My First Five Weeks In The Military…
GET ON YOUR FACE RIGHT NOW!
Apparently this means get ready to do pushups. It’s “zero four thirty” and I have lots to learn today in sunny Newport, RI. Indeed, we’re just getting started…
UP! DOWN! UP! DOWN…
A few questions go through my mind: am I getting yelled at by a woman or a man? How the heck did I get here? And most importantly: am I wearing underwear?
Back to reality: now we’re doing something called 6-90s. It’s where you lie on your back with your feet 6 inches above the ground, and raise them to a 90 degree angle. And repeat. Wait, is this a p90x move?!?!
It was Day Three. I think. Allow me to walk you through the remainder of our average day:
After the abrupt wake-ups, we would go outside to “PT” (which means physical training) for an hour. This involved running or calisthenics, or some combination of the two. We also did an insane amount of stretching. Like, for every minute we worked out, we probably spent two minutes stretching. This was weird. I mean, who actually stretches these days?
Then we ate: 15 minutes, no talking. And no “skylarking” (looking around) either! Ahh, you gotta love military words. Here’s a few more: bulkhead (wall), ladder well (stairs), and Roger that (which according to Urban Dictionary means “I understand”). Roger that?
Then came an hour of marching. This was pure comedy.
At a philosophical level, marching in the Navy makes absolutely no sense. I mean, sailors work on ships – a place with very little marching room. Add to that the fact that I am in a class of “staff corps” officers (doctors, lawyers, nurses, nuclear reactors, etc). What you get is some sloppy marching.
“Right face!” “About face!” “Center face!” All this means something to those who have marched before. I was new to all of it. And I sucked at it…
Then came a period of time known as “hygiene.” As in, “you have three-five minutes for hygiene.” Here was where we would make our beds (a brutal chore for someone who hates making the bed), shower, get the uniform on, and be ready to go. The men’s bathroom was like a scene out of Top Gun… only with far fewer 6 pack abs, and no time to air dry.
Then we sat through PowerPoint presentations. All. Day. Long. No caffeine, and very few breaks. I wasn’t ready for this. Sleeping was not allowed (and strictly enforced), and we would be tested on all of this. I missed law school!
We also had a drill instructor. He was then one who whipped us into shape and taught us what we needed to know. Importantly, he was the one who determined how long we would have to stand at attention. In case you’ve never done it, standing at attention is really uncomfortable after a while.
Note: If you are a Marine or Navy Seal or something like that, please don’t judge me.
In the evenings we would eat again. Same rules: no skylarking, no talking, and 15 minutes to eat – I was usually done in 5. I would spend the next 10 minutes trying to avoid eye contact with my friends – something that would always cause me to start laughing. Oh, and another mealtime rule I forgot to mention: no laughing.
Then we would march for another hour. I’ve said my peace about Navy marching. So anyway…
Then we would head into our “House” (think dorms) and clean, do laundry, study, or workout. Don’t tell my wife this, but I actually got good at handling my own laundry. Now shh!!!
Then, our company (54 officers) sang songs together before bed. We recited the classics: Sailor’s Creed, Anchors Aweigh, and the Marine’s Hymn. We sounded terrible, but we would improve as time went on.
And that about wraps up the average day for five weeks. Not boot camp, not summer camp, but somewhere right in between. Before I move on, allow me once more to emphasize how BRUTAL the PowerPoints were – and I work for a consulting firm! Ok, now I’m done…
Some of the highlights included:
– Going aboard the USS Michael Murphy – the newest destroyer in the Navy. That ship alone could take out most countries. One word comes to mind: ‘Merica!
– Learning how to make a flotation device out of navy trousers. Look out Bear Grylls!
– Going out on the town in my summer white uniform and being thanked for my service – of three weeks!
– Pushup contests.
– Letters from home.
– Helping save a fake ship (the USS Buttercup – a very manly vessel) from sinking
– Singing “Tearin Up My Heart” to a crowd of locals on Karaoke night
– Raising the flag in uniform
– Spending close to $2,000 on my uniform (no discount double-check!)
– Getting the shortest haircut of probably my entire life
– Being required to say things like “Kill!” all the time. **
** To demonstrate how much fun I had saying “kill,” I will be using the word as often as possible throughout the remainder of this post. Get ready…
Of course, I had it easy compared to Jackie, who was at home with the babies – two born, one unborn. Closing out the first trimester of her pregnancy with two stubborn 16-month olds was undoubtedly exhausting. Bottom line: my wife is amazing (cheap brownie points I know, but I will take them). Kill!
Fortunately, Jackie, her mom, and the kids came up for my graduation. I went to see the babies at the hotel room and my worst fear came true: they didn’t recognize me. In fact, they were scared of me. Perhaps this was because my hair was short, my boots made me stand about 2 inches taller, and I was wearing my Navy fatigues. Still, it was a punch in the gut.
It took them a few minutes to recognize me, and then all became right with the world…
It was so awesome to see them. It was also an ice cold glass of water to the face: welcome back to being dad! Indeed, at the graduation reception while most of my friends were drinking and socializing, Jackie and I chased the babies around the ballroom. The entire time. “Nice to meet you – oh, Riley, no, no, no, come back!” I must have had this conversation six times.
Even better: Jimmy ran up to the Commanding Officer of Naval Training Command, Captain Kemper, and hit him in the back of the leg. Yep, that’s my son scarfing down meatballs and hitting the Commanding Officer.
Note: one day, he’ll wonder why he didn’t get into the Naval Academy…
The night before graduation we were allowed to sleep off base so long as we were back at 0430. I slept with Jackie, my mother in law, and the babies in the hotel room and got a full 45 minutes of sleep. But it was worth it to see them again. At least that’s what I kept telling myself…
The next night I was home, sleeping in my very own “rack” (where hospital corners aren’t required). From here, I wait to get my bar exam results, at which time I will begin fulfilling my four year commitment to the Navy JAG Corps. I’m thankful to God for getting me where I am today; excited about the adventures in store; and honored to begin my military career. As they say: Anchors Aweigh!
And oh yea… KILL!!!