Saturday, April 03, 2010

Journal Excerpt: The Notorious 1-5 Day

Continuing with the series about my experience in Navy Basic Training 19 years ago, today's post is what I wrote in my journal (Tales of Terror From Boot Camp Hell: Volume XXII) on the "notorious" 1-5 Day. Basic Training was numbered by week (P through 8) and day (1 through 5). The first week of Basic Training was known as "P-days" (P for "Processing"). Our company became "official" on 1-1 Day (when we got to unfurl the flag with our company's number on it: C093), which was one week after we arrived at Basic Training. 1-5 Day was the first major test, featuring inspections that we practiced endlessly for. We knew to expect major "cycling" (strenuous exercises at a fast pace) for any errors. By this day, we also had to memorize our chain of command, Navy ranks, and the 11 General Orders. A company commander could ask at random who the Secretary of Defense was (it was Dick Cheney at the time, who I actually liked and respected back then) or our Division Chief Petty Officer or the 5th General Order. The price for not knowing was any number of push-ups (25 to 50 seemed to be the norm).

1-5 Day was so hyped from the moment we arrived at Basic Training, that some guys had an irrational fear about it. In fact, the guy who "accidentally ate" suntan lotion (see my previous Journal Excerpt post for that episode) was fearful of 1-5 Day and perhaps he thought by making himself sick, he could avoid it. He did avoid it, but also found himself in the psychiatric ward of the hospital until the Navy officially discharged him. For me, I had a tendency to think up the absolute worst case scenario for Basic Training and 1-5 Day that I was actually "shocked" by how tame both experiences were. That's the secret to success, I think: training your mind to expect the absolute worst so that the reality falls far short of your imagination. I went off to Basic Training thinking I would hate it, but the whole time, I kept expecting it to get worse. There were trials, of course, but nothing happened that matched my worst imaginations of Basic Training.

The photos are from a Google-image search and feature the Marine Corps. For some reason, when most people imagine Basic Training, the Marine Corps version is the one most people think of. It is the most difficult one of the four military branches (the Air Force version is considered to be a joke by the Navy and probably the Army and USMC as well). I couldn't find any pictures of Navy sailors in basic training that conveys what I wanted (such as the lining up in formation in our "skivvys" for a morning sound-off).

April 3, 1991 1-5 Day WEDNESDAY

For breakfast, I ate only Rice Krispies and not much else because I didn't want to barf it all up during PT and Cycling. We psyched ourselves up for this day. We encouraged each other to not give up--that it was a mind game and nothing personal.

Albu was the lucky one...he had a "wimp chit" from the doctor saying that he couldn't do any strenouous exercises.

CPO Atkinson started the inspection and when he got to me, I was sqaured away and he asked me who the Division Officer is...a question from the Chain of Command page.

"LT Bergman, sir!"

I was correct. Onward he moved to the next victim.

When he was finished, I was surprised because I expected a tougher inspection. But then came a whole full scale attack of 6 company commanders, one for each section. Two CCs were female and I wished one would've taken our section. The first person to be dropped was SR Nelson for his utility jacket being out of sync with all the others, hanging on the coat racks on the bulkhead. He didn't do any pushups...but had to remain in that position.

The CC that checked our section dropped nearly everyone. The only person who still stood was SR GARNER. I was dropped because my Chain of Command page wasn't written in all capital block letters. He asked me the 10th General Order to which I replied "To salute all officers and all colours and standards not cased, Sir!"

"DROP!" he yelled and threw my notebook across the bunks. For the next 30 minutes it seemed, the whole compartment was ruled by chaos and absurdity. You could hear all the CCs ordering each section around, although you are suppose to pay attention only to yours. I was slightly amused to witnessing, from the deck in push up position, all the clothes flying overhead, the simultaneous shouting "DROP! JOG IN PLACE! GET UP! ON YOUR BACKS! PUSH UPS! SIT UPS! EIGHT COUNTS! GET OFF MY DECK!" The whole compartment changed. It was a mess. Our section leader Stringer had to crawl under the racks to "pick up" all the "ghost turds" with his clothes. Others had to wear underwear on their heads and walk to each recruit and say "I'm an Unsat Recruit!" The MAA, CORNETT, had to say to each recruit, "I'm trying to be a good MAA but you won't help."

Albu was one of the few still standing. His punishment was having his arms outstretched and had to hold a pencil with the two index fingers of each hand pressing against the ends of the pencil.

