Foxtrot 189 Recruit Journal: Week 03

Foxtrot 189 Recruit Journal: Week 03
Formed: Dec. 3, 2013
Graduates: Jan. 24, 2013

International Maritime Signal Flag Foxtrot

International Maritime Signal Flag Foxtrot

SUNDAY 15DEC13

Sundays are usually the day most recruits look forward to. It means one more week of recruit training is finished. More importantly, it means 05 hours of personal time. Some go to church, some study, some use the time to get themselves and their rack inspection ready. Most of my shipmates and I used the time to get squared away. There was lots of cleaning, ironing, folding and arranging among other things. We got more accomplished in one hour today than we did in all of divine hours last week. That shows you how far we’ve come.

After noon chow, we had a pretty intense circuit workout. We had to burn 100 calories on the bike, while keeping our RPM above 80, do 20 pushups, 20 sit ups, flutter kicks for 30 seconds, and finish it off with 10 pull ups. All of that counts as 01 interval. We had to do 04. It wasn’t easy to say the least. One of my shipmates nearly threw up. That’s effort. My old coach used to tell me “If you ain’t throwin’ up, you ain’t trying”. We should take that mindset into the next I.T. session.

MONDAY 16DEC13

This week could not have started off any better for Foxtrot-189. We gained an additional 02 recruits in just one day. We’ve gone from a relatively small company to one that’s growing by the week. There’s strength in numbers. After morning chow, we marched our way to the pool deck. Our morning class looked like a scene straight out of the movie “The Guardian”, a popular Coast Guard movie. After the instructor demonstrated, we each had to put on a full Mustang suit, jump in the pool and practice drills and maneuvers. We had a lot of fun. We learned the help signal, how to approach a victim, and how to stay afloat with multiple people latched on to you. It was a great learning experience. All the company commanders must have been in a good mood as well, because at noon chow, hardly anyone got drilled. Our other classes of the day were about sexual assault and prevention (which had some shocking statistics) and a general Coast Guard history class telling what exactly it is we do and what’s expected of us.

It was an exceptionally cold night in Cape May tonight. After evening chow, we were lined up in formation ready to march. We were in full Gore Tex, yet still shivering like we just got out of an ice bath. For the first time in the past 03 weeks, we were actually looking forward to getting back to the squad bay to do some I.T. (Incentive Training) to warm us up. Most of the time, the amount of I.T. we do is determined by how loud we can get. Almost always we end up doing a lot. Tonight however, was a different story. We were given an ultimatum by Petty Officer Gunther (our Assistant company commander) “Get loud, and maybe we’ll do something fun tonight”. Our I.T. ended up getting cut by about 80%. We know we can work as a team, we proved that. Now we know we can get loud. Now we just have to do them consistently. Challenge accepted!

TUESDAY 17DEC13

Today was a day like no other, in recruit training. For the first time in the 03 weeks that we’ve been here, we spent most of the day in the classroom. After morning chow, our morning classes consisted of a 02 (zero two) part safety course on proper procedures and rules/ guidelines for a number of scenarios including hazardous events. After a quick break for noon chow, it was back into the classroom. Petty Officer Whitley, who is a Marine Science Technician 2nd Class, finished off the class and opened it up for any and all questions pertaining to the Coast Guard. Just about everything he said had subtle hints implying that his rate was the best. He seemed like a funny guy and was a good teacher. The next class we had was one a lot of my shipmates and I was looking forward to, Coast Guard History.
We learned how and when it was formed, August 4, 1790. We learned about several historical figures including Douglas Munro, who drove his boat in between a squad of Marines and enemy fire. He laid enough cover fire for the Marines to escape with their lives, while being mortally wounded in the process. TRACEN Cape May named one of the recruit barracks after him, “Munro Hall”. “James Hall” was named after Joshua James, who saved over 500 lives the last 13 years of his life alone, dying at 76.
After evening chow, we marched back to the squad bay, expecting to do some I.T. We should have brought our climbing gear. We got back only to see Mount “Shoe-more”. We returned to see all 45 pairs of boondockers tied together in one massive ball. You couldn’t pick one up without picking the entire ball up. We’re talking about 400lbs worth of shoes. It was another test given by Petty Officer LaFrance, another chance for us to prove we can work as a team. After disassembling mount “Shoe-more”, we had a head and water break. Little did we know, Petty Officer LaFrance had one more trick up her sleeve. She got her partner in crime, Petty Officer Russo, and when they were done it looked like Hurricane Katrina hit our head. It wasn’t good. Towels everywhere, soap everywhere. It was our fault, we didn’t keep the head clean like is expected. They were trying to prove a point. In order to succeed, you must first learn to work as a team. Week 03 almost done, we have our work cut out for us. It looks like it’s back to square one. We aren’t going anywhere, except to graduation in January.

