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MY BOOT CAMP STORY
I was so lucky to have found the Navy4Moms site early enough to help me on this wild Navy journey my son has brought me on. I’m so thankful for all the advice I got, all the questions I got answered, and all the kindred spirits, it’s time I gave back.

This is how it all shook out for us … there are a million variables and different people in charge of the divisions, so your mileage may vary. Don’t think that your experience will be the same as mine.

My son, Adam, graduated boot camp (also called PIR – Pass In Review) on April 24, 2009. He’d been in the DEP (Delayed Entry Program) since August 2008, waiting for a corpsman spot to open up. When he left at the end of February, he was excited, a little bit scared, but ready to go. His recruiter told him the biggest problem recruits have in boot camp is homesickness. Adam scoffed. We have a great relationship, but neither of us could imagine he’d be homesick. But he was. Crushing, soul-sucking, teary-eyed homesickness. We were all very surprised by this, especially him. Luckily, it didn’t last long. But be prepared for that.

During boot camp the recruits have to pass certain physical milestones. It seems the most difficult is the run. Males must run 1.5 miles in less than 12:15 minutes. Females must run 1.5 miles in less than 14:45 minutes. I think these are the requirements for the “Alpha males” – those from 18-20 years old. The requirements change based on the age of recruits, so make sure they know what will be required of them physically. They must pass it or they can’t proceed with their graduation, so if at all possible, they should start a running regimen before they ever get to boot camp. There were some recruits in my son’s division who were ASMOd (can’t remember what it stands for, but it means sent back in their training) because they couldn’t pass the fitness tests. There are also sit-up and push-up requirements. They’ll work with your recruit a lot to get them able to pass, but ultimately, it’s their two feet that have to run it. There’s enough stress at boot camp already, so if you can knock this part out of the way beforehand, the better off they’ll be.

After a week or two, you’ll get a box with the clothes they wore when they arrived at boot camp, and anything else they took with them. They don’t need anything. Not even a toothbrush. They’ll get everything they need there. My son left with only the clothes on his back, his wallet, an address book and a paperback to read on the plane, which he had to donate to the USO room in Chicago. I checked with some of the moms of females and asked if the same was true with them. This is one of the responses I got: “I can only speak on behalf of my own daughter. Like the males, everything she took with her was sent back in 'the kid in a box'. EVERYTHING. Including her belly button ring, watch, necklace, earrings. Everything they will need for 'that time of month' is provided for them and can be purchased at the NEX [Navy Exchange … store on base]. No cosmetics were allowed until graduation pictures and/or PIR. They weren't even allowed to go down the cosmetic aisle at the NEX for the first several weeks. Also, I learned this too late, about a week prior to PIR, moms can send their daughters their favorite cosmetics from home and best to overnight it or 2nd day. Just the basics though — moisturizer, face powder/cream, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick ...and it has to be used sparingly. But you don’t have to send it, they can purchase make-up from the NEX.”

They can’t write home right away, except for the quick lines scribbled at the end of the first form letter with their address and other basic information. There was confusion for some moms because the recruits draw a box around their address on this form letter. But they use a different return address on their letters home. Don’t get confused, just use the one they marked on the form letter.

About three weeks after he left we got the letter they call the “Grad Packet.” There’s basic info about graduation, but the two most important pieces are the actual date of graduation and the parking pass you’ll need on base. Don’t lose it. You’ll need it to get to the graduation and after the graduation. Since Adam stayed in Great Lakes for A-School, we were able to come and go. But to get on base, he had to be in the car with us, and IDs had to be shown.

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LETTERS FROM BOOT CAMP

Eventually, recruits get time on Sundays to write letters. But not much. My son and I had a deal before he left for boot camp. He’d only have to write one letter, send it to me, and I’d distribute it to family and friends via email and facebook. He gave me his facebook password and I confused many of his friends by posting his letters there. They always thought Adam was on, even though they knew he was gone.

The other Navy moms in our PIR group were always thrilled to read Adam’s letters because their kids didn’t always tell them as much as they wanted to know. One thing I did that was fun for both of us was send him (along with a stamped self-addressed envelope) a multiple choice/short essay “test” with serious and silly questions, but lots of stuff I wanted to know about. It’s not that he didn’t want to tell me stuff, he just wouldn’t remember all the questions I asked in all my letters. I wrote most every day and he only wrote once a week! He said it was fun to do and made the whole letter-writing experience easier for him. During their letter-writing time they also have lots of ironing to do, and the ironing has to get done.

