Recruit special programs division eases transition into Navy
100609-N-7042K-001NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (June 9, 2010) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Pam O'Neil leads the recruits in her division during an in-house session of physical fitness for strengthening and conditioning at Recruit Training Command (RTC). O'Neil, mother of two children, has been juggling a family while training recruits for a year and half at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Sue Krawczyk/Released)

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. — Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes, Ill., the Navy’s only boot camp, is responsible for helping recruits transition from civilian to military life during an eight week program.

Upon arrival at RTC, recruits send home civilian items, such as clothing, get haircuts and receive uniforms and gear. They also receive hands-on training and computer-based classes as part of their curriculum. Physical training consists of push-ups, sit-ups and running that culminate into a series of standardized tests required to graduate basic training.

For various reasons, some recruits may need specialized attention. For example, those who are unable to pass the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) or swimming test in the allotted timeframe are placed in Fitness Improvement Training (FIT). This remedial training prepares these recruits to meet the test requirements.

“While at FIT, the recruit is provided with mentors to help them meet their physical fitness requirements,” said Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SW/AW) Steve Crisp, leading chief petty officer for RTC’s Special Programs Division. “Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs) run side-by-side with the recruits, encouraging them in their runs, while swim coaches are present at the pool to teach them how to swim.”

About 15 RDCs mentor recruits in the FIT program. Though RDCs work to equip recruits with the abilities to pass their PFA, there is a broader focus to the program.

“We don’t just focus on passing the run in FIT,” said Chief Culinary Specialist (SS) Simeon Yeboah, a staff member with the Special Programs Division. “We educate recruits on leading a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition goes hand-in-hand with physical exercise.”

About 2,200 recruits are annually placed in FIT. The success rate is 93 percent for PFA completion. Less than 10 recruits (.5 percent of total recruits in training) each year do not pass the swim test.

The Recruit Convalescent Unit (RCU) is for recruits who are injured or become ill during training. While in RCU, recruits participate in physical therapy at RTC’s health facility, USS Tranquility, Freedom Hall Physical Training Facility or the USS Indianapolis Combat Training Pool. RCU recruits maintain their academic requirements while under medical care in their barracks.

The Fundamental Applied Skills Training (FAST) program is for recruits with limited literacy or verbal skills. FAST focuses on two areas: verbal skills and literacy. These programs are designed to help recruits understand technical manuals and speak English as a second language. About 15 recruits are enrolled in FAST at any time during training, with the average duration in the program for two to four weeks. Of those placed in FAST, 98 percent complete boot camp.

“These recruits are typically very motivated,” said Crisp. “They have a strong desire to become Sailors and do very well. They are often selected for recruit leadership positions.”

The Personal Applied Skills Streaming (PASS) program trains and mentors recruits with social skill deficiencies. Staff members teach recruits how to manage, anger, stress and low self-esteem while emphasizing gender, racial and cultural diversities.

“Most RDCs don’t have the time or the expertise to address deep-rooted issues that are affecting recruits,” said Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW/SW) Joseph Hartel, Special Programs Division staff.

The PASS facilitators provide mentorship and counseling assistance to the recruits in the program. The program has a 95 percent success rate.

RTC continues to implement an array of innovative programs to aid recruits with any sociological, educational and physiological dilemmas that may challenge their lives.

In 2009, more than 3,500 recruits were enrolled in one of the programs offered. Staff members in the Special Programs Division and RTC leadership are confident the high success rates of each program indicates RTC will continue to turn civilians into successful 21st century Sailors.

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