I realize I have been somewhat absent from the Aardvark, but I also realize that no one really reads what I have to say on the Aardvark, seeing as James, Pat, and now Fabs are infinitely better writers than myself. I also, simply, am not as creative as them. BUT I digress. Here we are. The finally edition of “The Most Fun I Never Want to Have Again.” Please read parts I, II, and III prior to this if you haven’t already. Here we go.
The final weeks of basic training are just beyond mundane. You know when, almost to the second when your ass kicking is coming. You finally have learned how to shit, shower and shave in ten minutes or less. You truly can make your rack in 60 seconds or less. You know all of your general orders, chain of command, and you look the best around the regiment. You’re just counting down the days to freedom. Well what you interpret to be freedom, seeing as everyone is boot camp either signed a four or six year contract of their life away to this great Nation.
Anyways, there was a significant day in week six that really stood out to me. It was the day we got our colors. Each company in boot camp is named after a letter in the alphabet followed by numbers. These numbers represent how many times that letter has been used. For example, my company was Delta-186. This was the 186th time that Delta company had formed. Typically marching around the regiment we had our guidon with a flag on it that was white, and simply said “D” on it. Nothing too exciting there. When we were the junior company on the regiment we noticed other companies that had actual flags on their guidon’s. Needless to say, we were all kind of left thinking, “What the fuck?” Week six changed all of that for us.
We had this monumental evaluation before the regiment’s Section Commanders. These guys are more senior Company Commanders. They hold the CC’s that are running companies accountable for what their company’s short comings are. So if the recruits suck, the CC’s actually get in trouble since we are entrusted to their care. In front of these Section Commanders, we had to demonstrate close order drill (marching), and manual of arms. We also had our squad bays and uniforms inspected and our required knowledge tested. It was beyond stressful. We had one kid actually pass out from being so nervous. If we didn’t do well we all knew we would get our asses kicked across the regiment, and if someone did really poorly they could be reverted, or held back for an additional week of basic training.
The week-long inspection finally came to a close on Saturday when we demonstrated the manual of arms portion, and killed it. We as a company stood there at the end, feeling invincible. The Section Commander, Chief Howe, that was administering the inspection walked off the platform angered by the fact we had no deficiencies. He simple said, “I have nothing.” and stormed off. Our Lead Company Commander, Petty Officer Bailey, told us to “About face” and boom, our guidon, flying the Delta flag, was there, in the middle of the parade field. Now mind you the parade field was something we weren’t allowed to march on… ever. It meant automatic reversion if we stepped foot on that grass.
Then the magical words, “Well are you gonna stand there or are you gonna go get it?” were said. We stormed that parade field so fast and started chanting “Delta-1-8-6” so loud, the entire base could hear us. It was an awesome day.
Week seven and eight were cake walks after that. Well compared to our beginning weeks as recruits. We were beginning to be treated as non-rates, the bottom end of the enlisted work force of the Coast Guard. We were still woken up every single morning and got our asses kicked, we were still put into sniper position, we were still told we were worthless by Petty Officer Garza, we just had become so accustomed to our new way of life, that was simple how the day went.
Week 8 finally came around. Grad week as our CC’s would call it. We finally did not have to stand watch anymore! We finally got to kind of sort of relax. Well not really. We never got to write home any other time than on Sunday’s which made all of us very disciplined which I am thankful for, amongst other things. Week 8 was all about answering questions for what we were about to embark on. We were all very nervous about our first assignments out of boot camp. We were all also very excited to see family, friends, and loved ones come graduation day.
We had a brief graduation rehearsal the day of graduation since we had to be bused to Egg Harbor Township’s high school auditorium. The gym where graduations were usually held was being renovated. The entire company was getting very, very anxious. We simply wanted to be done. Family and friends finally were seated and the green light was given for us to file in and get graduation going! I remember marching into that auditorum to what sounded like a million people cheering and applauding us. It was such an incredible feeling to hear everyone roaring and yelling our names. I looked over to where I saw my dad, my friend Tyler, my friend Marissa, and my friend Cam. Now, I knew the first three cats were coming, but Cam, in true Cam fashion, surprised the hell out of me showing up to my graduation. He drove all the way from Cincinnati, ten hours, to see me graduate from boot camp. I will never, ever, forget that feeling seeing him in the audience like that supporting me.
Graduation felt like it took hours, when really it was just about an hour. When I was called up to get my certificated, my mentor, and now very good friend, Fred Chase, came over to me and whispered in my ear, “No smiling Mead. Like a fucking machine.” “Aye, aye Petty Officer Chase,” I replied. “Let’s fuckin go graduate.”
“Seaman Douglas Addison Cantwell Mead” was announced by Lieutenant Commander Rae, and man I honestly can not think of a more proud moment I have ever felt walking across that stage. I was now a member of the military community. I was now apart of the 1% of the population that serves. I was now a Coast Guardsmen.
I got to drive back to base with my dad and friends, and we got my bags, and got the hell off that base as fast as possible. I knew I was reporting back in a matter of ten days, and I didn’t want to have to be there a moment longer than what was needed. We went to this amazing restaurant in Cape May, well I thought it was amazing, for lunch before driving north.
And now here I am 47 days away from November 16th, my last day that I will have in the United States Coast Guard. I have had the opportunity to serve with incredible men and women, and will never for one minute ever regret or wish I had never joined the service. I have presented the National Ensign to the next of kin’s, I have pulled lifeless bodies out of the water, I have saved lives. For me, it has always been about serving this Nation that I call home. It was about serving this Nation that has given so much to me, and my conviction of how desperately I wanted to give back to it and, potentially die for it, all so that other Americans do not have to be in the military. I know this Nation has it’s short comings, but never take for granted what service men and women do for this Nation. Remember, nine times out of ten, the men and women you see in uniform aren’t the ones making the decisions, they’re the one’s carrying out orders. Thank them for selflessly carrying out orders they may not agree with, but do it so you don’t have to. Thank their families for putting up with the stressful life of military living. Simply thank a veteran when you see one, you may save their life by doing that.
Thank you all who have read these long posts about my boot camp experience. Thank you all for the support I have had over the last five years of my life.
Simply, thank you.