WEDNESDAY 18DEC13

It’s not common that recruits in training get to watch a film, let alone 10 in one day. That’s how it was for all the companies in TRACEN Cape May today. After a class on “Leave and Liberty” we made our way to the auditorium for what we assumed was another class or I.T. session. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Every year, the Coast Guard has its top 10 videos that showcase different aspects of the Coast Guard. This years videos have been chosen, but not yet released to the public. All of the recruits got a private screening of the videos as well as a vote for their favorite. The overwhelming favorite was, “It’s Not Just 8 weeks”, showcasing boot camp. There’s a reason it’s the hardest boot camp outside of the Marines.
After the videos, and a great speech by our Commanding Officer, Captain Prestige, during noon chow, we witnessed the new forming company arrive with new recruits. Hotel 189. It was a bit of nostalgia seeing them in the galley, no uniform, unsure of what to do, getting eaten alive by every Company Commander they dared to cross paths with. Just 03 weeks ago we were in their shoes. Now we are no longer the junior company. There’s more pressure on us now then ever before. We have to set an example for the fresh recruits. It seems so easy.

We finished the night off with a visit from Chaplain Grace, who gave us the usual current event updates and whatnot. He brought to our attention a sad story however, one about a fellow Coastie, a Damage Controlman 3rd class who passed away today. He’s been on life support since 11NOV13, after sustaining fatal injuries while rescuing someone from a capsized boat. It makes you realize how important teamwork and communication really is. Don’t take anything for granted and don’t hold grudges. Sometimes you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

THURSDAY 19DEC13

“FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!” it’s that time of day again. 0530 on a Thursday morning. A soothing 26 degrees F. Followed by some comforting pushups, sit-ups, squats and flutter kicks on the ice cold pavement outside of James Hall. A typical morning. On the schedule for today was a day full of classes, starting off with “Code of Conduct” by Health Services Technician First Class LaFrance. We basically learned the proper ways to act and maintain a sense of military discipline if we were to ever become a prisoner of war.
Next stop was the galley for noon chow. Chow times are getting more and more entertaining for us now that the junior forming company eats at the same time as us. Our last class of the day was seamanship. This was probably the most informative class we’ve had so far. It’s the first in many seamanship classes to come. It’s probably the class my shipmates and I look forward to the most. Other than maybe the Honor Guard introduction we have tomorrow.
Just when we thought our day was over, we get back to our squad bays only to find it was completely trashed, again. Racks were re-arranged; ditty bags were all over the place as if they were eggs on Easter morning. Soap and shampoo was rubbed and sprayed everywhere as if someone had had a foam party just minutes earlier. All we could really do was laugh, and clean. It also gives us one more thing to look forward to, one more thing to make the days go by faster as we countdown to graduation.

