US Navy Boot Camp-Day One: Welcome to RTC Orlando

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Boot Camp Send-off?

I really don’t recall the first leg of travel to Navy Boot Camp. A lot of things fade after 40+ years. I was twenty years old and already out of the house when I joined. I had also signed up a month or so earlier on delayed entry. So, there was no big family send off. Nothing to really bookmark.

The flight from California to Florida was also uneventful.


The Real Journey to Orlando

My journey really started at the depot where they loaded us on the buses. It was the middle of the night, and I shivered—not from the cold, it was June in Florida, after all, and not particularly chilly—but because dread and anticipation rode my being equally.

And I was tired. It’s a long way from California to Florida. Even longer when you’re barely twenty and you’ve signed your life away for the next four years, placed yourself in a position to be told what to do, when to do it, and how. After all my rebelliousness and leaving home at an early age, here I was, standing among strangers, loading bags onto a gray bus in the gray night, not knowing what to expect, yet knowing I had agreed to place my life in someone else’s hands.

TBH-Irony was not a concept I knew well before I entered this phase of my life’s journey, and I had no idea we would grow to be such great companions along the way.

The bus rumbled through the dark and I don’t recall there being much conversation, but time and distance fray the edges of memory. I only know that I was quiet.

How long did it take? Twenty minutes from the Airport to RTC Orlando, according to, but for me it seemed longer.

When we got off the bus at the receiving center, we were lined up and ushered inside where we were given a stack of bedding and uniforms and instructed to label and hand over our personal belongings. From there, we were marched—not that you could call what we managed actual marching—to a barracks and assigned a “rack,” the Navy term for a bed.

It was sometime after 1:30am when we fell (or climbed, if you were on the top rack) into bed.

Boot Camp Welcome!

Suddenly, there was a great ruckus. Metal garbage cans crashed down the center of the room. Trash can lids clanged together. People yelled, screamed and blew ear-piercing whistles, directly in our faces.

Startled and bleary-eyed, 78 young women scrambled out of bed, trying tried to make sense of the chaos. Some of them ran in circles, still asleep and with no idea how to escape the madness. The command to “hit the line” rang out over and over, but no one knew what “the line” was, much less where to find it, nor how to “hit it.”

Finally, the “red ropes” and “blue ropes” as we came to know them, started to give clearer instructions. “Stand here!” They pointed and ordered. “Straighten up!” “Hands at your sides!” “Eyes forward.”

We finally found ourselves assembled into two more or less straight lines, standing at what passed for us at the time as attention—wide-eyed, groggy-headed, adrenaline-filled, ready-to-be-hatched sailors.

It was 0400 hours.

“Welcome to Navy Boot Camp Orlando.”


To Read More About Sharon’s Time in the Navy Click Here

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