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Seaman Delaina Temple took her first steps toward a promising future when she committed to joining the U.S. Navy.
Temple was one of 714 graduates Oct. 15 at Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp. Neither Temple, nor her Recruit Division Commanders (RDC) – Chief Culinary Specialist Ferose Pagarigan, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Zachary Rude, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brandon Bridges – might have thought her accomplishment possible 10 weeks earlier.
“The progress she made is undeniable,” Rude said. “She may not be an award winner, or even the best recruit I’ve ever had. However, she will be the most memorable. Her story of perseverance and her newfound drive and self-confidence are inspiring to all who know her story.”
Temple’s story began in the Dallas suburbs, where she dealt as best she could with what she called ‘a broken home and a difficult upbringing.’ Soon after graduating high school, she entered an adult world where she scrambled to live on her own. Unable to afford transportation, Temple often trudged home at 4 a.m., following her night shift as a fast-food restaurant manager.
“You get out of high school and you’ve been in a controlled environment for 12 years,” Temple said. “And you need to know what you're going to do next. It’s very difficult. I really believe that you’re just thrown out into the world now. It's difficult to know what to do.”
Tough lessons from her first 19 years shaped Temple into a smart, determined and self-reliant young adult. They also, by her own description, left her stubborn, argumentative, and having a dislike for being told what to do.
All of which combined to make for a difficult first few weeks of Navy boot camp, including her first attempt at a sustained run. Recruits at RTC complete a series of sustained runs as part of their physical training regimen during boot camp. The evolutions range from 12 to 20 minutes and are designed to build endurance in preparation for their official physical assessment before graduation.
“I've never run in my life,” Temple said. “I was a pretty lazy person before my first run. I ran four laps around the track and I was heavy breathing off to the the side and my Chief was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’”
Those early setbacks stoked a fire in Temple. The physical, mental and emotional adjustments came slowly, with occasional stumbles interrupting the small steps in her transition from civilian to Sailor.
“I kept running, and then about a week or two later, I did another sustained run and ran around the track 10 times. That is not a lot for most people, but for me it was. And then toward the end of boot camp, I passed my final physical fitness assessment – 12 laps around the track in 14 minutes.”
Her development as a runner is illustrative of Temple’s growth as a recruit.
“I get asked a lot what my favorite part about being an RDC is,” Rude said. “My answer is always watching the recruit’s transformation and remembering who they were the first day versus the day they became a Sailor. I saw that drive really take hold within her character and really push her forward. I saw the daily effort toward the end compared to when she showed up. Her attitude became ‘This is what I want to do and I want to be better at it.’ It was that way from folding, to military bearing, to her performance run. Toward every goal, every day.”
Perhaps the earliest signal of change came during Temple’s first day of processing following her initial two-week quarantine. She stepped forward with no hesitation and had her hair, which for most of her life reached halfway down her back, clipped above collar length. This symbolic step highlighted her transition into her new way of life.
“She volunteered right away at first haircut,” Rude said. “When you see someone with that much hair cut it off, that definitely speaks to the commitment they’re ready to make. I continued to see that with her. I could see the grit in her character when she realized that she wasn’t quite up to par at the beginning.”
In the days and weeks that followed, Temple’s self-confidence and trust in others soared.
“Nobody wants to say, ‘Hey, I don’t know this,’” Rude said. “She definitely tended like that at the beginning. We put a little pressure on her and she responded right away. She started not being afraid to ask for help and then, when she had things down, she started realizing when others needed help. It became, ‘Hey, let’s get the job done together,’”
Temple said joining the Navy was part of wanting more from life and herself. She says she still does double takes looking in the mirror at a new, improved version of herself.
“I mean, in what way hasn’t boot camp changed me?” she asked. “I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, but I am so much more disciplined and confident. I walk with my head up, I’m not afraid anymore. I would have never thought that I could have gone through all of this. I’m still in a little bit of disbelief.”
Temple recognizes that her journey has been one of self-discovery, but she’s quick to credit the RDCs who provided leadership and guidance along that path.
“I think I had the best RDCs in the entire command,” Temple said. “They picked up that I was stubborn from day one. The first day, I was yelled at. I freaked out and got mad and I was like, ‘I don’t like this at all.’ The weeks go on and you realize, you’re being corrected because they want you to succeed. They’re giving you a way to get ahead and it’s up to you to do something with it.”
Temple is entered in the Professional Apprentice Career Tracks (PACT) program. PACT is a program designed for enlisted Sailors to enter into an apprenticeship program that provides apprentice-level formal training and on the job training that leads to a permanent rate within two years.
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy’s only boot camp.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc