Recruits Initiated Into Many Things New and Strange to Them Including “Watches,” “Details” Inspection and the Like-Second Article in Description Series

By Frederick W. Box-Co. 115

The meaning of “watch,” “details,” “drilling,” “musts,” and inspection are brought home forcibly to the recruit at the U.S. Naval Training Station at Sampson during the first week of training.

We learned to “hit the deck” at 5:30 each morning. It was tough to climb out of our bunks at such an “unreasonable” hour, but we rubbed our eyes, stretched our arms, threw off our two blankets and scrambled onto deck.

After washing and shaving, we got into our dungarees, which are worn at all times during the working hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the training period. After evening chow, we wear undress blues if we go out on the Station streets.

Until morning chow the second day, the men were allowed to write letters or cards. Few if any had taken the time or had the opportunity of writing the first night.

Chow was a great treat that day at least as we were served oatmeal, scrabbled eggs, potatoes, sweet rolls, coffee, and an apple. This we found later was a typical breakfast at Sampson.

Our first lecture on military courtesy was given by our chef petty officer. Most Navy officers, we learned, are addressed as “Mr.”; every answer to a question is “Yes, sir,” or “No, sir.” We were instructed in how to salute officers, the correct method of coming to attention, and other like matters.

The first real task we faced was to stencil the $113.95 worth of clothing we had drawn the previous day. Every piece of clothing must be marked in a certain way-the dark clothes with white paint, and white clothes with black ink.

“Watch,” which had meant a timepiece in civilian life, took on a new meaning, when some of us were first assigned this duty. Watches are placed on the door of the barracks, laundry dryer, (which is at the rear of the first floor of each barracks) and “head,” (the Navy term for washroom and toilet.)

The third day brought our first of many work “details.” Our company was just forming (about 35 more men had arrived the day before) and we were sent to regimental headquarters, the huge drill hall, ships service (a combination store, recreation center and welfare center), vacant barracks, and the chef petty officers barracks. Sweeping, mopping, and general cleaning work was a sign to each of the groups.

Day by day, the out going mail load increased as the company members found souvenirs at ships service for their best girl, pals, brothers and sisters, and parents. Not until our third day did anyone in our company receive mail and those few were the envy of the entire outfit.

Importance of letters

Folks at home do not realize the importance of those letters from home. Take it from novice BlueJacket, letters are the greatest morale booster to service men. Many of the boys were homesick till the first letter came. Then the letters really started to pouring in, and mail call became the most important part of the days activities.

Our fourth day brought the choir company to full complement and a move to a new barracks in the Second Battalion, as Company 115. It also brought our first choir rehearsal. We were told that we were to sing at the Protestant services Sunday morning. Catholic men were excused from the second rehearsal because the organ for their services had not yet been unpacked and assembled.

Our first official day as a company came Saturday although some of the men had arrived the previous Monday.

Most companies are formed in either one or two days, but, because ours was “picked,” it took longer. Our company was among the first to include “selective volunteers,” men who joined through Selective Service.

Average of the Navy recruit in our unit is about 21. At 28, your correspondent was the “grandfather” of the company until the organist arrived.

Sunday is the day of rest in the Navy but each man is required to attend church services. After the service, we are at liberty for the remainder of the day. Our company provided the music for the Protestant Communion service and did rather well in its first appearance, according to reports.

The best meal of the week came on Sunday. It included chicken soup, chicken and biscuits, peas, cold slaw, coffee, bread and butter, and ice cream and cake.

Plenty to Do

The next five days were devoted to work on some of our 57 varieties of “musts.” Every recruit must have done these “musts” before they complete training. Among those completed in our first official week were formation of platoons, physical test, issue of sea bags and hammocks, tailor pick up and return, and instructive talk by the battalion commander, signing for National Service Life Insurance (most of the boys signed up for the maximum $10,000), family allowance and allotment, the second typhoid shot, the chaplain’s lecture, first Navy haircut (scalping to 1 ½ inches of hair on every man) and other important activities.

One of the big events of the week was our first pay of $5. We walked in one door on the upper deck of ship’s service, received our pay, moved a few feet further and “purchased” a “chit” book for $3.35. This left us $1.65. Some of the boys claimed that was the “fastest I have ever spent $5.”

The “chits” covered the expense of two haircuts, tailor alterations, a BlueJackets Manual, and cobbler…

The chaplains, Catholic and Protestant, take care of the religious needs of the men. They are prepared to baptize any man and ready to aid them with any personal problem. There for, recruits swing to their work with the will with no worries or cares.

The next article-“My Second Week at Sampson.” as Described by New Recruit