What is the Great Lakes Navy Boot Camp?

T. L. Childree

The Great Lakes Navy boot camp is known officially by the United States Navy as Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes. This training command center is where all new enlistees of the U.S. Navy are sent for their beginning orientation and instruction. The initial training received at the Great Lakes Navy boot camp typically lasts for eight weeks, and is primarily conducted in indoor facilities. Once this initial training has been completed, certain selected recruits are then sent to other training schools in the U.S. for specialized occupational instruction.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The Great Lakes Navy boot camp is located at the Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago, Illinois. This basic training center has been in use since 1911, and is often referred to as “The Quarterdeck of the Navy” or “Great Mistakes.” Nearly 50,000 enlistees are processed through the Great Lakes Navy boot camp each year with approximately 15,000 recruits residing at the camp on any given day.

In 1993, the U.S. Navy was forced to close its basic training facilities in Orlando, Florida, and San Diego, California, and conduct all recruit training at the Great Lakes facility. A comprehensive overhaul and upgrade of the Great Lakes facility was undertaken with the construction of a large indoor training center and several sets of additional barracks. State of the art simulators were also constructed at the facility to help train recruits in basic seamanship skills.

Upon their arrival at the Great Lakes Navy boot camp, recruits typically receive a thorough medical and dental screening along with any vaccinations that may be needed. Inductees are then given a military style haircut and issued a set of uniforms. They are also instructed in the basic standards of military conduct. Recruits are then assigned to their drill instructors, who will be responsible for overseeing their basic training while they are at the camp.

During their stay at the Great Lakes Navy boot camp, recruits are typically taught basic military skills, such as organizing gear, standing watch, and the U.S. Navy chain of command. Recruits are also tested for swimming skills and physical fitness as well. Enlistees are instructed in basic communications and seamanship skills as well as the identification of different types of U.S. Navy vessels and aircraft. Recruits are also taught how to respond to emergency situations at sea.

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