Here are some excerpts from his letters with information about boot camp life you might be interested in. Remember, though, if you ever post your recruits letters, NEVER use anyone’s last names (and that’s all you’ll get from your recruit) or other sensitive (to him or to the Navy) information. That’s a big no-no on N4Ms. Also, NEVER send musical cards. Rumor is they make the recruits do push-ups to the tune. If they happen to have their birthday during boot camp, don’t advertise it.

Letter #1 From Boot Camp

This is what my compartment (barracks) is like. In looks, the room itself looks like Full Metal Jacket. In smell, like Scout camp indoors. The Recruit in Charge is a guy from Portland. Good guy. When we screw up, he gets punished yet he takes it with good grace and humor.

We wake up at 0600 usually, or earlier when we had an early night before. Chow is set in a height line, so I’m near the end. On the first night we got here, they started yelling almost right off the plane. We stayed up all that night, providing urine samples, getting clothes and so on. I stayed up for a total of 36 hours, give or take. I didn’t eat for 16. When we got our pictures for our ID, we had been up 30. We were wearing bright yellow t-shirts and had just had our heads shaved. Because of that I look like a serial killer.

We’ve been settled into a pretty normal routine now. Wake up, eat, go to an activity, eat, PT [physical training], eat, shower, bed. Sounds easy, but really a drain. Early on I was homesick, but I’ve found ways around that.

I can always get letters, and want as many as possible. SEND MAIL. I want to hear everything, no matter how trivial.

Letter #2

Greetings from Great Lakes. I can’t tell you how glad I’ve been to get all your letters. A few nights ago I got 6 at once! One thing I do ask is if you choose to send pictures, only send one or two as I am running out of room. Everything I have that isn’t clothing goes in a single drawer about the size of a kitchen drawer. I’m clearing out the chaff, but it’s still tight.

What a week! Such ups and downs. Early in the week we had our swim test. The swim went fine, but during the 5 minute Dead Man’s Float I got kicked in the head and got pulled out of the pool. I was fine, but I had to re-test. It was glorious when I passed! Then we had an inspection. The whole division failed miserably. And on top of that, I’m sick. Just a cold, but it’s wearing me down. [Becky’s note: Boy-oh-boy, there were a lot of illnesses passed around during boot camp. Nothing too serious, but mostly they didn’t want to go to ‘sick call’ or whatever they call it, because they didn’t want to run the risk of falling behind. My son finally had to go get a “cold pack” which was Tylenol, some cough drops and other over-the-counter remedies.]

The food is great, though. For breakfast: bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, French toast, waffles or pancakes, cereal, full soda fountain, fruit juice, coffee or hot chocolate and a fruit buffet. Lunch has the same cold things plus hot stuff like burgers, chicken, pasta, etc. Dinner is more of the same. And I think Goodwill, the thrift store folks, have something to do with it. I don’t know more than that as we can’t talk at meals.

I am making some friends, but they kind of decide who your friends are for you. I’m mainly friends with my bunkmates and the people I stand next to in our height line. My division is 79 strong. We started at 85.

My rack is perfectly Adam-sized. I sleep on the top, and have just enough space. It has a hinge on the left side and opens so I can store my clothes in there.

Letter #3

I just found out that after 3-1 Day (today is 3-2), [Becky’s note: third week, second day. The weeks don’t always start on Monday, so when they call home the first time, try to remember to ask them what day it is, then you can figure out what they’re doing most weeks.] we get 25 minutes a night to write home. I’ve been here almost a month and it’s amazing how much I’ve learned and done. Time is funny here. Days take weeks, but weeks take hours.

Division strength is down to 76, from 85 when we started.

YAY! Mail call, then bed! Two of my three favorite things! More to follow.

Later (Saturday 2200)

What a long day! 0515 was reveille. Almost 17 hours! I had watch today, which is good and bad. I got out of 3 hours of drill. Oh, funny, some guys just started singing “I’m a Little Teapot.” Anyway, watch sucked because I got a one-on-one yelling. Oh well, what’s done is done.

