What US Navy Bootcamp Was Like for Me As an Enlisted Serviceman
Before I joined the Navy, in May of 1982, my friend Jerry, introduced me to his recruiter at a public park, where they were cooking out some hot dogs, and drinking some beer. I shook his hand, and ate a hot dog, and just kicked back.
We did not really even talk about the Navy. I told him I wanted to go in, because I knew I was ready, and that there were not that many doors open to me, at the moment. I was surprised when he said I would have to take some tests, and other things like that. I said, “Fine, just tell me what to do, and where to do it at.”
After going down to Detroit, to take a bunch of tests, physical exams, and tons of paperwork, there was just one more test. One of the recruiters, who was straight as an arrow, and had a rule book in his pocket, probably, asked me, “When was the last time I smoked marijuana?” I asked him, “Why?” He said that I had checked it off on one of my forms, that I had smoked marijuana before. He said, “If you have smoked it within the last 6 months, you cannot enter the Navy.”
I told him, “It was 6 months ago, since I had smoked marijuana.” This guy brought out a calendar, and went back six months, and asked me, “Was this the date that you smoked it?” Like I could really remember anyway. As a kid growing up in Michigan, most all the kids I hung around in junior high, and high school, had all did the same things together. Almost every weekend, there was a party, and plenty of smoking and drinking. I’m sure it was just a day or so, when I went in there.
This guy was too much, when I picked the date on the calendar, he told me I was one day shy of the 6 months. He told me that I would have to get a waiver to enter the Navy. I told him, “Fine, let me apply for the waiver.” He said, You will have to meet with a psychiatrist.” I met with the psychiatrist that same day. I was asked a lot of questions by the psychiatrist, and he gave me a clean bill of health, and I was able to join the Navy.
I was taking a trip from Detroit to Orlando, where I would be attending boot camp. I was kinda surprised, because the Navy had a boot camp base, at Great Lakes, IL, and it was all guys, no girls, at that boot camp base. Why they spent more money, sending me farther away, I don’t know, but I liked it. The nice thing about Orlando, was it was co-ed, at least there were girls going to be there. They tried to make sure, no one could get close to each other, but they could never keep the boys away from the girls, or even the girls away from the boys.
They put all of us that were going to Orlando, Florida, for boot camp, on one plane. I was seated next to a nice pretty girl close to my own age. She was on her way back home to visit her parents. The flight was terrible, it was only the 2nd time I had flown on an airplane, and this flight from Detroit to Orlando was turning into a carnival ride, and I hate carnival rides. Up and down it was going, it was jumping around fast, and making lots of shaking and bumping noises. It was terrible, just like you would see in a movie, everyone on board was in a panic state. The lights were blinking on and off, it would just drop out of the sky fast, and pull your stomach up into your throat.
When we finally landed, we were all in our seats still, waiting to leave the plane. The pretty girl that had been sitting next to me, and waiting to meet her parents again, could not handle it, and threw up all over herself. I was behind her, when she left the plane, and it was heart breaking, to see her be greeted by her mother and father like that. They had to take her immediately to the rest room, to clean her up. I felt so bad for her.
We were met at the airport, by Navy personnel, and several white Navy buses. Other planes had come in from different parts of the country, with other people on board, just like me, long hair, long side burns, just regular Joe’s off the street. The first thing they did, was have us line up, and stand in line, with no talking.
We were taken to a building, and given all kinds of directions to follow, until late into the evening. This continued until the early morning hours. “This treatment must be part of our conditioning,” I thought. We were all given our haircuts the next day. We got to see most of the guys, get all of their hair cut off. It was quick and to the point.
I learned early on, not to volunteer for anything, when one of the company commanders would ask for a volunteer. Whenever they would ask for 3 volunteers, for example, eventually all those 3 volunteers, would be doing push ups, or running in circles with a rifle, eventually. I also thought, to just keep my mouth shut, and not volunteer for anything, and just get threw boot camp as low under the radar as I can.
Back then, if someone was hiding from the law, I guess it was a good idea to ditch society, and join the military. One day, we were in the barracks, and the commander told us to line up, which all of us immediately did. He told us, to, “about face”, which means to turn around, and then some military police officers came in, and took one of the new guys out, in hand cuffs. He was a big black guy, that had 2 gold front teeth. Later, one of the company commanders said, he was wanted on murder charges, and tried to hide out in the Navy.
We had two company commanders in charge of our unit. One of them was a little guy, who was pretty mean to everyone. The other one was a more nicer, cooler guy. He did not go around yelling, like a lot of them did during boot camp days. On one of the days, we were all taken out to a building, and told to stand in line. The cooler company commander said that each of us is allowed a 15 minute phone call, to call our loved ones. We would have to stand in line to use the phone. He said when you are done making your phone call, you can go over to this section and relax.
I did not see any reason to stand in line for 2 hours to use the phone, since I did not need to make a phone call. I asked him if I had to stand in line, because there was nobody that I needed to call at this time. He kinda just looked at me and said I could go sit down and relax.
We went threw many inspections in boot camp. Only one time did I ever lose my temper. It was called hell week, and we were all going threw an inspection of the worst kind. About 12 other company commanders came into our barracks, and just start raising the most hell you can have… Yelling… Screaming… Cussing… Calling everyone in the room, any name you could think of, and worse. They were ripping apart bunks, throwing clothes everywhere, it looked just like a frat party gone wild.
It was crazy. Guys walking around with underwear on their heads. Other guys doing push ups, and then strange men, you never met before, just yelling right into your face. One of the guys that was getting yelled at, that was standing right next to me, could not take it anymore, and he fainted. That’s when I lost it, and started yelling at the commander, “You fucking asshole,” I yelled at him. “Look at what the fuck you did,” I yelled at him. He just looked at me, and kinda worried about the guy next to me, that passed out. I just stood there, and did nothing else. He came to, a minute later, and that company commander just seemed to disappear from the rest of the torture.