Bweinh! Goes To Boot Camp — Week 6

July 26, 2007, 3:26 pm; posted by
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Bweinh!’s own Job Tate went through training to become a Seabee in the US Navy.
Read his dispatches here: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 6 | Graduation

“Roll out the TNT, anchors aweigh!
Sail on to victory, and sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!”

Week six in Navy boot camp is not the hardest, but it is the busiest and most predatory. By busiest, I mean your days are relentlessly filled, and by predatory, I mean you stand the greatest chance of flunking out of the Navy. By this point, anyone who hasn’t learned to swim (still an appalling number) gets set back in training, anyone who fails an inspection gets the same, and anyone who can’t endure the gas chamber absolutely, positively gets sent home.

The gas chamber was roundly described by our drill instructors as a “rite of passage” . . . something all recruits must accomplish, thus something that binds all military personnel together. It’s tear gas, heated up on a skillet, then blown throughout the room by fans. All recruits must step up to the line, remove their gas mask and scream their name, rank, and division number — while collecting all bodily fluids in their left, cupped hand.

I won’t try to man my way through this explanation — it was horrible. The instructor threw the tablets on the skillet (this was our brains on whatever drug we were on when we decided to join the Navy) and off came the gas mask. I really can’t stress to you enough how quickly and violently the attack set in. It made me cry in pure streams, my throat twisting like a rag, my body rattling. My instinct – a healthy one – was to run, but you can’t or you’ll just have to do it again. The girl next to me projectile vomited and I felt my head start to spin with truly remarkable velocity. Uno, dos, tres, CATORCE!

“SEAMAN RECRUIT TATE, DIVISION 237!”

“You’re good to go, Tate, RUN!”

And outside for ten minutes for blowing, snorting, spitting and blinking. I overuse the word, but it was truly remarkable. The purpose of the exercise was to teach us confidence in the gas mask and sympathy for those we might have to gas. Both were accomplished very well.

Living through the gas chamber was a very satisfying accomplishment in that it signified one of the final requirements of my training, a further step toward leaving — something I long for very much. But as our drill instructors told us, it was a bonding experience and it helped highlight just how dear my fellow recruits have become to me. We’ve all absorbed and mixed each other’s problems and trials to the point that they don’t carry individual characteristics anymore. We are truly a team. I was wary of this transformation at first; it seemed so contrary to the independence hard-wired into me.

But as I’ve gone through this experience I’ve realized this relationship I have now with my fellow sailors is the one I wish I had with my fellow believers. One where we feel this world is toxic, where our crying and coughing in response were evident enough to set us apart in a most conspicuous manner. And one that would make me feel, sincerely, as though any suffering endured by a fellow believer was just as much my own.


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