GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer visited the Navy's only boot camp, Recruit Training Command (RTC), June 28-29, to see how recruits are adapting to new hands-on training, developing and testing their warfighting skills before they reach the fleet.
SECNAV was escorted by Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), and Capt. Michael Garrick, RTC commanding officer. SECNAV was also the reviewing officer at the weekly Pass-in-Review recruit graduation.
"Thank you for everything you've done so far and all of the greater things you will surely do in your career," said Spencer. "You have committed yourself to our nation and for that you should be rightfully commended."
During his tour, SECNAV was able to observe the final capstone event, Battle Stations, that all recruits need to complete before graduating from boot camp. Battle Stations is the culmination of eight weeks of a new hands-on learning curriculum and training at RTC. The curriculum focuses basic training on the critical skills and core competencies of firefighting, damage control, seamanship, force protection and watch standing, to develop tough Sailors who are more qualified for service at sea.
The hands-on training was designed by RTC's senior enlisted instructors to provide more realistic training to recruits, and contribute to fleet readiness and overall force lethality. All this takes place on board USS Trayer (BST 21), a 210-foot replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. Battle Stations is a 12-hour test of a recruit's skills in 17 shipboard evolutions, including fighting fires, stopping floods, handling mooring lines and transporting casualties.
Following his tour of Trayer, SECNAV had the opportunity to congratulate the recruits who had just successfully completed Battle Stations during a capping ceremony on the pier next to Trayer. The capping ceremony is where recruits change out their recruit ball caps for Navy ball caps and are officially recognized as Sailors for the first time.
SECNAV also had dinner with graduating recruits the evening before graduation and breakfast with other recruits the morning of graduation. Before departing RTC he shared lunch with more recruits.
In the classroom, applied labs, and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 80 hours of hands-on learning at the USS Wisconsin, USS Indianapolis, USS Marlinespike and USS Chief training facilities before reaching their final Battle Stations exam on board USS Trayer.
USS Marlinespike is RTC's dedicated practical seamanship trainer, where recruits conduct timed drills in shipboard and pier line handling, sea and anchor detail, and at-sea watch stations.
USS Chief is a controlled training environment, where recruits fight real fires in shipboard compartments. Drilling with various fire suppression agents, lifesaving equipment and safety gear, teamwork and communications are critical elements recruits must embrace to advance in training.
Recruits are constantly drilling to prepare for their evaluations, as well as practicing for life at sea. In their barracks, or "ships," applied lab spaces have been set up for recruits to gain more hands-on practice time in seamanship, firefighting, damage control and first aid. These practice sessions are known as "repetitions and sets."
At the USS Indianapolis combat training pool, recruits learn to safely abandon ship. The recruits step off a 10-foot-high platform into the water and swim to a raft in a controlled and safe environment. Recruits must also pass their swim qualification here as well.
During small-arms familiarization, at the USS Wisconsin, recruits learn how to properly use the M9 service pistol through the standard Navy course of fire, and have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification ribbon.
In their "ships," around-the-clock watch rotations are set up practicing various watch stations as they are manned in the fleet. Stations include roving sentry, sounding and security, quarterdeck watch, as well as bridge watch and navigation lookout during seamanship evolutions.
Spencer completed his second official visit to Great Lakes as SECNAV, but his first time as reviewing officer at recruit graduation where more than 660 of the Navy's newest Sailors celebrated completion of basic training.
"It was a great opportunity to have SECNAV visit the Navy's only boot camp and observe how the training we provide recruits aligns with his focus on delivering combat-ready naval forces by returning to warfighter basics," said Bernacchi. "Navy boot camp at the direction of the CNO and CNP has focused basic training on the critical warfighting skills of firefighting, damage control, seamanship and watch standing. As the reviewing officer at the RTC graduation ceremony, SECNAV was able to see the end result of transforming recruits from civilians to Sailors in the world's finest Navy."
Recruit Training Command 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. Approximately 38,000 - 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
Bernacchi and his NSTC staff, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, support 98 percent of initial officers and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes the Naval ROTC at more than 160 colleges and universities; Officers Training Command on Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island; RTC; as well as Navy JROTC/Navy National Defense Cadet Corps at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.
For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining.