Zach Bailey called himself self-centered while he was in high school. He didn’t realize it at the time, but after joining the Navy, he learned how to be a team player.
“Running is an individual sport. I was very self-centered, not team centered. The Navy is a team. It’s not an individual. They drill into us, no matter what it’s the mission is first, the ship, second, the team third and you put yourself last,” Bailey said.
Bailey didn’t decide to go into the Navy until he attended a college fair his senior year. “I didn’t want to go to college not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. So instead of all that debt, I joined the Navy and they’re paying for me to go to school,” he said.
Now living in Groton, Connecticut, Bailey is studying in the submarine electronic computer field to hopefully work with sonar technology. He did eight weeks outside of Chicago for his basic training.
“It’s as hard as you want it to be. All you have to do is study,” he said. “You can pass with minimal effort, but you won’t be set up for life. If you can pass the weight requirements, you can do it.” The Navy is not for everyone, Bailey admits, and the ones who don’t do the work get nicknames or kicked out, but the people with the drive, succeed.
“It’s life or death out there,” he concludes. He has to trust that the men on his team with work their hardest and do their jobs so that the team will get home safely.
While in basic training Bailey was determined to break the record for the mile and a half run. The goal was 8:45. His first run he finished in 9:39 and the second 9:09. “For the last one I was determined. I really wanted it,” he said. But then something happened.
He found out that eight shipmates didn’t pass the last run. They were at 13 minutes and they needed 12:30.
“I talked to them. I told them I’d set a 12 minute pace for them. I’ll set this pace for you and I guarantee you will make it,” he told them. Seven of the eight agreed to have him help them. However, with this one offer from Bailey, he gave up the quest for the record he’d been chasing.
“We are one team, one fight. When one person messed up – we all did pushups. If my shipmates failed… I knew they could do it. I was the carrot for the bunny,” he said.
The day of the race, he set the pace for the seven shipmates. And, when they crossed the finish line, all of them had passed. The one who declined the help, didn’t pass.
Bailey didn’t get the record, but he admits he gained so much more. “It was as rewarding to me as it was to them,” he said.
Bailey is setting up his future and getting himself on his feet, he said. “I would recommend the military if you want to try 110 percent. If you’re willing the benefits are endless. My only expenses are Netflix. They pay for insurance, a roof over my head and food on my table,” he said. “You give them four years of your life and they’ll give you four years of college. Why should I be in debt? I’m going to be ahead of the game.”