Basic Military Training: What to Expect

Basic Military Training: What to Expect

Posted by Brendan Davis on Dec 30th 2019

You guys, I cannot believe a new year (and decade!) are just around the corner. That looming January 1st date usually makes almost everyone reevaluate what they want out of the fresh year. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a clean slate? Surprisingly, for a lot of people, that means considering joining the military.

Maybe your family is looking for stable income and great benefits. Perhaps you're hoping to get your schooling paid for or hope to get into a new field with lots of hands-on training. There are a myriad of reasons people join the military, but anyone who wants to join must go through training beforehand. Each branch's boot camp is a little different — you can read about the Air ForceNavyMarinesCoast Guard, and Army in these links. But in general, the purpose of basic training/boot camp is to prepare recruits for their service in the military. That includes physical, emotional, and mental training.

I am not in the military myself, so I coaxed my husband into answering some frequently asked questions about basic training. He is an F-16 Avionics technician, so this is geared a little more toward the Air Force, but I know people considering other branches will get something out of it, too!

Take it away, darling.

F-16 Fighter jetHey, everyone, I'm Brendan Davis. I joined the Air Force during the summer of 2018. What followed were some of the most stressful, strenuous, and most rewarding weeks of my life. Basic Military Training or BMT is a unique part of your military career because everyone, regardless of their career field, goes through basic training, and everyone has at least one story from this part of their military career. What follows is a Q&A session that will hopefully show what this experience is like.

Q: What was it like the first week at BMT?

A: The first day could best be described as confusion. The instant immersion into military culture came to most of the guys in my flight as a shock. We were all still in civilian clothes, and it makes you stand out. It makes you feel like all eyes are on you. There’s also the culture shock of coming into contact with all sorts of people from different parts of the country and learning how to work together. We had members of our flight from all parts of the country and from ages 18 through 40. The variety of life experiences in our flight was unbelievable.

Q: What was the hardest thing you had to do at BMT?

A: As an introvert, the most difficult part for me was getting used to living in such close quarters with my fellow trainees. There were plenty of times I really would have liked a few minutes alone to think about things, and that’s just not feasible in the training environment. Sundays were probably the one day of the week where things slow down enough for you to really recharge. You have plenty of time to work on clipping threads on your uniforms and making sure all your clothes are properly folded.

Q: Can you describe a typical day as a trainee?

A: Every day started with physical training for about an hour. The workouts alternated between run days and muscle training. Breakfast was followed by showering and cleaning the dormitory. Everyone is responsible for keeping their recruit living area in order. The flight would spend the rest of the time before lunch, either practicing our marching or attending classes. After lunch, it was pretty common to resume classes/marching until dinner. After dinner, the flight had Airman’s Time: an opportunity for the flight to interact with the Military Training Instructors or MTIs. Afterward, the MTIs would hand out any letters, and the flight would make preparations for going to bed. We had 10 minutes or so at the end of the day to read our letters or write new ones.

Q: What was your favorite week of training, and why?

A: B.E.A.S.T. week was easily my favorite week of training. Training took place at a different location from the rest of our training. This is the week that puts everything you’ve learned to the test in a mock deployment. I was selected as a tactical deployment leader (TDL) for this week. Part of my duties were to help the trainees in my zone with various drills and exercises. For me, the thing that made this week so great was the variety of training. One day of the week is dedicated to teaching hand-to-hand combatives. Another day is spent going through the claw — an obstacle course of sorts. A couple of the days are spent defending your zone and honing your proficiency with the procedures and drills. This is also the week you get to shoot the M16A2 and possibly earn the marksman ribbon. All the while, your zone is in competition with the other zones for BEAST Excellence. You eat MREs for breakfast and lunch every day and have dinner at the chow hall on-site. You sleep in long tents and take turns keeping watch at night. You watch SERE videos in the evenings. It was a really good time.

Q: What were some coping strategies you used?

A: The best coping method I found was taking things slow. There’s an old saying, “Meal-to-Meal, Sunday-to-Sunday.” Trying to look at big-picture things in the training environment is more frustrating than anything else. Keeping your head low and just focusing on the tasks at hand takes some of the pressure off. Finding something to look forward to every day was also a big help. Every other day the chow hall had jalapeño cornbread, and I looked forward to it. Letters from my friends and family were also a big source of comfort, even if I didn’t have much time to read them.

Q: What was the funniest thing that happened?

A: So many things are funny looking back, even things I thought were of dire importance back then. One thing that was funny almost immediately after the fact was the day my flight took too long to finish taking our showers after physical training. I was next to my cot trying to get dressed when the PA system (Often referred to as the Voice of God) announced “All available male MTIs to Dormitory X”. I was hastily tying my shoelaces when I came to the realization my dorm had just been mentioned over the intercom. Almost instantly, our dorm was filled with screaming MTIs yelling at trainees in various stages of dressing. “Hurry up!” one of them yelled. The guy in the cot across from me was running in his shower shoes when he slipped, fell, and slid into a wall. Another guy’s towel came undone while he was at the position of attention talking to an MTI. I can only imagine what happened in the other bay in our dorm. It was the scariest, funniest 5 or 10 minutes of basic training.

That's it for this round of questions, but if you all are interested, I'm sure we could do this again sometime.

For those of you who have been through basic, drop your funniest memory in the comments! 

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