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Most new recruits travel to Great Lakes, via air travel, from their MEPs location to O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

From the Navy pamplet for new recruits:

Upon arrival, new recruits are required to go DIRECTLY to the USO office and check in with the military staff member present. The USO office and lounge is located in Terminal 2, Main Floor, Upper Level Office Spaces (office spaces are located above the airline ticket counters). You can see the USO office from the Chicago Police Booth located just prior to exiting the lobby area. Stairs are located at either door 2B or 2C.

After arriving at the USO, the staff member will give you instructions and an opportunity to eat if it is not too late. Most new arrivals are given meals en route to O'Hare Airport or during layovers. Whenever possible, you must eat PRIOR to arriving at O'Hare Airport.


A Recruit Division Commander will escort you to Recruit Training Command on a bus, or the USO will arrange a van to transport you. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes, during which time you will be shown a video about Basic Training and given an opportunity to ask question.
(Note: This will be the nicest RDC you meet during boot camp. Don't be fooled).

After arriving at Recruit Training Command, you will be given a short brief followed by a phone call. You do not need to make any calls from O'Hare Airport. It is important that you proceed immediately to the USO so that the staff member can account for your arrival and check if anyone was left behind. Once arriving at Recruit Training Command, all personnel are required to contact someone and inform them of their safe arrival. After making your phone call, it takes approximately two
hours to complete the initial processing.

*If you have problems, or your flight is delayed, you may call the toll-free number: 1 (877) HELP RTC

Navy Boot Camp consists of eight weeks of training (nine, if you count the first week, which is set aside for "processing").

P. Week. Processing week is much more organized than Army Basic Training processing. In fact, the first few days at the RTC is a whirlwind of activity, which begins just as soon as you walk off the bus in front of Building 1405, the Recruit Inprocessing.Center. Recruits arrive at all hours. On some nights, the RIC processes more than 300 recruits. While this is not counted against your official eight weeks, as soon as you walk through that door, the training begins. The first military drill you learn, you'll learn here -- the position of attention (you'll also learn how to shut up, and not speak unless someone asks you a question).

Then, record keeping begins. This is reminiscent to being processed into a jail. Once all of your records are accounted for, you'll be permitted to make a phone call (don't waste it trying to call your lawyer, it's probably too late for him to help you). After that, you'll move orderly from station-to-station, while the staff of the inprocessing. center systematically create a "record" of you.

A word About Your Pay

Direct Deposit is mandatory for military pay. You should already have a bank account set up before you leave for basic training, and bring your account information and an ATM/debit card with you. If you don't have an account set up, one of the first things the staff will do is require you to establish an account at the base credit union or base bank. However, it may be several weeks before the bank can give you a debit card, which will impact on your ability to access your pay.

During your in-processing, you will complete paperwork to begin your military pay. Military personnel are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. If those days fall on a non-duty day, you are paid on the duty day, preceeding. Your pay is direct-deposited into your bank account.

So, when will you receive your first paycheck? Good question, and one that can't be answered accurately. In general, if your military pay information is entered into the Finance Computer System prior to the 7th of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 15th. If the information is entered into the Finance Computer System after the 7th of the month, but prior to the 23rd of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 1st. However, please note that the date you fill out the paperwork during in-processing and the date the information is input into the Finance Computer System are not the same dates. A Finance Clerk is going to take the paperwork you filled out, and enter it into the Computer. However, the clerk is entering the information of hundreds of other recruits at the same time, so it may take several days before yours gets entered. I always advise people to estimate that the first paycheck won't be deposited until a full 30 days after arrival. That way, if you're paid before that, it's an unexpected surprise, and if it takes the entire 30 days, it's what you were expecting anyway.

In any case, your first paycheck will contain all the pay you have coming to you at that point. For recruits without dependents, that means base pay, only. For those with dependents, it means base pay and housing allowance. Your first paycheck will be "pro-rated" to the number of days you've been on active duty. For example, if you receive your first paycheck 30 days after arrival, you will receive the full-rate of the monthly basic pay in that paycheck, and (if you have dependents), the full rate for the monthly housing allowance. If, however, you receive your first paycheck two weeks after arrival, it will contain 1/2 of the monthly base pay, and 1/2 of the monthly housing allowance (for those with dependents). Of course, taxes and other deductions (such as deductions for non-issue items, such as running shoes, soap, shampoo, laundery, ect.) are taken out.

Once the paperwork is completed, you'll be issued Navy sweat suits (known locally as "Smurfs"), which you will wear until your first uniform issue a few days down the road. At this point, you'll be told to box up all of your civilian clothing, and any personal items that you brought that weren't on the list, and be given the choice of shipping them back home, or donating them to charity. (Note: You will be *STRONGLY* encouraged to send it home. It's not a good idea to resist this -- or any "suggestion.") The "Smurf" suit is a dead give-away that you're brand new. Wearing your smurfs into the galley during lunch and dinner will be an experience. You'll be looked at by the "older" recruits like you just stepped out of the sewer. (Actually, you can see the pity in many of the "oldies" eyes. The nicer ones may even risk an ass-chewing in order to tell you "it will get better.") A "Smuf" is at the bottom of the food chain. Once you get your uniform, you'll find that your status among other recruits is gaged by the length of your hair. The longer you've been in boot, the longer your hair will be, and the higher your status. Those fresh from the initial hair cut are only one peg above a "Smurf."

