When the Navy sends you to boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes, IL, you must follow some very specific rules. The first rule is that you won't leave base during Navy boot camp. Once you've signed your enlistment contract, you are obligated to obey this rule. The first time you might be able to leave boot camp is the day you graduate.
Leave vs. Liberty
"Liberty" is when the Navy allows you to leave base for up to 72 hours. "Leave" is when you use part of the 2 1/2 days of vacation time you earn for every 30 days of service. You'll receive a short liberty the day you graduate from boot camp. You are not allowed to take leave, however, until you've completed training for your Navy job. Then, the Navy issues orders that allow you to take a specific number of days of leave while en route to your first duty assignment.
You receive liberty on the day your graduate from boot camp at the Recruit Training Command. Even though you have completed training and graduated from boot camp, you're still assigned to the Recruit Training Center until you report to your technical school. If your technical school is at Naval Station Great Lakes, you might be granted an on-base liberty before you are detached from the RTC.
RTC Liberty Rules
If you go on liberty after graduation but before reporting to your school, you may not drink alcohol or use tobacco products. You may not operate any kind of motorized vehicle, return to the RTC campus with tobacco, cameras or cell phones or any type of small portable electronic equipment. You must stay within 50 miles of the RTC – basically, you can't travel any farther than downtown Chicago. You have to wear your full uniform, correctly. As soon as you check in at your school, familiarize yourself with the rules of the school; they may differ substantially from those of the RTC.
If your school is at NSGL, you may take the limited, on-base liberty if you choose. You must check in at the school before the liberty expires. Check-in at the school may take up to five hours. Your school then determines your liberty hours, because you're no longer attached to the RTC. If your school is elsewhere, you're attached to the RTC until you check in at the school.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.