It's a long post, and it's not very well-organized. For that I apologize, but I hope this can help out some of our future shippers.
Day 1 – We arrived Sunday night at about 2200 or so, I can’t remember exactly. We all did a little talking after getting through the gate, but after we pulled up in front of Sexton Hall we were all silent, “eyes in the boat.” We could see the CC’s out of the corner of our eyes, and none of us dared to look out the window at them. Our first hours at Cape May were occupied by paperwork, sending our safe-arrival letter home, signing some additional paperwork, getting our height/weight taken, etc. This entire evening is a blur to me so I apologize if this information seems subpar. Somewhere in the night, we marched over to Munro Hall, stowed our carry-on bags, got assigned racks, and learned how to make our racks. We learned about “Fire! Fire! Fire!” that night as well, and got to practice it when one of our shipmates locked his knees and passed out on us, so they evacuated us to get medics in. By the end of indoc night—yes, DEPOT gets one night for indoc. We hit the racks at about 0200. I know I slept, I don’t know if anyone else did. Everyone says you don’t sleep, but we are also all so exhausted by the time we hit the racks that I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Day 2 – Monday…we made it through the night. Reveille at 0530 or 0600, I can’t remember. We didn’t do Fire Fire Fire, I think they just had us on-line in the squad bay. I think today is the day we went to the Uniform Distribution Center. We were issued our ODU's, trops, etc. Everything we are going to need while there. I recommend making sure your boots are the right fit before you leave, otherwise you have to go to medical to get them re-sized. I think they run about a half-size large because of the safety toe, so get a half-size smaller than your shoe size. As for your go-fasters(tennis shoes) and your low-quarters(dress shoes), they are true to size. Trust me, this information will come in VERY handy. Bagged lunch while we got our uniforms, and I think we did dinner in the galley that night, but I don't remember. We did a lot of brown-bagging our first couple days. We all had to force ourselves to eat, I know I had no appetite the first few days. It gets better, just keep pushing through.
(Following is where all my messages come in...it jumps around a lot as I was answering specific questions from shipping recruits...)
But, the basic answers real quick...PT test was Wednesday, swim test was Thursday. Come over-prepared to far exceed both. And I say far exceed because we did morning PT in the morning before our PT test. Fire Fire Fire, out to the parade ground in front of our hall, pushups, crunches, squats, flutter kicks, planks, dead cockroach, superman...Chief if you'd like to tell them, the CC's count up to 60ish on reps, 60 seconds about on the holding-positions...just keep going.
I didn't like that we did PT before PT, mostly because I didn't pass. I attribute it to doing pushups to muscle-failure in the morning and then 2 hours later, doing the PT test. DEPOT is not something to be taken lightly. I also attribute it to not being as prepared as I should have. 8-weekers now, if they don't pass PT the first week they will NOT form with their company. DEPOT, you will continue with your company but you will be in PFE(Physical Fitness Enhancement.) You will be woken up at 0430 by the watchstanders and go to a special PT session at the gym with everyone in your company who doesn't pass, and with everyone from Sexton Hall who is in Physical Fitness Hold(8-weeks). Again...over-prepare yourself.
There is no midterm for DEPOT. We did a final exam on Monday or Tuesday of week 3. As long as you've paid attention, it's not that hard. They gave us a study guide.
The longest run we did was 3 miles. A full company run around the regiment. It was long, on gravel and uneven terrain, and I bruised my foot. Oh well. Company runs with cadence are a HUGE morale boost though, whether on the track or around the regiment. Our CC's wanted to take us off-base but we were a mess, and it would've been an embarrassment to the Coast Guard. Yes, I am harsh on our company, but we were. We didn't become a team until the beginning of our third week. And then we lost a lot of people.
General Orders...know them. Know them randomly. Everything is random. It's not like they'll ask you "What are your general orders?" It's more like, you'll be walking through the galley and they'll call you out and say "What's your fifth general order?" and you have to sound off, properly, "Petty officer so and so, Seaman recruit such and such, my fifth general order is, to quit my post only when properly relieved."
Move fast, be loud. We were told that over and over and over again, and we finally did our own "social experiment" during an IT session one day. We were louder than we had been the entire time there. Instead of 60 pushups, we did 10, and so on, for each exercise, until about halfway through the whole session, and our CC ended that session early because they got tired of us screaming. Think of being your loudest, and be louder.
Packing for your trip...I went with a simple backpack. It was actually my old Jansport from high school. It says "name permanently attached" which I took to mean inking my name on my bag. I found out at the USO, just throw some duct tape on there and write your name on it, problem solved. They provide those supplies when you check in to the USO at Philly. You don't need to pack as much as it sounds. I carried in my backpack I think 6 pairs of boxers and 3 V-necks, which is what the Helmsman said is allowed. If you have extras, don't stress, you're not going to get in trouble for having extra underwear or anything. You WILL be issued socks during uniform issue. 6 pairs of white socks for PT, 4-6 pairs of black boot socks to wear with your boots, and 3 pairs of black dress socks to wear with your dress shoes. So, don't worry about packing socks.