Ladies, Navy boot camp is the only military basic training I know of where female recruits must also have their hair cut. The other service's allow females to have long hair, as long as they wear it in such a style that it doesn't interfere with military headgear, and that it doesn't exceed the bottom of the collar. In Navy boot camp, however, they will cut your hair so that it's length does not exceed the bottom of the collar. Once you graduate boot camp, you may grow your hair long again.

Hopefully, by this time, you'll have to go to the bathroom, because mandatory urinalysis testing is next. If you ate some funny-tasting brownies, or smoked a funny cigarette within a couple of weeks of reporting to Great Lakes, don't expect your stay to last very long.

Don't expect to get much (any) sleep the first night. From a recent graduate:

"After processing, we were shown to a spot in the passageway, where we sat indian legged with our brandnew seabags in our laps, shoved up against the guy in front of us with the guy behind shoved up against us. They told us to sleep like that. After two hours or so, we marched to our ship,(Ship 11, almost entirely across the base). We dropped offour seabags , then marched back to inprocessing, where we tried to sleep on the floor some more. Then we marched back to the ship, then back across the base to morning chow, at about six in the morning. I slept less on the first night than I did during Battle Stations. Maybe that was just my experience."

After that first day, your normal days will run from 0600 (6:00 AM), with a loud whistle to joust you awake to lights out at 2200 (10:00 PM). At 9:55 P.M. the loud speaker inside the barracks building sounds "Tattoo, tattoo lights out in five minutes." Precisely at 10:00 p.m., lights go out. Navy Boot Camp used to start their mornings at 0400 each day, but a recent policy change requires that recruits be given 8 hours of sleep per night, so the duty hours were changed to beging at 0600 (Note: The policy doesn't require 8 hours of *uninterrupted* sleep).

Even though your uniform items at boot camp are issued (free), many items are not. Your first night at boot camp you are given a number of hygiene items, shoe polish, sewing kit, t-shirts, PT-Shorts, sun tan lotion, some other miscellaneous items plus $150 Chit book for the Navy Exchange. This will cost you about $450 from your first pay check. A good $60-$80 of that chit book will be spent within the first week buying extra items from the exchange that you'll need for the rest of boot camp (most of it being more shirts, underwear, etc.)

Trivia for the day: The word, "Tatoo" comes from the name of an early version of Taps. As a signal for end of the day, armies have used Tattoo to signal troops to prepare them for bedtime roll call. The call was used to notify the soldiers to cease the evening's drinking and return to their garrisons (You should not expect to have any sessions of evening drinking in boot camp, however). It was sounded an hour before the final call of the day to extinguish all fires and lights. This early version is found in three manuals the Winfield Scott (1786 -1866 ) manual of 1835, the Samuel Cooper (1798-1876) manual of 1836 and the William Gilham (1819?-1872) manual of 1861. This call referred to as the Scott Tattoo was in use from 1835-1860. A second version of Tattoo came into use just before the Civil War and was in use throughout the war replacing the Scott Tattoo."

A note and a little advice about "P-Days" from a recent Navy Boot Camp graduate: "P-days are definitely crappy, in one word, I would say 'shock.' But it gets better so fast. Also, I would recommend that people know to make sure they get the right size of everything during P-days. I know of some guys who were miserable because they had shoes or boots that didn't fit because they were scared to ask a Petty Officer for a different size!"

The real fun begins when you are assigned to a Recruit Division, and get to meet your instructor. In the Air Force, instructors are called MTIs (Military Training Instructors). In the Army, instructors are called Drill Sergeants. In the Navy, the instructors are called RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders). As with the Army, addressing an RDC as "Sir," or "Ma'am" warrants the death penalty. It's vital that you address a Petty Officer as "Petty Officer so-and-so," and a Chief as "Chief so-and-so." As with MTIs and Drill Sergeants, Navy RDCs are hard-of-hearing, and you'll have to yell at them in order to be heard. Never, ever forget, especially when it comes to Navy Chiefs. Navy Chiefs wait with eager anticipation for new recruits to address them as "sir," or "ma'am." This is normally followed by a tyrannical display, intending to throw recruits into a total disarray of confusion, while demonstrating that it is really Navy Chiefs who are in charge of the Navy (and new recruits).

You cannot wear contact lenses during basic training. You also cannot wear your civilian glasses, once you have been issued your official government-issue glasses. GI glasses are not pretty to look at. In fact, most people call them "BC Glasses," or "birth control glasses," on the basis that nobody has ever been known to "get lucky" while wearing them. During your first couple of days of basic training, you'll undergo a complete eye examination. If you require glasses to have 20/20 vision, you will be issued BC Glasses (takes a few days after the examination to get them). BC Glasses have thick, hard-plastic frames, with thick, hard-plastic lenses (very hard to break). Think of the movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Once you receive them, they are the only glasses you are allowed to wear, while at basic training. However, if you don't really need glasses to see, you won't be required to wear them. Once you graduate basic training, you can wear your civilian glasses again, as long as they comform to military dress and appearance regulations. Generally, that means their color must be conservative (no green, glow-in-the-dark frames), no designs or decorations on the frames, and no tinted lenses when indoors, or outdoors when in military formation (ie, when lined up for marching). Of course, this only applies when wearing a military uniform. In civilian clothes (after basic training) you can pretty much wear whatever kind of glasses you want.

Did you hear the story of how the Navy was issuing "stress cards," so that recruits could call "time out," if they felt that boot camp was getting too stressful? Forget it. The Navy threw away the "stress cards" a few years ago. At the same time, they "toughened up" boot camp. It's now more "stressful" than it ever was.

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