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Surviving Military Boot Camp
Part VI Coast Guard Basic Training
More of this Feature
Surviving Boot Camp Intro
Surviving Air Force Basic
Surviving Army Basic
Surviving Navy Basic
Surviving Marine Corps Basic
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Surviving Basic Training
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Just like the Air Force and the Navy, the Coast Guard only has one location for enlisted boot camp: Cape May, New Jersey. Like the other services (with the exception of the Marines), male and female recruits train (not live) together. While the Coast Guard is not owned by the Department of Defense (in peacetime, it's run by the Department of Homeland Security), have no doubt -- Coast Guard boot camp is run just like any other military boot camp. Counting ther 1/2 week you spend in "forming" (inprocessing), you'll spend a total of 7 1/2 weeks at Cape May.

Like the other services there are things you can do in advance that will help you get ready. First, your recruiter should give you a list of what you can and cannot bring with you. If it ain't on the list, don't take it. Don't even try to think that "this item," or "that thing" will be the exception. That list has been around for a lot of years, and there are no "exceptions." One of the first things you'll experience at Cape May is a complete search of your personal possessions. Anything not approved will be confiscated and stored until after graduation. Anything on the Contraband list will cause you to wish you'd chosen another career.

Your recruiter will give you some additional items that you CAN bring, such as a watch, writing paper, pen, stamps, checkbook, etc. Do not bring an excessive amount of cash (Plan to arrive at with no more than $50 or so).

Set up a bank account (with an ATM card) before you leave. All of your military pay will be made by direct deposit, and if you wait to arrive at Cape May to set up a bank account, I can almost guarantee you won't get it done in time, and your first paycheck will be delayed. Make sure you bring your bank account information with you.

If you are married, bring a copy of your marriage certificate. This will be required to start up your housing allowance. Additionally, it will allow you to complete paperwork for your spouse's military ID card (the paperwork will be mailed to your spouse, along with directions on how to take it to the nearest military base in order to receive an ID card -- or, he/she can save the paperwork and get an ID card issued at your first permanent duty assignment).

As with the other services, no smoking is allowed during boot camp. If you currently smoke, now would be a good time to stop. It's a lot easier to quit when you don't have the additional stresses of boot camp, then to wait until you are there.

Before leaving, you'll want to make sure you do not stand out in your personal appearance. When you meet the Company Commander assigned to meet your bus, trust me -- you'll not want him/her to remember you for your long hair, earrings (male), handlebar mustache, or pants that are four sizes too big. Ladies, while you will not be required to cut your hair for Basic, you will be required to keep it off of your collar at all times when in uniform (which is most of the time in Basic), so you may wish to consider cutting your hair short enough so it doesn't have to be put up.

If you're like my kids, and don't know your social security number by heart, memorize it. Your social security number becomes your "identification number" and you'll use it for almost everything (Privacy Act permitting).

If you don't know how to swim, try to learn before you leave for boot camp. Soon after you arrive, you'll be screened for swimming skills, and those that can't swim will have to undergo special instruction (General Advice: when in boot camp, it's always better not to require "special instruction" in anything).

Memorize Coast Guard ranks (both officer and enlisted), which are the same as Navy ranks, before you leave. This will be one of the first things you'll be required to study, and knowing it in advance will allow you to use that time to study other things (time is always in short supply in Basic). It won't hurt at all to study and practice the fundamentals of drill. As a minimum, you should practice the military salute in front of a mirror until you can do it right without thinking about it. You'll also want to know the Coast Guard Core Values, and your Basic Training chain of command.

Finally, your recruiter should have told you to memorize the 11 General Orders for a Sentry.

Medication. Over-the-counter medication is not allowed in basic training. If you bring any with you, it will be taken away. All prescription medication will be re-evaluated by a military doctor upon arrival. If the doctor determines that the prescription is necessary, the civilian medication will be taken away, and the recruit will be re-issued the medication by the military pharmacy. This includes birth control pills (for women). Women are usually encouraged to continue taking birth control pills during basic training, if they took them before going to basic, to ensure that their systems maintain their regular cycle.

I'm often asked what females do during their (to put it politely) "time of the month," at basic training. The answer is nothing different. Pads and tampons are readily available, and women use them and continue with training. Bathroom breaks are given often enough that changing pads/tampons are not a problem. Many women report that they don't have a cycle during their entire time at basic training, due to the high levels of activity and stress. The thing to remember is that thousands of women have been to basic before you, and they survived just fine.

Before you leave home, tell your family that if an emergency arises (a real emergency, such as a death or serious illness in the immediate family) they should contact you through the Red Cross. Your family should know your full name, your social security number, and your company address. Within three days of arriving, you'll be sending a "preprinted" postcard home that has your company address on it. It's a good idea to call your family from the USO after you arrive. Any future phone calls you make while in boot camp will be at the discretion of your Company Commander.

Your mailing address will be:

SR ________________
Recruit Company ____________ (assigned upon arrival)
Munro / Healy / James Hall (assigned upon arrival)
1 Munro Avenue
Cape May, NJ 08204-5083

Above Photos Courtesy of United States Coast Guard

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