Attention, NTC Recruits! We want to honor your stories from San Diego’s Naval Training Center.
Preserve your moment in history.
Liberty Station originally served as San Diego’s Naval Training Center (NTC) from 1923 to 1997. The NTC housed over 2.75 million service members before transforming into Liberty Station, a center known for dining, education, history, and arts today.
To celebrate our centennial anniversary in 2023, we want to honor the stories of NTC recruits and share their favorite memories across @libertystation's social media channels. If you spent time at the Naval Training Center, please share your most memorable moments HERE.
Tell us your NTC Stories
🚢 Meet: Don Lindsay, former 1958 recruit "It was my first time away from Kansas going to the Naval Training Center, I was learning and making friends. After months of intense training and hard work, I finally graduated and achieved my goal of becoming a sailor. Graduation was one of my favorite moments. I am 83 years young and it was one of the best decisions I made for my future."
🚢 Meet: Jeff Edwards, STGC(SW) USN (Ret.) former 1981 recruit "I graduated from boot camp at Naval Training Center San Diego in January of 1981. On the Recruit Training Command side of the base, over the doors of the indoctrination building, was a painted slogan. It was something like: 'Through these doors walk the finest sailors in the United States Navy.' I found friends among my fellow recruits. I began to understand the strange language of my chosen service. I learned to carry out the weirdly meticulous tasks of basic training, first by concentrated effort, then by habit. I discovered I could exceed a number of limitations that I had unconsciously set for myself. I could run faster, work harder, memorize extensive lists of information, get by on surprisingly little sleep, and solve problems that might have seemed impossible a few weeks earlier ... I began to discover the sailor hiding inside of me. It was the beginning of an adventure that would take me around the world, in the company of the best shipmates anyone could ask for. I retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer. The ceremony took place in Seabee Park, overlooking the West Basin of San Diego Harbor, just a few hundred yards from my old barracks at NTC’s Recruit Training Command.
⚓ Meet: Dennis Joe White, former 1966 recruit "I was a 19-year-old kid and my first time away from home was when I arrived at NTC on September 26, 1966. I remember the first night was short-lived when we were awakened at 3:00 AM, to my new life as a recruit in training. I had a wonderful time meeting young men from all over the United States through Navy training. After all of these years, I've only been able to locate two men from my basic training company."
🚢 Meet: David Anguiano STGC (SW/AW/IUSS), former 1987 recruit "I joined the Navy right after graduating from Mission Bay High School located in San Diego. Yes, I was a San Diegan going to boot camp in my own hometown ... My first shore duty was back at NTC as Military Police. I remember parking my patrol unit in between the palm trees on Chauncey Road near the estuary calibrating my radar gun to conduct radar operations and catch a few speedsters. The posted speed limit was twenty-five miles per hour on Chauncey Road. Every time I am able to go back to San Diego, I have to drive around Liberty Station and relive where my twenty-one-and-a-half-year career in the US Navy began. To this day, joining the Navy was one of the top three decisions I have ever made in my life. No regrets! RTC and NTC San Diego will always have a very special place in my heart. Hard to believe part of Top Gun was filmed at NTC San Diego across from the Chapel near Gate 3, just one year before I was there. I was there during NTC's decommissioning. It was a very sad day, to say the least. However, what the city of San Diego has done in converting it to Liberty Station while preserving the history of NTC and RTC San Diego is nothing short of pure genius."
🚢 Meet: Jay Kelly, FC3 former 1987 recruit "I stayed in the barracks directly across from RTC quarterdeck and Company 229 was located on the third floor. I spent two months in Basic Electricity and Electronics (BE&E) school. It was a great time in my life training there and I love talking about it! I remember a guy named Anthony that cracked me up every day because he thought he was too skinny and wanted to put on muscle, so he would ask the company commanders to “mash” him so he could get a workout! The bowling alley was one of our favorite places. Anytime we could arrange to do something off base that was a special event. Whether it was a trip to Tijuana or to Mission Beach it was just nice to get off the base and do something normal. Turning NTC San Diego into Liberty Station has allowed the area to thrive while keeping the old buildings intact for a trip down memory lane while you walk around."
🚢Meet: Art Haffling, former NTC 1969 Nautical Cadet “I served in 1969 as a 14-year-old Nautical Cadet from the Los Angeles District. My favorite memory at NTC was the discipline and participation as an actual sailor in boot camp. As a Nautical Cadet, NTC left a lasting impression through my acquired learning. It was of great value and supported me when I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1971.”