We’ve settled into a routine here. Wake up, shave, work out, eat, shower, class, eat, drill, eat, class, sleep. After lights out we still need to iron and study. The classes and drills are interchangeable. We get 8 hours of sleep every night, minus study and ironing, of course.

We’re starting to get used to each other. More later.

Later (Sunday 0940)
Now I’m on holiday routine. So I’m sitting on the ground, leaning against my rack wearing my utility trousers, boots and a white t-shirt. That is what most of us wear on holiday. We’re learning how to deal with each other, we know what topics to avoid, and who to talk to about what.

It’s odd to think we’re almost halfway done. I’ve learned about myself and done things I didn’t know I could do, like run a mile and a half in 11 minutes 40 seconds. Or score 100% on a test. For the first time in my life I feel both physically and mentally healthy.

A few days ago I had an amazing experience. I was running and I hit the wall. I couldn’t take another step. I was done. In my mind, I saw the wall. And a brick fell out. I saw myself on the other side, free of all my inequities, all my fears, all my worries. So I pushed. My first push, nothing happens. But my second push, the wall starts to buckle. I push a third time, and I’m through! I feel freedom I’ve never felt before. I’m running, crying, laughing all at once. That was the light at the end of the tunnel. I think I grew up right then.

I was in class the other day and the instructor said that once he was stationed on a carrier and a helicopter was bringing mail. The line snapped and all the mail went over the side and straight to the bottom. He said he and a lot of other sailors cried. I can’t imagine watching that. But just a reminder, I can get mail every weekday. Only two mail calls have I been without mail. One night I got 12 letters! Keep it up, it keeps me going. Letters, pictures, cards, whatever – I want it all!

Letter #4

This week we did the Marlinspike and SAMT which is the simulation guns. Marlinspike was fun! What you do is prepare to get the ship underway then put it back. The ship itself is underwhelming. It’s only the front right side of a ship. It’s on blue floor, with a “pier” next to it. The actual work is fun, though.

The guns were cool too. They take real guns, demilitarize them (remove firing pins) and make them pneumatic. They’re easy to shoot, and we don’t need to reload. Very nice.

They’ve started playing music for us. It makes us all very happy. Oh, Mom, I sharpie out the logo on the outside of the envelope because sometimes the mail sorting machines think it’s a fake stamp, I’m told.

We’ve had three inspections, a personal (uniform, shaving, etc), weapons turnover, and a zone (the compartment plus bunks and folding). I got perfect scores on the first two (5.0) and I took a hit in the zone for my folded towel. One hem was more than 1/8 inch from the other. So my score now is like a mid-B, I think. We weren’t even here for the zone, for which I’m glad. Inspections are stressful.

16 days till Battle Stations. I hope we’re ready. Oh, we earned two new flags. You earn flags for going above and beyond. We now have three. Our scholastic flag we got for Test One, athletic flag, and inspection flag. We’re turning into a real team.

Letter #5

Today is April 1. A disappointing lack of pranks. But 23 days left! And today is 4-5 Day. Tomorrow we start week 5. That means firefighting. And 15 days of actual stuff to do.

Clarification. The kick to the head was NOT serious. I didn’t go to medical, it happens to like 30% of the swimmers. It wasn’t important.

Yesterday we got our pictures taken. They look decidedly bad*** and I can’t wait to see them.

I saw a P-Day Division [Becky’s note: processing days – brand new recruits] and was amazed how far we’ve come. So much has changed.

There are two kinds of runs here. Runs where I grow up, and runs where I throw up. Thank God I’ve only had one of the latter.

We’re ten days out from battle stations. Until then we’ve got firefighting. I’m excited. It’s getting close to the end here. Suffice it to say, I’m not the only one counting days. It’s a little tense here. Two months with no privacy or solitude is going to our brains. When push comes to shove, we’re on the same team, but normally we’re ready to kill each other. We’ll all be glad to get out of here.

Last Letter From Boot Camp

This morning someone asked me my first name and I said, “Recruit.” I forgot my first name! How does that happen? Unacceptable.

I’m surprised how much I miss stupid stuff. Like couches. Why do I miss something I never thought twice about? Or toast. I cannot get toast here. Amazingly infuriating. And the urinals are very poorly designed. When you flush, the water splashes out at you. So the trick is to flush and quickly step back. It’s like a toilet dance. The first time I got hit by the splashback, I turned to another recruit and said, “My urinal runneth over.” Got a laugh.

