Failing Coast Guard Boot Camp: Understand the Difference Between 'Genuine' and 'By Design' Failure

Every wet-behind-the-ears recruit is scared of failing Coast Guard Boot Camp - and for good reason - last I heard the attrition rate is over 10% nowadays. BUT that's not what this is about. That's just a harsh fact that you have to swallow. There is nothing to be learned from it. What this lesson is about, is the day-to-day failures that will inevitably happen to you and your shipmates.

One thing you have to keep in mind before going to Coast Guard Boot Camp is that pretty much all aspects of your life will be in the hands of your Company Commanders. Everything from when you eat, sleep, and even go to the bathroom will be done when they tell you to and how they tell you to. The only thing you really have control over is the harshness of your individual treatment, which is of course directly tied into how well prepared you are when you show up.

The flip side to this is that unfortunately you won't have much of a choice as to who your shipmates will be, and how well prepared they show up. Your only as strong as your weakest link holds very true in Coast Guard Boot Camp. If your company gets a time objective and everyone except for one person meets the objective, you will all fail the exercise because of that one person. The bad news is that you will all be punished as a group, but the good news is that your Company Commanders will make mental note of who excelled in the exercise and who failed the exercise. If you're one of the ones who excelled, this will help you in the long run. I'll explain that further in a moment, but first I have to share with you one other piece of bad news:

Even in a best case scenario, if every single one of your shipmates shows up knowing all their required knowledge and in great physical shape, you will still be "punished" as a group on certain exercises. This is especially true in the first few weeks.

The reason for this is because aside from wanting everyone to be physically and mentally fit, the other goal of Coast Guard Boot Camp is to create an environment of artificial stress. To meet this goal, a large part of your company's progression from day one recruits to successful boot camp graduates is scripted. In other words, even if hypothetically everyone showed up perfect, your Company Commanders would still find something - anything - to be able to punish you. Every company is "the worst company that's ever come through Cape May". They do this not only to create a stressful environment, but also to get you to pull together as a team.


Don't Let It Get To You

I'm telling you this so you don't let it mess with your psyche when your company fails their first rack (bed) inspection, first timed-objective exercise, etc. It's on purpose. It's impossible for your entire company to get every minute detail down to flawless perfection, which means that whatever small (or in some cases large) mistakes that are made, will be used as a reason to punish your company as a whole. This is what I refer to in the title as "failure by design".

Certain exercises you are made to do, especially in your first few weeks, will result in group failure - NO MATTER HOW WELL YOU DO THEM. Let's say that by some miracle your company will actually complete its first timed objective exercise within the time frame given you, your Company Commanders will still find a reason to fail you. They will find some detail that someone missed and tell you that even though you finished on time that you weren't paying attention to detail (and that on a real world mission that could mean the difference between life and death). With that being said, your Company Commanders are still paying very close attention to how well each individual does during the exercise and how well you function as a team. So even though you will all outwardly fail as a company, you can score individual and team victories inside their head. This will help you immensely as the days go by.


Get Inside Your Company Commanders' Heads

You won't be able to avoid the group punishments, but if you impress your Company Commanders during the various exercises they make you do, they are going to turn their individual focus away from you and onto your shipmates who aren't performing as well. If you impress your Company Commanders enough (especially early on), they will even sometimes look the other way when you do screw up or they won't come down on you as hard. It's the difference between them reminding you in a rude way to put your cover (hat) on because you forgot to, and them having you fill out a performance tracker (which will result in incentive training later) for the same mistake. It's the difference between them ignoring a small missed detail during a rack (bed) inspection, and them singling you out in front of the company for it and having you fill out a performance tracker. If you get enough performance trackers you can be sent to RAMP (Recruit Attitude and Motivational Program). You do NOT want to be sent to RAMP. Let me give you a little fact about RAMP so you understand how much it sucks.


R.A.M.P. (Recruit Attitude and Motivational Program) in Coast Guard Boot Camp

All the other branches of the military did away with their own RAMP-type programs because some Department of Defense lawyers decided these programs were too harsh. Since the Coast Guard is technically under the Department of Homeland Security, this legal decision doesn't apply and so as a Coast Guard recruit you have the "opportunity" to be sent to this lovely program. I hope that explanation motivates you enough to prepare yourself so that you minimize how many performance trackers you get and you avoid getting sent to RAMP at all costs. For those of you attending DEPOT, you will only be at Cape May for 3 weeks so you won't have to go to RAMP, but you can still be put on probation and theoretically be sent to an 8 week company if you don't improve.

Here are your take-aways from this lesson:

#1: Have the proper mindset. Understand that many of the exercises you will do will result in group failure regardless of how well your company does them. DON'T LET THIS GET YOU DOWN. Remember that it's on purpose. Focus on avoiding genuine failure.

#2: Help your shipmates who are struggling. The sooner you improve as a company, the sooner your overall treatment will improve and the group beatings will get less intense. While initially there will be some of those scripted failures, if you all pull together as a company, you'll be able to avoid the genuine failures.

#3: Show up physically and mentally prepared so you don't wind up actually failing Coast Guard Boot Camp. You're on this website right? Use all of the information I give you, purchase the Coast Guard BootCamp Survival Guide and then make sure you take advantage of the current promotion to get your custom 8-week fitness success program for free (normally $19.97). You can request your copy here.

I hope you found this lesson helpful. For more tips on how to prepare for Coast Guard Boot Camp please check out some of the other lessons on by following the site menu at the top of this page.

Oh, and if you think someone else would benefit from reading this lesson, please consider spreading the word.

As always, thank you for your support.