HISTORY OF RECRUIT TRAINING COMMAND
In 1994, Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes became the Navy's only recruit training facility. Better known as "boot camp," recruit training involves a change in the mental and physical capacity of the new recruit. From the first day at RTC through graduation day when new Sailors depart, recruits find themselves in a whirl of activity. Every recruit entering the Navy today will remember RTC as their introduction to Navy life.
When the young men and women arrive at RTC, they are formed into divisions and assigned Recruit Division Commanders (RDC). During the first week, known as in-processing days, forms are filled out, medical and dental exams given, inoculations administered, and haircuts received. During their stay at RTC, the RDCs work together to mold the new recruits into Sailors. RDCs are Petty Officers or Chief Petty Officers specially selected for their leadership and teaching abilities. They represent and teach Navy tradition, customs and discipline.
Recruit training is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. The workload is heavy, and the recruits must adjust to a completely new way of life. Classroom and skills instruction give recruits information on how to adjust to and succeed within the Navy. In addition to classroom instruction, recruits spend time learning the fundamentals of small arms marksmanship, seamanship, water survival, line handling, and firefighting. Long days and intensive training leave the recruits little free time.
During the first training week, divisions enter into the competitive aspects of training. Excellence in academic achievement, military drill, cleanliness and athletics all count toward earning recognition flags. Competition encourages teamwork and develops pride in achievement. The climax of the competitive series is the Pass-in-Review practice where the best divisions can earn Battle "E", CNO or Hall of Fame honors.
Toward the end of training, recruits undergo a final evaluation called Battle Stations 21. This 12-hour event culminates in the award of a Navy ball cap to replace the recruit ball cap that each recruit wears during training. The symbolic change of hats indicate their status as Sailors in the World's Finest Navy.
Each week, the commanding officer of Recruit Training Command hosts a Pass-in-Review ceremony that attracts more than 175,000 visitors annually. The Pass-in-Review ceremony marks a recruit's public recognition as a Sailor.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt approved the founding of Naval Station Great Lakes. At the time, it was unheard of--and many people were astounded--to have naval training more than a thousand miles away from any ocean. And it was a novel idea, at the time, to train enlisted Sailors before they go to the fleet. Before 1881, enlisted Sailors joined the Navy and went directly to a ship. All their training took place underway.
With Capt. Albert Ross directing and supervising, Navy civil engineer Lt. George McKay and noted Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt joined forces to plan and design the original 39 buildings of Naval Training Station Great Lakes.
Great Lakes opened its gates July 1, 1911. Two days later, the first recruit arrived - Joseph Gregg, of Terre Haute, Indiana. When he graduated with the first class of 300 Sailors, President William Howard Taft was there along with Ross, Hunt, McKay, and 10,000 civilian spectators.
In 1917, the United States entered World War I. At Great Lakes tent cities sprouted up, while Sailors with skills in construction helped civilian workers build housing and training facilities. By the time America and its allies won the war, over 125,000 Sailors were trained at Great Lakes.
Through the 1920s and early 1930s, Great Lakes only had an air base and a radio school. Recruit training slowed to a crawl, and was even halted for a time.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Fleet. At the time, there were about 6,000 Sailors training at Great Lakes. Six months later, there were 68,000. By September, over 100,000 Great Lakes Sailors were in training.
Between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan Aug. 14, 1945, more than 1 million Sailors were trained at Great Lakes.
By 1950, the Cold War was well under way. Very quickly, Great Lakes was as busy as it had ever been. In one week in 1951 the base graduated 98 companies of recruits, matching its record in WWII.
New RTC barracks, mess halls, classrooms, and staff offices, costing upwards of $8 million were built over the next decade. Those buildings served for nearly half a century before the current RTC rebuilding began in the late 1990s.
Navy SEALs began finding new people at RTC. The first experimental company of 37 recruits graduated in December 1967. They were chosen from 250 volunteers and given special recruit training to prepare them for the more rigorous SEAL training to come at Coronado and beyond. Many, perhaps all of them, served in combat in Vietnam.
In 1987, RTC cut the ribbon for the Golden 13 Recruit Inprocessing Center, which now greets every new recruit who joins the Navy.
In 1993 -- in the wake of the drawdown after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Base Realignment and Closure commission decided to shut down Naval Training Center Orlando and NTC San Diego. As a result, in 1998 began the RTC Recapitalization Program, the most ambitious building program at Great Lakes since its founding in 1905.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the world changed again. Here at Great Lakes, RTC continued to do what it did in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, training new Sailors with a sense of purpose. Supplying the fleet with top-quality, basically trained Sailors ready for follow-on training is why we are here.