Every week we put in a list of stuff we need (toothpaste, deodorant, etc) but somehow beer, cigarettes, strippers, couches, and Porsches make their way on to the list.


— So those are the pertinent bits from his boot camp letters, and a few that were just interesting. Remember, when you post on N4Ms, NEVER use anyone’s last names or other sensitive information. That’s a big no-no because this is a public site.
PHONE CALLS FROM BOOT CAMP
The first one comes when they get to Great Lakes. It’s very short and I think they read from a script. Basically, “Hi, I got here. You’ll be getting a box with my clothes soon. I love you. Goodbye.” Except for this first call, which the Navy pays for, they buy calling cards to use for subsequent calls.

All his calls home came as a surprise. Because it would break my heart if he called and couldn’t reach anyone, we agreed he’d call the house number first and if I didn’t answer, he’d call his dad’s cell, then his brother and sister’s cell. Surely one of us would be available!

We got a call from him after he’d been gone about three weeks. It was a reward for doing well on a test — I think he said it was about Navy ships and history. His division scored 4.85 out of 5 which was the highest his drill instructor ever had a division score. Seems an odd grading scale, but what do I know?

He sounded happy and excited. He said his feet didn’t touch the ground when he was walking to “Ricky Heaven.” (Recruits are called “Rickys” and Ricky Heaven is the building that houses the phone banks, a Subway, a Taco Bell, some arcade games and pool tables and the NEX.) He admitted to some serious homesickness the first few days, but he said that’s all over now. Probably just a combination of exhaustion and anxiety about it all. But now they’re in a routine and he’s actually enjoying himself.

He and I talked for about 20 minutes. When we started talking he didn’t know how long he’d have to talk so we just started zinging around topics. Finally, he told me that another group was coming in and he had to go.

Here are some of the highlights —
• When we come for graduation he only wants two things — a 30-minute hot shower all by himself and at least one meal where he can sit and eat all he wants with nobody telling him to hurry up and get to the next thing.
• His unit isn’t integrated with females and he’s glad. There are a TON of extra rules you have to follow.
• Just like any job, there are parts he loves and parts he hates and parts that are just plain boring.
• Drill instructors can't curse at the recruits but Adam says they're called "DodoHeads" a lot. A LOT.
• He has about $600 worth of clothes now. They have several different types of uniforms. He said he got fitted for his dress uniform and his whites and they look sharp. He also got a pea coat that he loves. They take the uniform cost right from his paycheck.
• He wanted me to send him detailed information on how to sew a button on.
• Their biggest fear right now is earning a phone call home and not being able to get through to anyone. I told him that was my biggest fear too — for him AND the other 78 recruits! I don’t know where I’ll find the time to mother 77 more kids, but I will if I have to!
• He apologized for his first letter being ‘down’ but said he’s really happy now and feels like he made a good decision and that he’s glad he’s there.

His second phone call home was about three weeks later. We got a lot more calls from him than I expected and a lot more than other moms reported. Sometimes if their unit earns a phone call but your recruit is on watch or duty of some kind, they’ll miss out. Which is very sad.

He always sounds so nonchalant when he calls. “Hi, Mom,” like he’s just calling to see what’s for dinner. Then my mind starts racing … good call? Bad call? What was it I wanted to ask him about? Does he need to talk or does he just want to listen?

My first question is always, “How long do you have?” with the answer always, “I don’t know.”

