US Navy Boot Camp Spontaneity: Improbable, Not Impossible

Sharon, the Jester.
Having a spontaneous moment at The Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore, MD.

Spontaneity is not really my strong suit. With as busy as I am I have to be proactive. In order to manage all of my responsibilities I need to plan ahead. So, it is difficult for me to do anything on the spur of the moment these days. There was, however, a time when I was not as structured, when I did impromptu things, to use a cliché, at the drop of a hat. The odd thing is that the last place I would have expected to experience that kind of spontaneity would be US Navy Boot Camp.

Sharon US Navy Boot Camp Dress Field Day
Disclaimer: Posed picture. We didn’t actually polish the floors in our dress uniforms. (I am far right.)

I don’t recall what week of boot it was, but I do know it was during a Field Day. Field Day was the day that the barracks had to be cleaned from top to bottom. Bathroom (head) stalls, showers, sinks and even and toilets had to be scrubbed inside and out. At the end of the day, everything—absolutely everything—had to gleam like it had been French-kissed by Mr. Clean himself. Especially the deck (floors).

Sharon US Navy Boot Camp Dress Inspection
Navy Boot Camp, circa 1977. That’s me on the far left.

You would be amazed at the things that would be looked at and touched with those ultra white cotton gloves during an inspection. And, oh, how they insisted one should be able to see her reflection in the shine of that well-trod deck.

We were in the final stretch on a particular Field Day. Our hands were red from scrubbing and rubbing and wiping and polishing. Our Unit Compartment (barracks room) was squeaky clean and gleamed like starlight on fresh snow. Some of us drifted into the break room. Women sat on the metal picnic tables and benches or leaned against the bulkhead. (That’s a wall for you landlubbers. Already, we were being indoctrinated into the language of our military branch.)

There was small talk. Some joking. Camaraderie between women who had up to that point been more inclined to self-select into small cliques. Then someone started tapping on the table, drumming her fingers and then hands. Someone else started humming. Air blown into an empty soda bottled created a base line. A jangled set of keys added percussion. Feet tapped. Hands clapped. Voices chimed in. It wasn’t a specific tune, just a gathering of voices and bodies making sound. Making music.

The room filled with it.

Someone climbed onto a table and danced. Another joined her. Women swayed and moved to the rhythm and sound. We were, for that moment, women of the past, present and future. Women whose differences had melted away. Women, each of whom, without being told, added her own component to complement the whole.

And the whole was music and movement and more than a bit magical.

In that time and space, we were transported, if not transformed.

It ended the way it had started. Slowly. One-by-one, women drifted away from the space we had entered mentally, emotionally and physically. No one laughed or commented on what had taken place. I never heard it mentioned afterward. It was as if, though experienced together, the event for each was also private and needed no discussion or explanation. The overall feeling of what had transpired seemed reverential.

It was an oddly spontaneous affair that took place in an extremely structured environment. And it was an amazing experience that I am thankful to have been a part of and one that I still carry with me.

3051 US Navy Boot Camp Honor Company
Our fearless leader, Recruit Chief Petty Officer, Theresa Brunasso, accepting the Captain’s Honor Flag on behalf of our Training Unit 3051.

h/t to the women of US Navy Training Unit 3051.