have business to take care of.

MONDAY 21OCT13

This morning was bittersweet. We started out not having to do the entire physical portion of “Fire! Fire! Fire!” which was nice enough. However, we were required to be fully suited up and outside formed up ready to step off for chow in 10 minutes. When you’re putting on an Operational Dress Uniform, boots, blousing straps, socks, etc. while also having to fold up all your previous laundry, it can all equate to a pretty daunting task. But today this didn’t really matter. We had an even bigger pressing issue on our minds. At 0800 the Battalion Commander, Master Chief Berry, would be giving each and every one of us a personal uniform inspection. We spent the previous day preparing for this – ironing, starching, de-linting, meticulously rolling our sleeves, clipping every possible loose thread – every nuance would be under the microscope today. In all, our company did a good job. Master Chief Berry said he was pleased with where we are, but reminded us that the expectations grow higher every day. Where we are today won’t be acceptable for tomorrow. We all must constantly improve or face the very real reality of reversion. For an example of this, look to X-Ray 188’s blog. One of their recruits fell too far below the standards, and was thus sent packing to a younger company. This means his graduation date is set back by 02 weeks. It can happen that quickly. After this, it was time for seamanship class. We never look forward to the long walks to seamanship with our over-packed rucksacks. However, we always enjoy the classes with Petty Officer Thompson. They always deal with knowledge that will be necessary for our success in the fleet. From vessels to helmsmanship, our seamanship classes always interest us. Our class on radio communications today though caught us a tad off-guard. It seemed like we all had just hit a wall. We were fatigued, and over half of us could be found standing in the back of the class trying desperately to stay awake. Although the course was incredibly important and applicable to us, the week 05-dive has started to consume us. The week 05-dive is the recruit training version of “hump day.” Or in our case, hump week. We are now in the second half of training and trying not to fall back into the habits and pitfalls of a week 03 company. The lack of sleep is slowly getting to each and every one of us. Everyone in the company now has a job or a watch schedule that deprives them of an extra 01-hour of sleep per night. The sleep deprivation is what makes basic training feel impossible at times. Not all of us are used to 05 hours of sleep give or take, followed by a full day of training and classes. However, if there is one thing we can take from today, it’s the statement that was scrolled across the board in one of our classes: “The only easy day was yesterday.”

TUESDAY 22OCT13

Tuesday of week 05 came and went without any earth-shattering, physical training-inducing events. It was basically all smooth sailing and a simple day compared to what we’ve been known to experience here at Cape May. Our entire morning from the end of breakfast up until afternoon chow was spent at the Uniform Distribution Center. We had originally graced this place with our presence all the way back in week 01, when we were issued all of our clothing for recruit training. That seems like a distant memory now. This time we wouldn’t be getting issued gym shorts and running shoes. Dress uniforms were the name of the game today. For hours on end we put on and took off all kinds of shirts, jackets, shoes and the like. Tailors took our measurements and sized us properly. Needless to say, I think we are all going to look pretty sharp come graduation day. Having the dress uniform does make us feel like we’re getting closer to the end, but even though we have them we really haven’t earned them yet. We have to keep working hard before we will feel like we deserve our dress uniforms.
After spending the first half of the day away from our Company Commanders, Chief Arseneaux and Petty Officer Ruff picked us up from seamanship class. Our first impression of our Company Commanders today was that they seemed somewhat angry or aggravated (big surprise), however most people do tend to seem that way when they are screaming at you. When we noticed their foul mood, everyone immediately locked on to avoid a long night of beatings and punishments. Tonight, Yankee-188 proved to Chief Arseneaux that there was hope with our manual of arms routine. We were sharper than we had been before, and were even able to solicit a compliment about our improvement from Chief Arseneaux. We have been practicing our manual of arms for weeks and today was the first time we showed a significant amount of progress. Today was the first day Chief Arseneaux showed any signs of being proud of us (or at least having the potential to be proud of us if we continue to get better). He is putting a lot of his time into preparing us for our manual of arms test, which will take place in the near future. We owe it to not only ourselves but to all of our Company Commanders to knock it out of the park and show the regiment that we are Yankee-188.