Here are the highlights …
• He has no idea why they’re getting this phone call
• He passed his shooting test
• He got his second haircut today. Longish on top, still short on the sides. Almost how his recruiter wears his … “Like a real haircut.”
• The girls look horrible and he feels sorry for them. They can’t even shave their legs.
• His cold comes and goes. Still coughing but didn’t sound bad. He’s never been sent to the medics or confined to his rack. Once, he went to get one of their “cold packs” which is Tylenol, cough drops and such and his temperature was 101.4 which was just low enough to keep him out of the infirmary. But he took the Tylenol and he was fine. When I made the tsk-tsk mothering noises he said he’s waaaaay better off than some guys.
• He does his final PT (physical training) test next week but he’s not worried. There are three PT tests, but the first two don’t count. Only the final one.
• He can’t wait to wear boxers instead of tighty whiteys and wants us to bring him some.
• He says he’s kind of always got a low-grade worry going. Nothing terrible, but just a constant anxiety about something going wrong before graduation.
• The other day saw a bunch of brand-new recruits with their “valuable sock,” which he’d forgotten about. After they ship all their civilian clothes home, but before they get their lockable drawers in their racks, they put their wallet and other valuables in one of their new socks and tuck it into their waistband. Then they walk around like that till they’re told they don’t have to.
• I sent him the Sunday funnies from the paper and he told me they were contraband. He said the Commander felt the envelope, said it seemed too thick and made him open it. Said, “You can’t have those” and threw them away.
• I told him I bought the more expensive refundable plane tickets as insurance he’ll definitely graduate on time. Like washing your car to make it rain, or planting your flowers to ensure a snowstorm.
• He told me to thank everyone who has written to him. He said it means a lot.

He sounded good, though. Calm, confident, relaxed.

We got two more calls, one a Saturday but I didn’t take notes because we were at his brother’s lacrosse game, and the other one I can’t remember. But the most important call is the one that comes after Battle Stations. That’s the “I’m a sailor call” that means they’ve passed everything and will be graduating on time. Don’t expect anything too coherent, though, because they’ve been up for 36+ hours by the time they make that call. But it’s sure great to get!
BOOT CAMP GRADUATION

TRAVEL TO GREAT LAKES
When we went to PIR, we flew into Midway. From the other comments I’ve heard it’s not much different from flying into O’Hare. Frontier, our airline of choice, only flew into Midway, so it’s not like we had a choice. I’ve heard others say that they flew into Milwaukee because it’s a smaller airport and was cheaper for them. I looked into it, but it would have been more expensive for us. Great Lakes is about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. We enjoyed the “scenic tour” through Chicago and along Lake Shore Drive, but coming from Milwaukee would probably be less hassle if you were by yourself.

CAR RENTAL
Personally, I think you need to rent a car if you fly in. The base has a train station right across the street, but it’s not near any of the hotels so if you took the train you’d need to call a cab anyway. Some of the hotels have shuttles to and from the graduation, but they’ll charge about $6/person. It adds up. And it might not be as convenient as you want. Obviously you’d want to make a car rental reservation too. I was talking to a dad at the graduation and he said they landed at Midway around 1pm and all the cars were already rented! They had to take a train to O’Hare to pick up a car.

HOTELS
I only have personal experience with the Residence Inn (1440 S. White Oak Dr- Waukegan, IL 60085- 1-847-689-9240), but we had an excellent stay there. They have lots of amenities and large suites. We didn’t really know what the weekend had in store for us, but it turned out our son got weekend liberty so he was able to stay in the hotel with the four of us. A 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite with a living area and full kitchen gave us plenty of room. Cost us $139 + about $15 taxes/night

I didn’t book our hotel on this site, but I used it when I was looking for one.
http://hotel-guides.us/illinois/ns-great-lakes-il-hotels.html…We loved our stay at the Residence Inn- Waukegan/Gurnee

Here’s another hotel site … http://military-hotels.us/navy-hotels.html


BRING COMPUTER, PHONE, ETC?
Frankly, this was my biggest question and nobody seemed to be able to tell me whether he’d be able to have his electronics after graduation. So, I decided to take it all anyway, thinking that, if nothing else, at least he could check his email and make calls when he was with us in the hotel. Turns out we were able to hand it off to him because he was already “checked in” at his A-School. But that’s not the case for everyone and you may not even know until the day of graduation. One thing I thought about was renting a storage locker of some kind near the base. I really didn’t want to ship it all to him to that seemed like a good alternative. I found some other moms who had taken this route before me, so I’ll pass along the info I received from them. One thing I’d suggest is that after you get to Great Lakes, ask at your hotel for storage place info, then drive around and check it out. I don’t think that any of them are within walking distance to the base, but your sailor can call a cab to take him or her to pick up their stuff as soon as they’re allowed to have it.

These are the comments I got …

• After PIR before Indoc/Class Up, we used public storage the one on Belvidere Road, in Park City 847-336-5533, it was the size of a closet. I later saw the one that was near Flanagan's on the same side of the street. You will need your own lock w/key, the cost for the one month was only $46 w/$2,000 of insurance and the other fees.

