Written on November 12, 2007
I feel it’s important for me to explain to those of you who have no idea of what this experience is like, both to dispell any rumors and urban legends lurking out there and to explain what the last few weeks have been like for me (and for those who have completed the ‘experience’ if you will). The day of arrival is the longest day of your life. Believe me on this one. Mine included 2 bus rides and 2 plane rides. I was lucky, as some people experienced twice this. I waited in the USO at the Philly airport for over 3 hours for the second bus ride. You form bonds with several people and begin talking about job possibilities, where you’re from, where you want to end up…This continues on the bus ride to the base, and once you arrive, all hell breaks loose. Or so you think. Of course there is yelling, and you cant do anything fast enough, let alone actually do it properly. You are no longer afforded the opportunity of speaking, that is unless a company commander speaks to you- in which case you had better answer, FAST, loud, without making eye contact and beginning and ending with either sir or ma’am as appropriate (a “sir sandwhich”). Although I’m quite sure you all realize there are lots of insults flying around and yelling and push-ups, I think what I failed to realize is that you aren’t allowed to talk to anyone. And by anyone, I mean your shipmates-as they’re called in the Coast Guard. Not the girls, and especially not the guys. Talking to any member of the opposite sex during training is considered an inappropriate relationship and is grounds for immediate reversion (meaning you go back in the training process by one week or more). Other things they take from you are your coping mechanisms- all of them. You are afforded 0 personal time. For me, I write. Well, it’s not allowed except during ‘divine hours,’ which are supposed to be the 5 hours during the entire week for you to decompress. However, the company commanders even intrude on this time by giving you a chore list of things to do. So much for writing a letter home or blogging. And of course there are the obvious losses: calls to/from family and friends, tv, and the big one for me- music. You are left with yourself, enough to drive anyone crazy.
200 push-ups and sit-ups each day are doable. Marching/running 5 miles each day is doable. Inhaling your meals 3 times a day is doable. Someone screaming at you in your face so closely that you can feel their hot breath upon your cheek is doable. Having no way of coping with all of this happening at once is quite difficult. Some would deem it an impossible feat. It’s a choice that should be calculated. It’s not something you just do to do it. We all have different tolerance levels. The trick is finding out how to deal with all of the losses because what you gain is priceless.
Because you see you can go through all of this and come out ahead, on top, and with lasting friendships.