1. Careers
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Surviving Air Force Basic Training

Packing Right by Packing Light


Ballpoint pen sat on blank lined writing pad
Creative Crop / Photodisc / Getty Images

Your journey to Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) should start in advance to getting on the plane. You'll want to pack the right stuff. Your recruiter should have given you an official list of what you are allowed to take with you to basic. If it ain 't on the list, don't take it. Don't even try to think that "this item," or "that thing" will be the exception. That list has been around for a lot of years, and there are no exceptions. One of the first things you'll experience at Lackland is a complete search of your personal possessions. Anything not approved will be confiscated and stored until after graduation.

While the good folks at Lackland Air Force Base have prepared this "official list" of items you'll need at basic training, any good recruiter will tell you that one of the first things you should do with this list is lose it. Air Force Training Instructors (lovingly called "T.I.s") at basic training love it when everyone in their flight looks the same; acts the same; talks the same; owns the same stuff. Conversely, they hate it when someone tries to be different from the herd. A day or two after arrival, you'll be taken to the Troop Mall, which is a small BX (Base Exchange) dedicated to basic training recruits. The Troop Mall has absolutely everything (for the most part) you'll need to purchase for basic training, and you'll find that your T.I. likes you a whole lot better if your stuff looks just like everyone else's stuff. Additionally, the lighter you pack, the better you'll like it. When they first meet you, T.I.s love to play their favorite T.I. games, which often involve your baggage.

Another reason to pack light is that when you graduate, you will only be allowed three bags (one carry-on and two bags that can be checked). This is true, even if your technical school is going to be at Lackland. One of those bags will be your duffle bag full of uniforms. The other will be a garment bag to carry your dress uniforms, and the third bag will have the civilian clothes and personal affects you brought with you.

Here's what I recommend you bring with you:

  • College transcripts, Civil Air Patrol Certificates, and any JROTC Certificates. Actually, you won't need these at basic training, but you'll want them with you during your final trip to MEPS, because college credits and/or JROTC can give you advanced enlistment rank.

  • Driver's license. You won't be driving while at Air Force Basic Training, but some Air Force jobs require a driver's license. If you can't prove that you have one, you will not be eligible for consideration for any of those AFSCs (jobs).

  • Alien card and/or naturalization certificates. (If applicable).

  • Marriage license and any birth certificates for your dependents. These are required to start your housing allowance, family separation allowance, and to obtain/complete the necessary application for dependent ID cards, which are necessary for military medical benefits, and shopping privileges.

  • Social Security Card.

  • Enlistment Contract. This will be provided to you at MEPS after you take the final active duty oath (except Guard/Reserve, who do not take a "final oath").

  • Banking Information. You'll need the name of your bank, the bank routing number, and the account number. If you bring a blank check or blank deposit slip, this will have the required information on it. This is required because the military requires your pay to be "direct-deposited" in a bank account. You'll also want to bring an ATM card for the account, so that you will have easy access to your money.

  • Cash. No more than about $40. You'll be allowed to keep cash in your security drawer, but you will have to record the serial number in a notebook, and keep that list up-to-date.

  • Prescriptions. You will not be allowed to continue to take any prescription medication that you may bring with you (this is because there is no way to tell if you've substituted a prescription for an illegal narcotic). However, your prescription will be examined by a military doctor after arrival, and -- if necessary -- you will be re-issued the medication from the military pharmacy. Ladies, this applies to birth control pills as well. You may continue to take birth control pills during basic, but your prescription will be re-issued by the military pharmacy. Over-the-counter medication is not allowed in basic training. If you bring any with you, it will be taken away.

  • Toothbrush, toothbrush tray, and toothpaste/powder. Your toothbrush tray should be the square kind. If you get the round kind, and it rolls when the T.I. opens your drawer to inspect it, it will be out of place, and you'll get a demerit. For toothpaste, get the "flip lid" kind. The "screw top" is almost impossible to keep clean.

Readers Respond: Surviving Air Force Basic Training

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.