GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- More than 50,000 recruits have trained at Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exigent circumstances of a pandemic have heightened the challenges for those crossing the RTC quarterdeck during the past 14 months.
RTC’s rapid response to mitigate the spread of COVID affected recruits throughout the entire accessions pipeline.
“I am proud to have recently taken command of a staff that has worked together to make sure we are sending well-trained recruits to the fleet during this unprecedented time,” said Capt. Jeffry A. Sandin, RTC’s commanding officer. “These recruits continue to show their commitment to service and demonstrate their tenacity in this unique training environment.”
Recruits already in training adjusted to wearing masks, social distancing, increased personal hygiene and expanded cleaning procedures in living quarters and training spaces. Overnight, guidance on eating in the galley, personal fitness assessments, and so many more details that inform a recruit’s daily routine and training were reviewed and modified to fit the time and conditions.
The recruits that followed weighed the prospect their time at boot camp would be extended. RTC introduced an initial 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) for incoming recruits. Some recruits required additional ROM periods, adding to their total time at RTC before they could graduate and join the fleet.
New recruits were quickly introduced to the Warrior Toughness training, which taught them techniques to cope with their new surroundings and circumstances. Recruits utilized Warrior Toughness techniques in response to feelings of unease, stress, worry and isolation.
Those 50,000 recruits remained steadfast in their resolve to initiate their training and become Sailors, no matter the additional hardships produced by COVID. They did so knowing they might not celebrate their graduation with family and friends as their shipmates had previously done prior to the pandemic.
Making it all possible were the RTC leadership and staff who responded to an ever-shifting environment.
At Night of Arrival, and elsewhere throughout RTC, standard operating procedures were regularly being rewritten to stay ahead of shifting dynamics.
“Find a way, make a way. That’s pretty much what Night of Arrival did,” said Senior Chief Electronics Technician Brian Luther, operations day chief at Night of Arrival. “So when we did hotel ROM, we had to figure out a way to get recruits their ditty issue. We had to change everything up when we went to the hotels, and then when we went to Fort McCoy, and now, again, that we’re back here at RTC. There was a lot of coordination and communication, between all the partners.”
Luther commended RTC staff for a job well done.
“We owe so much to the petty officers and chiefs who are out there making sure it gets done,” said Luther. “There’s no way we could have ever accomplished getting 50,000 through without them making sacrifices and making sure everything is perfect.”
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy’s only boot camp.