Venturing Forth: My Arrival at Bootcamp

Bootcamp photo

I am pretty excited and a little nervous. I have applied to present a story live on September 11 in Arctic Entries, Alaska’s version of the Moth. I’ll have seven minutes to tell a story. The theme is “Milepost 1: Hitting the Road, Starting Fresh, Finding Your Way Home.” So I decided I would talk about my first night of boot camp.

The link to Arctic Entries is below

I grew up in Victorville, CA. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, no one else has either. But we did make the list of the top ten worst places to live in California in 2018.

So I decided I wanted to see the world so I joined the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. Eventually this led me to Alaska, but I had some colorful adventures along the way. This blog post will specifically be about that first night in boot camp.

I remember standing on the curb after I got off the bus feeling a little lost. In the movies there’s always a lot of screaming and running, right?  There was for the guys.  Not so much for me.  Maybe because I was the only girl on the bus.  Really the only girl.  They took all the guys off, yelling at them and left me standing alone on the curb clutching my duffle bag. After a few minutes a very pregnant RDC (Recruit Division Commander) waddles up to me and motions me to follow her.

She leads me into this giant room about the size of 4 basketball courts put together and has me start filling out paperwork. This room was partitioned into four sections filled with desks (about 80 desks each). The other sections were filled with guys. I was the only person in my section.

As you can guess, some of the guys were staring at me, sitting by myself. One of the male RDC’s proceeds to scream at them:

You will not look at that female. That female does not exist to you.


If you haven’t guessed, I am starting to get a picture of what my naval career is going to be like, and it ain’t pretty.

So there I sit, for several hours. By midnight there were a total of six of us and that was all they were going to get that night. So they finally decided to walk us to our barracks by one am. As soon as we got there, one girl immediately went into the head and started puking.  They rest of us began to settle in. We were interrupted by a Chief who came in and told us they had put us in the wrong compartment and we needed to move. Discouraged, we began to grab our bags.

“You.” He said to me. “Go in and get her.” He pointed to the head. “Don’t worry about cleaning it up, just bring her out.”

I go into the head. You know you learn a lot of things in the military. But I think the biggest is compassion. I have never felt more empathy  for another person in my life as I did that night.

She had puked all over the walls, the stall, the floor. Everywhere but the toilet. She kneeled on the floor, sobbing.  She had a little wad of tissue, and she was trying to clean it up.

I shook her by the shoulder. “Hey, we gotta’ go. They put us in the wrong compartment.”

“I have to clean this up.” She sobbed.

“No, it’s cool. He said you didn’t have to. We can just go.”

I helped her to the sink and cleaned her up.  Then we went to the other compartment. I sank into my rack at about 2 am. Reveille was at 3.  Welcome to Great Lakes!