|A Female's Perspective of Air Force Basic Training|
Zero week, by far, is the worst week of BMT. You can't do anything right. I broke down the third night and during several nights after. I hated it with a passion and was hoping I had some disease or something that would get me discharged. There is tons of in-processing and appointments you go to. Luckily, my flight got uniforms issued the second day, so we did not have to wear civilians long. It's hard to eat at first with all the TIs rushing you and in your face in the chow hall. There's even an entire set of procedures to follow in the chow hall, which we had been briefed on the night before. Of course we couldn't remember everything, and of course you can't really do facing movements right yet so they'll get you for that in the chow hall. (As you progress through training they have you do facing, flanking and saluting in the chow hall for practice purposes.)
Attention to detail is stressed. There are tons of papers and rosters to sign. If you put punctuation or write illegibly or screw up because you did not do it EXACTLY the way the TIs said to, then you get reamed. Of course there was always at least one screw up every time. It gets to be so nerve-wracking just writing your name or a number down. Lots of briefings - how to maintain your wall locker, make your bed, use reporting statements, facing movements and marching, etc, etc, etc. Within the first few nights, the TIs will pick a dorm chief to be in charge of the entire flight, and 4 element leaders, one for each row of beds. They said they usually select these student leaders by who stands out, maybe even just because they're quiet but get their stuff done, or those who are more assertive and confident, or older and mature. Or just because they want to pick a person out of the blue. It all depends on your TIs. Student leaders have tough jobs demanding a lot of accountability and responsibility. Like if someone in the flight screws up something, the dorm chief may have to pay for the mistake. If someone does not have their reporting procedures straight, their element leader will get busted. And sometimes the TIs would make the screw-up drop their leader, and that would make it all that much harder on both of them. You are always carrying around your canteen with your TRS and bed number (the phrase "1/2 to 3/4 a canteen per hour, not to exceed 12 per day" will become burned into your brain), and that wonderful black portfolio with a pen, notebook and BMTSG (Basic Military Training Study Guide) so that you can study at every possible moment -- outside chow, appointments, in the dayroom. Pretty soon you are going to have to know your entire chain of command, from the President to your Dorm Chief, and their rank insignia and paygrade. Learn them left to right, right to left, diagonally and every which way, because you will be drilled on it, especially at the snake pit where all the TIs sit in the chow hall. Learn it, and know your stuff backwards and forwards.
We actually did not do details or dorm guard (which I'll explain later) until the 1st week of training (1 WOT). Everybody was assigned details during an evening briefing (after chow, a time when you all get into the dayroom and go over stuff with your TI; it's usually pretty informal - an end-of-the-day thing). They would ask who has confidence, and people would raise their hands, and he would select a dorm guard monitor (an extremely tough job, particularly during the first couple of weeks). Or who had sighted a rifle -- and there you have your bed and shoe aligners. Questions like that so they can put the most capable people in each position. Or, if you tick them off, or just because they want to, they can assign you to any detail. The worst ones are road guard and chow runner. In the beginning our TI picked those out because they kept messing up or just ticked him off. (In the end, however, one of them was chosen for honor grad.) And if you don't raise your hand and volunteer, you will get some of the worst details. Like I tried to stay in the background, and was one of the last ones to get picked for something. I was put on latrine crew, which was nasty, but not all that bad (interestingly we later found out our TI was latrine crew when he went through BMT). And for each detail a "chief" is chosen to head up the rest of the crew - latrine queen, bed aligner chief, utility room chief, etc. They are usually the ones to get reamed when something isn't right with their detail, so they don't fail to get on their crews to have their stuff done right.
