|A Female's Perspective of Air Force Basic Training|
In the beginning I had 5 TIs - the team chief, 2 others, and 2 in training. One of the ones in training screwed up on something and was no longer being considered for a hat, the other, SSgt Wallace, switched to another flight in the same TRS early on but marched my flight at graduation when he got his hat. SSgt Shatto was my main TI, and he was awesome; I couldn't have asked for a better TI. He trained our flight extremely well. The other TI, SSgt Mathews, was hardcore and made our lives a living hell during the first couple weeks of training. He became a Blue Rope while we were there and was assigned to supervising flights in the squadron rather than pushing them. Our brother flight's TI, SSgt King, marched our A Bay flight. Then we got another TI, SSgt Ristau, about halfway through training. He conducted inspections, marched us and was with us quite a bit except towards the end. Then towards the end we got another TI in training who kept getting us out of step but got better over time. We went through quite a few TIs; I don't know if every flight does or what. I think some have only 2 or 3.
Dorm Guard is a big thing at basic. It's an entire set of procedures designed to be followed for the security of the dormitory occupants and their possessions, fire prevention and conservation of utilities. Everybody does it. There are 2-hour shifts, and during the night hours two people take each shift. There's a certain way to authorize entrances and announce entrances and exits into and out of the dorm. There are hourly checks to be done and specific steps to follow in a fire, gas or bomb drill. This is what gets a lot of people in trouble. And if you allow an unauthorized entry in your 4th week or beyond, you will be automatically recycled. The safety of the flight is extremely important. OJTers and TIs will conduct briefings early in training to show you how dorm guard is done. They love you trick you and make you lose your military bearing when you are on dorm guard, so watch out and be careful.
It can be extremely difficult just holding the flight together. All the mind games and integrity issues almost made my flight fall apart. Without trust, it's hard to work as a team. And females can get surprisingly bitchy. But eventually we did pull together and learned how to cope with all the stresses and demands of basic training as well as build up team spirit and cooperation. I was lucky to have such awesome females in my flight. There are always a few in every flight with attitudes, however; just don't let them get to you. Stay focused and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Right after we returned from Warrior Week, my flight switched dorms. We went downstairs so we could be right across the hall from our brother flight (our older sister and brother flights had graduated a week earlier and their dorms were empty).We moved into a previously male dorm, and was exactly the same except the layout of the dorm was a bit different. So, I am assuming the latrines and bays are the same for every dorm. The latrines have a tile shower room with 8 shower heads, 4 on each side. Immediately outside the showers is a drying room with benches, then an large open area with 10 sinks, 7 stalls and 3 urinals. Sometimes it got a little chaotic when we got a 2-minute latrine break for 50-something females and only 7 toilets. With all the water they make you drink to prevent dehydration, using the latrine is almost a constant need, at least for us females. Seriously, every 5 minutes we felt a need to use it. It's crazy how much you have to go in basic. A lot of the time you will just have to hold it, because you might be marching, in formation, in class or the TIs will just tell you that you're an adult and can hold it. Of course they allow latrine breaks, and if it's an emergency they will let you go but yell at you for it. Sometimes the breaks don't quite seem often enough though. At Warrior Week it's really hard because you have an assigned latrine building you can use, and none other. If you're on one side of the camp and need to use the latrine, good luck getting to it before it's too late. It wasn't uncommon for "accidents" to occur. Make sure you utilize every break you get. I was pretty self-conscious before basic training, but immediately got used to showering and changing with 50 other females. Before long females were walking around the dorm during showers/changing butt naked and didn't even care. No one else did either. You get used to it.
