GREAT LAKES, IL – Here at the “Quarterdeck of the Navy,” where deranged, sadistic Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs) turn civilians into sailors, the psychiatric ward of Naval Hospital Great Lakes is filled to maximum capacity with PTSD patients. But these are not salty combat veterans; they are raw recruits whose minds have been shattered by the unimaginable horrors of simulated warfare.
“I thought I’d seen it all, but this is worse than anything we’ve ever dealt with before,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mike Hunt, Leading Petty Officer for an elite rapid-response counseling detachment deployed overnight to manage the crisis. “Christ, they’re just kids.” Hunt’s hands shook as he sipped his coffee. “I blame that, that thing in Building 7260. It’s a monster.”
Building 7260 is home port for the USS Trayer (BST-21), often referred to as the “unluckiest ship in the Navy” because it gets attacked every week. The Trayer is a high-tech combat simulator that is the cornerstone of Battle Stations, the final training evolution in boot camp. Recruits must pass this grueling test of physical and mental endurance if they want to earn the coveted title of United States sailor and piss away the next four years of their lives sacrificing their health and sanity performing menial labor for shitty pay. No expense was spared to make the bogus sea battle seem as authentic as possible. Division Officer Lt. Dan Levinson gave a stirring speech and recited the Navy’s core values. The recruits of Division 263 responded with a spirited cry of “Hoo-yah!” When the booters crossed the brow and boarded the Trayer, none of them realized they were about to experience, as one recruit put it, “twelve hours of hell inside a crack pipe. You feeling me, brah?”
After heavy sedation, the few survivors who could still speak in coherent sentences told their harrowing tale.
“It was like, totally graphic,” said Seaman Recruit Mandi Covington. “Those casualty dummies were all covered in fake blood and guts. I had to help carry this stretcher. It was ultra heavy. Seriously! My arms are still sore.”
“It was all good when we pretended to get underway,” said Seaman Recruit Luis Garcia while sipping a Thorazine smoothie, his eyes like black holes. “I was standing watch on the bridge, and shit, when all of a sudden we got broadsided by a phony missile. I could feel the deck shaking under my feet. Yo, I bet those subwoofers would really rattle the windows in my Impala.”
Seaman Recruit Jamal Thibodeaux could barely speak, his lungs scarred by artificial smoke inhalation. “I couldn’t see shit through all the smoke, dog,” he gasped. “That compartment hatch was hotter than a motherfucker. After my face mask fogged up and I got separated from the rest of my team, I thought I was tits up. Know what I’m saying? Thank God the instructors medevaced me ASAP.”
Seaman Recruit Tony Santoro gripped the arms of his chair, his knuckles white, and shivered. “Dude! I had to hump practice rounds out of a burning ammo magazine. I just knew those inert 5-inch shells were gonna cook off in my hands. I was scared shitless.”
Despite hourly tranquilizer injections, Seaman Recruit Amber Chang still had the thousand-yard stare. “I was running all over the place with my sea bag strapped on my back,” she said. “We didn’t sleep all night. I slipped on the obstacle course and skinned my knee. Shit hurt.”
One recruit from the Damage Control party remained catatonic after sliding off a bulkhead brace in a flooded machinery space. He was submerged for three terrifying seconds before an instructor pulled him to safety and immediately rendered first aid.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Kenny Grindstaff, Division 263 RDC, said, “They’re just butt-hurt on account of sleep deprivation. Kids today are such pussies. If we don’t toughen ’em up now, what the fuck’s gonna happen when they hit the Fleet and some sea dog starts tearing ’em a new asshole for putting their hands in their pockets? They’ll wish they had stress cards then, I shit you not.”
Cpt. John Dye, Commanding Officer of Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, dismissed allegations the evolution was too intense. “It’s designed to be tough,” he said. “The Navy’s no place for chickenshits. In boot camp we have to cull the strong from the weak. Or something.”
Although their military careers were over before they had even begun, the recruits of Division 263 have been assured they all qualified for medical separations and disability pay. Most of them cheered and slapped palms, but a few were distraught by the news.
“Kinda sucks I’ve only been in the Navy for like, two months, and I’m already getting discharged, you know?” said Covington, brushing away a tear. “But at least I can hold my head high when I tell people I served my country with honor, and stuff. Am I right?”