You may well wonder how the Navy’s largest training facility, and only boot camp, ended up in Illinois.
Over a hundred years ago, when Theodore Roosevelt was President, he presided over the founding of Naval Station Great Lakes. At the time, it was unheard of—and many people were astounded—to have Naval training be done more than a thousand miles away from any ocean.
The building of Great Lakes didn’t happen overnight. It was a novel idea, at the time, to train enlisted Sailors before they got to the fleet. The Training Station at Newport, R.I., only got started in 1881. Before that, enlisted Sailors joined the Navy and went directly to a ship. All their training took place underway.
Not long after the Spanish-American War, in 1902, U.S. Navy leaders noticed a remarkable fact: Many of their best Sailors came from the American Midwest. Why not train Sailors in the same part of the country?
So the Navy started looking into the idea. In 1902, a board of Navy officers conducted a study. Their conclusion? “Naval Training Station Great Lakes” should be located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, in Illinois—in short, exactly where it is today.
Great Lakes was conceived in May 1905 and President Roosevelt announced it a few months later.
Naval Training Station Great Lakes only happened due to the help and inspiration of President Roosevelt and Illinois Congressman George Foss, along with the citizens of Chicago and Illinois. However, at the beginning, in the spring of 1905, only the idea existed. Great Lakes was born on paper and by law. It still needed to be planned, designed and built.
Along came Capt. Albert Ross, Navy Civil Engineer George A. McKay, and Jarvis Hunt, a noted architect based in Chicago.
Capt. Ross had entered the Naval Academy during the Civil War and, during a distinguished career, in between sea assignments, had developed a keen interest in enlisted Sailor training. His skill in that task had led to several assignments to training commands, and even to a training ship, the Alliance.
The next person needed for the immense job was a Navy civil engineer. The 172-acre site was pretty much wilderness.
Lt. George McKay was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After graduation, he worked for several civilian companies before signing on to the Navy. His first Navy assignment was Samoa, where he built a coaling station. This was in the last days before warships went to oil.
The next step was getting a good architect to design the buildings.
Jarvis Hunt was a bright, talented man, born in Vermont, and educated at Harvard and MIT. Hunt maintained offices in Chicago, a convenient trip by railroad.
Hunt was highly cultured, as well as an expert in his craft. He came up with designs based on modern updates of Italian Renaissance architecture in the Romanesque style. That’s what you see today, when you look at Building 1, Brick Row behind it, and the red brick buildings from the main gate up through to the lake.
With Ross directing and supervising, McKay and Hunt joined forces to plan and design the original 39 buildings of Naval Training Station Great Lakes. The first appropriation of money for the project was $250,000. Over the six years it took to build Great Lakes, the total amount expended reached about $3.5 million.
Great Lakes opened its gates on the July 1, 1911. Two days later, our first recruit arrived—Joseph Gregg, of Terre Haute, Ind. When he graduated with the first class of 300 Sailors, President William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s successor in the White House, was there along with Capt. Ross and his staff, Mr. Hunt and Lt. McKay, his staff, and 10,000 civilians.
For six years after its commissioning, training at Great Lakes moved at a slow, steady pace. Barely more than 2,000 recruits a year came through. At the beginning of 1917, Great Lakes boasted 39 permanent brick buildings, on 165 acres, with about 1,500 Sailors. America was still at peace.
When the year 1917 opened, World War I had been raging for two and a half years.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson was beginning a new term in office, when he asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers.
Suddenly, America needed millions of warriors on land and on sea. At Great Lakes tent cities sprouted up, while Sailors with skills in construction helped civilian workers build housing and training facilities for our Navy. We called those Sailors “The 12th regiment,” and “The Fighting Tradesmen.” A generation later, their descendants became the Seabees.
Great Lakes’ Commandant, Capt. William Moffett, put together an intelligent plan for Great Lakes training. He took the Station’s original buildings as a guide, and directed that “regiments” of 1,726 Sailors—precisely—be housed, fed, and trained in their own separate facilities.
In January 1917, 618 recruits arrived at Great Lakes. In February, 922 came here. By April, when war was declared, more than 9,000.
By the time peace was declared, 45,000 Sailors were in training, and Great Lakes had 776 buildings, with 1,200 acres at its disposal. All these Sailors came to a place designed for merely 1,500.
By the time America and our allies won the war, over 125,000 Sailors had been trained at Great Lakes. They greatly contributed to our Navy’s success in the war. They brought nearly a million American soldiers to fight on the Western Front. We didn’t lose one single soldier to German submarines.
