Navy offers kinder, gentler boot camp
November 2, 2003
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — The students got the type of eardrum-splitting greeting only a Marine drill instructor could deliver.
“What are you doing? Get off my bus! Now!”
“Move, move, move!”
Some students smirked as if the animated instructors were part of some skit.
If a cadet even thought about cracking a smile, a Marine or Navy chief petty officer yelled louder. Those not paying attention or those who found it funny got an earful.
It didn’t take long for the yelling to take effect.
Minutes after they arrived, smiles vanished, and some students cried like babies.
Welcome to this year’s Navy Junior Officers’ Training Corps mini boot camp.
About 80 high school students from Rota and Sigonella, Sicily and Naples in Italy are taking part in the annual camp. It is a shorter and lighter version of a real boot camp.
Over four days, cadets learn everything from how to march in a straight line to how to properly pack a sea bag. On Friday, cadets began their day at 5 a.m. for physical training. By 11 a.m., they had drilled, learned water-survival techniques and received a demonstration on small arms and military working dogs.
Sailors and Marines from the base volunteer to be drill instructors or staff members. Some do it every year.
Marine Staff Sgt. David Oswell, who is assigned to the Rota-based Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe, is the senior drill instructor. He said it is inspiring to watch the progress of the students.
“Really, I’m impressed with these kids,” he said.
Unlike the Marine Corps boot camp, the mini boot camp for 15-year-olds is kinder and gentler. They don’t follow the old mantra of “breaking them down and building them up.” Instead, drill instructors aim to “bend them,” then build them up.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Hughes said the instructors might not be as harsh, but the goal of the mini boot camp isn’t unlike the real basic training.
“You want to build them into a strong team,” he said.
Instructors tend to back off a little if a cadet is visibly shaken by their loud instructions. On the first day on Thursday, several students cried.
“Some aren’t used to having someone yell at them,” Oswell said. “Their only reaction is to cry.”
Tears usually fall on the last day, too.
That’s when cadets and instructors hold a graduation ceremony. It is the culminating moment of camp that often fills cadets with a sense of accomplishment.