There is no question in my mind that when our young sailors T leave boot camp they are the most motivated and patriotic young Americans in our country. Recently, on the spur of the moment, I went boot camp graduation at RTC, Orlando. I had never been to one before. I was surprised at how moved I was by the end of the ceremony. In a brief eight weeks, our skilled and dedicated Recruit Company Commanders had transformed these young people from civilians, knowing, in most cases, little about the Navy, into sailors. From the recruit Drill Team, to the Recruit Chorus, to the Recruit 50 state Flag Team, to those that were just sailors in ranks, the pride and sense of accomplishment felt by these young people and the thousands of parents and friends that filled the stands was overpowering. I don’t think I have ever been so proud of a group of people in my life-and I didn’t know anyone that was graduating.
So what’s new? We have been graduating boots for years. All probably left boot camp feeling the same way-ready to join the fleet and serve their country. Why were these recruits different? Recently at a flag level meeting the Navy discovered that we had never really defined what a sailor is. Think about it. If you walk up to a member of the Air Force, Army, and Marines and ask him or her what they are, they will likely say that they are an Airman, Soldier, or undoubtedly a Marine. It you ask a member of the Navy you will likely be told “I’m a Machinist’s Mate or Sonarman or Quartermaster”. Few will say that they are a sailor though all are proud of being one. The other services had defined what their people were. We had not. The Recruit trainers have fixed the problem.
Recruit Training has a clear mission. It “begins the transition from civilian to Navy life, focusing on fundamental skills/knowledge and one the military socialization process. The objective is to develop sailors who are motivated, willing to learn, proud to serve and confident to perform basic seamanship skills, and whose behavior is consistent with the standards and values of the United States Navy”. Other changes have been made such as drilling with and firing M14s vice non-functioning dummy weapons. Increased emphasis on physical training and military drill. Increased emphasis on seamanship skills such as firefighting, damage control, abandon ship procedures and survival at sea. The recruits now sleep on shipboard style bunks again enforcing the fact that they will soon be sailors.
Do these changes improve the product Only the fleet can say for sure. But let’s go back to the graduation ceremony. The final event is something special. It was led by the RTC Command Master Chief. All recruits participated in unison. It clearly summarizes what they have become:
“I am a United States sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of my superiors.
I represent the fighting spirit of Navy Bluejackets who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with honor, commitment and courage.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”
Maybe this is why we are the greatest Navy in the world.