CORTRAMID West 1999
MIDN 3/C Luke Swartz
Where can you fly a jet, storm a beach with M-16’s, take the conn of a 8,300-ton destroyer, or sleep between nuclear missiles on a submarine, all in four weeks? Only at CORTRAMID—Career ORientation and TRAining for MIDshipmen. Last summer, our third class midshipmen participated in CORTRAMID West down in sunny San Diego, along with hundreds of other rising third class from units around the country. Then-LT Fuchs and LT Meyer joined us as the Operations and MWR Officers, respectively...although some mids from other schools had to be corrected when they, after seeing only his name, referred to LT Kimberly Fuchs as "she," or if they thought that "Nuclear MWR Officer" was an oxymoron.
As its name suggests, CORTRAMID has two purposes: first, to give rising third class midshipmen an "orientation" tour of all the various branches of the Navy and Marine Corps, and second, to give them hands-on "training" in each community. Not only does this help them choose their future career—surface, submarines, aviation, or Marines—but it also provides a more comprehensive understanding of how various parts of the Navy work. For example, my platoon’s lieutenant, an aviator, noted that the only time he had ever been on board a submarine was during his CORTRAMID, and that the experience had been invaluable when he was assigned to ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) duty.
This being said, the one word NROTC UC Berkeley mids had to describe CORTRAMID was "fun." "It was a blast," said MIDN Wong; MIDN Moses agreed, saying it "was fun in that we got to do a lot of exciting and interesting things." MIDN Monger said she "had a great time; it was very informative." The most popular week seemed to be Marine Week. At the start of the week, the Colonel in charge said he would try his hardest to convert us to what he called "the Dark Side"; he seems to have succeeded with MIDN Miklos, who decided after Marine Week to become a Devil Dog. "I can see why the Marines don’t have a problem recruiting;" noted MIDN Wong, "they push you to achieve what you don’t think you could; [afterwards,] you feel like you can do anything." Indeed, Marine week was strenuous but nevertheless resembled a very fun summer camp where one gets to do "everything your mother didn’t want you to do," as one midshipman described it: from riding in a helicopter on the way to patrolling in a squad to playing with guns to navigating the challenging obstacle courses, fast rope, and rappel tower, "we got to do hands-on stuff," in the words of MIDN Monger. A word on the last activity: yours truly had an interesting experience dangling upside-down 30 feet in the air at the Camp Pendleton rappel tower—an experience I will never forget!
Aviation week seemed to be a mixed bag for the midshipmen, depending on what they flew, if anything. MIDN Wong was disappointed that she wasn’t able to fly due to technical difficulties, although MIDN Agana said that she "loved" flying a helicopter, "being up there and being in control." Though MIDN Monger was disappointed that there wasn’t much to do at the base in LeMoore, she loved getting a chance to fly; she wished that everyone would "be able to try what they want...maybe they could make the hops shorter to accommodate more people." Overall, though, people were impressed with the experience of flying, and the characteristic easygoing nature of the airdales.
Both Surface and Submarine week had their highlights in a one-night cruise on a ship or submarine (although female midshipmen only visited the submarines during the day), allowing a great deal of interaction with real sailors as they did their jobs. Everyone was very helpful and willing to explain their job, and gave honest opinions of what they thought of the Navy. Some midshipmen wished there had been more interaction with officers and enlisted in the fleet; "we didn’t get a good idea of what it’s like to be a SWO," one lamented. Midshipmen also toured the various fire and damage control trainers for the surface and submarine communities; the wet trainers were particular favorites. During surface week, many mids also got to check out the until-recently-top-secret Sea Shadow, the so-called "stealth ship" (submariners maintain that theirs are the only truly stealthy platforms), as well as visit BUD/S, the training ground for Navy frogmen. Despite these fun and educational activities, many female midshipmen expressed annoyance at the "female orientation" brief given in lieu of the overnight stay during sub week: while they found much of the material on sexually transmitted diseases and the role of gender in the Navy to be interesting, they thought it was "just as important, if not more so, for the males."
CORTRAMID wasn’t all ship tours and rappel towers, however: "most afternoons, evenings, and weekends were free," MIDN Junio mentioned, which more than made up for "waking up early in the morning." Indeed, midshipmen took full advantage the sun and surf in San Diego; "the weather was great!" noted MIDN Moses. From the San Diego Zoo to picture-perfect Pacific Beach, mids were riding the red public trolleys all over the county. MWR-sponsored trips departed every week, including one down to otherwise-prohibited Tijuana and Puerto Nuevo led by our own LT Fuchs.
Through both CORTRAMID activities as well as hanging out after hours, NROTC UC Berkeley mids got to interact with hundreds of their counterparts from the other units. Many noted how differently the other units conduct their business. "It was interesting to see how much time the other units take up," noted MIDN Moses, "and also how some of the regulations at different units are so different." "Maybe they take ROTC too seriously," added MIDN Monger. Another difference was in the diversity (or lack thereof) in the other midshipmen: MIDN Foreman noted a "culture shock" at seeing rows and rows of primarily white males on the first day, in contrast to our own fairly balanced battalion.
Speaking of other midshipmen, the one difficult issue over the four weeks of CORTRAMID seemed to be the fraternization policy. The previous year, there had been some incidents involving sexual assault; as a result, this last summer midshipmen were not only prohibited from "dating and sexual relations" with other midshipmen, but also from being in the same lounge with mids of the opposite sex. Most midshipmen agreed with MIDN Monger, who thought that the policy was "necessary, but probably was too much." MIDN Junio agreed, noting that "it could have been more lenient; it’s too bad that we couldn’t hang out [with the female midshipmen]." Another midshipman pointed out that "in ‘the real Navy,’ they don’t treat enlisted or officers like that; you’re allowed to socialize with people of the same rank…saying we couldn’t be in the outer lounge rooms was like saying 'you can’t be in the wardroom together.'" As there were no serious incidents during CORTRAMID West, likely the policy will be relaxed somewhat this year.
Indeed, what advice do the current third class have for the soon-to-be third class on their way to CORTRAMID 2000? "Go to the beach a lot!" exclaimed MIDN Moses, exhorting the frosh to enjoy San Diego’s great climate. "Also practice swimming so you can get a jet flight," he added. Other midshipmen likewise advised spending as little downtime as possible at the 32nd Street Navy base, so that one can take advantage of all that the area has to offer. Most people highlighted the importance of asking questions, particularly about what people do on a daily basis and what they think of their jobs. In particular, it was often very interesting to hear what qualities enlisted people liked or disliked in an officer. Essentially, the experience is what you make of it—the more enthusiasm and interest you show, the more you will learn. Clearly, the 4/C have a lot to look forward to!