Sailors chime in on Navy boot camp charges
November 15, 2003
Are the changes in store for Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois modernizations — or luxuries?
It may depend on whether the sailor you ask is a young seaman or an old salt.
The center, the Navy’s only boot camp, plans changes including doing away with KP and allowing recruits more sleep — eight hours per night instead of the current 6½ — The Associated Press reported this week.
Among other changes in the works for the 45,000 recruits who pass through Great Lakes each year, the wire service reported:
• The two giant dining halls will be replaced by barracks galleys.
• Fifteen new barracks are being built containing classroom and training areas.
• New barracks will have updated ventilation systems.
• Three new training halls with air conditioning, offices, classrooms and modern amenities will replace 60-year-old drill halls.
“I think the recruits are going to get a training that’s more tailored to the needs of the Navy,” Lt. Dan Cook told the AP.
“Some of the changes seem to be good,” said Lt. Ralph Roe, 42, officer in charge of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command detachment at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. “Putting classrooms in the same buildings as where you are living is fantastic.”
But Roe — who began his Navy career as an enlisted sailor who went through boot camp in 1979 — also said, “It does seem to me that these days too many things are being served to them on a silver platter.”
Roe doesn’t see the extra sleep as too much of a change. “In 1979,” he said, “it was lights out at 2200 and we got up at 0600. What’s the difference? I mean, on some special occasions, because of some special occurrence or training, it might be 0500, but that was seldom.”
But the lights-out hours don’t tell the whole story, indicated Seaman Apprentice Tabitha Scull, an Aug. 9 Great Lakes graduate now assigned to security at Fleet Activities Chinhae, South Korea.
“We were supposed to have eight hours every night, but that didn’t work out most of the time,” she said. “Either you would have a watch in the middle of the night or you would have to wake up to iron your uniforms.”
Recruits established an “ironing schedule” because they lacked any other time to take care of the task, she said. Each recruit would sign up for a 15-minute window, often between 1 and 4 a.m. When they finished ironing their utilities, recruits would wake up the next person on the schedule.
Roe also questioned closing the mess halls.
“I’m just not seeing how it saves money to … make the food in all these different galleys using an outside provider,” he said. “Plus, I remember that week of duty in boot camp [kitchen duty] as one of the best times I had there.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Greenberg, 27, agreed. The master-at-arms working with Sasebo’s Harbor Patrol who went through boot camp in 2001, said, “Kitchen duty is one of the things I really enjoyed at boot camp. It was a break from boot camp, in a way, and a time to do something different. I’m an outgoing person and you were allowed to talk and socialize with other people.”
But, Greenberg said, “There have been tons of changes in the real world, so it’s bound to happen in the military, too. I can see how quality of life and morale could improve, which I think is their ultimate goal. The want to make sailors more comfortable so they’ll stay.”
Petty Officer Justin Safran said he thought some of the changes might actually do a disservice to new sailors. But those “who went through 20 years ago might say I had it easy,” he said. “Everybody will say, ‘Back in my day…’”
— Joe Giordono and Nancy Montgomery contributed to this report.