My recruiter told me to pack $50, but from what I read on the forum, I brought $200. I paid for food on my trip(cross-country flights mean breakfast, lunch, drinks, snacks, whatever you think you'll need.) I'm anal about tracking where my cashflow goes, so since I couldn't track my debit card purchases while I was there, I wanted to be covered. $200 was enough to get me by for the most part. Keep in mind you will need to pay for food on your trip there. Make sure you eat at the USO when you get to Philadelphia...we were up until 0200 the first night of arrival.
Anyway, cash...You NEED to be able to pay for stuff. A lot of the things you are "issued" you have to pay for...Ditty bag, shoe polish essentials, soap and shampoo, etc. You have to pay for all of it. I think I paid about $160 worth at the Exchange our first day there, paying for all my "issued" items as well as personal toiletries. Also, there is a company photo you can buy in week 2 or 3, it's $9, and challenge coins $10 each, and you put in for the graduation party(pizza, wings, soda and cake.) and that cost varies depending on how many people are in your company. It cost us about $12/person. So...little extras that you don't think about. There are ATMs on base, but getting to them can be a hassle.
You will also probably need to buy a garment bag to get your dress uniforms home, that's $30. I used it to pack my trenchcoat, windbreaker, bravo jacket, and the Trops I wore to graduation. So, if you don't want to carry that much cash(totally understandable), then bring a debit card so you can pay for all of your items. You can bring whatever else, but yes it will be locked up in your personal bag. You won't get in trouble for personal items. Yes it is "contraband" but that just means you can't keep it in your rack. Cellphone, if you bring your ipod to use on the plane, or a book to read, whatever, it just goes in your bag.
Bring your Helmsman. First night there, they will ask you if you have it. We got phone privileges on Sunday of Week 02(the week ends on Sunday...so really it was the last Sunday we were there.) during Divine Hours. You ONLY got that if you were NOT on PFE, Remedial Swim, and were caught up on your required knowledge checks.
Required Knowledge...things like the Ethos, Rates/Ranks, insignias, chain of command, general orders, etc. There's things you have to know by the end of each week. So if you were all caught up on those, you were allowed to use your phone during divine hours on Sunday. But, keep in mind most all of us used divine hours to do uniform maintenance and rack maintenance(ironing, polishing, organizing, etc). On that note, help out your shipmates. We had people who couldn't iron to save their life but did a heck of a job polishing boots. So he polished almost everyone's boots. We had guys that were GREAT with an iron. So they ironed everyones uniforms for them. Work together, help each other out. We also had time to use our phones during the graduation party, but you had to ask and have a good reason. My reason being that I was being pinned as an E4 at graduation and I had to let my wife know that she could come up and pin me. So...that was that.
That being said, if you have someone coming to see you graduate and you are graduating as an E4, let your family or whomever know that they can come up and pin you at graduation. It was a pretty amazing feeling having my wife be an important part of such an important event.
Key terms in the Helmsman...I honestly didn't look much at my Helmsman. We didn't use it much in DEPOT. DEPOT is run a little differently. We never once pulled it out, except when they inspected our rucksack. As for the nautical terms on Page 15, you kind of just fall into that. They tell you it during the first couple days, and then you just fall into it. Deck, bulkhead, hatch...they don't quiz you on it, but you need to use them as opposed to floor, room, door, etc...If you say you closed the door, they'll say they don't have doors. ("Belay my last Petty Officer So-and-so...Petty Officer So-and-so, Seaman Recruit such-and-such, I secured the hatch.")
So...My physical fitness sucked. I didn't prepare as well as I could have or should have, thus ended up in Physical Fitness Enhancement and Remedial Swim...I'm a horrible swimmer too. So, I wouldn't take any tips from me on that. Remember the physical fitness standards are to a minute. IT(incentive training) is to 60, basically. Just keep pushing for more. Our longest run was a company run of 3 miles, you stay in step and sing cadence, helps it go by, but make sure you can keep running. Don't just train for the 1.5 mile. Train for endurance as well. Just keep in mind that as able as you are now, things change when you are getting 6 hours or less of sleep, in addition to the mental stress of it all. Don't be disappointed in yourself if you don't perform at your peak. We started with 23 recruits. We graduated 15. One of ours went into a physical fitness hold, and graduated a week later after he passed his sit-ups, that was the ONLY thing holding him back. Another couldn't pass all of her required knowledge or physical fitness and needed more time to pass, so she opted for the 8-week program. The other 6 were offered the 8-week program, but because of personal obligations at home or personal issues in general, they couldn't do the 8-week. Bottom line, it was ALL physical fitness for all of them...I was the yeoman for our company, I saw their PT results, and they were FAR behind, like they managed to crank out two or 3 push-ups and couldn't do anymore. Again...I cannot stress enough, people HAVE to be prepared. I think they offer the 8-week option because they really do set you up to succeed. They beat the crap out of you mentally, and you beat yourself up physically, but they still push people to succeed. By offering the 8-week, it is giving people another chance to succeed. The 3-week is INTENSE. I am not prior-service, I'm just in civilian LE, but I say again, DEPOT is INTENSE. It is a LOT to cram into 3 weeks. Some people just can't take it. It's not something to be ashamed of. If you can't cut the 3-week no matter how much you've been pushing yourself, they will know. If they offer the 8-week, and you want to be in the Coast Guard that bad, and you can commit the time to it, I recommend taking it. If you've been sandbagging--that is, not dedicating yourself to the program, not pushing yourself your hardest, not caring, having attitude, be prepared for an increased stressload and workload in the 8-week. The CC's talk to each other, they see everyone, they know who isn't pushing themselves, and they will call you out on it. I don't mean to scare people away from completing boot camp at any and all costs, but know that your performance will be scrutinized by EVERYONE there. Keep in mind, the previous DEPOT class was 24, graduated with 21. It's all luck of the draw for who ends up in each company. They told us the first couple days that not everyone will graduate. Don't be that one person, or those two or three of 8.