WEDNESDAY 23OCT13

A “Fire! Fire! Fire!”-less morning began our Wednesday. Instead, we were once again woken up by our company Yeoman and entrusted with making it to morning chow on our own. As the days progress, our responsibilities increase. As do the expectations of all of us recruits. The bar was raised higher today, as we marched ourselves without our Company Commanders to all of our classes spread throughout the regiment. This is a big deal. They are trusting us to navigate the regiment properly – greet all officers and enlisted personnel, observe colors if need be, march in formation properly – what we do and how we do it reflects upon not only us as a company but on them as well. So for us to take the helm and lead ourselves out in front of all public scrutiny is incredibly important. One of the classes we marched to was good old seamanship. Today we had another midterm to take, but unlike last week’s this one was specific to seamanship. As far as I can tell the company as a whole did good or great on the test. We’ve become accustomed to test taking – we usually take multiple ones every day for each class we attend. Boot camp is a lot like high school in that way but with Company Commanders. And pushups, lots and lots of pushups. Speaking of pushups, we busted out a fair deal of them this evening. After evening chow and a bit of manual of arms practice, we headed to the gym for another workout session with Master Chief Berry. Our legs were already sore from our bike workout earlier in the afternoon, but that’s not a good enough reason to say no to another round. When we train we must train hard. We hopped on the bikes and were told we’d be doing something a bit different tonight. We would burn 100 calories as quickly as possible on the bike, jump off and do 04 minutes straight of flutter kicks (brutal) then do 50 slow pushups and 10 slow pullups. Rinse and repeat for 01 hour. Master Chief Berry is harping a lot on our physical fitness and is pushing us to new levels every time we exercise with him. I think we are all noticing vast improvements in our physical fitness levels. The bar is raised during each session. It’s up to us to push ourselves and find strength to reach up and grab it. Just when we thought we were done pushing for the night, and our evening routine was right around the corner, the week 03 side of us came out. Instead of staying locked on, we let our guard down and were quickly punished for our mistake. Since we acted like a week 03 company, we were treated like a week 03 company. Not making our racks, not sounding off, talking on line – these were just some of the reasons we were ‘beaten’ like a week 02 or 03 company. We started off with a remedial drill on how to make racks. 30 seconds to get all of our blankets and linens over our heads and run them out to the quarterdeck. Then, we had 05 minutes to have them made and inspection ready. This was followed by what felt like an eternity of holding our full canteens with elbows locked out in front of us. It was all a blast from the not so distant past for Yankee-188. Hopefully, the kick in our stern will align our course so we come out locked on and ready for tomorrow.

THURSDAY 24OCT13

A few days ago, the week 05-dive seemed like just a myth told by instructors to frighten us. Surely it wouldn’t happen to us. Today, though, that myth quickly became our reality. They say that after earning some trust from your Company Commanders and after being given a small amount of room to breathe, recruits start to loosen up and become lazy. This seemed like nothing more than just a scare tactic to get us to stay locked on. Which in way it is, but it is also a very real occurrence. Now on Thursday of week 05, we have all began to realize there is no relaxing in recruit training. Days of being locked on can be erased quickly in minutes or even seconds of losing focus. And after hearing those who we have elected as Squad Leaders get verbally punished for the mistakes of the company, the feeling of guilt can quickly take over. Tonight Petty Officer Garver addressed the Squad Leaders of Yankee-188, in an attempt to learn what was occurring with his company. Everyone else sat in their squad bays and listened to the poison that Petty Officer Garver administered. Poison because of the way it hurt those nearby who couldn’t stop listening. Poison because of how easily detectible the frustration and disappointment was in our Lead Company Commander’s voice. The foundation of trust we had built with our Company Commanders was built precariously, like a house of cards – we all foolishly mistook it as a strong one, built of brick and mortar tonight. Because of this, it all came tumbling down very easily. We will now have to work twice as hard to gain the ground that we have lost. I believe some of the loss of our military bearing tonight can be chalked up to our giddiness of the possibility of receiving our orders today. The idea seemed so tantalizing to all of us that we let the feelings of excitement cloud our better judgments and our actions. The idea of preparing to go to our first units overshadowed the fact that we are still at recruit training. We are nowhere close to being out of the woods yet. But we lost sight of that and let our guards down tonight. In the end it was all for nothing. We didn’t even get our orders today; it was never part of the plan. We stewed with jealousy when we found out X-Ray 188 had gotten their orders, and we waited around hoping we would be next, thinking of nothing else but ourselves. While the orders are indeed officially in, we are all still in the dark about them. And we deserve that after our performance tonight. We all know we will be paying for our transgressions in sweat tomorrow and have made peace with that as best we can. We will take whatever comes at us tomorrow, deal with it, own it, and then move on anew. It is our only option as we close in on the end of week 05. We must better ourselves and never return to our previous mistakes.