Nearly five million Americans, including some women, like the Yeoman (F) of Great Lakes, turned the tide and won the Great War. Six hundred thousand were American Sailors.
In March 1918, the Spanish Influenza’s first case was spotted at Fort Riley, Kan. By the end of the epidemic, upwards of 50 million people died—more than 700,000 in the United States alone.
Great Lakes was affected by the pandemic, but not as badly as one would expect. We had nearly 50,000 Sailors here at the time, training for the Great War, brought together in relatively confined areas and spaces. That was the flu’s playground.
However, under the watchful care of our Captain Moffett and his medical staff, Great Lakes managed to keep our losses to a minimum.
A group of Sailor-musicians toured the United States during the worst of the pandemic. They were from Great Lakes, and led by the world famous band leader and composer Lt. John Philip Sousa.
Their tour began on Columbus Day, 1918, in New York. Sousa volunteered his services to the Navy, following long service as leader of the United States Marine Corps Band, and later as the leader of his own band. It was the most popular musical act in the world for decades, and reaped enormous revenues. Though he was 62, well over the age limit, Sousa took Capt. Moffett’s challenge when America entered the Great War, and became Bandmaster of Great Lakes.
Sousa led 1,500 musicians who were assigned to “Regimental Bands,” smaller groups, and the elite “Band Battalion,” which made an epic Liberty Bond drive that started in New York, and made its way across the country.
At the end of the war, almost as quickly as we had prepared for battle, America went back to the pursuits of peace. We kept a Navy, but it was smaller. Great Lakes became smaller, too. In 1923, only aviation activities expanded with the commissioning of the Naval Reserve Air Base, Great Lakes.
Through the 1920s and early 1930s, Great Lakes had the air base, and the Radio School.
Recruit training slowed to a crawl, and was even halted for a time. Illinois citizens and politicians made their concerns known in Washington and recruit training resumed.
Late in 1936, the Navy decided to move aviation training from Great Lakes to Glenview. The increasing size of the new planes and their demand for more runway length and numbers made it essential. About a year later, Glenview was dedicated and commissioned. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, the great Navy explorer and the first man to fly to the North Pole, was the first commanding officer.
In 1938, 129,610 men applied for admission into the Navy. Only 15,094 were accepted, less than 12 percent. In that year, there were 105,000 enlisted Sailors in the Navy.
In an increasingly dangerous world, the U.S. Navy began to grow. Congress passed a huge Naval expansion bill, including the enlisted force. Great Lakes grew along with the fleet.
By 1940, the U.S. Navy and Great Lakes grew with the threats abroad. By year’s end, Congress had approved a doubling of the Navy’s strength, with 170,000 Sailors to sail it.
In tandem with the expansion of Great Lakes, the ancestor of Training Support Center Great Lakes was founded. On Dec. 9, 1940, the first class of the newly established Class A Service School started its studies.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Fleet.
Between the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec.7, 1941 and the surrender of Japan on Aug.14, 1945, more than 16 million Americans served on active duty; over four million in the Navy.
One million of those Sailors were trained at Great Lakes.
Without America, the Axis probably would have won. America’s Navy was essential to that titanic conflict.
One of our heroes is Capt. Ralph D. Spalding of Public Works. Two hours after the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was in the office of the Commandant, Rear Adm. John Downes. In the captain’s briefcase were plans that he and his staff had developed while the world was being engulfed by war.
Capt. Spalding envisioned Great Lakes’ future to be the biggest single naval training installation in the U.S. Navy. To start with, he wanted to build 32 barracks, two subsistence buildings, and numerous other facilities. The cost ultimately would be staggeringly high.
The morning Capt. Spalding outlined his plans, there were just about 6,000 Sailors training at Great Lakes. Six months later, there were 68,000. By September, over 100,000 Great Lakes Sailors were in training.
Ten months later, Great Lakes had grown more than tenfold, and the original 172 acres had expanded to nearly 1,600. Seventeen separate camps were humming.
Among our most famous Sailors who graduated from Great Lakes at the start of the war were “The Five Fighting Sullivans,” who all were lost in the torpedoing of the cruiser USS Juneau at the Naval battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942—Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George. Ever since, the Navy has not allowed siblings to serve on the same ship.
By the middle of 1943, there were more than 700 instructors at Class A schools at Great Lakes, a sign of how important Great Lakes deemed technical training.