As for the PC program we did, it was tough. They usually alternate running days with callisthenic days. Stretches and cardiovascular exercises are always performed before PC, with stretching afterwards also. For running, we would either run 2 miles, or do a 3-part running exercise. For that we would do "Last Trainee Up," where there's about 10 trainees in the same running ability group running in a line around the track. The lead trainee would be the pacer, and the one directly behind would raise one arm and yell, "Last Trainee Up!" The last trainee would then proceed to sprint from the back to the position right behind the lead trainee. The trainee who just yelled from put his arm back down, and the trainee who just sprinted up would then raise his or her arm and yell the same thing. And you go on and on for 15 or 20 minutes. Then there's the run-at-your-own-pace run for around the same amount of time, then the last exercise is 6 sets of sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking 2-minutes. They go easier on you in the beginning and give you a few walking breaks, but pretty soon you're going to have to run the entire time through these exercises. Just don't stop. TIs will be right out there with you, some running, some watching, and they'll yell at you if you're walking. And if you are dehydrated and faint or something, or complain to the IDMT (Independent Medical Technician), or have any problem other than a serious injury, expect no sympathy from them. They will scream at you for being weak. Calisthenics is lots of sit ups, countless pushups of all types, flutter kicks, leg lifts, shoulder presses, partial squats. All in repeated sets until you think you are going to cry and you can't even hold your arms up anymore. Fun stuff, but it's good for you.
Church was awesome. They allow all trainees 2 hours a week of religious activities: 1 hour for church services, and 1 for religious instruction, i.e. a Bible study. They hold many different kinds of services for different types of beliefs. I attended the Protestant services, which happens to be the most popular one. It was contemporary and upbeat, comforting and encouraging. It's just what trainees need. I bawled during my first Sunday at church. I was just so emotional -- so homesick, so frustrated and stressed out. But with time, I got over it. The best thing about church is that TIs aren't around. No one's going to yell at you or play mind games with you. On the way there you're told to smile and relax; you're at church. It's a great way to destress and go back to training a little bit refreshed. A lot of times as classes or church is ending, you're told to get back into the "training mode." "Get your game faces back on." After you're released, you have to put your mind back into gear.
Oh, and how could I forget the ever so important forms of communication known as letters and phone calls. And what about patio breaks, you're probably wondering. (For those of you who don't know, a patio break is a time when trainees are allowed to go outside on the patio and eat snacks and candy from the vending machines and make phone calls on one of the many payphones. It can range from a couple minutes to a few hours.) Keep in mind that every TI has a different set of rules for these. Some flights are allowed some or all of these privileges right off the bat, while some flights may never get a chance to have any of them, save for the mandatory phone call or two and some letters. Our TI was never fond of patio breaks. Another flight in our squadron had their 4th patio break by their second week. We got our first and only one the night before Warrior Week, which was almost our 5th week. Luckily we were given a 10-min phone call every weekend. And that meant 10-minutes for each bay, so we had 20-25 people wanting to use the limited number of payphones. Sometimes your calls have to be cut short. And the first few times don't be surprised if a TI, dorm chief or element leader is in your face yelling at you to get off for the next person, or just because they told you to. You can't hear what the voice on the other end is saying because you're getting yelled at, and you've only been on a minute or two, and you can't hear them saying goodbye. It gets frustrating, but it eases up after a while. The first phone call is usually an emotional one. I cried, and just about everybody cries or at least gets teary-eyed when you hear the voices of your loved ones. You have only enough time to spit out your address and that you're not dead (yet) and that you love them. Then it's goodbye. It's tough, but usually by the next couple of times you're more relaxed and can speak clearly enough for them to hear what you're saying. But then sometimes you're so excited and so full of information and interesting things to say that you speak too fast for them to hear you. Right after my first phone call I accidentally ran into a Blue Rope on the patio. Not fun. Just watch out where you're going. =)
Letters were a big issue in my flight, and I'm sure every trainee in every flight looks forward to letters. You need that source of comfort and connection, that tie back to the familiar and your loved ones. Mail call is normally conducted during evening briefings on weekdays. Sometimes things get busy and a week might pass by with no mail call. It's really disappointing, but all the mail that comes at the end is worth it. We were not given permission to read or write letters until the end of our 1 WOT. We had actually been given letters a few days beforehand, but were told to lock them up in our security drawers. It was torture to have those letters just sitting in there but not being allowed to open them up. We were ecstatic when we were finally given permission to read them. We were never actually given real personal time by our TI until the very very end. Before that, he would leave it up to our dorm chief and element leaders. They would have us get all of our stuff done and help each other out before we got a little free time. And during the times when we would work on our personal areas, we would sometimes be able to read and write letters then. Or after lights out there might be a little time to do so. If we didn't have our stuff straight or had screwed up somehow, our leaders would revoke privileges. They have been given authority to do that, and once our dorm chief took away all letter privileges for 3 days. But then we made it up to her by performing well as a flight and got back the privilege the next day. Remember too that your TIs can take away your privileges at any time for any reason, and in certain cases your student leaders can do the same also.
