AUGUST 29, 2016, GREAT LAKES, Ill (NNS) – More than 50 chief selects from various commands throughout the nation graduated from the Back to Boot Camp program held at Recruit Training Command (RTC), Aug. 19.
This year’s program had the honor of hosting Fleet Master Chief Susan Whitman, 17th Pacific Fleet Master Chief, who enhanced the experience for mentors, selectees, and chief Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs) coordinating the event.
The Back to Boot Camp program is a five-day re-indoctrination to basic naval training that includes military bearing, attention to detail, drill and uniform inspections, and provides additional focus on scenario based leadership and mentorship for the selectees.
“The primary focus is to mentor the chief selects and bring them back to the fundamental standards that Navy chiefs are accountable for enforcing,” said Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Ken Snider, an RDC and program manager for the Back to Boot Camp Program. “How can you uphold the standards if you have waivered from the most basic expectations? Therefore, our objective is to hold these chief selects to these standards, responsibilities, and the charge they will be given when they are pinned as chief petty officers on Sept. 16.”
During the training, the chief selects conduct evolutions they underwent during initial boot camp including swim qualification, firearm simulations, drill and Marlinespike Lab focusing on seamanship. Additionally, they observed damage control and Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) at Freedom Hall.
Although the program concentrates on returning to boot camp, throughout the week chief selects participate in Chief Petty Officer (CPO) 365 Phase II training delivered by the RTC’s Chief’s Mess, one of the Navy’s largest Chief’s Mess. This training consists of physical training, CPO mess training and daily mentorship. During these events, the chief selects participated in a community relations event at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center by building a planter box with flowers and hosting a cookout for veterans.
“This is an exciting time of the year and to be here at Great Lakes with Back to Boot Camp selects, other brothers and sisters (chiefs), and the future of the Navy is a special week,” said Whitman. “This week for the selects will be memorable forever; Back to Boot camp is similar to entering the mess, embarking on a new adventure in your life.”
Back to Boot Camp chief selects focus on leadership and have an opportunity to pay the mentorship forward by talking with recruits.
“One of the biggest challenges in Navy Leadership is gaining a better understanding of the 21st century Sailor entering the Fleet,” said Chief Select Equipment Operator Amanda Ibalio.
A new initiative, eSailor, by the Navy’s top enlisted Sailor, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike D. Stevens, is a pilot program in use by current recruits. Selectees had an opportunity to meet an eSailor division to see firsthand how interactive recruits are with the devises.
RTC’s Command Master Chief Shawn Isbell believes this is an effective program for chief selects to ground themselves to their starting point in their Navy careers.
“RTC reminds selects where they came from and with this year’s chief selects, all their careers started here. This priceless opportunity is rewarding for me, the chief selects, and mentors,” said Isbell.
Similar to recruits, the benchmark event to conclude their successful completion of Back to Boot Camp, the chief selects attended Battle Stations 21 (BST-21). Aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Trayer is a 210-foot simulator, the largest in the Navy. Each Chief Select must complete 17 scenarios during a 12-hour overnight period. The scenarios necessitate teamwork to complete events, encompassing firefighting and damage control scenarios. Evolutions also include casualty evacuations; watch standing, loading and unloading supplies and line handling.
At the conclusion of BST-21, recruits don their Navy ball caps for the first time. For chief selects, the RTC’s Chief’s Mess and the CMC attend the ceremony, presenting a Back to Boot Camp coin to help symbolize the lessons they learned while at RTC.
“As a petty officer first class you lose focus on enforcing the standards and doing the uncomfortable by holding Sailors accountable for their actions. You do your job, mentor your junior Sailors, and lose focus on the fundamental purpose being a Navy leader,” said Snider. “As chief petty officers and leaders we uphold the standards, mentor junior Sailors and officers, and work together as a mess to support the Navy, the command, and CMC’s vision.”
Whitman summarized the week experience by stating, “The selects will come back to Boot Camp and learn the power of teamwork, relying on your brothers and sisters, and returning to the basics. They will leave with reinvigorated sense of Navy pride, confidence, and resilience. As I march on the streets of RTC with the selects it brings back memories of being a Recruit Division Commander and the sense of heritage that the Quarterdeck of the Navy instills in each Sailor.”
As he looks ahead to next year, Isbell sees the success and development of this program will grow with participation from other commands.
“Our intent is to triple attendance next year and create a more robust program that provides RTC specific experiences to Sailors in the Fleet.”
RTC Great Lakes is the Navy’s only basic training location and is known as “The Quarterdeck of the Navy.” Today, approximately 37,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.