Navy - Surviving Military Boot Camp

Navy Recruit Training Command - Great Lakes

The Navy only has one location for boot camp: The Great Lakes Naval Training Center, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, near Chicago. The Recruit Training Command processes more than 54,000 recruits through Navy Boot Camp per year.

Prepare for Boot Camp

There are several things you should do in advance to prepare yourself for Navy Boot Camp. First and foremost is to get in shape.

Do not think you can go to Boot Camp and they will get you in shape. They will get you in better shape, but if you arrive de-conditioned, you will likely fail the standards or get injured. Both have outcomes that you do not want to have to endure. Also, if you don't know how to swim, try to learn before you leave for boot camp. Soon after you arrive, you'll be screened for swimming skills, and those that can't swim will have to undergo extra, special instruction. General Advice: when in boot camp, it's always better not to require "special instruction" in anything.

If you are a tobacco user, give it up. As with the other services, smoking, or the use of tobacco products is not allowed in boot camp. In fact, the Navy probably has the most restrictive tobacco policy in this sense. Smoking, or use of tobacco products is not allowed by anyone, either inside, outside, or within vehicles, on the Recruit Training Command Base (this includes visitors who may come to see you graduate).

Navy Boot Camp is probably one of the most "classroom-intensive" of the four primary military services (including written tests!), so the more you can get out of the way in advance, the less you will be struggling with when the stress really begins. You should listen to the recommendations from a recent Boot Camp graduate: 

Some Tips from a Shipmate

  • KNOW the 11 General orders.
  • KNOW all of the details pertaining to rate/rank recognition.
  • Learn how to make a rack (bed) with 45-degree "hospital" corners.
  • Practice ironing military creases in a long sleeve, button down, collared shirt (which would be similar to the Utility shirts issued in Boot Camp)
  • I strongly suggest reading the Bluejacket's Manual. Pay particular attention to Damage Control, Seamanship, First Aid, Uniforms and Grooming, and History.
  • Memorize the phonetic alphabet. (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...)
  • Attend all DEP meetings!
  • Stay fit (or get fit). Jog, do push-ups, sit-ups, etc., The PT is not hard, but if you're in shape, it can be fun and a good stress reliever.
  • At least advance to E-2 by completing your DEP PQS. You may not care now, but I'll tell you, it sure is nice to graduate with a couple of stripes on your sleeve, instead of nothing. And, of course, it will help you out down the road!

How Long Is Boot Camp?









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

P. Week. The first few days at the Recruit Training Center (RTC) is a whirlwind of activity, which begins just as soon as you walk off the bus in front of the Recruit In-processing Center (RIC).

Recruits arrive at all hours. 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 - how to stand at the position of attention.  

Once the paperwork is completed, recruits will be issued Navy sweat suits which they will wear until the first uniform issue a few days down the road. At this point, recruits are told to box up all of the civilian clothing, and any personal items that they brought that weren't on the list, and be given the choice of shipping them back home, or donating them to charity.

Next recruits will be taking a mandatory drug test by urinalysis.

After that first day, normal days will run from 0600 (6:00 AM), with a loud whistle to awaken all recruits until lights out at 2200 (10:00 PM).

Precisely at 10:00 p.m., lights go out.

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

The real fun begins when the recruits are assigned to a Recruit Division, and get to meet the instructors. . In the Navy, the instructors are called RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders). It's vital that you address a Petty Officer as "Petty Officer (name)," and a Chief as "Chief (name)." 

Recruits cannot wear contact lenses or civilian glasses at Boot Camp. Recruits with glasses will get issued glasses at the eye exams. Once graduated from basic training, sailors can wear the civilian glasses again, as long as they conform to military dress and appearance regulations.

Recruits get assigned to a Division, consisting of about 80 men and women. The Divisions are housed in gigantic 1,000 person dormitories, which are called "ships" in the Navy Recruit Training Command. While men and women train together, they do not room together.

Guard Duty (Learning The Orders of the Sentry)

In the Navy, guard duty is called "Standing Watches." It means that sailors get to spend significant amounts of time guarding the ship, conducting a fire watch, snow and security watches.

After observing the recruits for a few days, the RDCs will select "recruit leaders," known as "Recruit Petty Officers" in various areas of responsibility. The RDC will select those recruits who, during the first few days showed that they were "squared away."

Recruit Petty Officers are charged with preserving good order, discipline, and security within their respective division. Any violation of good order, discipline and security will be reported by the Recruit Petty Officer to the chain of command for disposition. In order to distinguish recruits placed in a position of responsibility, Recruit Petty Officers will wear an appropriate collar device.