🚢 Meet: JD Duncan, former 1962 recruit “Wow, did I love the Navy or what! We drove to Liberty Station a few years ago and saw the barracks, grinder, and the Recruit. It was a nice visit, reliving memories, seeing articles, and the ship looked like how our team kept our Destroyer. Very nice! I was on the Recruit in 1962, transitioned to radar school in San Francisco, and then was sent to Florida aboard the WW2 tin can USS Zellars DD 777. That ship was in the Sumner class and laid down in December 1943, the year I was born. We were the 6th fleet and traveled all over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. We crossed the Equator and Artic Sea during the same cruise, a sailor’s dream.I loved it, even the seasick moments, from 1962 until 1966.”
🚢 Meet: Charles Frazier, former 1964 recruit “I arrived in April 1964. I had only been 17 for a few weeks and at that time the average draft age was 24. My company was filled with other 17-year-olds like me and there were not many 24-year-old fellows. All the Company Commanders were decorated WWII combat veterans, hard tough men. On the first day, I encountered a survivor of the USS Indianapolis who taught survival at sea. He scared the heck out of me and everyone else. He was mean as a snake and tough as iron. I could not swim when I arrived. However, he informed me I had two choices; learn to survive or he would drown me himself. All these years later I’m still far too frightened of that Hero to ever drown. We graduated on July 17, 1964. My oldest son joined the Marine Corps and began boot camp in San Diego on July 17, 2000."
🚢 Meet: Doug Blanton, former 1973 recruit “I attended boot from June 25, 1973, until August 17, 1973. I had Seaman Apprentice Training until mid-September 1973. My biggest revelation was that I thought I was coming to sunny Southern California, but I experienced my first season of June gloom! However, I wasn't discouraged! After my 3 year enlistment, I stayed in the San Diego area! The most important lesson I received from boot camp was being on time. If you’re not early you’re late.The company was a group of men from all over America working as individuals, but also as a group to achieve the same common goal. Graduation day was the happiest day spent at NTC.
🚢 Meet: Stephany Shriver Brown, former 1975 Sea Cadet “I was one of the first girls allowed in the US Naval Sea Cadets, a youth organization sponsored by the US Navy, in 1974. I was at NTC for two weeks in 1975 for a mini-boot camp. We got a taste of what life was like for the recruits who were there. It made many of us realize how many things the Navy was involved in. My father, James E Shriver, was the CO of our unit, Fightertown, out of NAS Miramar. He was also a Chief Photographer's mate in the Navy. My Sea Cadet unit did a lot of training at NTC, and we spent a lot of time all over the base! One of the pieces of training we did during our two weeks was fire training. We learned how to be a team to put out a live building fire. I couldn’t join the military, but I have a deep respect for what the people in the military do for our country.
🚢 Meet: Richard Dohman, former 1963 recruit "I was introduced to the Naval Training Center in the later part of August 1963.Later in the year, I believe on September 25th, we had two unexpected days off. On or about that date, San Diego reached its highest-recorded temperature of 111 degrees. NTC had ambulances waiting near the chow line to assist a few that passed out because of the heat. NTC would have been celebrating its 60th anniversary that year, but I knew little of it! I only celebrated later that year as our boot camp company (347) graduated on the 13th of November.The few months I spent at NTC has very strong memories for me."
🚢 Meet: Greg Thomas, former 1984 recruit Do you have a favorite memory from your time at NTC? “The filming of Top Gun! My roommate and I were walking to the Commissary in Summer Whites when we heard ’ACTION’ and turned around to see the film crew then Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis screaming out of Gate 3. It left a lasting impression on me. “The original Top Gun movie was released in 1986 and soared to popularity capturing hearts with its thrilling aerial sequences and offering an exhilarating glimpse into the world of elite fighter pilots."
🚢 Meet: Michael Trahan, former 1991 recruit “I landed in San Diego and the next thing I remember was being woken up at around 04:00! Getting all the inoculations and wearing the blue sweats (Blue Smurfs as we were called) for the first days as newbiesThe training and friendships I made at NTC are unforgettable, along with those ‘grinder reminders.’ The famous words of our Company Commanders, Colbert and Bailey, were ‘Men, layer up and let’s make the walls sweat!’ Our company colored as well as the other companies in our division which meant we were a brigade division, which was a big accomplishment. I remember when we went to Qualcomm Stadium to watch the Padres play the Cubs, the CC’s said we had to root for the Padres. When I last visited in 2019, I made the walk from my hotel to Liberty Station to see how much had changed in the 25 years since I’d been there. Seeing and walking Camp Nimitz brought back many cherished memories. Seeing Preble Field where we graduated once asphalt, now a green lawn, just brought many vivid memories of a time long ago that will never die. One day hopefully I can bring my family and let them see just a glimpse of what it was like.