• Public Storage: 1-877-788-2028, www.publicstorage.com you should request the location close to the base.

• U Store It: www.ustoreit.com 3301 West Buckley Road, North Chicago, IL, 60064 847-693-7397. Sorry, this is the storage that is near Flanagan's

• My son and a couple of his shipmates went in on it, and they all got their items in by that Sunday after PIR. It does get tricky if your son doesn't get liberty within the 30 days he would have to pay for another month. It was much cheaper for me living in California, he stored cell phone, laptop, Xbox 360 w/3 controller's, and clothes.
THESE ARE HELPFUL NOTES THAT I COPIED FROM OTHER PLACES ON N4MS …
• Hey All...I'm not in this division, my son Doug graduated March 20, and I just wanted to let you know how AWESOME the graduation was. I have never been so proud of my son and all the other new Sailors. They were great. Just a little advice though. If you can try and take the shuttle from your hotels, it is so much easier than waiting on line in your cars at the gate. Dress for the weather, wear walking shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking. Also if you plan on going into Chicago, don't do it after the PIR. We did and it was a huge mistake. Traffic was horrible. If you can, take the train into Chicago. Oh, yeah one more thing, take some quarters because if you are on the major highway and want to get off, you need to pay tolls, usually they are 50 cents. We weren't expecting this, and we had to dig up some change. Other than that you will have a fantastic weekend. Enjoy your time with your new Sailor, and of course bring tissues.

• Here's a bundle of info, just got back yesterday from PIR 3/20.
- Chicago O'Hare was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It is also closer and you will not have to contend with the traffic going through town.
- I was not thrilled with the nickel & diming of Dollar rental car. I'd use Thrifty if I had to do it again. Be prepared - 20% tax on all rental vehicles, so my $80.97 weekend cost me $201 after this that and the 20% tax on top of the regular tax already added. Interstate 294 takes you right up to 137 (Buckley) and HWY 120 in Waukegan, toll is only $1.00 and they do take bills for northbound, otherwise have plenty of coin.
- Springhill Suites was a bargain, and very new and nice with a great breakfast included for $89/night (we stayed, Thurs- Sat, checked out Sunday) and is only 15 min from the base (depending on traffic- Grad morning took about 40 due to the traffic there). And Springhill Suites is close to plenty of restaurants, Walmart, and very close to several highways, but relatively quiet.
- Oh yes when you are east bound on Buckley Rd (the road to base) be sure to stay either in the middle or left lanes until after you cross HWY 41 at the tracks, then get to the middle, then right. That should help the traffic problem a bit. You will see several "base" buildings on the right side, but you do not turn until you cross the 2nd set of tracks, and it will be on the right. Have your base pass on the dash and your ID handy because they check as soon as you enter the gate- they'll run you like cattle. We had 15 divisions graduate on 3/20. It was packed, but everything went smoothly.

• We flew into O'Hare and then left out of Midway... must have been some deal with the airfares (?) at any rate - Midway was a nightmare to get to, much further drive than O'Hare and construction nightmares on Sunday - almost missed our return flight. Just allow more time if you need to fly out of Midway.

• Just got home from PIR (3/20/09) We flew into Midway. Traffic was bad going through town but I heard many moms comment that O'Hare was horrible to get through. I think it's a toss up. We stayed at Residence Inn in Waukegan. It was so clean and about 10 minutes from the base. Free breakfast buffet in the a.m. and the staff was so helpful. We had a small kitchenette in our room so we had a refrigerator to keep drinks/fruit/etc in. Would definitely stay there again. On the morning of PIR we left the hotel at 6:45 and got to the base by 7:10 which I thought was great. Once you are on base, going through security was the thing that took the most time.

• Here's my airport two cents: You have three options: 1) O'Hare which is about 30 miles from the base is actually an easy drive. It's on the outskirts of the city and really in the suburbs. You'll have an easy route straight up north to the base. Depending on the time of day, you may encounter no traffic jams or, because of neverending Chicagoland construction, you'll get stuck in afternoon rush-hour barely-moving traffic about midway between the base and O'Hare.
- Midway International is about 46 miles and located on the south side of Chicago. Again, depending on the time of day, you may or may not get stuck in traffic. You do need to weed your way through the streets to get to the tollways/expressways.
- Milwaukee's General Mitchell International airport is about 49 miles away. I, personally, don't have any experience with this airport, however, from what I've read on this site from those who have, as well as some co-workers, it's an easy drive and you really don't have to worry about much traffic.
- I would research fares to all three airports and go for the best deal that way.

