GREAT LAKES (NNS) — When Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Zachary Williams, a Recruit Division Commander RDC) at Recruit Training Command (RTC), spotted a certain recruit across the pool where he is currently working as a water survival instructor, it was all he could do from approaching the recruit whom he’s known most of his life: his younger brother.
Caleb Williams, 18, of Carollton, Georgia, arrived in June for training at the Navy’s only boot camp where his older brother, Zachary, 24, of Carrollton, Georgia, trains recruits.
“When I saw him at the pool first week, he definitely looked different without all that hair he had,” said Zachary. “I did speak with his RDCs, so they were then aware that Caleb is my brother.”
Zachary arrived to RTC in March 2020 to become an RDC and trained, or “pushed,” four divisions during his first year. He is currently in the middle of his one-year pause from pushing, which allows him to hold a facilitator job at RTC. He chose water survivor instructor at the USS Indianapolis combat pool where recruits are tested in their first week of training. He qualified to be such an instructor by already having search and rescue training and certification.
“When I saw him at the pool it was different not being able to talk to him like I wanted to, but it was nice to see him after being in ROM (Restriction of Movement) for a bit,” said Caleb. “I haven’t seen him since, although I do see his truck when we march by his parking lot.”
It was six years ago when Zachary, fresh out of high school, chose to enlist, especially since he comes from a military family.
“I felt it was the best option for me as I had just graduated high school and really didn’t want to go to college. “So when I decided I wanted to get out of Carrollton for a while, I chose Navy,” he said.
The further he advanced in his Navy career, the more he felt compelled to become an RDC. When the opportunity came, he contacted his detailer.
“I thought it would be great to kind of show other Sailors that you don’t have to go straight down your rate, you can branch out and still do fine,” he said.
Six years later, Caleb followed suit having seen his brother thrive especially during the times he would visit Zachary.
“When I would visit him, I’d listen to his stories about the Navy and the experiences he’s had so he was a positive impact on me in joining,” said Caleb, whose rate is information systems technician. “My dad was a CTO (cryptologic technician communications) so I think I got the interest in computers from him.”
Zachary said he was able to put his brother more at ease as Caleb could learn first-hand what being in the Navy was actually like currently instead of going in blindly. However, one thing Zachary did make his brother go blindly into was not revealing any inside information pertaining to training as he upheld the values of being an RDC.
“I left a lot of it up to him. Caleb wanted all the secrets. I said, not a chance. As an RDC, I wouldn’t want someone to do that to one of my recruits. It ruins the fun of it and that’s the biggest part of boot camp, learning to work as a team,” said Zachary.
“After everybody found out my brother was here as an RDC, they were asking me all kinds of stuff and I said, ‘Man he didn’t tell me nothing!’” Caleb confirmed.
During their final training week, recruits undergo their crucible event, Battle Stations 21, a comprehensive test of the skills and teamwork learned during their eight weeks of basic training, at the USS Trayer, a 210-foot Arleigh Burke-class destroyer simulator. This 12-hour event culminates in a capping ceremony where the recruits earn the right of a Navy ball cap to replace the recruit ball cap that each recruit wears during training.
On July 28, Caleb stood weary but proud with the rest of his division during the capping ceremony. When the moment came for the RDCs to hand each of their recruits a ball camp, a facilitator ordered Caleb to about face. As he turned around he came face to face with his smiling brother who was there to hand him his coveted ball cap.
“It was really exciting! It was really cool to turn around and see him standing right there; I didn’t expect it all,” said Caleb. “It was definitely a real cool surprise and unique, and it made this moment even more extra special.”
The brothers were able to share such a rare moment during the momentous ceremony as the rest of the recruits received their ball camps. Zachary leaned in to offer Caleb brotherly and Sailor advice by reminding him to never forget why he is here.
“I feel like a lot of Sailors lose sight of that, of the bigger picture, so I told him to always remember that,” said Zachary. “We also talked about Battle Stations a little as well because he’s been asking me in letters about it and I told him, ‘Nope! You have to figure it out on your own buddy!’ I’m proud that I feel like I set a pretty good example of what you can do so far in the six years I’ve been in the Navy. Whether it’s been picking up rank quick or starting a school or RDC, I feel I’ve set a good example for him.”
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. More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy’s only boot camp.
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