Honor Grad PC requirements held to the new standards for our flights. For the females, you needed an 18-minute run, 27 pushups and 60 sit ups (from the 19-min run, 22 pushups and 50 sit ups) to be eligible. For flights with the new PC program, trainees attained the title "Thunderbolt" if they met the minimum standards stated above (males have higher standards except for sit ups). With that title one would receive an extra Town Pass and a certificate. If you met even higher standards, I can't remember exactly what they are, but in addition it's 3 pull ups or chin ups for females and 10 pull ups for males, you can earn the title of "Warhawk," and get a Warhawk t-shirt, certificate and extra Town Pass.
Recently added to BMT is the new Warrior Challenge. If you are a fitness buff or love stuff like running, pushups, sit ups or pull ups and other physical events, including tug-of-war against the TIs, then you'll love Warrior Challenge. It's during the first Saturday of every month, and trainees and airmen from every squadron come together and compete. The best physical performers in every flight have a practice session after every regular PC session. Lots more pushups, sit ups and running. Then they take the top 10 from each flight to compete. We weren't able to be spectators during the first one that occurred while we were there because we were only first weekers, but we attended the second one when we were airmen. I think they let everybody but zero and first weekers go. And being a spectator is a good thing. Beforehand they'll let you buy tickets pretty cheaply, and you can buy soft drinks, candy, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, chips, etc (all served by the TIs). They held Warrior Challenge on the PC pad next to Hotel Row. A lot of the VIPs come too -- squadron commanders, the TRG commander. It's a big thing. There are some pretty high numbers. 2-minute sit ups and pushups were in the hundreds, and for the 2-mile the males' times were in the 10:00s and the females' times were in the 12:00s. It's a lot of fun to watch the events, cram down junk food and mingle with other trainees and airmen.
Our TI kind of put us on cruise control by 2nd WOT. If you know your stuff and keep your dorm straight they will gradually lay off you. They're still around a lot, but they don't get on you nearly as much. It's great when you're used to everything. Stuff that seemed impossible in the beginning now seems like second nature. Our TIs were all male. Thank God, because they couldn't stay in our dorm over night and torture us more. Of course they could send a female TI over, which happened a couple times, but it was nice just being by ourselves during the late evenings and nights. One of our TIs once crawled through a window to a males' dorm in the middle of the night and sat on top of one of the wall lockers. He just sat there, waiting and watching. And he's not small -- muscular and around 6 1/2 feet. When the dorm guard did his hourly check and was passing by, the TI said something and freaked the living daylights out of him. Stuff I am glad I did not have to deal with. It was funny though. And they'll play lots of humiliating games with trainees who did not do something right. Fortunately, my flight never got our dorm torn apart. We had some of the same Blue Ropes and TIs who had a rep for doing that kind of thing, but since we kept our stuff in order, they didn't do it to us. We were spared from stuff like soap containers, toilet paper and paper towels streaked and strewn across the entire latrine, bed frames unscrewed and thrown on the floor, beds ripped apart and put into the hallway, wall lockers dumped over, 60 sets of key chains put into a bag and shaken. And an hour to put everything back in place and clean it all up before they come back or they'll do it all over again. Or, they may rip a dorm apart just because, even if everything's perfect. It all depends on how wicked your TI is feeling that day. And eventually you see more of a human side to your TI. Sometimes they let a little humor show (but tell you to shut up if you start smiling or laughing). And you find out that they're really on your side. Every single member of the flight and all of your TIs are on the same team. If any one of them screws up, it's the whole flight's fault. If we look good, our TIs look good, and vice versa. We all represent each other. We felt miserable whenever we disappointed our TIs. We always wanted to make it up to them and have everything perfect. But it's a good feeling to know that even though your TI may be hardcore, never show emotion or seem like he's always on you, he's really just training you to succeed. He stands up for you and behind his flight.