• Having gone thru the experience last October, we decided to fly into Milwaukee, WI. The flight was cheaper and the rental cars were way below the Chicago rates. Actually about half the cost. The distance may seem longer but it's not when you factor in traffic and congestion around Chicago. Also see if your "soon to be graduate" can get you a room at the Navy Lodge at Great Lakes or you can call them yourself 850-456-8676. They are nice and very close to everything. Good rates too! They'll give you a map of the area and were very friendly. On the day of the event, go EARLY to the base to get a seat and be sure to have cash for the Div t-shirts they design themselves. (Extra batteries for the camera too). They do a great job of processing the number of people that attend the ceremony. Oh, and they have designated seating for each DIV so you can sit in front of your Sailor and figure out which one they are!

• If you get the opportunity, we took the train just $5.00 round trip into Chicago and had a great day to share with our son. We included several of his friends who didn't have family there. It was a wonderful time!

• The shuttle dropped us off at the main gate, but everyone has to sit in the traffic line There's not a lane just for Taxis/Shuttles. No biggie....the walk wasn't that big of a deal...but there is a moderate amount of walking involved...but no more than you would at a mall.

• I flew into O'Hare - rented at Alamo on website and got good deal. I WILL NEVER AGAIN COMPLAIN ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA ROADS!!!!!! Pothole city - hope it improves before the Olympics hits town! We stayed at the Navy Lodge - never had a better hotel stay ever! Staff were very friendly and helpful, it was very close to the entrance to the ceremony, and because everyone staying there was "related" by Navy, I had smiles and conversations with the other guests - that never happens on a business trip! Rooms were very nice and clean and large and you definitely can't beat the price. Definitely just go with the flow - it is a remarkable ceremony. While my only expectations were to be able to see my son graduate, and to be proud of him, I certainly appreciated all the time we had together, which I understand is rare. My son is not Special Ops and he had all weekend liberty as well. Warning: your new sailor has not had to think for him/herself for a while, so be patient with them. By that I mean - they really can't decide what to eat, where to go, what they want because that's kind of new for them at this point. So be prepared to make suggestions, and then make the decisions! We stayed pretty close to the hotel so that he could start to chill out and become himself again, and he appreciated that we went on a little shopping tour and left him in the room for a few hours - he had not been alone for so long! And get extra towels - private long showers are certainly what he wanted!

• From the Navy Lodge … well, you CAN walk there, but I don't recommend it - depending on the time of year it's COLD!!! Plus the base is very large so you'll be walking enough as it is. I highly recommend renting a car because the other things you want to do are not that convenient, although "doable".
Helpful tips: We had prepared some civilian clothes to take out for him to try on - he gained weight during training and I didn't want to spend a lot on postage if they weren't going to fit. He got to wear his civvies in the hotel - an added bonus (he especially liked having his slippers and boxers). Plus - he was allowed to take them back to his regular base assignment with him, even though he couldn't wear them right away. Now he has them there and ready for when he has that permission. Plus - we went shopping at Walmart and the Gurnee Mall to get other supplies (including a plain black gym bag for carrying all his stuff to his new quarters) and you definitely need a car for that. I had also taken his cell phone so he could call his friends, and his iPod and he was allowed to keep them. Remember, he was A-schooling at GL so it was convenient for doing that - Grad N Go's may not have those liberties. Still, plan on taking some of your kids' comfy clothes in your suitcase so if they do get hotel time with you they can relax a little.
Midway vs O'Hare - well, I don't know if one is better or not. I'm 50 and single mom - had my 16 year old daughter with me - and I survived 5 o'clock Chicago traffic and made it back in one piece, so whichever works the best price wise.

