GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- "Are you ready?" the instructor asks loudly.
"Always ready!" more than 200 Navy recruits answer in unison.
"Forward at a double time!" the instructor directs.
"Anytime!" follows an enthusiastic reply.
The call and response of a recruit's final physical readiness assessment embodies the spirit and goals of today's Navy. Helping recruits reach, and Sailors maintain, those fitness goals is the Freedom Hall staff at Recruit Training Command.
A staff of 20, led by Chief Machinist's Mate Alonso Sojo and Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Johnny Leonard, instruct, teach, record and document physical fitness assessments and conduct body composition assessments for all recruits in RTC.
"[It's] a tremendous amount of responsibility, making Freedom Hall play one of the biggest roles at RTC," Sojo said.
Among those ensuring responsibility is met and keeping things running efficiently is Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brandon Gorman, from Atlanta. Gorman has a bachelor's degree in economics from Michigan State University and has served over seven years in the Navy.
Gorman jumped at the opportunity to join RTC in 2016.
"That's one thing I do take pride in," Gorman said. "I really like to teach people and to train. Especially when I heard that I would get the opportunity, in so many regards, to train my replacement - I thought it would be a pretty cool billet to have. Plus, I get a sneak peek to see what's coming out to the fleet."
A typical day begins at 4:15 a.m. in preparation for the first physical readiness test at 4:45 a.m. On average, more than 1,000 recruits in as many as five testing cycles per day pass through Freedom Hall. Weigh-ins often keep staff busy between those cycles.
Recruit division commanders supervise daily physical training before marching recruits off to Freedom Hall for their initial assessment, to establish a baseline, two weeks into boot camp. After four weeks, recruits return to Freedom Hall to check their progress against their baseline under the direction of their RDCs. The final assessment - the one that counts - is held in the sixth week of training under the watchful eye of the Freedom Hall staff. Recruits have to pass that final assessment before they can graduate boot camp.
Gorman is one of the lead instructors, typically directing several divisions of recruits through a warm-up period, upper- and lower-body stretches and the three core components of the physical readiness assessment - curl-ups, push-ups and a 1 1/2-mile run - before a final cool down. Safety and hydration concerns are always a high priority, and no physical readiness assessment is held without at least one corpsman assigned to each of the two 1/8-mile tracks utilized on Floor 1 of Freedom Hall.
The focus on fitness doesn't end with boot camp. Adjusted for age and gender, those curl-ups, push-ups and 1 1/2-mile run measurements remain part of a Sailor's responsibility to meet through personal fitness assessments every six months.
"It's a high-risk evolution, even though it necessarily may not seem like it," Gorman said, "and now what I am really seeing from being here is that the younger generation is not necessarily as in shape. My goal for the day is, obviously, nobody dies under my watch."
As if his schedule wasn't already packed, Gorman finds time for some personal fitness, typically running 2-3 miles each day in addition to several other responsibilities.
"HM2 Gorman is a motivated and dedicated person and Sailor," Sojo said. "He is the only second class petty officer to record and document recruit scores in the Fitness Assessment Scoring Tool (FAST) computer, and is fully qualified on all divisional qualifications as well as MTS (Master Training Specialist). He currently coordinates CPR for RTC and spends off-duty hours conducting in-rate training. This makes him the go-to second class in the division and has allowed him to gain the respect of his peers and leadership. HM2 Gorman is beneficial to the staff, Freedom Hall and RTC."
Gorman said his greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that he is training the future Navy. Helping recruits learn to be mentally tough, as well as physically fit, is part of the RTC mission and a source of pride for the Freedom Hall staff.
"The recruits, they're looking at you," Gorman said. "They're seeing how you're behaving; they're looking at all that stuff. So you kind of set the tone. It's up to us, as instructors, to uphold military bearing. Because if they see you're not taking this serious, as far as you instructing, even as a PRT, they're not going to take it serious."
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control, along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 30,000-40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
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For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.