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 board the bus to 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 three Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs). 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 seven-week stay at RTC, the RDCs work together to mold the new recruits into Sailors. RDCs are Chief Petty Officers or Senior Petty Officers specially selected for their leadership and teaching abilities. They must 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 by the RDC 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 fire fighting. 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.

At the end of the seventh training week, 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 an impressive 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.

Mission, Vision & Guiding Principles

Our Mission

To transform civilians into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Sailors who are ready for follow-on training and service to the fleet while instilling in them he highest standards of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

Our Vision

To solidify the future of basic training by capturing the fundamental pillars of building a warrior. Infusing the core attributes of Integrity, Accountability, Initiative, and Toughness into our everyday. Do this through a keen focus on our people, programs, and processes. Take the greater purpose into account while taking time to care for the one. Eliminate unneeded regulation or restriction to create an environment of belonging, ownership, and freedom to develop the finest American Sailors.

Our Guiding Principles

We are in the people business and will lead, train, and act accordingly through RDC. - Capt, E. M. Thors

Respect is the act of paying attention or giving proper consideration to someone and acknowledging they are worthy of such consideration. Respect will be given up, down, and across the chain of command. Through active disciplined leadership and thought, we will treat one another and the recruits we train appropriately. Give each other deserved attention and do not ignore or dismiss.

Dignity goes hand-in-hand with respect; through our manner, appearance, or language. Maintain one’s self-worth, self-esteem and sense of belonging while transforming each other into better leaders and warrior-minded Sailors. Be dignified in your approach with one another and to those in whom you are entrusted to train.

Commanding Presence is achieved through demonstrating confidence, caring, compassion, righteous and refined discipline, and imbued sense of self. Build the entire Sailor, listen, and be mindful of the individual while developing the mass. Be focused on infusing a sense of respect for the uniform and all those who have worn it, the individual in the uniform and not just the device defining demanded respect. Build Sailors with an understanding of respect for the person, honor for the uniform, and reverence for rank and its purpose.

Common Sense is just plain good judgement. Utilize a practical approach to how we conduct business. If something doesn’t look or feel right, odds are it’s not. Trust in your gut and apply your sound judgment to the execution of everything we do. When appropriate, challenge the norm if something is not right and seek betterment to our programs and processes. Keep simplicity, sustainment, and practicality as key tenets to improvement.


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 be done more than a thousand miles away from any ocean. And it was a novel idea, at the time, to train enlisted Sailors before they got 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 Capt. Ross, Mr. Hunt, Lt. 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 had been trained at Great Lakes.

Through the 1920s and early 1930s, Great Lakes had only 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 just 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 one 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 continues to do what it did in WWI, in 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.