Quebec 194 Recruit Journal Week 8 – Final Blog

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Quebec 194 Recruit Journal

Formed: June 6, 2017

Graduates: July 28, 2017

 

“Hey, Jeremy! What about when you’re standing in front of your toaster and you’re waiting for the bread to pop out? You know what that’s called?! TOAST GUARD!” How could I have known that joke would bring me the most real boot camp wakeup call of my life? Chief Orlowitcz screams at a group of frazzled girls that would soon form into Quebec-194. We stood in front of our racks for muster. Our first night at Sexton Hall- we were nervous, we were stressed, and we were strangers. “IN THE MORNING, YOU WILL POP UP LIKE TOAST! AYE AYE!?!” My face contorted as I tried to conceal a smile surfacing, but I lost control and a giggle snuck out of my mouth. “Marissa Skidmore, Toastguardsman.” Was the thought that did me dirty. Chief Orlowitcz knife handed me and screamed in my face. I shook in terror. I was hoping the whole incident would be forgotten by the next day, but when I woke up I learned that I was already on “the list.” All day long Chief Orlowitcz and Chief Wheeley roasted me. Welcome to the Roast Guard, Skidmore, M.A. You are the worst seaman recruit ever, and you are not going to make it.

My smile was gone. Even the smile in my eyes retreated. It was forming week and my Company Commanders were relentless. The company was constantly getting beat for not meeting time objectives, not having military bearing, integrity issues, and the like. The stress and degradation turned my face shapeless- I felt as though I was a grey blob. I didn’t recognize myself and I didn’t recognize anyone else in the company either. They were grey, faceless blobs. We had no privacy, we had no individuality, yet we were undoubtedly all alone. Words of kindness, hearing a song, or cracking a smile without fear of punishment brought tears to my eyes because it was a reminder of my forfeited humanity. My greatest fear going into boot camp had been that it would change me– that I would be turned into someone I’m not. I conceded that I had been broken and made vulnerable. I was a grey blob. I developed a new fear, “What are they turning me into?”

I tried to keep my journal entries light hearted, but in truth I wrote a desperate letter home in Week 03 begging my family to write me daily because I was so lonely. We all felt despair and confusion about what we had signed up for and what we were doing. The first weeks of boot camp changed my life drastically. I would have never thought that I would thank Chief Grote, Petty Officer Taylor, and Petty Officer Karnya for how brutally we were handled. Quebec-194 was sculpted through the early weeks of training because of the lessons of discipline we endured and the lessons of gratitude we reaped. We got through the hard times because we learned to appreciate a cool breeze, or a cute bunny that hopped “in the boat”. We got through it because of the shipmate who would take the risk of flashing a quick smile at a shipmate to encourage them through holding canteens until their arms gave out. We got through the worst days thinking “Chow. Chow. Chow. Chewy Bar.” The smallest bright things that would have previously seemed insignificant are no longer taken for granted. We relied on our appreciation for simple pleasures to carry us through each day. Our company commanders indirectly but very intentionally instilled us with a strength we couldn’t understand at the time. A strength that has been engrained in our character and can be wielded in any situation—The power of gratitude.

During the middle weeks of training, my great fear for what my Company Commanders were trying to turn me into started to seem silly. Despite the higher standards, stress, and stakes, we each began revealing ourselves as individuals again. Quebec-194 was beginning to take shape as we began growing together. Our Company Commanders started to reveal themselves to us too; gradually we were introduced to the Coast Guard Core Values through hints of their character we began picking up on. Up to Week 04, we knew nothing about our CC’s. Most of us didn’t even know what they looked like because our eyes were always in the boat. I called all 03 of them Petty Officer Taylor for the first couple of weeks because he roasted me so badly one time. (I had to scream “AYE AYE, PETTY OFFICER TAYLOR!” for a solid 10 minutes.) The first time I got a glimpse of humanity from any of our CC’s was when the company was in line for chow… Back when we were terrified of the run to our seats and most of our food was drowned by spilt water. I raised both my arms (thumb joined along hand, palms facing inboard, bicep squeezed tightly into my skull) for an emergency head break. Chief Grote barked, “ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS?!” I was trembling and terribly embarrassed. “Yes, Petty Officer Tay- um I mean uhh Chief Grote!” I made brief nervous eye contact with his glare. I could tell he didn’t even know where to start yelling with my countless infractions. He exhaled and said, “You aren’t going to make it. Skidmark.” I followed him to the galley head in the kitchen. I was shaking and fighting back tears because I knew what would ensue would end my Coast Guard career. “HURRY UP.” I stood petrified in front of the doorway as I tried to remember the right way to speak. “I reques—umm—Petty Off—err Chief Grote, I need a…” He snapped, “Is it a lady problem?! DISGUSTING! Would you rather talk to her about it?!” He pulled one of the nice galley ladies over. “YES, CHIEF GROTE!” I yelled through my quivering lips. Five ladies from the galley were in the head getting ready for their shift—all post menopause. They tried to help me and gave me the kindness I was desperate for but none of the lady products. One of them informed Chief Grote what the holdup was about and through the swinging door I saw him smiling and shaking his head, he told her he’d find me a dang lady product. He smiles? What? The door swung shut. At that time, I would have never guessed how much of a positive impact he would make for all of us. A few days later we got our first of many inspirational speeches from Chief Grote about why our pain would be worthwhile. Most of us cried and all of us started wanting to make him proud. Petty Officer Karnya’s character came out in subtle ways initially. The first indicator on my radar was how he ALWAYS fixed the matt in the front corridor of the galley. He would tell recruits to halt, straighten the matt, and then pass by. I noticed him picking up pieces of trash everywhere we went. He was always doing something to leave a place better than how he came into it. His actions became contagious whether he told us to do it or not, we started following his lead and strove to be better people. Petty Officer Taylor was still ruthless, but it was never his fault. “IS IT ME? IS IT MY FAULT, QUEBEC?!” We wouldn’t understand our fave IS1’s ways until the later weeks of training, but we know now that we couldn’t be where we are without him and his unwavering work-ethic. They all instilled pride and respect in us.

With a sense of pride, with the power of gratitude, and the discipline to do what needed to be done, we became a family. The later weeks of training allowed us to distinguish ourselves and finally recognize how we’ve been molded. I’m still Marissa. I still can’t stop smiling, I still get so happy I cry, and I still get upset when I see injustice. I still see life in Technicolor. The parts of me that I feared would be beaten out are still there. Weaknesses that I wasn’t even aware of were pushed out, and strengths that I would be incapable of understanding without this experience have taken their place. We’ve all been sculpted uniquely to get us ready for the fleet. Quebec-194 is a yellow flag and Munro Hall. Quebec-194 is 112 shipmates who would do anything for each other. Quebec-194 is 03 Company Commanders we all admire as role models. We graduate tomorrow, but it’s not over yet, Shipmates. I’ll see y’all in the fleet.

<3 The Worst Seaman Recruit Forever and Always, SR SKIDMORE, MARISSA A.

 

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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