In all the battles, all over the world, that the U.S. Navy fought, one in four of its enlisted Sailors came from Great Lakes.
Just about every Sailor needs to know how to swim, but in World War II, only about half those coming in the Navy could do so. By 1944, there were no less than 12 swimming pools at Great Lakes. One of them was the largest indoor pool in the world.
Before the year ended, nearly half-a-million Sailors had been taught swimming at Great Lakes.
Great Lakes was up to that challenge, as well. Ninety-eight percent of our graduates were competent swimmers before they left here.
When the war began, the Navy was as segregated as the Nation. African-Americans could only serve as stewards or mess attendants. But the necessities of war, as well as recognition by President Roosevelt that a nation fighting for freedom overseas was in an inconsistent position when it doesn’t practice it at home, forced a reevaluation.
A decision was made. African-Americans would be accepted in the Navy, and welcomed into technical fields. However, it would be done according to the odious manner of the time—completely segregated. In the early months of the war, the Navy Department designated Great Lakes as the site for training African-Americans in boot camp, as well as Navy specialties.
On June 5, 1942, Doreston Luke Carmen, 19, of Galveston, Texas, was the first to report for training at the segregated Camp Robert Smalls, named for a Civil War Union hero. In September, “Negro Service Schools” were opened for graduates of the camp. Immediately, Great Lakes became a focal point of African-American interest throughout the country.
The African-American graduates learned and served proudly and well. But the strains were evident from the first. Over time, they built up and led to changes. One of the most severe criticisms of the segregated policy was that it often led to ridiculously small classes for black students. Although more than seven thousand students went through the Camp Smalls Service Schools—they even had their own segregated Shore Patrol—most of the classes were under-strength, and some of them had only four or five students to a class.
By 1944, some of the Camp Smalls students were integrated with the rest of Great Lakes on an experimental basis. When this proved successful, it was evident that the “Negro Service Schools” had to go. Soon, all training was integrated, and by the middle of 1945, the Bureau of Naval Personnel ordered all Recruit Training Commands to integrate.
Great Lakes was also the site selected by the Navy for training the first African-American Naval officers of modern times. In January 1944, 12 ensigns and one warrant officer were appointed and sent to Camp Smalls for indoctrination and training. Their officers and instructors, sadly, were not all on their side, but the young men were bright and determined.
They stuck it out through every difficulty. Finally, the day came for the final comprehensive test of Officer Candidate School. When their test results went to the Pentagon, there was consternation and disbelief. The Golden 13 had scored the highest grades that had ever been recorded in Navy history. The record still stands.
However, many officials at the time refused to believe the results. How could it be possible, they wondered, that these 13 young black men had achieved scores far beyond those of young white men taking the same test to become naval officers?
The poisonous legacy of generations of Jim Crow had seeped into the American mindset. The Golden 13 were challenging that mindset, and in the process, challenging segregation, Jim Crow, and the entire status of African-Americans in the United States.
No, said the officials, the Golden 13 test scores could not be correct. The order came from Washington: Give the test again, another test, just as tough, or tougher. The 13 young African- Americans at Great Lakes were stunned and insulted but they had experienced such things before. They took the new test. They aced it again. Again, their scores were the highest ever recorded, and so they remain.
This time, resistance in the Pentagon collapsed. Not completely, of course. There would be other challenges for African-Americans in the U.S. military. But the Golden 13 had crashed through one of them, and other young men and women of color were following fast behind. Great Lakes became a part of a golden history.
By 1945, the peak of our expansion, we had 13 galleys, serving 300,000 meals a day. Every day our Sailors went through enormous quantities of food, including 17,000 pounds of fresh fruit, 7,000 gallons of milk, 108,000 eggs, 11,000 loaves of bread, 7,000 pies, eight tons of cold cuts and cheese, and 2,000 gallons of ice cream.
Throughout the war, our baseball teams were the ones to beat. Between Pearl Harbor and Japan’s surrender, the Great Lakes baseball teams ran up the amazing record of 188 wins, and only 32 losses.
One of our most famous victories was in July 1945. On the mound for Great Lakes was future Hall of Famer, Chief Petty Officer Bob Feller. He pitched against a Chicago Cubs lineup that included some of the strongest hitters in the National League, who helped them win the pennant that year. Feller pitched a 1-0 shutout, striking out ten Cubs along way, and delighting the 12,000 Sailors on Constitution Field here who watched the game.
