I arrived at Great Lakes, IL (you soon figure out why it’s called Great Mistakes) on Monday, February 26th. Weather wise, what a great time to be in North Chicago! Stepping off the bus with wind whipping around off of the water and chunks of ice pounding you about the head (forget that fluffy white stuff that Bing Crosby is always crooning about, here it was just flying ice cubes). Good times!
They like to yell at you as soon as you get off the bus, part of your conditioning as a sailor or something. I remember this woman calling me a “knuckle fuck” and I thought, wow, what an interesting use of words. Who would have thought to put those two together? Pure genius, boot camp is going to be so awesome.
You sit around in this room where you wait to pee in a cup (the Navy is big on urinating in cups – it should be in their motto: honor, courage, commitment and pissing in plastic cups). We were issued this massive pile of crap and given our first uniform, a navy blue sweatsuit, fondly known as the smurf suit on base. After that, we had to carry all of our 20 odd pounds of stuff halfway across base to our sleeping quarters, a process that took about an hour due to the ice – the ice on the sidewalks, not the flying stuff, although both created problems.
After three restful and restorative hours of sleep, we were awoken by our new recruit division commanders (RDC’s) at around 4:00 a.m. This dude throws a giant metal trashcan down the middle of the compartment, and I remember thinking oh man, that was so unnecessary, could you not have just said good morning? There’s all this yelling and confusion, it’s dark and cold, no one knows what the heck is going on, just good times. We have three RDC’s, during most of boot camp only one or two at a time will be with us, but on the first few days, they will all be there spreading the joy and love.
Ok, so now we have to grab all of our stuff in a blanket and carry it over our shoulders, to go back across the base, and under a tunnel to our new home, Ship #1. They may call it a ship, but it’s really just a poorly maintained three story building with a bunch of bunk beds (racks) down each side. Each ship is three stories and houses two divisions per floor. You’re riveted by this story’s exciting details, right? Ok, so it’s really hard to keep a grip on these stupid blanket bags and march in the ice at the same time and I’m thinking maybe this whole Navy thing was a bad idea, but what can you do? We’re standing outside the door to our ship when this one girl just falls out, but it was so fake. If you are going to pass out, don’t bend our knees, sit on your butt and then gracefully fall onto your back, oh hell no. Of course she starts getting yelled at for being a big faker. Whatever.
Our new home, about 30-40 racks down each side, windows, floor, ceiling – am I glamorizing it too much? We have 5 seconds to pick our rack, I wind up somewhere in the middle with a top bunk. We have to line up in front of our racks whereupon the RDC’s start telling us their diabolical plan to make our lives hell for the next 9 weeks (also known as turning us into sailors). An important lesson several girls soon discover is that you DO NOT call an enlisted person sir or ma’am. That is a title reserved for officers. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but go with it.
I’m standing there, trying not to look anyone in the eye (another thing not to do), and Petty Officer Krupa (ugh the memories at even just typing her name. Woman reminded me of a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz, although I can't explain exactly why.) tells me that I look less stupid than the rest of the other chucks. OMG, let me just take a moment to bask in the warm glow of that compliment. Less stupid, doin’ it since 1974. Unfortunately looking less stupid than the average bear in boot camp, yeah, not such a good thing as it turns out. I get handed a nasty looking white bag and just like that I am the division yeoman. So much for my brilliant plan to not get noticed in boot camp.
Let me tell you what being the division yeoman in boot camp is like. It’s like being a secretary. Some people join the Navy for adventure, I join to file paperwork. Damn! It also means you get yelled at more, exercise more and get less sleep. For all this crap, at the end of boot camp you are automatically promoted to an E-3. Which would be just awesome, had I not already been in the one program that guaranteed me that privilege regardless. Son of a . . .
Breakfast the first day, we march all the way down to the galley at the edge of the base – even though there was one right next to our ship. If you want something, you have to yell for it as you go through the line. “Eggs, shipmate!” “Pancakes, shipmate!” Stupid ass place. Five minutes to eat and then you have to run your happy butt back outside. Naturally being the world’s biggest klutz (if there is something to trip over, I am your girl) and I fall outside the door. This woman starts yelling at me, “If you picked up your big Ronald McDonald feet, you wouldn’t have fallen down. What are you going to do now, cry?” I wanted to say, "Oh no you just did not. Bitch, I am going to shove my big ass foot up your ass, how about that?" Ok, that really is not what I said at all. In reality, I think I said nothing. I mean come on, that was painful, two skinned knees and holes in my new smurf suit, not to mention having to deal with the reality that I have freakishly large feet, not the best start to boot camp. I picked my sorry self up and kept going like a good sailor.
The next week of boot camp is called P-Days (p for processing). During this time, the RDC’s can’t make you do anything physical (ie punishing you with innovative and torturous exercises), but they never tire of reminding you constantly that in a few short days they will destroy you. Feel the love. During P-Days, you go to clothing issue and do lots of medical things. Basically every medical test you had before boot camp, you repeat. Including the pelvic exam. Let me say that again, including the pelvic exam. I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t get enough of those. Bring on the stirrups. Lots of shots, you walk down a line and two people on each side shoot you up with an air gun style shot of whatever. Ebola? Fairly certain these people shooting you were sitting on their sofa playing PS2 a couple of months ago. Be sure not to move during the shooting or your skin gets sliced wide open. You are thinking ok, that wasn’t fun, but not the worst. Never fear, there is one shot left, the one that goes in your ass and is a serum with the consistency of peanut butter. I call it the Peanut Butter Ass Shot. Clever, right? You get this shot in your ass (see, told you, not just a clever name) then you are expected to roll your ass around on the floor to kind of break up the serum so that it doesn’t clot into a giant ass bruise. Even with all this rolling about, you are going to wake up with a giant lumpy ass bruise, be warned.
I almost forgot haircuts. Of course the guys get their heads shaved, but the girls just have to have their hair cut above their collars. I’m thinking ok, cool, I got my hair cut the perfect length before I got here. Not so quick Toastcrumbs. Apparently not quite short enough, because before you know it I am in the chair getting my 30 second haircut. It was seriously one inch longer on the left. And those rat bastards shaved my neck. Such a good look!
That about covers week one. That would be one out of the nine weeks. I’m surprised how much of this I remember after ten years. Happy memories like that really do last a lifetime I suppose. Maybe I will add more to this story as the week goes on, what else am I going to do??
2005-03-01 at 9:27 p.m.