On another note, some of you may be wondering about laundry and dry cleaning. Your TIs will assign a laundry crew. They'll be responsible for collecting and handing out laundry. Hanging on your end-of-bed display is a green drawstring laundry bag with a zipper opening at one end (use the zipper opening because it's much easier than taking apart the drawstring end, which has to be kept a specific way). Inside are 3 white plastic bags with twist ties and 4 white zippered mesh bags. The plastic bags are for wet laundry like towels (and for those wet BDUs if you fell in the water at the confidence course like 97% of us did). The mesh bags are for your underclothes. Black wool and cotton socks and other dark items go together, and white bras and underwear and like-colored clothing are placed in another bag. Keep them separate if you don't want your whites appearing strange brown and gray colors. Laundry crew will periodically collect and return all laundry items, but don't be too surprised if stuff turns up missing. It's just a matter of fact with laundry at basic. The washing/drying machines at basic are junk. You get your clothing back and it looks just about the same, perhaps a bit better. At least it smells a little better. BDUs and blues are always dry cleaned. There's a dry cleaner located on the bottom floor of every squadron. Right now it's $4.00 for a BDU set, $2.65 for a blue blouse, and if you want other specific prices, I actually have my receipts still. But anyway, it all adds up. They tell you in the beginning to wear your BDUs (and later on your blues) no more than 2 consecutive days. Of course we followed the rules tightly in the beginning, but as you progress, you learn the tricks of the trade. There's no way we were spending so much money on dry cleaning if we did not have to. Some of us wore our BDUs for almost 2 weeks. That may sound pretty gross, but hey, it's basic training. You get used to nasty things. As for our blues, we would not exactly dry clean them every second time; most of us would simply iron whatever we needed the next day. By the way, at first you have your night display with a BDU set on the hanger hanging on the front of the wall locker (and your portfolio and a 341 on your chair). Come 6 WOT, you will start hanging the BDUs as a day display too because you will have your blues on night display. I have detailed descriptions of all this in my BMTSG and the order of items for inspections is still fresh in my mind. Ask any questions you want, but you will learn this material well while there.
Early on your flight will learn how to conduct "dust drills." It's pretty much dusting your dorm top to bottom with your hands and on your hands and knees. Good stuff. One of your flight members will yell out the commands, and the rest of the flight will echo the command as they do it. Echoing is something you learn to do really well and really often in BMT. On a side note, we actually don't sound off to the TIs unless we are specifically told to do so (on rare occasions) or reciting our motto or singing the Air Force song or something of that sort. But anyway, during dust drills you will hear commands like, "Top of your wall locker! Windowsill! Side of your wall locker! Top baseboard! Bottom baseboard! Between the wall lockers! Chair! In front of your wall locker! End posts! Bed rails! Vertical rails! Horizontal rails! Between your bed and your neighbor's bed! Beneath your bed and your neighbor's bed!" And so on until "Center aisle, center tile! Prepare for first sweep!" Then the sweeper comes down to collect all the dust and dirt and junk. I seriously don't know where all the huge dust bunnies come from throughout the day and night in San Antonio. They probably rig the dorms that way so they're harder to clean. Then it's off for a second exciting dust drill.
Your wall locker is kept a very specific way. We had things we did to make our delightful stay in BMT a little bit easier. Your left side of the wall locker holds your BDUs, field jacket and PC clothes among other things. We learned to keep 2 sets of BDUs untouched in our wall lockers. They would be dry cleaned, then we'd clip all the strings, remove the drycleaning stickers and properly place the uniform on a serviceable hanger. That way we wouldn't have to mess with them anymore and they'd always be ready for inspection. (But always do a double-check just before inspections to make sure the uniform has not shifted on the hanger or more strings haven't popped out). And your clothing drawer has towels, underwear, bras, pantyhose, brown t-shirts and socks. Everything must show signs of use (except the pantyhose), so use them as little as possible, preferably once if you can, then wash it and properly fold and place it in your drawer so that you can leave it like that for inspections. Some people in other flights told us that they actually used and then folded everything in their drawers all the time, but we saw it as a waste of time. Correctly folding and tweaking and grounding and making flush towels and brown t-shirts alone takes hours upon hours. Make wise use of your time.
Taps sounds at 2100 Sunday through Thursday night and reveille blasts at 0445 Monday through Friday morning. I thought reveille was kind of cool before I arrived at BMT. I quickly learned to hate it. On Friday and Saturday nights taps was at 2200 and on Saturday and Sunday mornings reveille was at 0545. Same goes for holidays. But if a holiday is on Monday, then the following Saturday is a regular duty day with regular duty hours because you already had weekend hours on Monday.
