Romeo 191 Recruit Journal Week 06

International Maritime Signal Flag Romeo

Romeo 191 Recruit Journal

Formed: August 4, 2015

Graduates: September 25, 2015


Romeo-191 just finished an amazing week. So much has happened in such a short time. The pace is very fast now, and although we were slow to start the week out on the right foot, by this point we have very nearly reached our stride. We are faster, louder, and stronger than we’ve ever been. We are pulling our weight, and even picking up the slack of our weaker shipmates; ensuring that no one is left behind. We believe that: if one fails, we all fail. And failure is not an option in the Coast Guard. Because failing the mission means someone dies. We are not going to let that happen. Every one of us is learning the truth of our mission, and the facts bring us closer together as a team.

Speaking of our Mission, if you don’t already know, we got our orders last week. So this week was all about getting ready to join the fleet. We contacted our unit sponsors (enlisted personnel stationed at wherever it is we are going). Every recruit is assigned their own sponsor. The idea is to link up with someone “on the ground” who can bring us into the fold, show us the ropes, and welcome us into the family. We exchange emails, phone calls, and learn about all the super-fun paperwork that needs to be filled out when we get there.

We were issued our Military ID’s; the single most important piece of government property that any service member will carry. They are the twenty-first century’s equivalent to the Dog-Tag. We keep them on our person at all times. We guard them devoutly. But don’t ask us too much about it because you probably don’t have the security clearance for us to tell you anyways.

But it wasn’t all paperwork and clerical lines this week. We did a lot of practical training. The most intense of which was fire fighting. We put on full fireman gear. You know that that looks like, right? Bulky, heavy, and made to withstand the tremendous heat of a fire. We put on SCBA’s (self contained breathing apparatus) and big red fireman helmets. Then we went into a room so filled with smoke, that on a team of 5, we could barely see the teammate directly in front of us. Then we took turns working the fire hose. We couldn’t even see the fire; we just shot water at wherever the bright lights were coming from. You could hear the roar of the blaze and the rushing of the water and the alarms blearing overhead and the red lights flashing. The Experience was extremely intense. However, all the while you’re sipping cool, clean air through a tube. Mel Brooks would call it “Perri-air.” It’s like having an air conditioner, but just for your face. It was much juxtaposed to the situation.

The next day, we went over to the training center’s indoor Olympic sized swimming pool, and practiced donning standard issue survival suits. They look like big, bulky wetsuits. Engineered to hold in precious body heat at the most critical of moments. We will continue to train more with these in the coming years. But let me just say, that there were nothing but smiles on the faces of all the recruits in the water. Bobbing up and down like a bunch of orange and white corks. Completely relaxed and comfortable, floating in our imaginary ocean, waiting for an imaginary rescue helicopter to come and pull us out of the water. I felt like… what I imagine an astronaut feels like out on a space walk. The Michelin Man in Zero-G.

Did you know that Coast Guard members can apply to be astronauts? True Story.

Everyday, the members of Romeo-191 leave another piece of their civilian lives behind. Military bearing is taking root. Not just as a formality needed to succeed in basic training, but as an adopted cultural stance. The service is truly becoming a part of who we are as individuals. And that brings us closer together as a team. We are also learning how similar we are to each other despite the differences in our geographical backgrounds.

For example, the company earned the privilege of having a tour of the 87’ Marine Protector Class Patrol Boat moored here. Many of us will be shipping off to similar ships in the latter part of this month. As we lined up on the pier, waiting to cross the Brow (gangway plank) our company commander asked us, “By show of hands, how many of you have never set foot on a boat before this?”

Not a single hand went up. That was when I realized what it was that truly united this group of American Strangers. In some form or another, each one of us harbored a deep affection for the water. Each one of us joined a sea-fairing service, because by and large we all wanted to be sailors. As we went aboard, each recruit stopped to salute the national ensign before embarking. Just then it began to rain unexpectedly. But no one griped. We were just ecstatic to finally be standing on the weather deck of our dreams. Our Company Commander reminded us, “get used to working in the rain Romeo. Most of the Coast Guard’s best work is done in the rain.” We didn’t even shiver, we’re too tuff for that now. We’re training to be coast guardsman. Getting wet doesn’t bother us anymore.

On Saturday we earned an evening of on-base liberty. We had our cell phones returned to us for that time. Hopefully you received a call from your loved ones, friends, and family. There was a lot of voice traffic, 6 weeks of things waiting to be said. Things to plan and schedules to make up for graduation. We should earn another (off-base) liberty this coming weekend. I’m sure just as much candy and soda will be consumed then as it was this last time. I guess gorging oneself is what happens when you go this long without sugar or caffeine.

But by and large the absolute best thing to happen this week was on the eleventh of September. Papa Company had just graduated that afternoon, which moved us up to the rank of second most senior company on the regiment. So, after chow, we were marched down to the beach. Formed up, standing at attention, looking out across the far reaches of the Atlantic Ocean.

We listened to the sound of the waves crashing. The wind softly blowing across our ears. Watching that great tumultuous expanse of deep blue stretching out into the horizon. Our Lead Company Commander poised in front of us. A pod of porpoises breaching behind her as she addressed us.

“Romeo, welcome to your new working environment. I want you to listen to that sound. Do you hear it? That is the sound you will be hearing for the majority of your coast guard careers. But for many unfortunate souls, it will be the last sound that they ever hear. Now, you have volunteered to join a select group of men and women. It is our mission to save as many of those lives as possible. Despite the danger, we go out there and we bring those souls back. That is our job. It takes sacrifice… dedication… devotion to duty. Do you think you have what it takes to join our family?”

We answered with a unanimous roar.

“Very well,” She said, “About Face.”

The company did an about-face and there behind us, stabbed into the sand, was our Guidon. Our Colors. Our company flag. Not just some white fabric with the letter “R” on it that we had been using for over a month. But our real company colors. Crimson red, with a yellow cross. Maybe the most handsome flag of all of them.

“You want it Romeo?” she yelled, “Go get it!”

And in a flash the entire company tore off, charging up the beach, reaching that splendid peak and hoisting the flag into the air, rejoicing in gallant victory. Chanting, “Romeo, Romeo” at the top of our lungs, and then the Coast Guard Ethos. Loud and Proud.

In that moment we were wholly united. A single unit joined together by our trials. On September the 11th 2015, Romeo-191 truly understood what it meant to be a part of something larger and grander than the individual. Some of us had never felt anything like that before. But now we can truly express the emotion that we have earned this. That we will continue to earn this. And that the whole regiment will know that we are ROMEO-191.

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.