Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: March 25, 2012
Updated: July 7, 2017
Boot Camp (Part Three):
Time to Paddle
ETSA Slebodnik, D.V.
In the previous article, I mentioned that everything in the compartment had a specific place, and I add that there is no room for error in Recruit Training Command. Grading the effectiveness of the Division and the Recruit Division Commanders is the Fleet Quality Assurance (FQA) who actively searches for hits against you and your Division. Don’t be surprised if your RDCs take your failures personally, as every hit is a deduction from the graduation totals. To protect the totals from any hits, many in your Division will be given jobs as Petty Officers in a chain of command.
The top of the Recruit chain of command is the Recruit Chief Petty Officer (RPOC) and he is the direct connection to the RDCs by maintaining orders and the plan of the day. This guy can get annoying but keep in mind that the RPOC is taking flak from both above and below. Unless he is actively on a power trip give the guy a little slack. When the Division is in ranks, the RPOC is the one driving the bus giving commands on the march for the direction, maneuvers, and calls out roads guards.
The next link in the chain is the Assistant Recruit Chief Petty Officer (AROC) as he backs the RPOC’s commands and keeping tabs on the Division and generally picking up any slack the RPOC cannot handle on his own. The position of AROC requires a high level of trust and dependence to aide in carrying the Division to graduation. As the RPOC is the one driving the bus, the AROC is the engine as he sings the cadence and sets the pace for the march. Be confident in your voice and know what you’re doing or you’ll run the Division into the ground.
Third in command is the Master -at-Arms (MA) whom oversees the section leaders of the compartment as it is further micromanaged by being broken down into sections each with its own leader each chosen by the RDCs. The section leaders then relay conditions to the MA that everything is on spot. In the compartment, the section leaders overlook their sections by tutoring their recruits in folding and stowing if needed as well as making certain it is a done correctly on top of cleanup every evening. On the bus, the section leaders will be heading the ranks as they will be holding the Division flags (Sticks) when marching.
One major role that we all in the Navy take part in is guard duty as we all must qualify for it, and at some time or other we all must stand the watch. The two major elements to standing your watch on guard duty are the Watch Bill and the Deck Log and to maintain both are the Port and Starboard Watches. The two assign duties to those in the Division on the watch bill, a sort of schedule and shifts for recruits to stand watch over the compartment the entire day through. The Deck Log documents every action of the Division and the status of the compartment hence the deck log is to be treated like gold with every entry written clearly and every minute accounted for. Also gaining a spot on the bus, the ranks are divided into port and starboard and are headed by the Port and Starboard Watches.
When assigned to Watch Stander we will stand as either the Petty Officer of the Deck (POOD) or the Roving Watch. The POOD mans the Quarterdeck or in the case of the compartment, the entry way and receives any RDCs that may enter with a salute and identifying oneself. The POOD also is the one who documents everything on the deck log including the times that the Rover begins and finishes his tours of the compartment. The Roving Watch follows a route through compartment to check the racks, the head, and the laundry room for any hits and corrects them be it a sneaker out of place or too many recruits out of their racks at night. Anything that can be counted as a hit should FQA or the Officer of the Deck (OOD) show for a random search must be fixed before found.
During your time in Boot Camp, the Division will be visiting classes on material written in your recruit handbook. To tutor the Division in the compartment is the job of the Education Petty Officer (E.P.O.) and will be allotted time before evening routine to keep the recruits’ minds sharp. I do recommend for the E.P.O. to break down the material “barney style” and really explain the meaning behind the material and not rely solely on repetition. Not only do the test scores count toward the totals, but there is also one more Division flag on the line.
Every organized PT will be led by the Athletic P.O. who demonstrates the different exercises and stretches as well as leads the exercise count. However, don’t be surprised if the RDC takes the lead in PT and adds a few exercises not in the manual. Make sure you can keep up with your boys and lead them to one more flag for graduation. The APO also has the responsibility of choosing the teams for the various events held in the final weeks of RTC known as the “Captain’s Cup”. Know your recruits, learn their strengths, and choose wisely.
The Head Crew is responsible for keeping the Head (restroom) on spot led by the Head P.O. and he is responsible for waking the head crew before the division and is out the door to early chow and return to the compartment in time to clean house while the Division is at the Galley. Another benefit is the Head Crew showers first to gather supplies and be ready to clean by the time the Division finishes hygiene. The Head has by far the most possible hits from the position of the toilet paper rolls to the position of the wheels on the oversize trash can. To the Head P.O., learn the hits as well as the most common mistakes and be the last one to leave the head knowing that everything is on spot. Also a big help every morning when I was Head P.O. is to arrange with the morning Roving Watch to wake you at the right time.
The next position is a keystone for evening routine is Forward Hold P.O. who maintains the gear locker that holds all the cleaning supplies and brushes for the compartment and the head distributed every evening routine. Every brush, sponge, spray bottle and swab (mop) has a specific place treated the same as you would your rack. Along with clean-up, an equally important position to evening routine is the Laundry P.O. After the assignment of the day during hygiene, the dirty laundry is collected, washed, and distributed during evening routine. You can also bet your last dollar that the laundry room must be kept tip top.
Every evening during lights out; once the laundry is out the recruits must iron their uniforms, oh yes there is even an Iron P.O. (in my Division, I nicknamed our “Iron Man”). Responsibilities include laying out the irons, boards, maintaining the iron bill, and has everything returned to its place before the RDCs show in the morning. Make certain somebody is ironing when the OOD checks in on the compartment”¦trust me. Another word to the Head P.O.; help the Iron P.O. collect the gear, you’re already up anyway.
An important part to having a successful Division is to have everybody where they need to be on time and to achieve this are the roles of the recruit Admin, Dental, and Medical Yeomen. The Admin Yeoman calls muster (attendance), maintaining the sign-out sheets and recruit files, and dispenses walking chits. The Dental and Medical Yeomen individually leave the compartment to collect the appointment slips for the recruits and posts them on the appointment board in the fish bowl (RDCs glass office). The essential element for the entire Division is 100% accountability for everyone in it.
The final two P.O.s are saved for last and are by far the most important to the recruits themselves, not for any flags or scores, but for the general morale. The Mail P.O. collects and dispenses mail either coming to or from loved ones abroad. Phone calls are very few and far between so the old fashioned snail mail is the common form contact the Division will have with the outside world. The Mail P.O. could be comparable to Santa Claus passing out envelopes filled with letters and pictures from home; however any oversized envelopes must be inspected by the RDCs. The Religion P.O. leads those who wish to take part in an evening prayer lasting anywhere between five to ten minutes before lights out. Without any specific denomination, the P.O. or another recruit may give an encouraging sermon be it about strength, brotherhood, or reflection it will be in uninterrupted peace.
Appreciate the moments dedicated to you and your shipmates and find your strength as every job has a vital daily function to the Division throughout Boot Camp all the way to graduation. Those without a job also have a great responsibility; to respect the chain of command, watch out for your shipmates, and to look professional doing it. Perception is reality in the Navy and if everyone acts as one crew, this bus will be respected as a well oiled machine.