In my flight, we lost only 3 trainees, all of them early on in training. The first one couldn't handle the physical demands of BMT at all. I think she had asthma, heart problems and other ailments. Not sure how she got there in the first place. They sent her to the 319 TRS. I don't know if she's home yet. Another hurt her ankle and was sent to the 319th, where they do details if capable or have patio breaks and sit around with other med holds and discharges, like people who are pregnant, very ill, have a disease, or just plain mental. She was put back into training a week behind us but had a panic attack upon return. She was discharged and sent home. The third tried taking a lot of pills because she supposedly couldn't handle it in BMT. She was sent down to CQ (Charge-of-Quarters) to recover and for observation. They gave her a dishonorable discharge and sent her home. Amazingly, those were the only 3 we lost. No recyclees or anything later on. That's good and bad. You like your flight members and hate some, and there are the few that have to be carried through or they won't make it. Some people just aren't military material. But hey, we're a team and we help each other out.
CQ is a hallway downstairs in the main part of the squadron with lots of offices in it. Your TIs will hang around here some, and a lot of your commanders and higher ups have offices here. Dorm chiefs report here for accountability every night, trainees report emergency drills being conducted in their dorms, TIs monitor the dorms by video and sound, etc etc etc. It's like the headquarters of the squadron. And like a version of the snake pit because TIs are everywhere. If you're waiting in the bench area, stand up at attention when an NCO or TI walks past or you'll get busted. Correct facing and flanking movements are required at all times.
Video cameras are positioned in the hallway outside every dorm's main door. It monitors all entrances and exits. There's an intercom in every dorm also. It where reveille and taps sound, dorm guards report for accountability during the night hours, CQ calls up for any reason, to report emergencies, or for TIs or CQ to give instructions or uniform of the day or whatever. And they can flip a switch so they can hear sounds coming from the dorm. Be careful with what you say.
Always remember that things will start looking up. It was hell at first, much harder than I expected, but after the initial shock passed and everything started setting in to your brain, things improve. And I was really emotional. I didn't show it (never show any sign of weakness in front of your TIs) but it really got to me. Like the first time a TI ripped me, and the first time someone got dropped, I felt like crying. But then I got over it. Some say it gets better, but not easier, and others say the opposite. And some say it doesn't get better or easier. I say it does. As you learn more and more and how things are done, it gets easier to do. Of course they pile more things on top of that to learn and start doing, but it's coming easier. I liked the marching, the discipline, the order. As you start becoming accustomed the the military way of life in basic training, it does get better. It's all about attitude. If you keep a negative outlook, you are going to get depressed and easily discouraged. But if you're positive and look back on what you've survived through and what you've achieved and look forward to your goals and graduation, you'll stay focused and be able to cope with the hardships of basic training.
Basic Training is really is a lot of hurry up and wait. We'd be rushed somewhere then have to wait forever until we actually got inside or were able to do whatever we needed to do. Weekends usually weren't crammed with activities, at least during the later weeks. Usually just study time, details, working on personal areas. Not too bad.
Remember that it's all a big mind game. I never took that literally when I heard it. I was always like, whatever. I never realized what it meant until I endured the mind games myself. They really do mess with you. But I would tell myself that sometimes, that it's just a mind game, just to comfort myself and my flightmates. I went from hating it to missing it. It's an intensely interesting and wonderful transition that occurs. Keep your head high, your hopes up, and never say "I can't" or "I give up." Push yourself to your limits and beyond, and you will be trained to become the best Airman possible in the United States Air Force. Be proud in all that you do and strive to adhere to the three core values.
You have the chance to earn four ribbons: Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal (since we are in time of war/conflict), Small Arms Expert Marksmanship and Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon. Only One in my flight earned all four, and several of us had three. Something to push yourself for.
Above Article by ANSK876, a member of our Message Forum
Above Photos Official Air Force Photos