Boot Camp Pt. 1 - Culture Shock
I wonder how many of you reading the blog today can remember the 80’s hair styles? The age of perms for girls and, for me, the bleached blonde combed back hair. Combine the bleach blonde hair with white sneakers, stone-washed boot-cut jeans, and a pastel polo shirt with the collars up, and I was a full-blown 80s Dude…
The Summer of 1986 was when I made the leap and enlisted in the Naval Reserves as a Chaplain’s Assistant to get a flavor for what it was to be enlisted. All, in order to be more in-touch with the enlisted ranks after becoming a chaplain in the future. We were sworn-in at the Federal building in Oklahoma City (the same one that was bombed a few years later).
I’ll never forget the swearing-in ceremony. Everyone was so friendly and happy to see you there. Then, we were asked to raise our right hands and repeat the oath. Once I finished, it was as though I felt a cold chill come over me and the Chief who swore us in said, ‘Congratulations! You are now officially the property of the United States Government’!
It was right then, it all hit home. My life was not my own now. I was now the ‘property’ of the government. I had given them my freedom to make my own choices (to a certain extent) to serve a greater good; my country. From that point, the culture shock ensued.
They planned it, so we would all arrive at 2:00 a.m. at the Naval Training Center. After unloading the bus, it was several hours in a room where the humiliation began. The intent, to keep us all awake and to begin the process of breaking down our identity so they could re-build us.
After maybe an hour of sleep, we were marched (saying that loosely) to the base barber shop. No food, no sleep, just the barber shop. The line of guys who had hair down to their shoulders was a site to see. It only took about a minute each for us to have every single hair shaved off our head!
One doesn’t realize how much of their identity is built around their hair, but, when it’s gone, and you look like a cue ball, you quickly realize life will no longer be the same… Today, it’s more in-style and not as uncommon, but in the 80s, it was ultimate CULTURE SHOCK!
From there, it was off to get our uniforms, gear, and find our barracks where we would spend the next 8 weeks with the same guys going through hell together. I will have to admit, after the barber experience, it was like watching a bunch of zombies all walking (trying to march) in a sloppy formation, hopelessly, not having any idea of where to go next.
It was culture shock at its best! This wasn’t what the recruiter sold us on. That’s for sure! The next two weeks, I later found out, were meant to be the toughest of the entire training, ending in what they call, ‘Hell Week’. The purpose, to wipe the slate clean of our personalities, our cultural backgrounds, our identities. Here’s a photo below of the uniform portrait they, ironically, take after just a few weeks of being there (I have a color version buried somewhere but this will do) crossed eyes and all.
It’s the only way to get to the base of a person; their character. From there, they will know if we’re really made of the right ‘stuff’ to handle the stresses war, or just daily command life, bring. Sure enough, there were those who didn’t cut it and had to go home. I’ll share more about hell week tomorrow, though.
For me, losing my hair was ok. It was funnier watching the other guys freak out! The tougher part for me was having to wear those black horn-rimmed glasses (military issue) which they affectionately termed, ‘birth control devices’ because no woman would want anything to do with you wearing those! Ironically, they are 'in-style' these days... go figure.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day and, today, I want to shout out to all of those who have served, or lost those who have, and say a huge Thank You! Thank you for your willingness to serve and give it all and thank you to all of those who have given their all. We remember…
Many blessings my friends,
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