🚢 Meet: Karl Flores, former 1971 recruit “I really enjoyed being a company master-at-arms. I remember my parents being able to attend my NTC graduation. To this day, I still refer to Liberty Station as NTC.Now I volunteer at the United Service Organization (USO) which has an office at Liberty Station. I also volunteer at the USO facility at Neil Ash Airport Center and when I leave, I can see the barracks still standing which was the 'boot Island' in the first 3 weeks of NTC training. I think it is used as a fire training facility by many organizations in San Diego. Pretty cool.”
🚢 Meet: Raymond R. DeLance, Aviation Boatswain's Mate, USN Ret. former 1965 recruit "I was recently in San Diego and was determined to find the USS Neversail [USS Recruit] as a former recruit, but I had heard the training center was gone. As I drove around with my wife, we knew the general area from the GPS but thought we were lost. We turned down a random street and made a turn and then, there it was! All of a sudden my wife shouts out that she sees a mast and flags! Such a sight and fond memories of training there. I cleaned a lot of brass on the USS Neversail! After NTC, I had gone to Key West (Boca Chica) to assist with the crash crew and had orders for the USS Forrestal, but was injured in Key West... so never made it to sea. It is amazing what has been done to preserve the history of Naval Training.”
🚢 Meet: Steven John Hancock, former 1984 recruit "I remember really enjoying Fridays because that's when the newly graduated recruits would graduate from boot camp and all their families would be there on base to watch the ceremony. Sometimes I had the opportunity to talk with a few of them and share my own Navy stories.I realized just how lucky and honored I was to be able to serve in the Navy while working at NTC.”
🚢 Meet: Alvin Earl Allred, former 1938 recruit “On October 22nd 1938, I was rated as Apprentice Seaman and completed training at the Naval Training Center in San Diego, California.After boot camp, I was assigned to the USS Dorsey with a home base of San Diego where I had just trained. The Navy Department furnished this card to mail home explaining that I was being transferred to sea and my new address would be the USS Dorsey.When it came time to go on our ship, we were rowed out in the San Diego Bay, not far from NTC, and saw that the USS Dorsey #117 was an old World War I Destroyer. The Dorsey continued to operate from San Diego providing high-speed target towing for ships in training along the west coast and in the Panama Canal Zone.”
🚢 Meet: Wilborne Smith, former 1960 recruit "As a Company Commander it was rewarding to watch and be a part of the recruit graduation ceremonies. All of the guiding, mentoring, and supporting these recruits throughout their training, and witnessing their growth from inexperienced civilians to disciplined sailors.I saved the life of a drowning recruit at pool two, where we conducted water training for the recruits. That left a lasting impression on me."
🚢 Meet: Robert A. Couey, former 1973 recruit "My dad and I in different decades drilled at NTC San Diego. I was there from August to October 1973 with Company #252. My dad dropped me off at the main Armed Forces induction building. A man of very few words, I knew when my Dad spoke, I should pay attention or miss something essential to my well-being. As my Dad popped open the doors of his 1969 Ford Mustang to let me out, he said 'Son, boot camp is a mind game. It’s not regular Navy. They just want to screw with your head to see what you’ll do under pressure. But once you complete boot camp and go into the fleet, the Navy is just like any other job. So, do what they ask, keep a low profile — so much that the company commander doesn’t even know your name. Don’t be first in anything, or last in anything.'Within the next few hours, I was on the Navy bus, heading to NTC. I wasn’t frightened I felt I had a leg up on everyone. I had boot camp survival skills from my dad who had been there too.Fast forward fifty years, and I’m still in awe of what used to be NTC San Diego. Because our family lives locally, we’re almost Liberty Station regulars. There’s so much to do and see and never enough time to do it all in a day. Nevertheless, this sailor is pleased that so much of the original NTC architecture is not only preserved but integrated into Liberty Station itself."