FRIDAY20DEC13

Self discipline. That could be the motto for the day today. Well, at least the first half of the morning and part of the afternoon – all I.T. It wasn’t pretty. A full workout revolution in just one layer of sweatshirt and pants, at 0530 when its 28 degrees outside. Sound like fun to you? I didn’t think so.
As we marched to noon chow, we were actually doing pretty well while being loud at the same time. That was a first. It could have been due to the fact that the senior company, Bravo-189, had their graduation today, so all of their family and friends were on base walking around. We wanted to show them just how good Foxtrot is. After noon chow, we had our second seamanship class, taught by Petty Officer Thompson. His teaching ability actually makes the class enjoyable. The 02 recruits that fell asleep and got assigned RAMP (Recruit Aptitude Motivation Program) for a night would not agree.
May God have mercy on their souls.
We gained 02 more recruits today after they got reverted into our company today. We’ve gained a total of 06 from reversion alone. After evening chow, we had minimal I.T. Instead, we got a quick lesson on how to fold our Operational Dress Uniform Sleeves up for Spring/Summer. After that crash course, we were given 15 minutes to do them ourselves. They had to be inspection ready by the keen eyes of Petty Officer Russo.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She was sending my shipmates and I back left and right to fix, change, adjust, redo, whatever needed to be done. We understand now why. In 10 days, they have to be inspection ready for the Battalion Commander, Master Chief Berry, who personally checks them. It goes without saying that they have to be perfect. We’d expect nothing less from a United States Coast Guardsmen. Day 17 of recruit training complete only 35 to go until our family grows by about 40,000.

SATURDAY 21DEC13

Some of Foxtrot-189 had just graduated high school. Some have been out for several years. Today it felt like we were in high school again. Classes started today at 0800, fresh after morning chow. It went until noon chow at 1220. Then we marched straight back to the classroom and didn’t leave until 1700. The learning portion of the day was generally hands on. We learned how to tie several different knots including a square knot, clove hitch and slip clove hitch. We actually enjoyed tying knots and having a hands-on class. Unfortunately, some recruits don’t take this whole military training atmosphere seriously. 02 of my shipmates fell asleep in class, again, even after the instructor gave them a warning. How hard is it to just get up and stand in the back of the class? Surely the whole company will have to pay for the blatant lack of discipline from 02 recruits. That’s what being a team is. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
After evening chow, we had a random rucksack inspection. We didn’t do well. The majority of the company had items in the wrong place and we got marked for it. Right before taps, at about 2200, we were all confused why we haven’t done much I.T. yet. Well, that question was answered when our Lead Company Commander, Petty Officer Garver, came in and said “We’re going to the track, you got 05 minutes to change into PT gear with sweats, be outside, marching squad leaders facing ocean-side”. Once we got to the track, our workout was to sprint 100 yards, then identify the rank of the Coast Guardsman whose picture was shown, sprint 100 yards, identify. Rinse and repeat for about 60 minutes.
If we couldn’t properly identify the Coast Guardsman, we had to push. 10 of them. Lots of running and lots of pushing was completed. Finally, after lights out, things calmed down, or so I think. I’m sitting out on the quarterdeck at 2230 writing this, the Golf and Foxtrot Yeomans are next to me doing their work. The Training Duty Officer makes an appearance. Petty Officer Bauz goes into our squad bay, only to find my shipmates out of their racks, congregating in the head, talking in the squad bay. It wasn’t good. I could hear him yelling from here. He came out, relayed the news to Petty Officer Garver, who then went to give my shipmates a piece of his own mind. To sum it up, we’re going to die on Monday. Come on Foxtrot-189, grow up and let’s get it together. 01 step forward, 02 steps back.

