India 189 Recruit Journal: Week 03

Formed: Jan. 7, 2014
Graduates: Feb. 28, 2014

20 – 26 Jan 14, Summary Week 03

Week 03 brought both deep anxiety and, at length, great relief to India company. Many of us wondered (and grumbled) at the snow that stayed, and at the piercing winter winds that one of our Company Commanders described as “Coastie weather.” We took on additional duties as the Sexton Hall Watch, were honored by a visit from an Admiral and Command Master Chief, and began to grow closer as a team just in time to face the prospect of losing those teammates.

International Maritime Signal Flag

International Maritime Signal Flag India

Academically, week 03 was huge. We learned Coast Guard history and the various way the Coast Guard works today to save, support, and serve the American people. India-189 saw role models in late Coast Guard greats such as legendary lifesaver Joshua James who participated in saving more than 500 lives in the last 13 years of his life, Medal of Honor recipient Douglas Munro who sacrificed his life to save Marines at Guadalcanal, and “Roots” author Alex Haley, who wrote so prodigiously of his time as a Coastie that a whole new rating was created just for him. India-189 can only aspire to come close to embodying the standards of honor, respect, and devotion to duty which these Coastie heroes set.

We also learned Seamanship, a greatly anticipated class for those of us hoping for or expecting assignments underway. But the most impactful meeting of this week had to have been the visit from our Admiral mentor. Everyone was honored to be able to speak to a Coast Guard so accomplished, and his words of wisdom and encouragement as well as those from his Command Master Chief, hit us just when we needed them. Achy from the cold, the exercise, and our new (painful) boondockers, lots of us were wondering when we’d start to feel comfortable as Coasties, if ever. But the Admiral and Master Chief reminded us what was waiting on the outside; a whole Coastie fleet, every member of which has been through what we’re neck-deep in now.

The Admiral did something else momentous for us: he let us introduce ourselves. Although some of us had already found quiet moments to slip in some personal details, the Admiral finally let us tell each other flat out who we were, where we came from, and what called us to the Coast Guard. We became more of a team almost instantly after that, attaching touching stories of inspiring relatives and motivational events to the faces we’ve been sweating and screaming beside for weeks. For some of us, the things that sent us marching towards Coast Guard careers are even tragic, many of our members seeking to save and improve lives, knowing loss of the sort the Coast Guard confronts every day on a personal level.

No sooner did this draw us together than the pressures of week 03 began to pull at our seams. With new knowledge, and new responsibilities, comes new pressure and new punishments. We lost a few of our friends and teammates to injury, and rephasal, and a number of us were also put on probation, with reversion to Juliet company a looming threat. No less intimidating, even if it does only last a night, is Recruit Aptitude and Motivational Program, 1 and ½ hours of hard physical exertion and being screamed at. We have a lot more to dread now from screwing up.

And screw up, we did. India-189 missed time objective after time objective, failed to deliver required knowledge, and no matter which teammate fell behind, we all chipped in to pay the price. Our lead Company Commander told us in no uncertain terms that we were the worst he’d ever seen a company be at week 03.

Perhaps that was the negative encouragement we needed, because finally, today on Sunday, India-189 had some triumphs. We banded together to square away our racks, without completely messing it up. In the gym, we pushed ourselves, aching and tired, past our comfort levels, which our lead Company Commander pointed out is exactly what we work out to do. Perhaps it was the reminder that this is supposed to be the hardest thing most of us, if not all of us, have ever done in our lives, but for the first time tonight, India-189 not only made a time objective, we blew past it with the sense of urgency our Company Commanders have been urging us to have since Indoctrination Weekend. It feels, sometimes, like our Company Commanders are truly only out to get us – to humiliate us, hold us back from the fleet, and chase us home miserable. But in the perspective of what the Coast Guard is, and who we all have the potential to be, they make perfect sense. It’s hard not to want to give only 90% on a bike workout, or move slowly from one exhausting drill to another. But people who are lost at sea don’t get to take a break. People devastated by a hurricane don’t get to quit and go home. So neither should we.

Our Company Commanders are being the hurricane. With their pressure, we’re growing strong enough to sail into one.

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.