My throat was very dry and I needed water--bad! I was sweating so in act of pure desperation, I tried to catch the drops of sweat to take care of my dry mouth. I didn't think much about it because it was a desperate moment.

After the fury of the CCs, with clothes thrown everywhere and bunk sheets on some racks stripped, with the compartment looking like a storm hit, we were allowed to gather our things and get a drink of water.

CPO Atkinson then had us huddle to give a speech on freedom and patriotism. I failed to see the connection between what just happened and Americans dying for freedom.

We stood in a large oval with arms around another's shoulder while two recruits walked with an American Flag and the song "God Bless The USA" by Lee Greenwood was played. Some of us cried, most notably, SR BIENVENUE, who has tried to show his toughness since the first few days. It was quite a growing experience--hopefully to draw our company closer together.

In the evening, we had a locker drill and the "game" was that everyone would do pushups (about 25) for each person's unsat locker in order to inspire "team work."

Fortunately, I was chosen for clean up duty. SR PEGUERO (an islander with a sort of Jamaican accent), SR DUNCAN (a 30-something ex Air Force Captain!), SR AGOSTI (a bad attitude, devil-may-care dickhead), one other person, and I had to clean out an empty barracks compartment. Call it a blessing to get away from the cycling.

We cleaned and talked. AGOSTI didn't help much--only talked. He bragged about his legal troubles for violent violations and drug abuses. He was one that I hoped wouldn't make it through. He complained about Basic. DUNCAN is likable because he's intelligent and mature. Plus, he's been through it all before. Weird thing, though, he hated being an officer and wants to be enlisted! I'd rather be an officer.

When we got back to the compartment, all was finished with the day's cycling process. We missed it, yeeha!

And needless to say, we all survived the infamous 1-5 Day! And it really wasn't as bad as I expected.

Special bonus...I'm also featuring the next entry in my journal for your reading enjoyment.

APRIL 4, 1991 2-1 DAY THURSDAY

After breakfast, I went to sick call because I was fed up with my coughing. Several others went as well. RCPO Mackey accused us of going to avoid PT. He called us "pussies."

At sick call, while waiting to see the doctor, I met a recruit who was on 5-3 Day--during workwee. He works in the bakery in the Galley and told me that the bakery is cool because the guy who works in the bakery is weird but lets you doze! He's going to be a yeoman also. He said that he sends letter to his girlfriend in his sister company. He told me some things to expect at Basic.

I got 2 different kind of pills. They give them out easy! With no concern that some mentally disturbed person might use them for suicidal reasons. Now that's trust. I hate pills but I'm sick of coughing all the time and its always worse after I eat, after I run, and before I got to sleep. Its funny that whenever I cough after I've finished eating that fine fine Navy chow, people around me, whether or not they are C093 or another company, ask if I'm okay. Its so wonderful that people are much friendlier and concerned here. It feels like brotherhood!

I saw Albu at Medical. He got a 30 Day medical chit stating "No strenuous exercises." That seems impossible...the CCs can't drop him at all. He thinks he'll be kicked out soon.

I walked from Medical to the Training building to join the company already in class.

In the afternoon, we practiced Bugle Calls on the Grinder. It was nifty! We had to stand at attention, Parade rest, salute, and drop salute all to Bugle calls (The tape player was our bugler).

I had guard duty from 1630 to 2000 hrs. SR ROELLER taught me.

When I went to straggler's chow, I saw Caruthers and gasped. He's still alive! But what scared me the most was that I told him I wouldn't tell the company what happened, but I did. Yow! He said that he leaves a week from today. He missed the excitement of 1-5 Day.

In the evening, we had study groups but that didn't work out too well. No one wanted to study. Talking, writing letters, and polishing shoes were the main activities.

I received letters from Riaz Virji and Nick Smith. Both were uplifting.

We also received our canteens today to carry with us everywhere. And before going to bed, I was to take my pills but I coulddn't swallow my pills (always been a difficulty for me) but SR Parker, SR Bollinger, and SR Nevil all tried to help me swallow the pills. I swallowed one and had to chew the other, which left a bad taste in my mouth.

Its great that everyone is so helpful! This place is such a utopia! Albu left the company today. It was sad to see him go.

2 comments:

Steven Houchin said...

Great and accurate description of Navy bootcamp; the experiences and the feelings. I was C097 in Orlando, where were you. If Orlando, we were there at the same time.

Sansego22 said...

Thank you for posting a comment. I was at RTC Orlando, from March 20, 1991 to May 23, 1991. Good times. Still reminisce about it sometimes. You were in the training group after the one I was in.