As 1945 progressed, the war moved to the Pacific. Though our Navy had brought its Marines and the Army to the very doorstep of the Japanese home islands, the enemy refused to surrender.
But the Manhattan Project had come to fruition. The United States had two atomic bombs. In early August they were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Aug. 14, 1945, the Japanese Empire formally surrendered.
World War II was over.
Just as Great Lakes had geared up overnight from almost nothing to the largest naval training center in the world, we became one of the biggest demobilization sites in the country. We had become Naval Training Center in 1944, and would continue to be “Naval Training Center Great Lakes” until the turn of the century.
Within weeks after the war, Great Lakes was out-processing to civilian life 3,000 Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen every day. It was like air coming out of an enormous balloon—a fast and steady stream of men and women leaving military service and coming back home.
Though the Navy had become much smaller, it was still far and away the greatest fleet in the world. Our victories had given us, by an inescapable process, worldwide responsibilities—both for the countries we defeated and the allies we fought alongside.
The history of women in the Navy would not be complete without taking note of Great Lakes. We had “Yeomanettes” in World War I, but the program really took off in the next war.
Our first WAVE of World War II was Ensign Marion K. Knight, who came on board in October 1942. By war’s end, there were 1,400 WAVES at Great Lakes—Yeomen, Storekeepers, Pharmacists Mates and even gunnery instructors.
Two years later, we still had 150 enlisted and 18 officers, working at Naval Hospital and other commands.
In 1948, WAVES boot camp opened here. This was in the days of separated training, but there had already been female Sailors at Service Schools for years. The first contingent numbered 320 women, and the female recruits were referred to as, “ripples.” The first graduating class took the salute on Oct. 5. WAVE recruit training left here for Bainbridge, Md. at the end of 1951.
By the end of 1948, the Cold War was an accomplished fact. The Soviet Union, with brute force and intimidation, ruled Eastern Europe from its borders to East Germany, “from the Baltic to the Adriatic.” Two powerful blocs, with two different ideologies, confronted each other: Democracy and Communism, freedom and slavery.
By 1950, the Cold War was well under way. On June 25, 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, and President Truman ordered American armed forces to help save South Korea from communism.
A few months later, Great Lakes was again on a war footing. Very quickly, Great Lakes was as busy as it had ever been. In fact, one week in 1951 we graduated 98 companies of recruits, matching our record in WWII.
In 1953, United Nations forces, led by America, came to a cease-fire agreement with North Korea. A peace treaty has, to this day, never been signed, but the war was finally over.
Over the course of the Korean War, Great Lakes Sailors had donated more than 50,000 pints of blood. It was destined for our fighting forces in Korea. Americans alone accounted for more than 140,000 casualties, about 34,000 of them dead. The total dead on both sides approached two million.
In March 1954, 500 officers, enlisted personnel, and guests were in attendance as the new Gunner’s Mate School and the combined facilities of the Fire Control Technician, Opticalman, and Instrumentman schools were dedicated. The contract for construction was dizzyingly high for the era—$2.2 million. When the Gunnery School opened, it was the largest all-glass structure in the world, which trained the best gunners in the world.
The Officers’ Mess (Open) opened in July 1955. The structure is now the Port O’Call.
New RTC barracks, mess halls, classrooms and staff offices, costing upwards of $8 million were built over the next decade. Those buildings served us well for nearly half a century before the current RTC rebuilding began in the late 1990s.
In 1962, President Kennedy guided the country through the Cuban missile crisis, thought to be the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. The next year, Great Lakes tested a fallout shelter. We put 93 recruits in a 25-by-48-foot buried steel box for two weeks, to determine if a fallout shelter system could eventually be deployed on a larger basis. The test was successful, but we didn’t construct an extensive system.
By 1965, we were taking casualties in Vietnam. The war, for America, would go on for nearly a decade.
By early 1966, Naval Hospital Great Lakes had treated 300 injured servicemen from the war. Politicians and dignitaries began to come to Great Lakes to visit the wounded.
On July 5, 1966, we buried our first recruit in the Great Lakes cemetery. Joseph W. Gregg had passed away on June 30, almost exactly 55 years after his eager arrival at our gates. As the last rites were observed, Lt. Cmdr. Joe H. Parker, Hospital Chaplain, said, “This is his final and greatest homecoming.” Seaman Recruit Gregg is now with us always.