For me...preparing myself, I should have been focusing on PT. Granted, I should have focused on PT long before boot camp. But that's me...I've never been a PT person, it's a fight to get myself to work out. The rest of it is all mental and knowledge stuff. If you can nail down your pay grades(What is an E-4, E-5, etc all the way through O-10), might help, but you'll get that in class and in study materials they give you, as well as the shoulder boards and collar devices. Just study in any of your downtime there. Study study study. Study with each other. Study while you wait in lines(except in the galley.) You will have to know the Officer of the Day, Training Duty Officer, Sexton Hall Watchstander, and Regimental Sunset. We wrote all of this in the last few blank pages of our Recruit Training Pocket Guide. They'll randomly quiz you on this stuff. Also pay attention to the Plan of the Week, it's your schedule, they may ask you about it too. They never asked any of us but they said we had to know it. If you depart form the company for "personal business" (like medical or whatever), you'll need to know where you company will be so you can re-join them. That's why Plan of the Week info is important. It also has all of the above information on it(OOD, TDO, etc)
Oh, if I can recommend another thing, strengthen your core however you can, and your shoulders. It helps when you're holding your Coastguardsmans Manual at arms length in front of you reading about discipline. It also helps with planks.
Share your gear and your supplies. We ALL bought bug spray and sunscreen, I don't think any of us used it, we kind of shared and it lasted among those of us who chose to us it. The only soap available by the time we got to the exchange was Dove bar soap, and it came in a four-pack, so I bought it and gave them to shipmates as needed. Whatever...it's soap, I'm not taking it home. We also shared shoe polish, cotton balls(for polishing), etc. You'll have plenty among your shipmates to get you through the 3 weeks, so sharing won't leave you short.
Graduation is on Friday. DEPOT graduation starts at 0800ish. After you graduate, you can choose to ride on the CG-provided charter bus back to Philly airport, or you can ride with family if they come. The bus leaves at about 1230, it takes DEPOT graduates, 8-week graduates(They graduate Fridays at 1100), and wash-outs, so prepare for an interesting ride with them. One of my shipmates had to call out a wash-out because some of his letters he was writing were sounding despondent. It all worked out in the end, but just keep in mind you'll be with happy graduates, happy wash-outs, and depressed wash-outs. You CAN opt to ride with family, and will let your company yeoman know that when they ask who will be riding the bus, etc. With a departure in the evening, I would personally say ride with family. That way you can show them around the Regiment, then you can maybe check out Cape May for a little bit if you so desire, and get to Philly on your own time. I did that with my wife...glad I did too. It gave us some good unwinding time after the three weeks apart.
Thursday night was our graduation party. You (can) pay into a pool for the party, it cost us about $12 per person, we had 23 in our company and paid extra for some of our instructors to join us. Pizza, buffalo wings, soda, and cake. No family time. I got to use my phone for a little bit that night to let my wife know she can pin me at graduation(I graduated as an E-4). Other than that, it's not like other branches where you can see your family or whatever the night before. We met our company mentor that night, we got to actually talk with our CC's, share personal experiences throughout bootcamp, etc.
Repeating myself I suppose...If you are good with PT, I'd push to get better. Don't hurt yourself, but make sure you can do it. When you do incentive training, or when you do Fire Fire Fire in the morning, it's up to 60. 60 pushups, 60 crunches, 60 squats, 60 flutter kicks, 60-seconds each of planking, dead cockroach, and superman. We did that every morning--yes, even the day we did our PT test. I attribute that to why I didn't pass PT the first time around. If you can't do 60, just keep pushing or go into the rest position, but keep counting. Come back in and try pushing again. Just keep showing effort and keep counting out loud as you can. They don't call you out if you can't do it, as long as you're still trying and making a very valid effort to get better.
Week 1 was indoc night, uniform issue, PT/swim, and admin time like ID cards, sexual harassment, drug and alcohol abuse awareness and policies, etc. There was a lot of classroom time, a lot of self-supervised computer workbook time, and it was spread out over the end of week 1, through week 2. Week 3 was more classroom time and catching up on admin stuff. That's when we had additional courses in sexual harassment, financial planning, Tricare, GI Bill, etc. If/when I can get my hands on a plan of the week, I will give you some more insight.
I hope my insight can help other recruits. Feel free to ask questions, either here or in a PM.