"Boot camp" — The nickname for the new sailor who shows up at their first ship or squadron. When a new sailor shows up at a fleet unit this new guy or gal is sometimes called the "boot camp."

The moniker is given because They're so fresh from recruit training they don't know anything about how the fleet really works — and most of all haven' only accomplished passing anything but Boot Camp and sometimes "A" school.

Starting Aug. 21, the top honor recruits — those attaining "honor recruit" status will receive a special uniform ribbon to commemorate that accomplishment. And they'll show up to the fleet looking less, well, boot camp. honoring that status and they'll eventually show up in the fleet looking — well — less boot camp.
Most new sailors leaving Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois,boot camp do so with a single ribbon: the Currently, most those leaving boot camp do so wearing a single ribbon the the National Defense Service Medal. But that's not a guarantee. But even that's not guaranteed. It's only issued during times of national emergency (this time, since Sept. 11, 2001), and it's possible this automatic "geedunk" medal, as it's called, will go away at some point in the future. at so Sometime in the future, once the current emergency is declared over — that automatic "gedunk" medal as it's called — will go away.

On Aug. 20, 15 sailors became the first to be issued the new Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate ribbon. It's not quite a "geedunk," since it will only be awarded to the top recruits who attain the status of honor graduatebeing a. They were authorized to wear the ribbons the next day when they donned their dress whites and passed in review — marking the end of their basic military training.

"RTC recognizes multiple top performing recruits at graduation, but now the recognition is outwardly visible on an honoree's uniform," Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans said in a statement. Evans commands Navaly Service Training Command, which oversees all Navy officer and enlisted accession training except for the Naval Academy.

"Wearing of the Honor Grad Ribbon will be a visible sign to peers and superiors at the recipient's future duty stations that the member demonstrated extraordinary excellence and leadership potential during Basic Military Training and is capable of accelerated and increased leadership positions within the Fleet."

But some many in the fleet don't think the ribbon is a cause for celebration. Many Some lampooned the move while others said it would make the Navy too much like the Air Force, where recruits get a ribbon for completing basic training (the Army, for the record, does this too).

"This is just stupid!" Lee Huffine said in an online comment on an Aug. 19 Navy Times article. "If a recruit is that great, the [Recruit Division Commanders] have the ability to recommend them for advancement to the next paygrade — obviously topping out at E-3."

Previously Honor graduates are routinely awarded meritorious advancements, most often to E-3, and officials say that practice will continue.

The award is effective immediately, approved by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Aug. 18, details of which were released in ALNAV message 063/15. Officials said there are no plans to adopt a similar basic training ribbon for officer accession programs, like the Officer Candidate School.

If you were a past honor graduate, don't go out and buy one — there are no retroactive awards. That's something that sticks in the craw of others, who think past honor recruits, who think that anyone who can prove it should also be able to wear it the new ribbon. Officials said they decided against making the award retroactive because Navy training standards are constantly evolving and the award is based on current standards.

"Seems like if we are going to recognize Honor Graduates today, then Honor Graduates from the past should also be grandfathered in on this," Jesse Izdepski said in an online comment. "I'm pretty sure there are more than a few folks on active and/or reserve duty that were selected for Honor Grad, and ALSO went on to productive Naval careers."

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus approved the award Aug. 18.

But according to a press release, The award was created "to reward recruits for their superb performance during basic military training," a news release said. "The Honor Graduate Ribbon will provide a physical recognition of the sailor's outstanding achievements in academics, physical fitness, recruit leadership and commitment to the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment."

The award's design and specifically the colors used are intended to reflect those depicted on the Navy Recruit Training Command's emblem, according to Lt. Sean Trophy, NSTC spokesman for NSTC.

How the award came about, however, is a bit of a mystery. Current Great Lakes officials say the request for the ribbon and the package justifying it was put together by a former NSTC head, the then-commander of NSTC, Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, who led the training command from Mewbourne let the Great Lakes, Illinois-basec command from December 2012 to March 2014.

Navy Times asked to talk to Mewbourne about the award and its genesis, but were told through a spokesman at Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman that the Mewbourne deferred comment , saying it had been too long since he'd left command at Great Lakes.

Capt. Bob Fink, currently the deputy commander of NSTC was Mewbourne's chief of staff when the award was proposed. He said that the decision to propose the award to Navy leadership was made to find a way to honor those who achieve excellence. All awards given by other services for both training completion and those given honor graduates were looked at.

"It was decided that our best recruits, those who showed extraordinary leadership and excellence in training should be recognized," Fink said. "This visible sign of that performance would go forward with them as they moved to the fleet."

Before this award, any recognition of boot camp excellent performance never left Recruit Training Command and wasn't noted in a sailor's record — other than the fact they'd graduated. The Navy, Fink said, wanted to limit their award to only the best performing recruits.

That's why, he said, the rules allow no more than three percent of the graduates from each weekly training group get the honor grad nod. The ribbon will rank 83rd in the Navy's award order of precedence, just below the Navy Ceremonial Guard Ribbon and above the Coast Guard Special Operations Ribbon. For comparison, the National Defense Service Medal ranks 62nd on that list.

