16 August-6 November 1963
Today you can find a boot camp for anything: for diet and exercise, computer programing , high school discipline, in 2001 there was a TV series titled Boot Camp, in 1980 there was a band called Boot camp, and at least one novel and one movie with the title Boot Camp.
Boot Camp is a term that came about in the time period of 1940-45, to describe training camp for military recruits; predominantly Marine Corps and Navy recruits. The U. S. Army refers to this training period as Basic training. Regardless the name, it's a defined period of intensive training in basic military comportment, duties and combat skills. Each branch of the services has there own particular field of expertise. The Navy's training, of course, is predominantly related to ships and seafaring. Being in top physical condition is a primary aim of all branches of the military and is the impetus for all the current offshoots mentioned above. No matter who you talk to, if they've ever been to a military boot camp, you'll be regaled with tales of how many push ups they were required to do while in training. Something like: I was walking down the street minding my own business and I pass this Sgt. and because he says I didn't salute him quickly enough says to me: drop and give me fifty. This type of scenario was more common than not and although we may have thought it punishment unjustly meted out by masochistic DI's (drill instructors), actually it was a concerted effort by the trainers to ensure our physical readiness for the rigors of combat.
Which branch of service has the most rigorous boot camp is the topic of many bar room conversations. Some camps are longer some of shorter duration. At the time I went it was a nine week program of intensive training in military etiquette, physical fitness, naval history and sea going skills necessary to thrive and survive aboard ship and in any and all of life's situations. Many of the skills and habits that I learned in boot camp have served me well throughout my life both in and out of the military.
We were greeted, upon arrival by either a RPOC (Recruit Petty Officer In Charge) or a 1st platoon leader from a company halfway through their training. Ushering us through the initial stages of accommodating to military life was their assignment for that segment of training that they were in, called service week.
First they gave us watch caps (black toques), a copy of the current Bluejacket's Manual ( Ours was the 1960's edition, fourth printing), and our company flag. They then organized us in to squads, and two platoons. After giving us preliminary instructions in how to march in step we were escorted to the barber shop, where each of us in turn was asked by the barber how we wanted our hair cut and then promptly sheered us like sheep at a wool gathering. This is the first step in military socialization every one will look alike. Thank God for those toques after our heads were shorn. The frigid winds off the great lakes in November were bone chilling. That's yours truly, rel, in the chair, getting a trim. This was actually our second trip to the barber for a touch-up. Notice the grown out hair on the on-lookers and the fact that they are in uniform.
Introduction to military life was a challenge but I didn't find it so rigorous as to be demoralizing. I personally enjoyed the discipline and teamwork involved in molding a sharp looking and acting recruit company. We learned early on the efficacy of working together to achieve a given goal such as a perfect score at inspection both on the grinder or in the barracks. Everyone had to pull their weight to make it happen. Hand washing our clothes, scrubbing the inside neckline of your t-shirt and the inner band of the white "dixie-cup" cover (hat) with a scrub brush and bleach so that they looked brand spanking new when you stood for inspection was a personal as well as a team (company) challenge.
Keeping us healthy entailed more than "good" food and exercise. There were a myriad of immunization shots necessary to prepare our immune systems for the rigors of foreign environments. So we ran or walked the gauntlet of the immunization gun, which, if you didn't flinch or pull away, was much more efficient and less painful than a bunch of needle injections. I don't recall anyone passing out but I'm sure it happened it always does. We did get one injection shortly after arrival to boot camp and that was a two cc (milliliter) injection of bicillin in the butt cheek. Now that my friends is something that you would rather not endure if you can help it. The shot itself is somewhat uncomfortable and the knot of drug that is deposited in your rump takes a while to dissipate. The next day my whole body felt as though I had over done it to the max in the weight lifting room.
Barracks life consisted of daily cleaning, mopping, waxing, and buffing the floor. I mean, you could eat off that floor anytime of the day or night. We studied, wrote letters, washed our clothes, and made sure our lockers (open) were totally neat and tidy. The open lockers were designed to take a person's sea bag contents and a few personal items and nothing more. Since space on board ship would be at a premium you had to learn compact, space efficiency. There was a separate day room adjacent to the barracks proper and this is where the company took breaks and kicked back to relax when the opportunity presented itself. It was here that I was introduced to the pleasurable and nearly unbreakable habit of smoking cigarettes. I could blame it on peer pressure but truly it was more of a wanting to be one of the "big " boys. And besides, mom and dad smoked so it must be OK no matter what those media naysayers were starting to reveal. I couched this, because my best bud, Gerry, never succumbed to the temptation of tobacco and chastised me mercilessly for taking up such a filthy habit.