The standard Recruit Petty Officer Positions are:

Recruit Leading Petty Officer

Recruit Master-at-Arms

Port and Starboard Watch Section Leaders

Recruit Yeoman

Recruit Medical Yeoman

Recruit Dental Yeoman

Recruit Section Leaders

Division Laundry Petty Officer

Recruit Education Petty Officer

Recruit Athletic Petty Officer

Recruit Religious Petty Officers

Recruit Mail Petty Officers

Recruit Damage Control Petty Officer

During the remainder of P week, while learning from the RDC the correct way to make beds and fold  underwear, recruits receive medical and dental exams. Classroom times is spent learning the basics of grooming and uniform wear, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), standards of conduct, discrimination, and a few hours with the chaplain about values. Additionally, the RDC will introduce the division to a couple of sessions of physical training.

Week 1. The real Navy training begins, the RDC will be much tougher once the first week officially begins. The first three weeks of Navy Boot Camp are clearly the toughest (both physical and stressful). Get through the first three weeks, and recruits are almost assured to graduate. During the first couple of weeks, no one can seem to do anything right.

During the first week, the initial swim qualifications are done. Before graduation boot camp, all recruits are required to pass the requirements in swimming, treading, jumping into the water, and drown-proofing. Also during this first week, the RDC will introduce the division to the complexities of military drill (marching). Classroom learning during week one will be about rank/rate recognition, rape awareness, equal opportunities, sexual harassment and fraternization, and core values. The first week is also the most intensive week of physical conditioning.

Week 2. During the second week, recruits receive dress uniforms and have them tailored to fit. The classroom work will consist of a course on professionalism, test taking, Navy chain of command, watch standing, and customs and courtesies . Recruits take the first written test, covering all the subjects that were taught so far. Of course, physical training, drill, and general getting yelled at will continue through this week.

Recruits get to run the Navy Boot Camp Confidence Course. It  is designed to simulate obstacles one may have to encounter during a shipboard emergency. Recruits wear OBAs (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus, standard equipment for shipboard fire-fighting) carry sandbags, toss life rings, and climb through a scuttle (a small circular door) with full seabags. It's a team effort. Recruits complete the course in groups of four. The object is to cross the finish line as a team, not as individuals.

Week 3. During the third week, there is less classroom learning, and more on-hands learning. Though the classroom work will consist of training about Naval history, laws of armed conflict, money management, shipboard communications, navy  and aircraft (fixed wing and rotary wing), and basic seamanship. The week with finish with the second written test.

After that recruits get to practice basic line-handling skills and get direct experience and practice in first aid techniques. Of course, during week three, the yelling, drill, and physical training will continue.

Week 4. During week 4, the learning curve continues and recruits will get to shoot weapons such as the M16 and shotgun. Recruits will also take the PFT which consists of sit-reach, curl-ups, push-ups, and 1.5 mile run.  Also during the fourth week, the dress uniforms are ready and get graduation (yearbook) pictures taken.

Week 5. The changes in the fifth week has created more than 30 additional hours that can be used for recruit training and administrative tasks such as focusing on career selection / information. The Navy is using this additional time during week #5 to add the following:

  • Increasing the number of live rounds fired with the M-9, 9mm handgun from five rounds to 40 rounds.
  • Firing five “frangible” training rounds on a Mossberg shotgun.
  • Extensive anti-terrorism/force-protection briefings on threat conditions, history of terrorism and steps sailors can take to present less of a potential target.
  • Computer classes and familiarization with Navy Jobs
  • Eight one-hour mentoring sessions, with RTC staffers and an RDC.

Week 6. During the sixth week, Division photos are taken (recruits can buy these at Graduation, as well as "year books" at Graduation!). Of course, there's more drill, as well as more physical training. In between that, recruits receive basic training on damage control and fire fighting. 

Recruits should eat light on Gas Chamber day. Also known as the "Confidence Chamber." Recruits will line up in multiple rows in the Confidence Chamber. Recruits have 30 seconds to put on gas masks while the Petty Officer is lighting the tear gas tablet.

The Petty Officer will instruct recruits to take off the mask, and remove the filter cartridge, throwing it in a trash can, while stating full name and social security number.

Week 7. During the seventh week, recruits receive classroom training on the history of the uniform, grooming standards, dependent care requirements, and terrorism. Another written test will document just how much recruits have retained. 

During week seven, recruits practice fire-fighting skills in an actual "ship board" fire-fighting exercise.

The week winds up with Battle Stations. Battle Stations is a fun, culminating event of Navy Boot Camp. It's designed to wrap everything learned about swimming survival, teamwork, fire-fighting, damage control, and more into one massive 12 hour hands-on exercise. At the end, recruits receive their hats. It is the ceremony that marks them as sailors.

Week 8. Assuming all pass Battle Stations, the final week consists mostly of out-processing, practice for the final pass-in-review, and (of course) a little more classroom training (more training in core values, professionalism, and the UCMJ; as well as training in rank of other services, and career advancement). Even though the recruits at this points have passed the final PFT, physical training still happens. Make it a habit for the rest of your career.

Finally, on either Thursday, or Friday, recruits get to put on the dress uniforms and make that final pass-in-review.

If you've passed all your requirements (especially Battle Stations), you'll spend most of the following weekend on "Liberty," before continuing on to "A School" or a direct assignment.