Preparing for Navy Boot Camp

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Once you enlist to join the Navy, it can be hard to prepare for the life-changing experience that is Basic training. Navy Boot Camp is held at RTC Great Lakes, IL, a little outside Chicago. Navy boot camp is 8 weeks long and being properly prepared will help you navigate successfully through it. Here’s our guide to what you should know before you ship out to U.S. Navy boot camp.

Read more about how to pack for Navy Boot Camp.

Know the 11 General Orders

The 11 General Orders or General Orders for Sentries are the basic rules that every member of the military must obey. Each branch uses the 11 General Orders but the wording varies slightly between the branches. It is a very good idea to learn these before boot camp because all recruits are expected to learn these verbatim. Here’s all 11 Orders with an explanation.


1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.

When you are a sentry, you are “in charge.” You have the ultimate authority in carrying out your orders with the only exception being if your superior changes them officially. It is also your responsibility to treat all government property as though it were your own.

2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.

You must be vigilant at all times, investigating anything you think to be unusual. Do not be tempted to hide from the rain or cold in poor weather. 

3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.

All and any incidents that occur while you are on your post must be reported, regardless of your opinion on their threat. Let your superiors make the judgment calls.

4. To repeat all calls from any post more distant from the guardhouse or quarterdeck than my own.

Not as relevant today with modern communication systems at calls will be directly transmitted to those who are to receive, this order is in regard to relaying the word.

5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.

If the person relieving you is late or you are unable for some reason to continue your post, you should notify your Petty Officer and wait until they make on order which relieves you.

6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Command Duty Officer, Officer of the Deck, and Officers and Petty Officers of the watch only.

It is important to remember that you receive and obey all of the special orders that apply to your watch but that you also pass these on to your relief.

7. To talk to no one except in the line of duty.

Talking while on duty is to be avoided unless it pertains to your duty. You must inform those who try to engage you in unrelated conversation. 

8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.

Your first action in the case of fire or disorder is to report the incident. Once reported and you are sure it is not a distraction, you should fight the fire if you have the means to do so.

9. To call the Officer of the Deck in any case not covered by instructions.

If you are not sure what you are supposed to do in a particular situation, it is better to ask for clarification from the Officer of the deck than to make an assumption or to guess.

10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.

While at your post, you must extend the appropriate military courtesy. “Colors” and “Standards” refer to the national ensign and is “cased” when the flag is furled up. If duties allow, you should take part in morning or evening colors ceremonies, but do not sacrifice your vigilance by doing so. 

11. To be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and allow no one to pass without proper authority.

When on your post, you are required to challenge persons on or near it. Once they are identified, they are allowed to pass. If you are not satisfied with that person’s identification, you must detain the person and call the petty officer of the watch.

Be able to recognize different ranks

Another thing to make your time at Boot Camp easier is the ability to recognize the different ranks and address them correctly. Each branch of the military has a different systems in terms of rank devices and terminology.  Recognizing the rank of any Seaman who addresses is always helpful. Here’s a list of the rankings for Enlisted and Officers in the U.S. Navy.

Nutritional and Physical Health

It should be no surprise that joining the U.S. Navy will require you to be of a solid fitness level and health levels. As of January 2018, the fitness requirement for joining the U.S. Navy has become more difficult. Of all of the tips, ensuring that you are at your peak levels in both regards will make boot camp a whole lot easier. Learn about the new fitness requirements, as well as a fitness plan and nutritional guide for Navy pre boot camp training.


Know the phonetic alphabet

The phonetic alphabet is uniform across all branches of the military as well as widely used by other organizations such as NATO. It is the technique of using a specific, distinct word to ensure that the receiver understands exactly what letter you are using. The phonetic alphabet can also be transmitted through flags and morse code.  Your company name to communicating with other, the phonetic alphabet will be everywhere in basic training so knowing it in advance will save a lot of confusion. Here’s a guide to the phonetic alphabet that includes the morse code.

Read the Bluejacket’s Manual

The Bluejacket’s Manual is the official handbook given to all Navy Personnel. It was first issued in 1903 and has been updated frequently since as a guide to all things Navy. You will receive a copy of this upon enlisting and it would be extremely wise to read through it before heading to Basic training. It contains a lot of the information listed in this article and knowing a brief overview of all the different aspects of the Navy will make it easier in both academic and physical classes as you will already have an introduction to the topics.


