The evolution of an officer
First off let me apologize to all those out there anxious for an update on my current situation, time and internet/phone access has been severely limited.
Officer Development School (ODS) has been a bit different than I expected but not by much. And before anyone says “I told you so,” let me clarify 2 points: ODS is the easiest accession process to become an active duty officer and it is by no means easy. It shifts the culture of an individual from civilian to military. And anyone with some knowledge of culture paradigms knows the older you get that harder the shift gets. Now do it in five weeks instead of the customary 2 years most civilians have when moving overseas and you begin to see the stress factor. In essence, we are placed in a pressure cooker where high stress cultivates a heightened sense of awareness, thus enabling the psyche to adapt quickly to new expectations.
My Navy life began in blue
A blue jump suit to be exact. Day one I wore the suit to the uniform shop to pick up my PT gear which would serve me for the remainder of the first week. Monday was filled with paperwork and more paperwork. All the paperwork the Navy had on me at this point from recruiting to MEPS would be redone during the first week. Bring copies of everything! Originals of your personal documents and copies of everything else.
I was initiated in Gold
Tuesday morning we would find ourselves anxiously waiting in the dark spaces of our room at 0345 behind closed doors in anticipation of what the prior class had referred to as “Chief introduction.” The Class Lead Chief Petty Officer (LCPO) was going to wake us up and grind us into shape at about 0400. True to form – he did, and true to form 30 minutes later we were exhausted from just 20 short minutes of body numbing exercise. Some had prepared for this others had not. We lost four to fainting that first hour (they quickly recovered and rejoined the class in further evolutions that day). Our days have been filled with briefing (class room time) and drill practice (for graduation – we will drill for about 80 hours over these next 5 weeks), as well as the usual entrance paperwork. At the end of the day Tuesday it had felt like a week since we had first met our Senior Chief. The days are long, the nights short (6 hours of sleep max) and chow is a quiet affair (no talking) that lasts a whopping 15 minutes.
Week one highlights
- Tuesday – 3rd class swim QUALS (jump off a 20ft platform, float face down 5 min, swim 100m nonstop, and khaki shirt and pant float)
- Wednesday – Urinalysis and Uniform fittings (The fun day)
- Thursday – (Incoming PFT, you must score satisfactory low to pass. I passed with good low – fleet standards and did great on my run: 11:24, well under my required 13:45
- Saturday – Khaki inspection (Plan to stand at attention and parade rest for about 2 hours. Parade rest incidentally is not the same as “at ease” – it is a very structured stance that really hurts more than attention after a while.
Growing into Khakis
Sunday we had liberty – with the exception of about 20 of us – we were standing watch. As I was the section leader for the day’s watch duty section, I missed most of liberty – which was fine as liberty was very restricted that first weekend. Essentially, you’re limited to King Hall and Chapel services. Khakis were the new uniform of the day Sunday and are to be the uniform of the day for the rest of our time here. Monday began bright, (well not really bright as we were up well before the sun) and early (really early) at 0400, PT at 0500. Why the hour? It takes the company ½ an hour to form up and arrive on the field. You will march to every evolution.
A typical day goes something like this.
0400 – Wakeup
0500 – PT
0620 – Chow
0800 – Morning briefs/exams, etc.
1130 – Chow
1300 – Afternoon briefs
1630 – Chow
1730 – LCPO time
2000 – Field day (clean the halls (p-ways) and main corridor (kill-zone)
2200 – Lights out.
Now if you see what appears as breaks in there don’t be fooled for a second – your time is not your own. You will be drilling constantly, and in the few meager moments you get at key points in the day you will clean yourself, your uniforms and your rooms. Welcome to the navy. (It does start to get easier about mid-way through the second week – but for a pure-blooded civilian, week one has the potential to be pure hell if you allow it. I’ve never hurt so much, nor have I been so thrilled about anything in my life. If you want this – if you really want it – every mile, every push up, every drill will be worth it. Every half asleep brief you sit through will be worth it.
It is Saturday as I write this, and week two has concluded. The days are going faster now, yet still slow enough to remind us of the exhaustion and the anticipation of moving on from this place. We look the part of Officers now, and as the Khaki seeps into our blood, bone and spirit we are gaining a bearing that sets us apart – men and women from various professions joined by a call to serve something greater than ourselves.
I close with a verse that has been a constant through these last weeks:
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
In His Mighty Grips