🚢 Meet: Luis Garza, SHCM USN Ret. former 1955 recruit "I went through boot camp July through September of 1955. Our company commander was QMC Moore and one of my major accomplishments was getting through boot camp without getting set back.Myself and another friend had to do three months of mess cooking at the CPO barracks located close to gate 6. Fun times they were. While I was stationed at the commissary store on 32nd Street of the naval station, I volunteered for company commander duty. I reported to RTC in July 1972. I went through IT and company commander schools. From September 1972 through June 1975, I trained two rifle companies and two drill companies. My primary job during graduation ceremonies was as a parade master.Then in 1978, I advanced to the rank of Master Chief and I asked to return to RTC for a second tour of company commander duty."
🚢 Meet: Anthony Ardisone, former 1993 recruit "It was the first time I had accomplished something arduous on my own and taught me how to work with others from various walks of life.We actually had a pizza party during boot camp as a reward for being the top performing company. My mother helped smuggle in the pizzas."
🚢Meet: Travis Schonleber YN2(SS), former 1971 recruit "I was trained at NTC in 1971 in company 060. My age group of 19 years old was the last lottery inducted or drafted which then switch to an all volunteer force. I remember the two sides at NTC, basic then moving over the bridge to the advanced side to complete training. My company needed extra help by the black aggalettes. They came into the barracks and tore it apart and gave us 30 minutes to be ready for inspection or they would tear it apart again. I remember having to do the 5th heavy drum beat wrapping our bodies around our rifles. I was the RCPO and marched our company around the first 5 weeks then was demoted to squad leader for the next 5 weeks.I went on after graduation to sub school in New London CT and ended up stationed at Pearl Harbor...I got out as YN2(SS) after 4 years 11 months."
🚢 Meet: John Murray DC-2, former 1966 recruit "February 24, 1966, first memory’s waiting for chow damp mornings at Camp Nimitz, next crossing the bridge into boot camp, a good day. After boot camp at NTC went to DC School in San Francisco, then after school was assigned to USS Navaro APA 215, a great experience. Then a few years later was on the Navarro and sent to Vinh Long Vietnam.Discharged in San Diego and all in all a great experience."
🚢 Meet: Homer Ross Arnold, former 1942 recruit Story shared by: Ben Arnold, Homer Ross Arnold’s grandson Homer Ross Arnold enlisted in the US Navy on August 10, 1942. Below are excerpts Homer's letters home. "We came in last Saturday ... and sat around until yesterday about noon then we got our examination and clothes. You ought to see this haircut. We stay in quarantine for three weeks and in boot camp for five weeks. We’re here about eight weeks altogether, then we take some kind of a test to see if we get to go to school. I’m really going to try hard. We took our tests today. They lasted four hours and I believe I made pretty good on them. l'll probably know in a week or so if I will go to sea or school. I believe that the Navy is going to be alright. I know it's the cleanest branch of the service because we mop, brush, wipe and clean everything around here two and three times a day."
🚢 Meet: Duff Owens Wilmoth USN-R, former 1976 recruit "All the many hours our Company spent on The Grinder in our Boondockers under sturdy leadership of Quartermaster Chief who brought us around to perform as one unit, I would often have my gaze fixed on Point Loma Hills. I vowed to scale it upon RTC Graduation. I graduated and it was my first public errand. I got to view the ever-pastoral, tranquill blue waters of Point Loma Channel. A quiet, restive and introspective moment after 12 weeks focused confinement. Our QMC Company Commander agreed that Recruits that wound up in Great Lakes suffered bad luck ... never below 50 degrees outdoors here. My beloved 2nd story barracks ... that safely housed me for 12 freaking weeks.'Through these portals pass the world's finest sailors.' I left a far better person than I arrived."
🚢 Meet: Mark A. Lull, former 1975 recruit "When delivering multiple cups of coffee to our Company Commander and a few other CCs, one of them remarked that, 'Maybe this one can actually walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.' It was one of my proudest moments at San Diego RTC."
🚢 Meet: Darrell Silver Hughes, former 1989 recruit "I went to boot camp there in 1989! I remember marching through the grinder and passing the USS RECRUIT, the famous ship still standing. I remember marching party for making a mistake and 'short tour' where you were 'mashed' by navy seals for 4 hours! Without a doubt, at this time in my life, this was the most adventurous time of my young life. As we still visit the area, where my wife and her friends skate their little hearts out, I show and tell her about my time there, as certain buildings bring back so many memories. I could write a novel about my time there, the haircuts, the inoculation line, the fear upon our young faces…priceless! I was asked recently if I had a chance to do it all over again, would I? My answer: IN A HEARTBEAT. Thank you, Senior Chief Turner and Petty Officer Koffel, for making class 142 special."