FRIDAY 25OCT13 – “The Night They Drove Old Yankee Down”

Today was a day of the highest highs, the lowest lows, and what I hope will come to be recognized as a healthy dose of redemption for Yankee-188. If you’d like the good news first I’ll give it you since it’s short and sweet – we got our orders today. Yes, your sons and daughters now know where they will be going. Our Company Commanders were nice enough to throw us this one hefty bone even though we were still not in their good graces as a company by any means. We formed up outside of Healy Hall as if we were going to be marching to class, but then were told to take our rucksacks off and stow them on the curb. We then proceeded to march to the end of the parade field, where a giant bell sits. We formed up in front of the bell, facing our Company Commanders. One by one they called our names and we ran and stood next to the bell as our orders were read aloud for all to hear. As is tradition, we then rang the bell twice so as to signify that we are reporting to our first units. It was a moment unique to each and every one of us, and one that you can never understand unless you go through it. You stand there in the grips of excitement, envy, fear, uncertainty – it’s like Christmas day mixed with a court sentencing. A very indescribable feeling. Our futures were laid out to us in a matter of 20 minutes, and that was that. It was on to the next task, business as usual. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say usual. We owed a debt to Petty Officer Garver, Chief Arseneaux and Petty Officer Ruff – to be paid with sweat in full. To get into the entirety of all the physical burdens and hardships of today would be extensive. It could take up a whole night’s worth of writing in itself. I can say we were dished out a heavy dose of punishment for our lackadaisical actions of yesterday. We had basically no classes or anything else on the schedule today so we had plenty of time to kill. And kill it we did. A good portion of our morning was spent conducting resetting the squad bay for Petty Officer Ruff. This entailed stripping each and every rack of all its linens down to the mattress. We then proceeded to move every single mattress in the male and female squad bays (I would ballpark the number at around 60) from our 2nd floor down to the curbside of the parade field. This was both exhausting and humiliating since the entire regiment could watch us taking our licks. The feelings of embarrassment and pain were far from over, however. Later on in the evening we were introduced to the forced march. We packed up every last bit of our belongings in our seabags, put our rucksacks backwards on our chests and held our pieces in one hand and our dirty laundry bags and whatever else we may have in our other. Then we marched around the regiment. All the other Company Commanders and shipmates from other companies could view our struggles. Everyone watched the company who is going to be the senior company in 01 week, go back to a state of forming. After evening chow, we staggered to James Hall because our Section Commander did not want a company as bad as ours in the same building as him. We placed our seabags on the quarterdeck of the 3rd floor and emptied their contents into the empty racks. All of Yankee-188 struggled as only one item was to be transferred from the quarterdeck to our racks during each evolution. We had to make our new racks inspection ready. This means absolutely perfect. Some of us spend hours on end making our racks up to this standard, so taking apart and putting together a rack set up is a big deal. Although we were told we would be sleeping at James Hall, that would prove be too easy. Instead, after being put through the ringer of unpacking our items, all we owned was to be re-packed and re-administered onto our bodies for more marching. The pain was unlike anything many of us were accustomed to. With legs, backs and hands cramping we exited James Hall and hoped the torture would end. Upon our arrival back at Healy Hall, there was a feeling of relief that we were home. Even though we all knew the night was still young and the punishments were far from over, at least we were back. The beatings continued through rounds of incentive training practices. From piece incentive training to full canteen hold, we took what came our way and dealt with it the best we could. It all ended with our noses facing the bulkhead as we stood in silence. At this point Petty Officer Garver once again tried to reach us through an impromptu speech. He touched upon the ideals of integrity, patriotism, pride and the importance of entering the service fully prepared for the job we have come to recruit training to claim. If I could transcribe what he said to us I would do it in a heartbeat. It is talks like the one he gave us tonight that make us stop and readjust our bearings. Really he shouldn’t have to be even giving us these talks anymore; we should be way past this point. It is a testament to his, and all of our Company Commanders’ characters, that they are still able to deal with us and motivate us in such a way even after some of the things we have done. I just want all of you out there reading this to realize this in case you are in any way angered or confused after hearing about our ‘beatings.’ I’m not a parent, but I can imagine at times it may worry you. We deserve everything that comes our way. All of our Company Commanders are incredibly fair and just; there is no animosity, they just give back to us what we give to them. If we put good in, we get good out. While today was brutal in almost every way, it ended on a positive note. We were told tomorrow starts a new training day, and we are starting from scratch. It is up to us where we go from here. We must go 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.

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