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What is Navy Boot Camp?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Navy boot camp is a training program that is designed to prepare people for service in the Navy. Depending on where one is training, the format of Navy boot camp can vary. As a general rule, the goal is to bring new enlistees up to a basic standard of physical fitness while providing them with a grounding in Naval procedures, protocol, and values. After boot camp, enlistees either attend an officer candidate school to train as officers or a program such as a school in the United States Navy to learn their jobs.

Before people attend Navy boot camp, they meet with a recruiter to fill out enlistment paperwork. They are sent through a battery of tests including physical and psychological evaluations to confirm that they are fit for service. Aptitude tests are also given for the purpose of job placement. With this aspect of the enlistment process over, new enlistees can be dispatched to boot camp, where classes of new recruits are processed and trained together.

At Navy boot camp, people spend time in physical fitness classes including swimming classes. They are also in the classroom, learning about the history of the Navy, the chain of command in the military, and the standards of behavior expected of people in military service. Every aspect of boot camp, from the barracks where people sleep to the marches on the parade ground, is designed to prepare people for the rigors of service while also providing them with valuable skills.

People can fail Navy boot camp for a number of reasons. Behavior violations that indicate someone is a poor fit with the Navy for reasons of morals or values can result in expulsion. Likewise, if people do not pass the periodic physical tests required of recruits, they can be sent home. Most people prepare ahead of time by engaging in a fitness program before they go to boot camp so that they will be ready, and it is also common practice to read up on procedures, protocols, and regulations before attending.

The rigors of boot camp are infamous. Many people are nervous about going to Navy boot camp. Recruiters can provide people with advice and information, including guides to help people prepare. Current members of the Navy can also share details about their time in boot camp. Online, there are a number of communities of current and former military members that offer support and assistance to each other, as well as people who are considering military service.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon942238 — On Mar 26, 2014

It can make or break you. It broke me in 1975. I wasn't ready emotionally and was very immature. I got caught sleepwalking so I used it as an excuse to get out. It's the worst decision I ever made and I have regretted it ever since. I lost an opportunity to grow up. Instead, I went home and became a drunk.

By bagley79 — On Mar 21, 2012

What is the best way for someone to learn what Navy boot camp is really like? My son is thinking about joining the Navy, and I want him to really know what to expect.

I think there are several kids who join the military because they aren't quite sure what they want to do with their lives. This isn't a bad thing, but I think they should be prepared before they sign up.

I do think the structure of the Navy boot camp schedule would be a positive thing for my son. This is an area that he could really use some discipline in. Other than that, I really don't know much about it.

If someone were to ask me what is Navy boot camp like, I wouldn't know what to tell them.

By Mykol — On Mar 21, 2012

After high school my nephew didn't know what he wanted to do and decided to sign up for the Navy. We were all surprised by this decision as it was something he had never talked about before.

Unfortunately this didn't work out so well for him, and he never made it to Navy boot camp graduation. He had a hard time consistently following all the rules and emotionally wasn't ready for this change.

After one particularly frustrating day, he left base and went in to Chicago without permission. He ended up being pick pocketed while in the city, and lost all of his identification.

Needless to say, when he got back to base and didn't have any identification, it wasn't hard for them to figure out what happened.

He found out the hard way this wasn't the place for him. There are many ways you can learn how to prepare for Navy boot camp, but if you aren't ready emotionally, I think it would be a long road.

By John57 — On Mar 20, 2012
One of my son's friends enlisted in the Navy and she began preparing for Navy boot camp. She was in good physical shape, but worked on increasing the intensity of her workouts.

When she was home for her first break, I had the chance to ask her how things were going. She said the physical part of boot camp was not nearly as tough as she thought it would be.

The hardest part for her was sleeping in the barracks and living in such close quarters with so many other people. She grew up with one brother who was several years older than her.

Living in the barracks, and the lack of personal privacy was really hard for her. She knew it would be tough before she went, and also knew she just had to get through it.

By dfoster85 — On Mar 20, 2012

@MrsWinslow - I haven't heard that, but it could be true for the military, I guess. In my experience, "boot camp" is used colloquially for all the branches' different basic training - while "basic training" is generally the "official" name, I suppose.

I heard something interesting about Navy boot camp in particular. A young woman I knew from high school enlisted in the Navy out of high school because she didn't have money for college, but she was very bright and her superiors convinced her to apply to Annapolis. Well, she got in, so she had to attend basic training all over again with her class of cadets. She was twenty-one by then, so older than the others. At any rate, she said that it was hard not to *laugh* the second time! I guess it's one of those things that you can really only experience once.

By MrsWinslow — On Mar 19, 2012

I was interested to see that this article refers to Navy "boot camp." My understanding was that the term "boot camp" actually referred specifically to the basic training undergone by Marines, while what they do in other branches of the service is "basic training."

A niece of mine is considering the military for after high school, and we're trying to get our terminology right!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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