After the Spanish-American War, the Navy began investigating 37 sites around Lake Michigan in order to locate a new training center in the Midwest, an area that contributed 43 percent of the Navy’s recruits at the time. Illinois Congressional Representative and chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs (1900 - 1911) George Edmond Foss pressed for the decision to locate the center at its present location and was later called "The Father of Great Lakes." Foss Park, just north of the base in North Chicago is named in his honor. However, it is likely the facility would have been located elsewhere had it not been for the $175,000 contribution of the Merchant's club of Chicago to purchase the land.
Rear Admiral Albert A. Ross was the station’s first commander and the base's Ross Field and Ross Auditorium were later named in his honor. The first flag was planted on site on July 1, 1905. President William H. Taft dedicated the station six years later on October 28, 1911. In that same year the station received its first trainee, Seaman Recruit Joseph W. Gregg.
Naval Station Great Lakes was at the forefront of the racial integration of the Navy. African-Americans were permitted to enlist for general service in the middle of 1942 receiving training at Great Lakes as well as Hampton, Virginia. Previously they had been restricted to special duties. The Navy commissioned its first African-American officers, later known as the "Golden Thirteen," at Great Lakes in February 1944. In July 1987, building 1405, the Golden Thirteen Recruit In-Processing Center, was dedicated in their honor. The surviving eight attended the ceremony.
Navy recruit training is now exclusively conducted at Naval Station Great Lakes' Recruit Training Command. Prior to the mid-1990s recruit training facilities included Naval Training Center Orlando and Naval Training Center San Diego. Female recruit training was previously limited to the Orlando facility. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission of 1993 resulted in the consolidation of recruit training to Great Lakes. Following the consolidation, the Navy undertook a massive recapitalization (recap) program to upgrade the Great Lakes Recruit Training facility. The recap included the construction of Camp John Paul Jones, a 48 acre site on land formerly owned by the VA Hospital adjacent to Camp Porter. New barracks were also constructed, they are referred to as "ships" by the recruits. The ships were also given names to honor an important ship in naval history, such as USS John F. Kennedy and USS Enterprise. Each "ship" can house up to 1300 recruits during training.
A Arleigh Burke class destroyer simulator called USS Trayer (BST 21) was also constructed as part of the recap program also known as Battle Stations 21 (BST 21).
The USS Enterprise Recruit Barracks Building is the eighth of fourteen built as part of a $763 million recapitalization program. These barracks are notable for being the first time the Navy has included the USS initialism in the name of a building, and for the ship-like commissioning ceremonies. Approximately 4,775 civilians are transformed into basically trained sailors aboard this "ship" each year.
The building is named after the eight USS Enterprises that have borne the name, including the two famous aircraft carriers pictured around the building's "quarterdeck". The first is CV-6, which was a ship of the Yorktown class launched in 1936, and one of only three American carriers commissioned prior to World War II to survive the war. The nautical flags hanging on the quarterdeck of BLDG 7115 are from CV-6. The second is CVN-65, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Many of the displays on the quarterdeck of USS Enterprise (BLDG 7115) were donated by the CVN-65 Enterprise.
USS Enterprise (BLDG 7115) has of space, enough to accommodate 16 recruit divisions of up to 88 recruits each. This facility integrates berthing, classrooms, learning resource centers, a galley, and quarterdeck, all under one roof. Each "ship" has a Ship's Officer, who fills the role of Commanding Officer, a Ship's Leading Chief Petty Officer, who fills the role of Command Senior Chief, and a Chaplain.
Navy Recruits begin their journey at Building 1405, Golden Thirteen, the Recruit In-processing Center in Camp Moffett. Recruits arrive at all hours, but mostly during the night. Before formal training can begin at Recruit Training Command, Recruits are screened medically, dentally, and administratively. They receive a thorough round of inoculations, an initial issue of uniforms, and their first military haircut. They are taught basic grooming standards, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), standards of conduct, and are introduced to their Recruit Division Commander (drill instructor).
This first week of training called P-Days (processing days) lasts for approximately five days, but can run a little longer depending on weekends, holidays, and the schedule of arriving Recruits. During P-days, Recruits will be taught the basics of watch standing, they will be given information to memorize, and they will begin learning to organize their gear. P-Days conclude with a commissioning ceremony, led by the Recruit's Group Commander (Ship's Officer) in which their division receives its guidon (divisional flag displaying division number). This ceremony marks the official start of their training.
This week is considered the most intense week of physical conditioning. Recruits take their initial swim qualification test, learn military drill, the details of rank and rating, and the Navy core values.
Week Three consists of hands on training. Recruits will learn laws of armed conflict, money management, basic seamanship, shipboard communication, and Navy ship and aircraft identification. Recruits also take their first physical training test, consisting of curl ups, sit-reaches, push ups, and a run.
During Week Six, recruits learn shipboard damage and firefighting skills. Recruits will learn to escape smoke-filled compartments, open and close watertight doors, use self-contained breathing apparatus, carry fire hoses and learn to extinguish fires. Week Six also consists of the Confidence Chamber (tear gas chamber).
Week Seven is the last week of Navy Basic Training. These seven weeks, combined with Processing Week, makeup the approximate eight week training cycle that each Recruit must complete before graduating. Week seven consists of the accumulation of Navy Basic Training in a gruelling 12 hour exercise called "Battle Stations". This reinforces much of the instruction learned during Basic Training. Recruits have to pass all the requirements of Basic Training in order to participate in "Battle Stations". Once Recruits have successfully completed "Battle Stations" they become Sailors, don their Navy Ball Cap and are permitted to Pass In Review (PIR) at the USS Midway, Ceremonial Drill Hall, officially marking their graduation and entrance into the fleet of the United States Navy.