• I just wanted to note that I flew into Milwaukee instead of one of the Chicago options. I factored in that I was flying solo with our 3-year old and knew that the smaller airport would be better for us. It was PERFECT!!!! He was able to pull his suitcase all by himself and we walked straight to the luggage area. I wasn't standing there more than 15 seconds and our bags were coming out! And it only took about 35-40 minutes to get to our hotel (The Residence Inn which btw was amazing as well). Without a doubt I would make the same choice if I have to fly there again. Totally less hectic than a Chicago airport and definitely less traffic!

• I flew into Milwaukee. Tickets were a bit cheaper, and traffic was not bad at all. I rented a car from Alamo, and was able to pick it up and return it at the airport. I agree that the roads were awful. We stayed at Courtyard Mariott. We went out to do some exploring and sightseeing but he was tired and mostly wanted to hang out with us and just relax. We tried to go to the Aquarium in Chicago.....bad idea. Way too crowded to be able to move, let alone see anything.

• I so appreciate to see so many of you writing about the inability of our sailors to make decisions. It was a really scary, upsetting thing for me to experience. My son was so "zombiefied." He took the whole weekend to just acclimate to having some freedom.
At first he had big plans for the weekend, but after a short excursion to the mall on the first night, we ended up staying in the hotel the rest of the time. Thankfully, we were at a WONDERFUL place. The Residence Inn is great for providing a myriad of services. The rooms were so comfortable that it was easy to feel right at home and with the full kitchen it was great to prepare our meals and veg out. We left him alone for a while to make a trip to the store. I think he REALLY appreciated us giving him some space and I know that he just was so thrilled to spend some time with us in the room where he didn’t have any worries or concerns.
THERE ARE LOTS OF WEBSITES WITH A TON OF INFO, BUT THESE WILL GET YOU STARTED …

This is the Recruit Training Command homepage … http://www1.netc.navy.mil/nstc/rtcgl/index.asp

Go to http://navydads.blogspot.com/ and just look around. But this blog post in particular deals with boot camp, week-to-week …http://navydads.blogspot.com/2008/08/yes-sir-yes-maam.html … If you know what day your recruit is on, you can figure out what he’s done and what he’s soon-to-do.

Here’s a video about Battle Stations … http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2007/07/18/oppenheim.navy.disas...

I didn’t book our hotel on this site, but I used it when I was looking for one.
http://hotel-guides.us/illinois/ns-great-lakes-il-hotels.html…We loved our stay at the Residence Inn- Waukegan/Gurnee

Here’s another hotel site …http://military-hotels.us/

This is Flanagan’s Restaurant near base where most of the PIR Meet-and-Greets are held the evening before graduation … http://www.flanagansfoodandfun.com/contact.html

These are websites about the Delayed Entry Program … http://www.cnrc.navy.mil/DEP/index.htm
http://www.navy.com/about/before/dep/ … there’s a message board on this site

I’ve posted some Navy Bits on my blog. Some sentimental, some funny, some informative, all Mom …http://beckyland.wordpress.com

And these are funny lines from boot camp letters I stumbled across here on N4Ms …
http://www.navyformoms.com/forum/topics/1971797:Topic:856292?page=3...

Enjoy your new sailor’s graduation and try not to stress out too much about boot camp. But if you do, remember to join groups and get involved here on N4Ms. You’ll find lots of shoulders to lean on, and new friends to laugh with!

Good luck!
Your a Navyformoms goddess! Thank you for sharing and I think you answered everything question! Thank you for sharing!! =) HUGS!
Thanks, Jamielynn ... but I bet that's the first and last time I'll be called a goddess! But that's okay. I prefer Queen of the Universe anyway. ;-D
Thank You so much for all the informatio. It was all great. Our son PIR's on 6-5-09. I can hardly wait.
Darcy
My son, Duane is also in Div 210 with PIR on 6/5/09. Maybe Duane and Devin know each other. We are so looking forward to seeing him at graduation. I know they are having there final testing this week with Battle Stations on Friday. He was able to call his wife last Saturday because he did well on an inspection. We had not heard from him in about 2 1/2 weeks. Duane is Grad-n-Go and will be going to A school in Virginia. Have you heard anything from Devin? We are so excited that BC will finally be over.
Thanks for all the good advice. I am glad you put this all together. Thanks.

Frances
why didn't i read this sooner? thank you for this post, it was great reading this :) makes me feel a bit better.
I have just finished reading everything. Thank you so much, Im sure i will go back a few times before he goes.

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