Tango 194 Recruit Journal Week 07

International Maritime Signal Flag Tango

International Maritime Signal Flag Tango

Tango 194 Recruit Journal

Formed: June 27, 2017

Graduates: August 18, 2017

 

12AUG17

Week 07 is just about over, and week 08 is about to begin. We are THE senior company on the regiment. Not too long ago, we couldn’t even walk straight. Emotions are confusing right now because on the one hand, we can see the light. It’s right there. On the other, this is probably the most dangerous time in recruit training – we cannot allow ourselves to get comfortable, take shortcuts, or to assume in any way that we are safe. We are not done, and time is playing another game.

This week officially started last Sunday with Divine Hours – those 06 hours of peace and productivity – and then another company run through the streets of Cape May. This time we were louder, more in sync, and we knew more of the words to the cadences. Still out- of-tune-screech-singing, but less incoherent and with, shall we say, a bit more body. More importantly, it’s safe to say that we out-sang Sierra Company, the newly departed crew that was supposedly senior to us. We never felt that way. Also, one of their ranks dropped out of the run while we all held fast, singing loud and proud. It always feels good to be cheered on while you’re beating somebody, and the better we get, the better we feel.

The biggest accomplishment of the day though, was earning our colors. We’ve now earned the right to fly the company flag from our guidon. A spear-like-object, held with pride by the first recruit in the column. The red, white and blue now fly where once there hung a generic white cloth with a T. So now we look cool.

To earn them, we passed through fire and flood, a process that culminated in a sweat-soaked death march to the beach. It began after yet another failed rack inspection – the type where we’re told to pack everything we own into our sea bags and start hucking 70 pounds around the quarterdeck. Except this time the hucking ended early and was replaced by quick-time run-marching, late at night, packs bouncing along on our backs, all around the Training Center. When I say all around, I mean literally everywhere they could march us. Petty Officer Botts led the charge (surprise!), and there were a lot of collisions, probably because we couldn’t see. As the event dragged one, we drew closer and closer to the beach, sometimes getting as close as the dunes before doubling back and stomping blindly in another direction. Eventually though, we got there, guided by a massive yellow moon that lit the surface of the water like an angry jaundiced eye, gazing down at us bumbling fools. When we arrived, we were met by a flurry of push-ups, crunches, and squats, done in the sand to a tempo and with a ferocity that we had yet to experience. When we were no longer able to move and sufficiently sand-caked, Chief Heinze pointed to the ocean and yelled, “Hey Tango, do you see something you want!?” We Assumed (mistake), he was pointing to the ocean. You see, our colors had been posted in the surf, and mother nature rose up and claimed them before we could turn around. All 85 of us, fully dressed in Operational Dress Uniforms charged out into the surf. Some got knocked down by waves, all of us swam. Euphoria took hold as soon as our heads breached the surface; everyone started screaming – it was a total release, the best moment at boot camp.

It quickly became clear that we didn’t actually find the colors, so we took off down the beach in the wrong direction, like lost little kids, determined but totally clueless. It was left to Chief Heinze, like an experienced operator to transit the surf zone fully dressed, Uniform pressed and perfect as usual. He recovered our colors from the fury of the sea, and planted it in the sand somewhere that the Ocean couldn’t claim it, and we couldn’t embarrass ourselves. How else could you expect the bad news bears to come in and kill it? We returned to the house completely drenched, covered in tiny rocks, and deliriously happy. We sang cadence the whole way back and hopefully we woke up Sierra. Side note: we earned the right to drink coffee!!