On March 11, 1967, there was a tragic fire in the quarters of the Commander, 9th Naval District, Rear Adm. Howard A. Yeager, who died. Two Sailors, HM2 Lora Garrett and HM3 Laura Martin also died on that day. The Admiral’s wife, Jean, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was critically injured and succumbed six days later. The two Sailors had been providing medical care to Mrs. Yeager.
The Admiral and Sailors died trying to save Mrs. Yeager as the fire raced through the quarters. To make the situation even grimmer, the Admiral was to retire in a matter of days, and take a job in the civilian sector. He had already written his last message to Great Lakes. The Bulletin published his last message the day after his funeral on March 16: “The Navy doesn’t belong to the admirals, the officers, the chiefs or the giants of industry. It belongs to all Americans. Our Navy exists to serve a great nation and the cause of freedom throughout the world. I thank God for His allowing me to be part of this mission. And I thank you—men and women of the Navy and friends of the Navy—for making my role in that mission a truly wonderful experience.”
Navy SEALs began finding new people at RTC. The first experimental company of 37 recruits graduated in December 1967. They were chosen from 250 volunteers, and given special recruit training to prepare them for the more rigorous SEAL training to come at Coronado and beyond. Many, perhaps all of them, looked forward to combat in Vietnam. Today, we have a similar process at Great Lakes, with the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School training pre-BUD/s candidates.
Great Lakes began celebrating diversity in the 1970s. We held “Cultural Expo ’73” in the summer. Some of the cultures observed with displays and performances were Oriental, Polynesian, American Indian, African American, Israeli, Indonesian and Ukrainian.
Time finally caught up with a number of our large buildings that were hurriedly constructed for World War II. Designed to last for about five years, the laminated wood-arch Quonset structures were still serving Sailors here 40 years later. They were, however, rotting from inside moisture, swelling and deforming. Over the years, many repairs were made in attempts to save them. One by one though, the wooden buildings gave way to time.
In 1983, Gym 500, and Buildings 169, 1000, 1116, 1600 and Drill Hall 1100 were closed for safety reasons and eventually razed. Their continued service, in many cases ten or more times the length they were projected for, is a tribute to the high standards of construction that has been a virtue of Great Lakes since the first foundation was laid in 1905.
Ground was broken on a new concept in the summer of 1984—a McDonald’s on a Navy base. It’s been open and humming since the end of that year, now joined by other commercial eateries.
When the 1980s began, there were two superpowers in the world, and the one in the East was building a powerful, blue-water navy that sought to challenge our own on every sea. The USSR was fighting a colonial war in Afghanistan, and almost the whole world considered it to be successful, stable, unstoppable and frightening.
When the decade ended, the Soviet Union was gone, broken into fragments, replaced by more than a dozen new countries, including Russia.
We celebrated our 75th anniversary. Leading us in the celebrations was our first female commander, Rear Adm. Roberta L. Hazard, who served here from 1985 to 1987.
As part of our 75th anniversary, the Seabees constructed a replica of the bandstand (gazebo) that was built here in 1911, and from which Lt. John Philip Sousa led his musical legions. A time capsule was buried nearby, to be opened in 2061.
In 1987, RTC cut the ribbon for the Golden 13 Recruit Inprocessing Center, which cost nearly $9 million, and now greets every new recruit who joins the Navy.
The eight surviving members of the Golden 13, the first African-American officers in the modern U.S. Navy, came to Great Lakes. Attending the ceremony were Justice William White, James Hair, Jesse Arbor, Dr. Samuel Barnes, George Cooper, Graham Martin, John W. Reagan, Frank Sublett and Mrs. Lorraine Baugh, the wife of Dalton L. Baugh.
“The Navy broke tradition 43 years ago and reaffirmed that we as a nation are indeed conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. It was within that framework that the black naval officer became a reality. We were that reality as the Golden 13,” said George Cooper.
In 1988, boot camp at Great Lakes became smokeless. As of April 1, and ever since, recruits train in smoke-free spaces.
Congress created the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission in 1988 as a way to accomplish the government’s goal of closing and realigning military installations. Since 1989, the BRAC Commission has closed or realigned hundreds of installations.
In 1992, Rear Adm. Mack C. Gaston, the first African-American commander of Great Lakes, reported on board. He saw us through some rough seas in the next few years.
In 1993—in the wake of the drawdown after the 1990-91 Iraq War, known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm—the Navy hosted recruit training in three facilities: Naval Training Centers Orlando, San Diego and Great Lakes.The BRAC commission decided that only one training facility would continue to transform recruits into Sailors. The other two would be closed.
