The Wisconsin (BB-64) Recruit Training Company
by Keith Nitka, Battleship Operations Manager
Did you know that the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) had its own Recruit Training Company formed from the state of Wisconsin? This was the first time that the US Navy tried this idea, a group of recruits, all from the same state and going to the same ship. The idea was hatched by the Navy Recruiting Command in Millington Tenn. over the summer of 1987 and by early winter, the plan was in place and recruiters were working diligently to fill the slots. The young men were all from the Great State of Wisconsin and they all met for the first time prior to leaving for boot camp. The Governor of Wisconsin, the Honorable Tommy G. Thompson, swore them into service on 10 February 1988. They were sworn in, in the capitol rotunda and given a flag of the state of Wisconsin as well as the Wisconsin Crest flag to carry during boot camp. It was here too that they first met their perspective CO, Captain Jerry M. Blesch. After swearing in, they said their goodbyes to family and friends and boarded buses for the 2-hour trip to RTC Great Lakes.
The 80 recruits were Company 041 (C041) a.k.a. “The Wisconsin Company”. The 80 men came from all over the state of Wisconsin, towns like Caledonia and Lake Geneva; Sheboygen and Jackson, just to name a few. C041 was honored with many accolades by the time they graduated including being the Color Company at graduation and were rated the highest graduating boot camp company in their academic studies with 3762 points out of a total 4000. Company C041 was met again by Captain Jerry M. Blesch in their barracks prior to the graduation ceremonies. Capt. Blesch was there to congratulate them on their graduation and wishing them well during “A” schools. Capt. Blesch was also the Reviewing Officer for that week’s Graduation ceremony. Of the initial 80 recruits of C041, 64 graduated on 8 April 1988 (There’s that magical number 64 again). The BB-64 graduating company then went off to their respective schools for their rates and were scattered through out the country. As the sailors graduated from their schools they finally made their way to Pascagoula Mississippi, where the ship was being refitted for service and by the time of the ships re-commissioning ceremony on 22 October 1988, all 64 were back together again to start their Navy carriers, “in the fleet” on the finest ship the world has ever seen.