Aside from all that, much of the rest of the week was spent preparing for Friday, the day of our final exam and Chief Lynch’s big day. You see, ours is his first company, so he was in charge of making sure that we were ready for our Manual of Arms and Close Order Drill Inspection. Basically, Manual of Arms is bunch of different riffle movements done by each member of the company. Close Order Drill is the execution of marching commands, things like left face, right face, about face, and on your face (that means pushups for when we mess up). It’s harder than you’d think to march in time with 85 people, especially when we’re all zigzagging around at 45 and 90 degree angles. It’s harder still when you’re getting mauled by mosquitoes and tiny midge things that are way too thirsty for their size. We can’t slap at them because we are only able to do exactly as told, when told. So let that needle sink in, because, as Chief Lynch said, “Mosquitoes need to eat too”. Also, they probably out rank us. One small moment of beauty: Chief Lynch made himself laugh after blasting Seaman Recruit Chenowith with the perfect call-out, and then made us about face to cover his tracks. I can’t remember what he said, but it’s moments like this that make boot camp kind of endearing: it sucks, but the funny things are 10x more appreciated than they would be in real life.

The night before the inspection, we all clambered out to the track to try our hands at acting like Marines for a while. There’s something called a Confidence Course out there – an obstacle course of the sort that you see soldiers climbing and jumping through in videos of other boot camps. It turns out that we do it, too. It consists of a lot of jumping, pulling up, over, and swinging, and climbing. Some were good at it; others were really, really bad. The best part was watching our Company Commanders go through the motions beforehand. Chief Heinze blasted through the thing, while Chief Lynch went, er, at his own pace. Petty Officer Botts noticed, and motivated the slower folks by telling them they’d get to see Chief Lynch on the parallel bars again. Definitely an A for effort, possibly a C for style and grace.

Speaking of grading, we pulled off a nine out of ten on our Manual of Arms and Close Order Drill inspection the next day, so good job Chief Lynch, you took us all the way there. And I’m pretty sure that everyone has by now passed the final exam, so we earned two more pennants for the guidon – just to let the other companies know how solid we are.

To actually earn the pennant for Manual of Arms, we had to perform under the eyes of a Section Commander, an intimidating task in front of a terrifying man. We were marched out to the reviewing stand so that he could scrutinize each and every one of our movements, evaluating the timing and quality of everything we did. A few poor souls were called up individually to answer questions on required knowledge; one was accused of showing up naked because a single button on his blouse had come undone. It was a tense moment, but somehow he survived and we did not fail the test. More importantly, he did not get his off base liberty taken away.

That happened today, Saturday, and it was amazing. We were given almost-free rein to roam about town from 1000 to 2100. We split into groups and sauntered off to try our hands at not being robots for a while; we could walk without marching, speak without screaming, smile, eat, and even laugh. Still, we were operating under full knowledge that this was a test and that everywhere we went, there were coasties in disguise, ready to report back to our Company Commanders should we begin feeling too free, maybe laughing a bit too loud. But I think we pulled it off.

Many of us rented hotel rooms in groups, places to relax with friends and kick our shoes off. It really was great to have a home base in which we were not subject to frequent and unannounced harassment. From there, a lot of us went to the movies, rambled around Cape May, ate a lot, or went to the board walk. After departing from our own shady-looking motel, our group traveled to the glitz and glamour of down town, where we promptly found a pastry shop and stuffed ourselves. I have never tasted a better chocolate croissant, nor have I sipped finer coffee. We just about bought the place out of their pastries and totally earned the ensuing stomach aches. You see, we neglected to eat real food before hand.

That was remedied by an ambling journey down the beautiful, tourist-filled streets of Cape May, to the best pizza place in the world. We tried our best not to march on the way there, but found ourselves falling into step automatically, even flanking around corners. This robot thing really is hard to shake. Still, we were looking fine in our Dress Blues, strolling with cautious pride and basking in the gazes of countless onlookers. At least that’s how it felt. In reality, we probably looked like lost sheep in uniform. The pizza was great though, and normal interaction with strangers was kind of amazing, even self-affirming. People were extremely nice to us and it was a trip to be able to speak like a human.

After returning to the motel from down town, we went to see the movie “Dunkirk”, and then got even more food. It is hard to describe how good this all felt. It’s harder still to contemplate the prospect of getting to do this more often in the near future. So let’s get there. Let’s keep our heads on straight, graduate next Friday, and see the people we spent hours on the phone with today. We miss the heck out of you and will do our absolute best to make it to the finish line one time. For now and as always, eyes in the boat and stay locked on.

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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