If you have considered or already committed yourself to the United States Army, chances are your biggest fear is basic training. Take a deep breath. If you really want to be in the Army, you will survive basic training. As a veteran who survived basic training in 1990, I can provide you with some tips to make your experience if not enjoyable, at least endurable.
If you’re overly concerned about your weight or how out of shape you are, stop. If you’re going to basic, you’ve already passed your tape test and from there the drill sergeants can take care of the rest. They do not expect you to come to basic training prepared to pass your physical fitness test or to even come close to Army Standards.
This is why when you arrive, you aren’t immediately sent to your company; you will be sent to a reception battalion. You will be evaluated here and if you cannot pass basic training, you will first go through a physical preparation course. You will be sent to this course if you are a female who cannot complete 1 push up or a male who cannot complete 10 push-ups.
Do not be surprised if upon arrival at 4 a.m. you are given several hours worth of briefings. This is purely psychological. At the reception battalion, records will be made, TA-50 (your gear) will be issued as well as uniforms. You will be allowed to call home. You will be shown how to make your bunk to Army standards.
You will be taught basic D&C; (drill and ceremony i.e. marching), and the appropriate wear and appearance of the military uniform. This first week will be mostly boring. You will be fed very well here and given more sleep than you will get when you get to your actual company. The drill sergeants here are nicer because they are ‘coming off the trail.’ This means they are at the end of their drill sergeant duty and are being reintegrated into the regular population of soldiers.
Ok, you’re put on a bus to your actual company. Be prepared. This is the real start of basic training. When you arrive, drill sergeants will board the bus screaming. They will tell you to get off the bus double-time (running) but will stand in your way. When I flew off the bus, one of the drill sergeants jumped in front of me and screamed “Don’t you run into me! Don’t you touch me! I won’t hit a woman but I’ll hit a soldier in a heartbeat!” You’ll then be assigned to your specific company and subsequently will meet your drill sergeants.
You will be lined up and told to dump out your duffel bags. You will go through a piece by piece inventory and then herded to the bay where your bunks are. You will be assigned a battle buddy. The rest of the basic training will be somewhat blurry due to sleep deprivation and hunger. Here are tips to get you the rest of the way.
- Keep your mouth shut.
- Don’t smile. It makes you a target.
- Don’t get upset when the drill sergeants come in the middle of the night to ‘smoke’ you and overturn your bunks. It’s not something you or your platoon did. It’s just a game.
- You will get ‘smoked’ no matter what you do or do not do. (Getting ‘smoked’ is an intense physical workout as a punishment for some imagined wrong. The real point is to get an extra work out from the soldiers to improve physical training.)
- Always secure your wall locker. If you do not, you are likely to find all your uniforms covered in shaving cream and the whole platoon getting ‘smoked’ on your behalf.
- They don’t punish one; they punish all so that the wrongdoer has the added incentive of the other soldiers’ anger.
- The drill sergeants are graded on YOUR performance so screwing up on CTT (common task training) will upset them more than if you fall out of a run.
- The length and difficulty of your basic training will vary according to the job you pick. If you are an infantry soldier, your basic will be longer and harder than if you are an administrative clerk.
Basic training has changed a lot. Instead of knocking you in the back of the head, you’re given a counseling statement. The bottom line is that to survive, you need to not take it personally and don’t stress. It’s all a psychologicalBasic training