I couldn’t cut it in boot camp, and that’s okay

(The opinions expressed in this article of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Popular Military)

I only made it 9 days through boot camp, and that’s okay. Here’s my story, not my whole story but the parts that matter.

In high school they push the idea on you that you just have to absolutely know what you want to do with the rest of your life, instilling the idea that there is no time to not know.

After high school, the majority of us either went straight to college, or got married and started a family. Some of the bad eggs went straight to the penitentiary, and then you had the ones who joined the military straight after high school.

I fell under the group of people who went to their local junior college to at least try and get something. I soon learned, about two weeks before exams, I should say that it just wasn’t for me. I thought I was going to go to school for twelve years and become a psychologist but the truth was that I didn’t want to be one. I just thought that maybe I’d find answers. We’ll get to that later though.

The next few years after graduation were certainly filled with experiences to grow wise from. I was working full time factory jobs to get by. I was meeting new people and actually making friends for once. I’m sure that’s a shocker to those of you who grew up with me. Haha. It definitely wasn’t where I had seen my future heading though, but nonetheless I was content with doing what I had to to get by.

I received my first real wake up call when my boyfriend and I were laid off from our jobs just within weeks of each other. Our easy life was gone and things were about to get seriously difficult. Luckily, we had an understanding landlord that worked with us so that we could still have a place to rest our heads. Also, at the same time, we had our transportation taken from us.

I should also mention that it was in the middle of October and it was cold. We were walking almost 3 miles a day to basic minimum wage jobs just hoping we could manage to get by. Eventually we had to swallow our pride and realize that what we were doing just wasn’t cutting it. On the same day we had made the decision; we received an eviction notice. At that point it was just inevitable and we had no choice.

We then moved into my boyfriend’s parents house just until we could pull our finances together. After a couple of months failing to get hired anywhere I made a drastic decision. I signed the papers to join the U.S. Navy. I hoped it would solve all of our problems and just give me a stronger sense of purpose in life. I was tired of falling under and not having anything to help me pull myself back out. I thought the Navy would fix that. I thought…

A month after I signed the papers, I was gone. I was on my way to Great Lakes Naval Base for bootcamp. As soon as I walked in the doors I knew that I was in for more than my recruiter told me about. It was a lot of screaming, “STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE P-WAY FEMALE!” “DON’T STEP ON MY FLAGS!” and the beloved P-Day sock. Haha. I hated that thing.

I soon discovered the power of keeping my mouth shut; right after I had already opened it to one of my Petty Officers of course. She was bragging about her rank and telling me I was nothing as most of them will do. She said I would never be anything. That I would never be where she is and I so happened to respond with, “Well maybe one day I will be, Petty Officer.” Yeah I really ate my words on that one for the rest of the time I was there. All I remember her saying was, “I’M GONNA MURDER YOU.”

I quickly found myself for some reason wanting to do nothing but please these people. I wanted to be more than they said I was. Even if it was literally driving me crazy. I felt like a walking target. The female RDC told me that everyone was watching me and that she would make sure I didn’t graduate. That I would have to work two times harder than everyone else. I just wanted to make someone there proud. My first day of actual boot camp was my last day of bootcamp. I fell hard on my knee and it made my ankle swell. I was crying so hard that they sent me to a psychologist and got me with a 2311 azmo code.

Borderline personality disorder is what the lieutenant said I had. I was more upset about what I was diagnosed with than the fact that they were sending me home before I was even given the chance to actually prove myself.

I was then sent to another place that my recruiter told me nothing about. Separations, or SEPS for short. I sat there from September 14th–October 6th just waiting to be sent home. The Separations Unit is where you go while your separation paperwork is being filled out. To me, separations was worse than bootcamp, because at least in bootcamp you felt like they cared about you.

In Separations you were at the bottom of every list, phone calls, chow, and even to go outside. Yeah you got paid to watch movies and color for weeks to months at a time, but at that point the money wasn’t even worth it. It didn’t have the same effect knowing that you were wearing a uniform you were unworthy of, completing tasks meant for a kindergartener.

One day a group of RDCs in training came through our compartment to be taught what Separations was. I had never felt so belittled in my life before that day. It was like we were some exhibit and they were the tourists. “The goal of Separations is to help them adjust back to civilian life.” I heard a chief say. I remember mouthing “No they don’t” repetitively to one of the Petty Officers that just so happened to be staring in my direction. I hope he believed me, because it’s true. They don’t. You just sit there and let someone else hold your life in their hands. I even heard one of them say “They still need dropped.” Are these really the kind of people that they want in charge of emotionally unstable people like myself?

You had to have escorts anywhere you went. You were no longer a person at that point. You really lose your sense of independence while in there. I guess my take on Separations is a lot different than others, but I just processed it all differently. I was literally alone in my way of thinking and the fact that I didn’t really have friends in the process made it worse for me.

There were these things called departure pranks, which you can assume what those mean. One morning when a large group of departures left I woke up to my boots filled with shaving cream. It seems like a little thing, but in there my feelings were so escalated that everything was a big deal.

When my paper work was finally signed it was the best day of my life. It’s sad, but on an emotional level it was. I had never felt so much relief while I was there.

Now that I sit at home and reflect on everything I see a lot that I could have done differently. Maybe one day I’ll go back and try again.

I don’t know yet, but when I find out I’ll be sure to let everyone know.


  • Sharing intelligent conversations Scenic Views Loves dancing in the rain and long walks to the fridge Also known to remember things that could have been said, but realizes it’s too late to add anything because too many have already read it.

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