On July 14, the U.S. Navy celebrated the end of a 12-year construction program that built 22 new buildings for its recruit-training center at Naval Station Great Lakes just north of Chicago.
The 14 new barracks, three drill halls and five other administrative and training buildings serve what is the Navy’s only recruit training center. Every new seaman recruit entering the Navy spends eight weeks in the facility learning the basic skills and attitudes needed for Navy life.
The training center is arranged in three camps, each with a drill center and several barracks. Other training buildings are shared by the three camps.
The new buildings, constructed in phases since 1998, have replaced drill halls that were constructed during World War II, along with barracks and training facilities that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. All of the aging buildings had become inadequate to meet training needs and were expensive to operate and maintain.
The new structures were designed by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) to meet the mission of training 21st Century sailors. All were constructed by civilian contractors. They were built at the rate of about two per year.
“We first built one new camp from the ground up,” says NAVFAC spokesperson Bill Couch, “then worked our way through the other camps, taking down an old building and constructing its replacement.” Each old building was demolished and its foundations removed before a modern replacement was built in its place.
Couch says that the new barracks measure 172,000 sq ft and have an open design and movable furniture that enable reconfiguring for in-building training. Each also has computer-training facilities so recruits can do some training in the barracks, which saves time. Each barracks also has its own galley. The in-barracks galleys replaced two stand-alone central galleys that were 40 years old.
Each barracks holds up to 1,056 recruits and their drill commanders.
The drill halls encompass 58,000 sq ft and can accommodate a variety of kinds of training and assemblies. The newest of the halls, the Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall, was completed in 2007 and is certified as a LEED Gold building by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The most unique building in the recruit-training center is Battle Stations 21. The 157,000-sq-ft structure holds a 210-ft-long, ¾-scale mock-up of a Navy destroyer sitting dockside in a water-filled moat.
The building boasts a full complement of theme-park special effects equipment that can combine sights, smells, smoke and sound to simulate real-life naval emergencies in order to train and test recruits on a variety of skills from firefighting, flood control and damage control.
“This recapitalization was a unique program for the Navy,” says Couch. “Normally the Navy does one project at a time. This program of constructing 22 buildings over 12 years at a cost of $770 million shows how committed the Navy is to providing recruits with the most modern facilities and best training possible.”