Seaman Recruit Joseph Agbingpadua receives the first Recruit Honor Graduate Ribbon on Aug. 20 during his pass-in-review rehearsal.

Photo Credit: Susan Krawczyk/Navy

Newly minted Fireman Joseph V. Agbingpadua was a top graduate in Recruit Division 281 and was among the first 15 graduating recruits to get the ribbon. The Mission Hills, California, native will attend machinist mate "A" school before heading to the fleet.

"It's a huge honor to get this award and to be one of the first," he said in an Aug. 20 interview with Navy Times. "It's everything, it really is, and it's a great way to end my time here."

"The physical stress and stress you go through here to impress your [Recruit Division Commanders]RDC's to wjo;e upholding standards ... while still learning all that we're required isn't easy and this award shows that our hard work paid off and that in the Navy, hard work is rewarded."

The Navy is the third service to create an award for their top boot camp graduates. Both the Air Force and the Coast Guard offer similar awards.

The Air Force's Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon was created in April, 1976 and is awarded to no more than 10 percent of each graduating "flight" of recruits. It's criteria states that To net the ribbon, they must achieve a 90 percent or higher on all physical fitness tests and written examinations. right?/sfIn addition, they cannot have gotten any negative marks for any inspections or in any written evaluation. Like the Navy's award, it was not awarded retroactively to anyone prior to 1976.

The Coast Guard's Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon criteria for their award, created in March, 1983 is simple — it's simply presented to the single top graduate in each class. Their award was allowed to be given retroactively, provided the service member made a written request and provided the supporting documentation.

But interestingly, the Navy doesn't recognize those ribbons. An Air Force or Coast Guard member who transfers to the Navy are not permitted to wear either ribbon on a Navy uniform, according to the Navy's awards manual. Awards., they are not allowed to wear either ribbon on a Navy Uniform according to documentation on the Navy Personnel Command Web site.

In addition, the Air Force and as well as the Army have ribbons awarded to everyone those who completes each service's basic military training.

Seaman Recruit Richard Cassube, left, assists Seaman Recruit Jeremy Cryer with the proper measurements of the ribbons on his dress uniform in preparation for their upcoming graduation at Recruit Training Command (RTC). Cassube and Cryer are among the first 15 recruits to receive the Recruit Honor Graduate Ribbon.

Photo Credit: Susan Krawczyk/Navy

The Air Force Training Ribbon was created in October 1980 and was immediately expanded to include anyone completing training after Aug. 14, 1974. A later update qualified awarded it to anyone who had ever completed the training. If an airman later goes through an Air Force commissioning program and becomes an officer, they get an oak leaf cluster to fix to their ribbon.

The Army's award is a little different. Their ribbon, was created in October 1990 and is retroactive to anyone active in the service after 1981. The Army Service Ribbon isn't awarded after boot camp, but after soldiers complete their military occupational specialty training. Soldiers given their MOS due to civilian acquired skills — common in the National Guard and Army Reserve — net the award after four months of successful service, according to Army rules.

Soldiers and airmen awarded these medals, however, are not allowed to continue to wear themse awards should they transfer to or later join the Navy or Navy Reserve. Both the Army Service Ribbon and the Air Force Training Ribbon are also on the list of military awards medals and ribbons not authorized for wear on Navy uniforms.

In terms of basic training medals, the Marine Corps stands alone and plans to stay that way.

"The Marine Corps has no plans in the works for creation of an Honor Graduate Ribbon for top recruits graduating from the Marine Corps Recruit Depots," said Maj. Thomas Dolan, a Marine spokesman at Manpower and Reserve Affairs, which oversees awards.

Sources tell Navy Times that Marine leadership considers the coveted "EGA" — the Eagle, Globe and Anchor awarded to enlisted personnel at the end of boot camp and officers upon commissioning — as symbol enough. The Corps is known for being stingy with ribbons and medals, anyway.

The first recruits to receive the Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate ribbon are:
SR Jamie L. Murray, Div. 275, Knoxville, Tennessee
SR Matthew P. Jones, Div. 276, Denver, Colorado
SR Brittany M. Walker, Div. 277, Austin, Texas
SR Renata Y. Choi, Div. 278, Buena Park, California
SR Carlin E. Hatcher, Div. 279, Birmingham, Alabama
SR Richard M. Cassube III, Div. 280, Roy, Washington
SR Stephen E. McGahey, Div. 281, Upland, Indiana
SR Allison A. Rivera-Medina, Div. 282, Yonkers, New York
SR Garrett M. Firestone, Div. 941, Yuma, Arizona
SR Joseph V. Agbingpadua, Div. 281, Mission Hills, California
SR Jeremy J. Cryer, Div. 279, Gilbert, Arizona
SR Hunter D. Morrow, Div. 281, Cherokee, Iowa
SR Bethany M. Vikowski, Div. 279, Medina, Ohio
SR Timothy A. Seybold, Div. 281, Virginia Beach, Virginia
SR James D. Bell III, Div. 275, Freeport, Illinois

Staff writer Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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