In the Sauna Room.
I was sitting in the gym sauna the other day, conversing with some local Guamanian guys, and in comes this young fellow who sat down among us. As we continued our usual sauna room banter, this young fellow just sat there taking it all in. Finally after several minutes he asks “How long are you supposed to sit in here?” It didn’t take long for all three of us regulars to chime in like we were genuine members of the Wikipedia Sauna Club or something.
Soon thereafter, this certain young newcomer began opening up with us older fellows. He asked questions and we provided answers like it was a game show of Jeopardy. Finally he worked up the nerve to ask his most serious question of all – “Do any of you guys know anything about boot camp?… Is Boot Camp Hard?” This is when we learned that he had recently joined the U.S. Navy. Well, you would have thought the stakes of this sauna game show quiz just went through the roof. All of us regulars being military retirees, we were all anxious to fulfill this pending recruit’s bucket list of questions with rightful answers. None of us had any problem offering up some just advice for this young fellow, who in our opinion, was not just another grown teenager, but one who had bravely crossed the threshold into manhood by making a “manly” decision to serve his country.
Play it again…
The real reason he was in the sauna was not to garner answers about boot camp or the proper use of the sauna, but to shed a few pounds before he was to report for basic training basic training in Great Lakes in a few short weeks. Upon the advice of his recruiter, he was running and getting in shape for what was deemed to be his “worst nightmare,” a phrase most obviously coined by his most envious friends, I’m sure. I personally assured him that if he was mentally prepared for his “worst nightmare” scenario, he would be pleasantly surprised at how easy boot camp can be (we are not talking U.S. Marines here!).
We further explained to him that basic training was more than physical training… it was also a system of learning and testing – one that is designed to identify and wash out the most feeble and weak-minded. In a certain way, it is a merit/success based system. Those who can handle the most basic physical assessments and the mental toughness format will become the newest graduates. Those individuals who are basically not suited to handle the pressures imposed in stressful situations are identified and released. It’s all about confidence and teamwork. We went on further to explain to this young man who if he was mentally prepared, he should accept this 9 weeks as game of challenge and fun.
It’s All a Game!
I told him as far as many of us were concerned, while boot camp was not all that difficult, the experiences gained at boot camp will be something that you would cherish forever. Although nobody I know would ever trade their boot camp experience for anything, it’s not something you would want to do over. And once you graduate the Navy’s Basic Training program, you will always be able to look back on that accomplishment with pride. After all… you will be a Sailor in the world’s finest navy!
I ended my sauna session with sharing this thought with him… “Some day you will be relaxing here in this same sauna and telling sea stories to some young sailor wannabe, just like you. And you might even encourage someone that they too have made a good decision.