🚢 Meet: Jeffery S. Bush MS2(SS) Veteran, former 1982 recruit "I signed up for the Delayed Entry program for the Navy in November 1982 at the MEPS station in downtown Chicago. Then April 5, 1983 I flew with 9 others from O’Hare to San Diego. Assigned to CO 063. The minute we stepped off the plane at 2 am I said I’m never going back to Chicago! Well, I never did.. I stayed here on NTC after boot camp for MS 'A' school… volunteered for Sub duty that took me to Groton, Conn. until my Sub orders took me back to San Diego to the USS Barb SSN 596 (September 1983 - April 1987) Couldn’t have been happier! All my subsequent schools were always on NTC, which now was like a second home to me! I loved NTC so much I had to serve my shore duty there! My Career Counselor secured an instructor billet to MS 'A' school, where I also became an ITB company commander for SSC."
🚢Meet: John Rollo Christensen, former 1951 recruit Story told by: Matthew Christensen, John Rollo Christensen’s grandson "My grandfather’s name was John Rollo Christensen, he trained at Liberty Station when he first enlisted then he served in the US Navy from 1951-1955, on destroyer escort 352 (DE-352) during the Korean War. He was a Petty Officer Second Class who worked as a Fire Control Technician (FT2) during his time in the service. He earned the following medals during his naval career: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Navy China Service Medal, United Nations Korean Medal. My father tells me that in this picture, my grandfather is second row down, sixth from the left. This is a photo from his boot camp graduation. He passed away in 2015."
🚢Meet: Michael White, former 1984 recruit "I was in Company 144 at RTC San Diego starting June 26, 1984. I remember standing in line for breakfast at Galley 8 while it was still dark, standing in the heat of summer at Galley 5, marching seemingly hundreds of miles back and forth over the wooden bridge. We used to annoy our company RCPO by calling him C-3PO. I remember standing in the gas chamber and watching with terror from the back row of recruits as each row ahead of me took off their gas masks and began choking and drooling while trying to recite general orders. Then a week later standing in the pitch blackness of the smokehouse breathing in a lung full of oily black smoke and longing for the gas chamber instead. Then our service week and finally getting our white duty belts, which meant we were almost at the finish line. I went on to Millington, TN, after that for A-School.On the map to the left of 'G' is where my recruit company barracks were. And 'H' on the map is where I remember Galley 8 being."
🚢Meet: CDR Cherie B. Collins, USNR (Ret.), former 1973 Seaman Recruit "I did attend Storekeeper 'A' School as a Seaman Recruit (E-1) in 1973. The school was located in the building next to the theater (which is now The Lot.) I remember going to see James Bond in Gold Finger and proudly standing at attention with the rest of the audience while they played the Star-Spangled Banner before starting the movie. After six weeks of school, I was transferred to my first duty station in Meridian, Mississippi. What is crazy though, is that 11 years later I came back to NTC, this time as an Ensign (O-1E) attending Intelligence Officer training in the exact same building. At lunch on the first day, I walked across the street to the little Navy Exchange (soon to become the Performance Center) and ran into Chief Brown, who had been my instructor 11 years earlier! She was back in San Diego on her twilight tour and decided to stop by NTC that day. Even crazier, there is now a picture of my class, with Chief Brown, on the wall near the big clock in Trader Joes at Liberty Station!"
🚢Meet: Owen Wilborn, former 1953 recruit Story told by: Stephanie Brown, Owen Wilborn’s granddaughter “My parents live in Georgia, where I grew up, and on phone calls, I'd always tell my mom how much I loved San Diego. After being here over a year, she told me, ‘You know, your grandparents always raved about how much they loved San Diego!’ I had no idea they'd lived here and was saddened they'd never know about my life here, as they passed away years ago. My mom said that my grandfather had done his navy training here and I put things together and wondered if it could be at Liberty Station, my own neighborhood!I visited Georgia for Christmas in 2019 and my uncle brought over some photos from my grandparents' stuff. I found [this] photo - his class on the steps that I'd walked by countless times. It was the coolest feeling knowing he experienced this place and loved it like I did! … His name was Owen Wilborn, this photo was taken June 23, 1953, class 376.”
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