News: SPAWAR Boot Camp Recruits Are Sailors Now
Story by Steve Yuhas
GREAT LAKES, Ill. — The transition from civilian to Sailor is one filled with physical and mental challenges. To ensure that recruits understand that the Navy is more than any one individual or single ship, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command entrusted her colors to the most recent division of recruits aboard the Recruit Training Command Great Lakes.
Two months ago SPAWAR's commander, Rear Admiral Michael C. Bachmann, delegated to these recruits the honor of carrying his colors. He expected that they treat one another the way they ensured him that they would the SPAWAR flag — with honor, courage and commitment. When a contingent of SPAWAR leaders began a visit to Great Lakes today there was no question that Admiral Bachmann's expectations were met.
The purpose behind sponsoring a division of recruits is to show them in both word and deed that we are a Navy that cares for our shipmates. Whatever they want to become, wherever they want to go in their careers — be that an officer or a master chief petty officer — they can get there, but it will require hard work and mentoring of others. Getting them interested in the mission of SPAWAR is important too because it is SPAWAR that helps make our Servicemembers safe, able to communicate and the most technologically advanced troops in the world.
Following the benediction and a motivating speech by Navy Lt. Vincent Dasta, USS Marvin G. Shields ships officer; recruits participated in a capping ceremony — a fast, simple event with enormous personal and professional significance.
With the speed and precision of any military maneuver the recruits were ordered to remove their recruit covers and replace them with the blue and gold covers worn by American Sailors around the world. To a casual observer it was just the changing of a hat, but to members of the Navy it is the moment when their many weeks of hard work and dedication are rewarded with the privilege of being called an American Sailor.
Before the capping ceremony began members of the SPAWAR delegation were given a tour of the Recruit Training Command. For some it was new, but for some it was like coming home because their own Naval career began here and they have not returned since their own capping ceremony.
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Jackson, machinist's mate, graduated from Great Lakes in 2001 and is assigned as SPAWAR's equal opportunity advisor. For Jackson, returning to the place his Naval career began was important because he needs to know what Sailors are being taught so that he can do his own job effectively. He was also moved by the reaction that many of the new Sailors had when they donned their new covers.
"It was nice to see that becoming a Sailor and experiencing the same thing I did still has the effect of moving strong men and women to tears," Jackson said after the ceremony. "I know that I will never forget my own capping ceremony and something tells me they won't either."
Jackson was not alone. Everyone associated with the SPAWAR mission to Great Lakes left the tour of the facilities in awe of how much has changed, but really how much the basics remained the same. The equipment is state-of-the-art, the recruit division commanders are still tough as nails, and things have become more streamlined, but recruits are still battle tested before they can leave. Nothing shows the true dedication of the cadre at Great Lakes than a new experience called Battlestations.
It sounds like a board game, but don't let the name fool you. Battlestations is the capstone event where all of the skills that recruits were taught are tested in a real-world exercise that takes them to the point of exhaustion. The goal is to have recruits engage in teamwork at all levels of the event and to practice everything from a mass casualty situation to fighting fire aboard a mock-up of a ship.
Everything about the ship, down to her rivets, is exact and recruits are expected to lead and follow. Throughout this exhausting test recruits are shown video vignettes from Sailors that reinforce what they learned better than any manual could.
One of the videos is about the terrorist attack aboard the USS Cole in 2001. The attack took the lives of seventeen Sailors, but showed her crew at its most heroic and that is what recruits take away when they go through the eerily similar compartments. The attack on the Cole is used to train new Sailors about the world we live in and the need for readiness and vigilance in the Fleet.
Another video features a Sailor talking about the experience of falling overboard. This video is used to not only reinforce the lessons about ship safety and the importance of swimming, but that we never leave a shipmate behind and will traverse entire oceans to find one of our own.
A new generation of Sailors was born today and they will graduate in front of their families, friends and a very grateful Nation on Friday. Looking on from the stands will be members of their new extended family: members of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. We cannot say which family will be more proud, but we can say for certain that they are part of SPAWAR now and we will never forget it.