Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter from Boot Camp November 26, 1969

This is the 4th in a series of letters written home while I was in Basic Training. Click on the "Boot Camp" label at the bottom of the post to see all of the letters.

Recruit Training Command (Women)
U. S. Naval Training Center

Bainbridge, Maryland ~ 26 Nov 1969

Hi Mom and Terry and anyone else,

How is everything with you all? I got your letter today - what took you so long? Thanks for sending the pictures. Waves are classified the same as men as far as ranks and ratings go. I am now a Seaman Recruit (SR). When I get out of basic training I will be a Seaman Apprentice (SA) and then after another six months or so of training and passing certain tests I will (hopefully) be a Seaman (SN).

I'm not going to lie to you - I do like this place. There are a lot of rules and regulations you have to obey but they are all for the good and help to discipline yourself. I'll be glad when boot camp is over so I can start further training or schooling or whatever. Boot camp is the basic training you have to have so that you can adjust yourself to the regular Navy, as they say here, it is a necessary evil.

We have eight periods per day for classes and lectures but we don't have the classes on a regular schedule. Sometimes we have two periods in a row of the same class and we don't have all of the classes everyday. So far we've only had four different classes but we will be having more.

Recruit information which covers all of the information in our recruit guides such as how to stow lockers, make bunks, do our laundry, stenciling, jobs of petty officers, watch standing, demerit code, inspection information and a lot of other info pertinent to the recruit.

Orientation in which we learn how to recognize the different personnel of the Navy such as enlisted men, women and officers (men & women) by the types of uniforms they wear and their insignia and the different pay grades (E-1 thru E-9).

Jobs & training where we have to learn all of the jobs, occupations, and training available to all personnel in the Navy - men and women. We also have to learn the patches and insignia worn by each occupation.

Hygiene and first aid where we learn personal cleanliness, first aid, etc.

Physical training and swimming. Each recruit is required to qualify as third class swimmers by the fourth or fifth week of basic training. There are three requirements to do this.

1-Jump off of the pink elephant (which is a platform, painted pink, approx five or six feet off the surface of the water) swim in any manner to the other end of the pool and back again.
2-Jump off of the pink elephant with a life jacket on and swim on your back to the opposite end of the pool.
3-Make a life jacket out of a pair of pants by putting air in the pants legs and tying it somehow and swim to the opposite end of the pool.
About half of the company is in the non-swimmer category so it is going to take several weeks to get everyone qualified. The rest of us got through the first two phases of qualification but didn't have time for the third. After we have qualified as third class swimmers we can try to qualify as second class, which I'm going to try to do. We also have gym classes as a part of our physical training but we haven't had any as of yet. Swimming and gym are alternated each week. All in all I think the classes have been interesting.

We also have drill instruction in which we learn the terms and steps to march. Right face, left face, about face, right dress right, skip step, half step, counter step, rank, squad, platoon, company, how to salute properly, etc., etc., etc.

Tuesday we had an IO personnel inspection. I don't know what my score was but I had eight discrepancies counted against me. The RCPO had our scores but didn't tell us what they were and gave them back to the CC but she's going to get them again so I should find out tomorrow what I got. We also had a locker inspection Tuesday. About three-fourths of the company failed because we weren't expecting an inspection so soon. I got a 3.55 which isn't bad since 4.00 is perfect. Most of the company passed the personnel inspection - I'm pretty sure I did with only 8 discrepancies.

Today we had bunk inspection and only eight girls failed. I got a 3.55 on that too. So you see your "weird" daughter is doing pretty good - so far. I hope I can keep it up. We don't start getting tested academically until a week from Monday. Then we get tested every Monday, on all subjects, until we graduate. Next week we start taking our battery tests. These are our general classification tests, ability to solve problems, mechanical and electrical aptitude, clerical, response to sound, and pitch discrimination. The score on these tests will determine whether or not we will get a school or go to on the job training.

Monday we got our flu shots. My arm got red and swollen but I didn't have any other reaction to it.

You say you got a letter from the C. O. telling you where Bainbridge is. Keep it. I'd like to see where I am. The flight was from Indianapolis to Baltimore with a ten minute stop in Cleveland or Columbus or somewhere in Ohio but anyway it was beautiful, fantastic, great, thrilling, and exciting. I wasn't a bit afraid because I was so excited with everything happening. I couldn't tell whether it was a jet or prop or what but it made a lot of noise but that didn't really bother me. I got to Baltimore at about 3:45 and had to wait til 7:30 for a but that took us directly to Bainbridge. It was dark so I couldn't see much of the country.

Have you had any more snow? We had some flurries here last week and it was pretty cold. This week it has been really nice with the sunshine and good weather. It is usually dark when we go to morning and evening mess. There has been a full moon the past couple nights. The view just outside the barracks looks across the grinder to the flag and at sunset it is really pretty.

Tomorrow we have no classes because it is Thanksgiving. Friday Company Nine will graduate and at noon we will officially no longer be baby boots, but freshman instead. I'm going to have to do my laundry & ironing tomorrow and really shine my shoes (spit & polish) Ha. They have a graduation every two weeks and only one company graduates unless there are sister companies like 15 and 16 are going to be. They should be coming in Friday. Then we can laugh at them like everyone has us!

We've really had a rough time of it this week since we are totally on our own. Our advisors dropped us last Saturday. They were really great people. I hope we can stand up to their expectations. As a company we really haven't been doing very well. When we are called to muster (get in ranks) everyone moves slow and some talk which is against the rules and a recruit can be put on report for talking or moving in ranks.

We had a chance to see a movie tonight but I didn't feel like going. It only cost a quarter but recruits are not allowed to buy candy or cokes while there, cannot talk to anyone outside of the company, and if you have to go to the head or scuttlebutt (bathroom or drink of water) the SA in charge takes you there one at a time to be sure no one buys anything or talks to the trees (men). That is the first thing they told us - we cannot in any way attract attention from, pass notes to, or talk to the trees at anytime. Don't ask me why they call men trees because I don't know.

Well I have to go. Love, Becky

P. S. Tell everyone I said hi and tell somebody, anybody to write. See ya in January.

= = = = =

A couple things to keep in mind: When I told my mother that I was going to join the Navy she said I'd hate it and wouldn't make it through two weeks, let alone ten weeks, of basic training. I tend to try to be the "best" at whatever I do, hence my emphasis on scores. I love a challenge. I really did like boot camp! And, I did get homesick at times, especially around the holidays.


Miriam said...

Did you ever learn why men were called "trees"?

Becky said...

Miriam, I'm sure I did, but it's been so long ago... maybe one of the letters I haven't read yet will explain it.