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U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard

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Navy Ceremonial Guard

The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard passes in review.

Official Navy Photo
During the rigid examinations, inspectors regularly fail the trainees for neglecting to clip all strings out of the inside of their shirt pockets and failing to shine both sides of their brass belt buckles. The trainees also receive daily inspections on their haircuts, uniform press, white gloves and grommets, among other uniform elements. The highly-intense inspections are a necessary part of a guardsman’s life, according to Konkol.

“We’re talking about junior people who represent the entire Navy when they are out there,” he said. “When they are in the six-week training phase, we must teach them to be a sharp-looking, disciplined guardsman. A lot of what they do for inspections is an extension of us wanting to establish proper military bearing.”

On top of the discipline-instilling inspections, trainees must also learn the barracks. The routine affords most trainees only a couple hours of sleep a night.

On top of the discipline-instilling inspections, trainees must also learn the skills of a true guard member during the training phase. To do this, the platoon’s squad leaders put the group through a rigorous series of drills with an emphasis on marching and rifle handling. The training sometimes continues throughout the day, with several water and meal breaks thrown in to keep the trainees refreshed.

When faced with a daily pattern of work and inspections like that, the thought of quitting would cross many Sailors’ minds. For the actual trainees, keeping their thoughts trained on the end goal helps them stay focused.

“There are times when you wonder why you chose to come here,” said Airman Nathan Nehls. “But we know that the sense of pride we are going to have in front of so many Americans and our parents is too great to pass up. It keeps me going when I want to give up, but I can get close sometimes.”

The maddening routine is given an added twist by the training platoon’s squad leaders. Unlike boot camp, where recruit division commanders must be at least a second class petty officer, the guard uses a group of other guard members, typically E-3 and below, to train newcomers.

Having seaman-on-seaman instruction is seen as one of the finest elements of the training cycle.

“There’s a good reason for it,” said Seaman Jason Ramspott, one of four training platoon squad leaders. “We’re a bunch of guys who have played this game before. We’ve been trainees, and we’ve been in the ceremonies. I think we are perfect to train these guys up. Who could do it better than people who have done it before?”

With that intent, the squad leaders become an integral part of the trainees’ lives. The two groups get used to seeing each other at all times of the day. The constant scrutiny helps to create a special “love-hate” sort of relationship between the two groups.

“Overall, we all get along,” Simpson said. “I mean, we have those days where we can’t stand them and just wish they weren’t around, but we always appreciate them. They’ve done the things that we want to do, and they are concerned with how we are doing. They want us to succeed.”

Seaman Apprentice Emily Chvosta, another of the training platoon’s squad leaders, echoes that thought. Chvosta says the job makes her feel like more than just an instructor for the soon-to-be guardsmen.

“We’re definitely mentors as well as platoon leaders,” Chvosta said. “We are all over these Sailors all day long for six weeks. We drill them, inspect them and are the first link in their chain-of-command. If they have an issue with something concerning training or even something personal, they can come to us and talk about it. We want to make sure they learn the ways of a guardsman, but we also want to see that they aren’t too overwhelmed with it all.”

If a trainee has an issue, there’s plenty of time during the day for them to bring it up. The typical trainee’s day starts before 6 a.m., with morning room inspections. Then, following a day full of inspections and instruction, their day ends long after sunset with a flurry of ironing, shining and string clipping in their barracks. The routine affords most trainees only a couple hours of sleep a night.

“You definitely don’t get much sleep; maybe an hour or two a night for awhile,” said Airman Apprentice Andrew Bartlett, a new member of the guard’s firing party. Bartlett finished his training phase in early July. “If you didn’t get used to going without sleep in boot camp, you’ll have to learn early on here. It’s a tough thing for some.

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