Learn the etiquette elements of being in the Navy

It is well noted that the Navy presents itself in a highly neat and efficient way. This applies from everything to drills, to uniforms to bedding. These are all taught and highly scrutinized during basic training to ensure that the recruits present the Navy in the best light possible. Practice ironing military creases in button down, collared shirt. These will be similar to the shirts you will wear at boot camp and for those who may not be acquainted with ironing, can be difficult to get right the first times you try. Learning how to make your bed with 45 degree angles is also a good idea before leaving for basic training. Military precision is necessary for this and it will not come to anyone correctly on their first attempt, regardless of how good at making their bed they are.

Try to get promoted before boot camp

This is something a lot of Navy recruits are unaware of but can be hugely beneficial. When you join the Navy as an enlisted recruit, you do not necessarily start at the bottom with an E-1 pay grade.

However, all recruits for training purposes are known as E-1’s for training and administration purposes and the higher grade is only displayed upon basic training graduation. There are a variety of different ways to advance pay grade but only one method can be utilized.

Vocational / Technical School:

Attending Vocational / Technical School after High School can build skills that are highly regarded in the military. To be promoted to an E-2 Grade upon graduation, completion of one academic year or 1080 classroom hours at an accredited vocational/technical school beyond high school level is necessary. To be promoted to an E-3 Grade upon graduation, completion of two academic years or 2160 classroom hours at an accredited vocational / technical school beyond high school level is required.

College Credits:

Similar to Vocational / Technical Schools, the military appreciate higher level learning and what it brings to a recruit.  To obtain an E-2 grade, it requires completion of 24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours. E-3 requires 48 or more semester hours or 72 or more quarter hours of college credits at an accredited degree granting college or university. In the Navy, enlisted members with a college degree, then attend additional training (Nuke, SEAL, Medic training, etc) will typically be an E-4 by the time they graduate their A-schools.

High School Military Academy:

Certain High School’s have strong affiliations and links to the military and offer JROTC. These participants are granted advanced ranking after two or three years of attending such a school. An E-2 grade is achieved after 2 years and graduation from such a school with E-3 received after 3 years and graduation.

Navy Sea Cadet Corps:

The Sea Cadets (USNSCC) are a non-profit program that works with many local military bases to provide military training for ages 11 through completion of high school.  Many summer training programs allow for Naval Academy Training Visits as well as locally arranged training that include Seabee and SEAL challenges, ship visits and Honor Guard competitions. E-2 / E-3 is granted having provided conclusive evidence of advancement to grade E-2 / E-3 while serving in the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.


Many high schools across the country also offer Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.  Learning the basics of uniform, marching, honor guard events, as well as trips to nearby military bases allow for JROTC students advance in rank upon completion of boot camp.  E-2 Grade is achieved on 2 years of completion which E-3 achieved on 3 years of completion.

Eagle Scouts/Girl Scouts:

Completion of the requirements for Eagle Scout or the Girl Scout Gold Award means starting at an E-3 grade.

Navy Enlistment Programs:

There are several enlistment programs, such as the Nuclear Program, the SEAL Challenge Program and the AEF/ATF programs which offer accelerated advancement to the grade of E-4.

Referring others to a Recruiter who go on to join the Naval Service can also help achieve a higher grade. Referring one Nuclear Field individuals or two non-Nuclear Field individuals for Naval Service to a Recruiter receives an E-2 Grade. Referring two Nuclear Field individuals or four non-Nuclear Field individuals for Naval Service to a Recruiter receives an E-3 grade. These referred individuals have enlisted in a USN or USNR program including DEP, and will access within 12 months.

Add your friends and family on Sandboxx so they’ll be able to write to you faster

This is the easiest preparation tip of them all. Sandboxx is a mobile app that makes keeping in contact during boot camp so much easier. Loved ones of those in boot camp can send letters through the app and insert pictures which Sandboxx will convert into a physical letter which sends overnight to the recruit. And when loved ones are preparing for graduation at Great Lakes, Sandboxx Travel provides top quality military travel bookings with an emphasis on value and service.

Download the Sandboxx app today! 



Connecting service members to their loved ones, to each other, & to expert military knowledge, Sandboxx illuminates the entire military.

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