After much debate and lobbying by concerned citizens in Florida, California and Illinois, the BRAC commission decided to shut down NTC Orlando and NTC San Diego.
As a result, Recruit Training Command Great Lakes would be rebuilt into a modern facility using the savings from the two other base shutdowns. And so, in 1997, began what became known as the RTC Recapitalization Program or RTC Recap, the most ambitious building program at Great Lakes since its founding in 1905.
Thirteen massive barracks were built as part of the $770 million recapitalization program at RTC. Each barracks has 120,000 square feet of space, enough to accommodate 12 recruit divisions of up to 88 recruits each. Each facility integrates berthing, classrooms, learning resource centers, a galley and quarterdeck, all under one roof. The RTC Recap was completed on July 14, 2010.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the world changed again.
And again, Great Lakes went to war. We shall never forget the images of planes flying into the World Trade Center or the smoke rising from the Pentagon—the silence in our skies in the days following the attacks from an enemy without a country, only an ideology of hatred. We shall never forget the courage and compassion of men and women racing into burning buildings to save the innocent or those heroes who died in a Pennsylvania field.
In all, over 3,000 workers and rescuers would die on 9/11 and millions in America and around the world would die a little inside that day, too.
Here at Great Lakes, we did what we did in World War I, in World War II, Korea, Vietnam. We trained new Sailors with a sense of purpose. These new Sailors, unlike in our previous wars, were all volunteers. And all of them, in one way or another, joined the fight against our treacherous new foe.
On Oct. 1, 2001, Naval Station Great Lakes was established. Naval Station Great Lakes provides base operating support for the Navy’s largest training facility. This includes facilities and land space management, exercise coordination, housing, environmental compliance, security, family services, port services, bachelor quarters and housing for the 20,000 military personnel and their families at Naval Station Great Lakes. Around the same time, Navy Region Midwest was established.
On Oct. 31, 2003, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) was established. NSTC aligned all Navy enlisted and officer training accessions programs, consisting of more than 50,000 trainees annually, under a single command structure based at Great Lakes.
In 2003, the United States Navy fired the first shots in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the years that followed, many of our Sailors would volunteer to go to Iraq and Afghanistan as Individual Augmentees, or IA’s. They would stand alongside their brethren in the Army and Marine Corps, on the ground, in the fight.
In 2005, Service School Command became Training Support Center Great Lakes. TSC provides military leadership, military training, student control, berthing, and other support for students attending courses at “A” schools here.
We created a new test for our recruits here.
The story of Battle Stations 21 starts in 1998, when Great Lakes initiated an innovative boot camp final exam named, “Battle Stations.” This was done to ensure that Sailors were ready to join the Fleet. New Sailors used teamwork, basic seamanship and nautical knowledge gained during the boot camp curriculum to master seven training stations during a pre-graduation battle problem. “Battle Stations” used fleet experiences to create a more challenging and relevant training regimen for the Navy’s newest Sailors. Eventually, more scenarios were added and Battle Stations became an all-night-long final exam.
The Navy’s largest simulator, USS Trayer (BST 21), was commissioned here on June 18, 2007. Trayer is a full-sized ship simulator stocked with state-of-the-art special effects designed by the entertainment and theme park industries. A 210-foot simulation of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, it is one of the pinnacles of the RTC Recap.
In 2008, as part of a Navy-wide plan to recruit and grow the Navy’s elite Sea, Air and Land warriors, or Navy SEALs, a new school was officially recognized at Great Lakes. The Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School is a unique step for Sailors looking to become SEALs. After the establishment of new special operator rates in 2006, the Navy began a plan to significantly grow the special operations (SEAL) rating to meet the ever-increasing demand for their unique skill sets in the war on terrorism.
On Oct. 1, 2010, the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, the final phase of the a partnership between the North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic (formerly Naval Hospital) Great Lakes, came to fruition. The partnership is a $130 million DoD construction project to build a new ambulatory care center adjacent to North Chicago VA Medical Center, along with a parking garage and surface parking. Once the project was completed and activated, North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes became the Captain James A.Lovell Federal Health Care Center, after the famous Apollo 13 astronaut. It is the first fully integrated federal health care center between VA and DoD.
On July 1, 2011, Naval Station Great Lakes celebrated its 100th birthday, along with a century of excellence in training Sailors.