GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Recruits of Division 150 found completing their second Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) here at Recruit Training Command (RTC) March 27 a little easier and free-flowing thanks to Navy's only boot camp physical fitness training facility.
Freedom Hall is considered a premiere physical training facility for more than 34,000 recruits each year. At 182,000 square feet it is the largest building on RTC and was designed with the training, safety and motivation of the recruits as its most important attributes.
While ships in the United States Navy are named for famous military people, U.S. presidents, states, and cities, the name Freedom Hall pays homage to the attacks the country suffered Sept. 11, 2001. The American flag on the quarterdeck of Freedom Hall was flown over the Pentagon August 15, 2002 to remember the people lost on 9/11.
Freedom Hall opened in the fall of 2002. At a cost of $37.5 million, the facility includes four 1/8 mile running tracks, four basketball courts, four volleyball courts, over two dozen chin-up machines, locker rooms, offices and additional physical fitness equipment. Recruit physical fitness at Freedom Hall begins on their third day of training. Recruits undergo a baseline PFA of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of curl-ups (sit-ups) and a 1.5 mile timed run. Chief Culinary Specialist Thomas Helms, leading chief petty officer of Freedom Hall, reports a 60 to 70 percent failure rate of recruits in the beginning of their eight weeks of boot camp training. By the time recruits are ready to graduate the failure rate has dropped to less than six percent. Helms attributes this large improvement to the rigorous physical training and safety procedures the recruits undergo while at Great Lakes.
During the course of a PFA recruits will undergo at least two hydration breaks and two safety briefs. They are shown the proper way to execute each exercise. The PFA begins with warm up exercises and ends with warm down exercises. Recruits with special medical needs such as prescription inhalers are issued colored belts. The entire facility features a rubber floor for running and the recruits conduct their curl-ups and sit-ups on specially designed mats.
Accuracy of recruit scores is also very important at Freedom Hall. The Innovative Timing System, known as "Jaguar" was implemented in the spring of 2012 as a way to track recruits as they complete twelve laps of timed running. The recruits each wear a transmitter that keeps track of their elapsed time on a monitor. This transmitter connects with a four-sensor system which logs each recruit, displaying their current time on a monitor next to the track as they run by so they can gage their progress.
Seaman Recruit Brittany Lee Miller of Division 150 thinks "Jaguar" has an appeal to the young men and women entering the Navy, as it helps the recruits pace themselves to ensure they finish in the allotted time.
"In the age we are in, technology is a great motivator for the recruits," she said. "Freedom Hall is very large. The instructors utilize it to its fullest potential which benefits the recruits."
The primary mission of Freedom Hall is to ready recruits for the physical demands of Navy life. For many recruits, the physical challenges they face at boot camp are the most difficult they have faced in their lives. However, it doesn't end after graduation. Navy Sailors are called upon to perform many physical tasks. Helms said physical fitness is paramount in the readiness of the United States Navy and those that facilitate that training are equally important.
"The men and women who oversee the training taking place at Freedom Hall are charged with preparing the Navy's newest Sailors with the tools needed to continue their physical readiness as they enter the fleet," said Helms.
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks, and all enlistees into the United States Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms familiarization, firefighting and shipboard damage control, lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. Since the closure of RTCs in Orlando and San Diego in 1994, RTC Great Lakes is, today, the Navy's only basic training location, and is known as "The Quarterdeck of the Navy." Today, more than 39,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
RTC is overseen by Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), headquartered in Building 1, the historic clock tower building on Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. NSTC oversees 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command at Naval Station Newport, R. I., and Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more news about the Navy's only boot camp, visit http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/.
For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/, https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/ or www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.