SUNDAY22DEC13

Remember that incident that occurred after Taps last night? Well, today we paid for it. The 05 divine hours was typical. We cleaned, got squared away and did some studying. It wasn’t until after we finished noon chow where the real punishment and discipline began. When we got back to the squad bay, we had the usual break. We were then surprised by Petty Officer Garver. We could tell he was not in a good mood. He’s told us time and time again that we dictate our training day. That was exactly the case today. The first thing we did was pack up everything we owned and march across the regiment to Munro Hall.
There, we had to make inspection ready racks in a matter of minutes, followed by piece I.T., which are several physical workouts revolving around our de-militarized weapons. We were then surprised by Chief Hollenbeck who came over via request of Petty Officer Garver, specifically to work all of the sweat out of our body. He was both effective and intimidating. Then, we packed up everything we owned, roughly 120 lbs of gear, and marched back over to James Hall, where we again had to make inspection ready racks. After a much needed head and water break where myself and all of my shipmates took Petty Officer Garver’s advice of, “Drink copious amounts of water, you’ll need it.”
We then lined up on the quarterdeck and had to chant “Self Discipline” as loud as we could for about 35 minutes. Zero minute break later, we were reciting the Coast Guard’s definition of punishment. It was a very physically demanding night for Foxtrot-189. It ended with a speech by Petty Officer Garver. He basically said how he’s giving us 100% and he expects the same from us. It was a motivating speech! It really was. I wasn’t even in the squad bay when he gave it. I was in his office transferring all of these entries to the computer, but I could still hear what he was saying word for word. It still had the same effect on me. Hopefully, we can use this day as a lesson, as a rallying point. Petty Officer Garver wants to make us the best company on the regiment. He’s doing his part. Now, we have to do ours. Tomorrow is a new day; we plan on making it count.

MONDAY23DEC13

“Don’t worry shipmates, I’m chillaxin.” That’s how the night ended for Foxtrot-189, repeating that phrase. We finished the day off with about 02 straight hours of I.T. One of our shipmates couldn’t bare the physical toll, so he was instructed to casually lie on the deck while reciting those words. The company wasn’t pleased to say the least.
The majority of our day went significantly better. After morning chow, we took a long march over to a place we haven’t been before. It turned out we were starting the day with firearms training. It was very exciting. We first took a class on weapon safety and the basics on what to do. We then learned how to disassemble our issued training pistol for the day, a Sig Sauer P229K. After a few revolutions of learning that, we had a long break for noon chow. Lots of studying was accomplished. Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for. We then had some target practice. Each recruit had several turns consisting of long range, short range, and rapid fire. Yes, they kept score. A perfect score was 150. After evening chow, we retrieved our nametags, which are pretty cool; they have our last name embedded on a field of blue with “U.S. Coast Guard” beneath it. We took the nametags over to Dempsey Hall, and here we took are individual photos.
We got to put on a formal uniform with hat and tie and everything so it was worth it. Several of my shipmates and I were caught looking in the mirror for an extended period of time. We felt proud, like we meant something. We also made orders for single and group pictures and well as ring orders. That, however, is a boring story.
Here we are 02 days away from Christmas. It seems like it snuck up on us. We don’t have a constant calendar or anything to really keep track of time. To sum it all up, it doesn’t feel like “Holiday time”. Well, Petty Officer LaFrance and Chief Duncan are experts on refreshing our memory. We returned to the squad bay to find out that… Christmas came early for Golf and Foxtrot-189. All of our go-fasters (sneakers) were tied together and strung around the entire place like decorations. Socks were taped everywhere as if they were stockings. Finally, all of our mattresses were removed from the racks and formed to make a giant chimney and fire place. It was very clever. You couldn’t help but admire. But what is Christmas without a tree? Our ditty bags were stacked and strung against the bulkhead in such intricate fashion we almost didn’t want to touch it so we could have a centerpiece to our temporary home.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, Operation Artificial Christmas was terminated and cleaned up. One more day down for Foxtrot. Another one in the books. This one will definitely have a place in our memory. T-minus 06 hours until “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE”. That’s my queue to get some sleep. Goodnight readers.

TUESDAY24DEC13

Christmas eve away from home. Not many of us, if any at all, have experienced this. The staff here at TRACEN Cape May did a great job of doing what they can to bring Christmas to us. Our night couldn’t have ended any better. Earlier, there was lots of learning to be had. We went to the LRC (Learning Resource Center) and took a long class on cyber awareness and email. We received our government login I.D.’s and learned the rules and restrictions of what we can and can’t do and what is expected of us when using government computers.
One recruit got caught looking up basketball scores in the middle of class. Insane to think someone would do that, at a military boot camp nonetheless. Next on the itinerary was noon chow, followed by a nice little teamwork/communication game. Petty Officer LaFrance concocted it. I dubbed it “Whose lock is that?” All 45 of our rack locks, locked, and put in a sea bag. One lock was used to lock the outside. We we’re given 05 minutes to figure out whose locks were whose. It’s especially challenging since each and every lock looks identical. Precise teamwork, communication and leadership are a must. As Petty Officer LaFrance said, too many Chiefs and not enough Indians will get you nowhere. We did it in 08 and one half minutes. There’s room to improve.
Now, back to where I started. At about 2100 this evening, we all got into full Operational Dress Uniforms and marched over to the auditorium. We were greeted with hot chocolate and cookies by several company commander’s wives and members of our chain of command. Even our Commanding Officer and his wife were there. He again gave a great speech on recruit training and what’s expected of us. The wives were very friendly and nice and made us feel as if we were at home with mom. I’m sure the majority of my shipmates would agree.
We even got a stocking full of goodies! Razors, shaving cream, gift cards, letters; it was a nice evening. It’s a shame it’s all considered contraband. I have a feeling Petty Officer Garver will be in the holiday spirit and make an exception. All good things must come to an end. After the march back, we changed and hopped in our racks, except for the Yeomans and myself who came out to the quarterdeck to work. Much needed sleep awaits. Operation Fireside is tomorrow. That day will be one worth remembering.

WEDNESDAY25DEC13

Merry Christmas everyone! How often can you say you learned something from a 13 year old after only knowing him for a few hours? That was the case on this Christmas. After morning chow and plenty of preparation time, my shipmates and I were picked up in pairs, mostly 02 recruits each. Some took 08. We were kindly taken into the homes of local families here in Cape May. Operation Fireside was in full swing. My shipmate Worner and I got lucky. We were picked up by the Tucker family, Seth and Shellie and their 03 kids. Right off the bat we were comfortable and felt welcomed. It made the entire day that much better. The 45 minute drive from base to their home flew by. Once we got to their home their kids, Mr. Tucker’s brother, and their dog Riley greeted us. The cutest Black Lab I’ve ever seen. We were immediately offered their phones to call home.
It must have been mother’s intuition because Mrs. Tucker knew exactly what we were thinking. 01 hour later, after a long talk catching up with family, we spent the next few hours socializing with the Tuckers. Mr. Tucker, or should I say Petty Officer Tucker, is actually a Gunners Mate First Class. So we enjoyed picking his brain for a bit. After that, came chow time. It was amazing. The ham was juicy and tender, the stuffing had the perfect balance of seasoning, and the mashed potatoes and gravy, well, they speak for themselves. The corn and rolls were cooked to perfection as well.
Then came the desert. After 04 weeks of sliding my tray passed all of the pies and cake in the galley, shipmate Worner and I were finally able to have a slice without fear of getting our face ripped off by a company commander. On the menu tonight was sweet potato pie, and blueberry cheesecake. Blueberry Cheesecake. Blueberry Cheesecake. Is your mouth watering yet? It was delicious. I would have been fine if that was all we had for chow. If I tried to describe it, I couldn’t do it justice. So I’ll leave it at that. After that we relaxed, watched some T.V., got on the computer, basically just hung out for awhile. This is when their oldest son, Ethan, who’s 13, taught me something, something cool. Apparently, if you take and empty can, put a spoonful of water into it, then bring it to a boil and immediately flip it over into ice water it will decompress. I was a non-believer. Sure enough, a demonstration was had, and I was proven wrong. Touché, Ethan. Now, since the Tucker family taught me something, I think its only fair that I teach them something.
One unique thing I can do is a magic trick with cards. So, long story short, I passed on my lone magic trick knowledge to their middle child, who’s 10. Now he has something to teach his friends and family. I hope the Tuckers enjoyed having my shipmate and I. Thanks to them again, if they’re reading this, for bringing us into your home. I hope you continue to participate in Operation Fireside next year! Merry Christmas, everyone. Time to put the game face back on. Back at it tomorrow. Semper Paratus!

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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