I remember the day my Sailor was officially in Navy Basic Training aka Bootcamp at Great Lakes Illinois. I was so proud and sad that I refer to it as having the “Grinch Heart.” Remember when the Grinch’s heart grew and grew and grew so large it nearly burst? That’s what it feels like. Your heart is so bloated with pride that it makes you feel giddy with excitement but it also sits like a giant stone in your gut; heavy and burning and in spite of it you and your sailor will get through it just like I and mine did and here are a few ways to help you get there a bit easier.
The first and most important thing you should do is join the Navy for Moms website specifically the Bootcamp group even if you are not a mom this is the best site on the internet for information. Find the PIR group for your Sailor’s Pass in Review date and participate. You will find immeasurable amounts of support amongst the mom’s wives, girlfriends and even dads of Navy Recruits. This is the place that will give you information like what to take to PIR, what a “kid in a box” is, explanations of RTC policies and a daily timeline as to what day and activity your SR will be at. You might even get lucky enough to get a sneak peak at your Sailor if one of the RDCs posts a picture.
Once you know your sailor’s Pass in Review date you should start making travel arrangements to the Navy Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes. You will find directions and recommendations for your visit to Great Lakes on the Navy for Moms website. Spend a day reading those posts and then go ahead and book your flight, rent your car and reserve your room, later you can work out the finer details of your stay.
When your Sailor arrives at Bootcamp they will get to call home to let you know they’ve made it there in one piece. Take note that the call comes from Waukegan. You may or may not receive phone calls from this point on. Recruits earn phone calls home so the best thing to do is be prepared for when it does happen. Learn to live by the motto “no news is good news.” Forward your home phone calls to your cell phone while you are at work so you never miss a call. Let your boss know what is going on so you won’t get in trouble when you suddenly jump up in the middle of a meeting and shout, “It’s my Seaman Recruit!” and run off with cell phone in hand.
Save every piece of mail you get in regards to your Sailor. The first piece of mail you will get is the Kid in a Box. Then there will be a form letter with all kinds of important stuff on it including the PIR date and mailing address. If you feel the need to show this letter to everyone within arm’s reach make a copy of it and show that one off.
Start writing letters to your Seaman Recruit – from now on referred to as SR – as soon as they leave. Save them up and be ready to mail the first batch all at once. Give it 3 or 4 days for your SR to go through the initial processing phase and then call his or her recruiter. The recruiter will be able to get the address for you before you receive the form letter. On the other end of that, your SR won’t receive mail for about 2 weeks after “P” days (See NfM for information about “P” days.) so when they do finally get mail call they will get lots of letters from you which is a huge morale booster.
Instead of spending your time riddled with anxiety use this time to get comfortable with Navy terms and slang. Prepare yourself for the Navy way of things so that when your SR is a full-fledged Sailor you will be able to move right along with the groove of things. There is a great list of “Jack Speak” or Navy Slang on the Navy Dad’s website your SR will be using in Bootcamp. Besides, someday when your Sailor writes to tell you they’re glad there’s a Crack House or Crack Shack on board the ship you will understand this means a place to smoke, not a place to buy drugs!
Lastly, I’d like to give you this bit of advice. Don’t worry so much. Less than 10% of the population gets accepted in the United States Navy. Uncle Sam is going to fork out a lot of money to get your SR prepared to be a Sailor. They aren’t going to lose that investment by damaging it. Your SR will be well taken care of. They will be fed meals both good and nutritious, they will be given fantastic medical and dental treatment, and their bodies will be transformed from the proper exercise and physical fitness training they will receive. They will be clothed with weather appropriate garb and given blankets to keep them warm at night.
Yes, your SR will be put to the test both physically and mentally while in Basic Training but if they were not they would not be able to sufficiently defend this country. Would you want someone who could not pass these tests defending our American Rights? Have faith in your recruit, have faith in your Navy, rest easy and Fair Winds and Following Seas.