Most weekday mornings your flight has to fall out into formation downstairs under the overhang. From reveille, you have around 10-15 minutes, maybe less, to get dressed, fill your canteen, grab your portfolio and stampede down the stairs. Once in formation, there is accountability (when the TI or dorm chief yells out to whoever is taking accountability, usually another TI or NCO, "Sir/Ma'am, flight ___ all present and accounted for!" Sometimes it ends at that and you fall back upstairs. But usually we would have the "briefing of the day," which somehow managed to be the same thing every day -- "Drink 1/2 to 3/4 a canteen per hour, not to exceed 12 per day. Use the handrails when ascending and descending the stairs. Salute all properly marked staff vehicles. Blah blah blah." Then we'd sing the first verse of the Air Force song, followed by the 3 core values - excellence, integrity, service before self. And sometimes after that we would shout out our squadron's motto chant thing (I am not sure what it's called. Not every squadron has them. They would ask, "What is a 331st Trainee?" We would yell back, "Sir/Ma'am, a 331st Trainee is Motivated, dedicated, can't be stopped, Untouchable, invincible, rising to the top..." and so on as ours goes. It helps build team morale and enthusiasm and competitive spirit.
By 1 WOT, you're still trying to get the hang of things. You're still learning how to keep your wall locker and set up the dorm. It's still really stressful -- still a time when you just have to survive. So much information is crammed into your skull that sometimes, even when you know your stuff, you get it wrong because your mind is swimming and you get too nervous. You're also getting used to your flight members. Rooming in close quarters with 50-60 other people can get on your nerves really quickly. Starting this week, we integrated with our brother flight. We would separate into A Bay and B Bay, and the males who slept in A Bay of their dorm would integrate with the females who slept in A Bay of their respective dorm and for B Bay the same, so we would be 2 flights with males and females in each flight. We would march everywhere together, eat chow together, go to appointments, etc. The only thing we did against each other was complete for honor flight. But even then points were split.
Cadence was quite interesting. Each TI had his or her own unique way of calling cadence. And then there were the ones who were in training that would constantly get us out of step by calling cadence on the wrong foot then yell at us for being out of step. But it sounds awesome. I don't know how they learn to do it in MTI school or anything, but they make these sounds in their throat, kind of like guttural sounds or something to chant off cadence. But it sounds awesome. And jody calls are always fun. Our flight made up some of our own and were allowed to use them during the end of training.
2 WOT is not too bad. You know how to do your stuff, you will have to endure your first inspections. The first one is a free inspection, which is not counted. Ours, fortunately, went pretty well. It's funny how the ups and downs are so fast. We will make our TI proud one moment, then screw up and tick him off the next. It's all about attention to detail. One minute speck of dust in the latrine can put a TI in state of fury. Everything's got to be grounded, flush, perfect. Try as best as you can, because it can be done. Strings pop out everywhere, especially after dry-cleaning, so make sure you inspect them meticulously. There are stan-team and honor flight inspections - make sure your stuff is straight. 2 WOT is when my flight had details. Groups are assigned to the FTX site, Confidence Course, KP, Reception Center and other various locations. Pretty much you work all day, but you don't have to eat in the chow hall like every other day. Either you get to use vending machines, or if you're on KP, you get more time to eat and get the privilege of eating snacks and desserts. However, you earn them by being on your feet from long before dawn to the late evening. We had to get up around 0215 and march over to another squadron's chow hall. We were on our feet (I had the excitement of being assigned to pots and pans -- scrubbing, washing, rinsing, spraying, sanitizing all day long) until we returned to our squadron around 2030. You learn to appreciate all the work that goes into preparing meals and what goes on behind those double doors in the kitchen. I hated it, but at least I could eat a lot, and was able to have sweets.
3 WOT is classes classes and more classes. Lots of academics. Make sure you study and pay attention because you are going to need to know the information for 4 WOT. More of those wonderful inspections are conducted. You get fitted for your blues! And you also get those lovely BCG's issued.
