If I could sum up the last two weeks here in Newport, I would describe them as both amazing and difficult. On the amazing side, I am truly loving life here and our training. I am learning a lot and have been challenged mentally, physical, and emotionally.
The first week was the most difficult. On Tuesday, we went to the uniform shop and purchased our uniforms. If you know me you know that spending any amount of money makes me cringe, (although the amount my wife spent for her trip here didn’t bother me at all, I must really love her!) and I dropped a lot of money on my uniforms, and there is more to spend! Wednesday was our first official day and we were woken up at 4:30am by chiefs yelling that we had two minutes to get dressed and get on the line for PT. This courtesy wake-up call continued throughout the week! Of course, nobody was able to make it in two minutes, and the yelling continued! We spent the rest of the week in briefs (sidenote: he's not talking about underwear, ha, ha) and in-processing into the Navy. Nothing fun except for getting to know some of the amazing people who have chosen to serve their country in a time of war!
The difficult part was getting used to the packed schedule. We get up at 4am and go to bed around 10pm (or later depending on the night) and we are working practically the whole time. If we are not in briefs, we are doing laundry, cleaning our rooms or deck, and studying for exams or inspection.
On the night before our Khaki inspection, I was notified that I had to switch my entire room at about 8pm. Couple that with getting my Khaki uniform clear of “IP’s” (extra strings), wrinkles (I don’t really know how to iron), and adding the appropriate creases and it made for a late night for me. I was not alone. Saturday was another full day of briefs which ended with the Khaki inspection. I don’t think I “failed,” the inspection, but I did not do as well as I wanted to. It was kind of a train wreck as a company, but definitely a learning experience.
Another difficult task was my attempt repair my PTU uniforms on my own. We have to stuff our watchcap (stocking hat) and gloves into the pouch on our hoodies, and both of mine ended up getting ripped. I took the initiative and purchased a sewing kit at the NEX and attempted the repair. Having never sewed before, I did my best, and it held up pretty well! One of the other ladies in our wing didn’t think it would suffice, and offered to repair both of them for me.
Week two was much better. No longer do we get yelled at for our wake up call. We are allowed to wake up when we please as long as we are ready for PT by 0425. We now have a chain of command within the company, and our chief is slowly releasing the reins and letting us run our own company. He told us he’s only a tour guide, and what we do is really up to us!
We are now wearing the Khaki uniform every day. It’s great to get out of the PTU’s (smurf suits) because people recognize you as an officer, and you receive salutes! It’s a pretty great feeling to be saluted when you walk around the base. I don’t mind wearing the same clothes every single day of the week, but I get the impression that it bothers some of the ladies in the company. The only thing I dislike about the Khakis are the “shirt stays.” If you don’t know, they are pieces of elastic which attach to the top of your socks from the bottom of your shirt. It keeps your shirt wrinkle-free and looking good. However, they tend to come off from time to time and you have to dig them out of your pant leg and make it to the head for a repair. The first day they all came off, day 2 three of them came off, day 3 only two came off, and I’ve been able to keep all four of them on today. Experience, I guess. That being said, it is still an honor to wear this uniform! The Khakis represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before us as naval officers.
I did win our Bravo-Zulu award for helping out a shipmate. We have to have our gouge pack at every meal to study, and if we forget it, we have to read a condiment bottle instead. I saw one of our company without his gouge, and just as he reached for a ketchup bottle, I tore a page off mine and handed it to him! Apparently our chief saw it and just walked away instead of accosting us for not having our gouge. Because of my generosity, I had first dibs on a washing machine for the night. It was a pretty awesome feeling.
Week 2 was filled with more briefs, studying, and getting ready for another Uniform and Room Inspection which takes place this Friday. Week 2 was also our first experience of Liberty while here. We were given liberty around 5pm on Friday, and several of us booked it down to the Liberty Center for the Night. I spent my time skyping with Amy and watching the festivities. Some of the younger officers played Wii and others spent time watching TV for the first time in a couple of weeks. We were able to watch the NFL playoffs in our lounge as well!
Spiritually and emotionally, ODS has been taxing. The packed schedule leaves very little time for spiritual matters. I went from being a pastor and spending hours in the word to being a LTJG and spending 10-15 minutes if I’m lucky. I definitely miss my regular quiet times with the Lord. Week one was the worst in this regard, but things are getting better. I have found a regular routine, and another Christian to pray with every night. Attending chapel and Bible Study on Sunday has been a life-saver as well. Going to these services puts things in perspective. The staff at ODS continually reminds us that we are naval officers, but chapel and Bible study remind us that we are much more than that! In ODS everything seems to be so performance based, and we must strive to be the best! Chapel reminds us that everything is grace based, and God loves us no matter what! An amazing paradigm that can only be truly appreciated by going through it! I treasure my time on Sunday mornings!
Liberty is almost over, and we are getting ready to head back to King Hall for the night to start preparing for week 3. Before I go to bed tonight I still have to wash my uniforms, prep them for tomorrow, shine my shoes, study my gouge, sit through a brief on our inspection, and finally climb in my rack! Week 3 should be exciting. We have our second PRT, firefighting and damage control training, our NOW exam (necessary to pass the course), vaccinations, and our Service Dress Blue’s inspection (this inspection determines our status for Liberty next week. This week will be hectic and packed with activity, but I’m looking forward to it! Missing Amy and my family like crazy, but only 15 days until she’s here! I can’t wait! I hope I am able to spend time with her before Hi-moms and graduation! As our chief would say “We’ll See!” More later!