4 WOT is called by some as "Hell Week." It's really not that bad, as long as you have studied well, pushed yourself to meet the PC reqs and can set up your dorm right. This week holds the inspections, PC evals and EOC test that will decide whether or not you graduate. It can be stressful. Having a diligent academic monitor (someone who's responsible for making sure the flight knows their memory work and test material) really helps. Our flight and our brother flight had 0 failures for the EOC test and over 40 outstandings (90 or higher).
5 WOT is Warrior Week -- preparing us to handle war conditions and embracing the Aerospace Expeditionary Force concept. You will shoot an M16-A2, go through the gas chamber, do the confidence course, always have a mock M16 and kevlar on your person, live in tents, eat in a mess tent and eat MREs (which I think are pretty good, except for the nasty bean and rice burrito, especially when cold), take Anti-terrorism classes, self-aid and buddy care, war games, and a big exercise at the end where you put to practice everything you have learned. You earn the Airman's coin and complete the transition from trainee to airmen in the culminating ceremony.
Prior to deployment we inquired about the road march during Warrior Week. We were informed that there would be no march. There was lots of marching, some lenthy ones, but not an official "road march." The TIs told us that there used to be a 2-mile march; (Editor's Note: Actually, it was a 5.3 mile march), however, a male had died during the march at one point. His death was completely unrelated to the march, but they eliminated the road march from Warrior Week anyway. So, as of this time, there is no road march being conducted during Warrior Week. I don't know if they'll bring it back or what, but it doesn't exist right now.
If you have good TIs, they earn your respect. And if you are doing your part, you will earn theirs. We missed our TIs at Warrior Week because we have an entirely different set of instructors. Not individual ones assigned to flights, but lots of instructors each with his or her own duties - teaching the anti-terrorism class, being IDMT, conducting muster (a briefing conducted every evening), etc. There were 16 flights total at our Warrior Week, 4 female and 12 male. We were then separated into 4 different AEFs, each named after an important person. Like our brother flight and our flight, as well as 2 other flights, were assigned as "Airey AEF," after the first CMSgt of the Air Force. Each AEF was assigned to different activities throughout the week. FTX, CATM (M-16 training), NBC training and classes were all conducted at different times for each AEF. My AEF had FTX first off, whereas another AEF had that as their last activity at the end of the week. It was tough, but it's preparing you for deployment conditions.
Around your 5 WOT, your flight can start designing a flight t-shirt. The creative and the artists in your flight, with suggestions and advice from all the others, can create your flight's own unique t-shirt. A design is sketched out and given to the local BX design store so they can put it on a t-shirt. All flight shirts are black with a small logo on the front and then a large one on the back. All the flight members' and TIs' names, as well as flight number and TRS are on the back with any slogan or motto that you want. It's up to your flight to do whatever, at the discretion of your TI. Let your shirts' design represent the essence of your flight. You can also have the design put onto a coin. At the end the flight almost always buys extra shirt for their TIs. The TIs then put the shirts up in their flight office (their office in the dorm) or wear them. After BMT, you can wear black t-shirts under your BDUs instead of only the brown ones.
6 WOT is awesome. You're so proud to be an airman and walk with your head high. Some let it get to their heads, but try to be humble too and help out the others below you as much as you can. You learn how to wear your blues and get to wear them everywhere. They look sharp, but are a hassle with the gig-line and garter straps and everything. The day you have been waiting for is so close, and seeing your family and friends is just days away. It's an exciting time, but don't forget that it's not over yet. Don't relax too much or get complacent, because in your blues you're a target. TIs will try to trick you into making mistakes. You better know your memory work, how to properly wear your uniform and render customs and courtesies -- everything you learned over the past 5 weeks should be put into practice and maintained. You can still get recycled, even after graduation, and you can have your Airman's Coin confiscated. Just don't do anything stupid and follow the rules. The TIs aren't always hounding you, though, they will lay off quite a bit. Just be sure to know your stuff. But be proud, because you've earned the right to be called an Airman in the United States Air Force.
Above Article by ANSK876, a member of our Message Forum