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Surviving Military Boot Camp
Part III Army Basic Training
 
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While the Air Force only has one location for basic training, the Army has several, including Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina; Fort Knox in Louisville, Kentucky; Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville, Missouri; Fort; and Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. Where you attend is primarily dependent upon the location of your follow-on, Advanced Individual Training (Job Training). In fact, if you enlist in one of the Combat Arms MOS's, you very well may receive basic training and Advanced Individual Training all at one location: Fort Benning for infantry; Fort Knox for armor; Fort Leonard Wood for combat engineers, military police, and chemical. You can get more information about these Army posts in U.S. Military Site's Army Installations Listing. Because of the many locations of Army Basic Training, the below training schedules may vary slightly from location to location (but not much).

Editor's Note: Recruits "lucky" enough to attend basic training at Fort Benning, GA will be part of a test-program which significantly changes the basic training schedule. While the length of basic training isn't changing, the test program makes it much more "intense." Field Exercises are expanded from the current 3 days to 10 days for one test group, and from 3 days to 23 days for the other test program (you don't get to find out which test group you are in until after you get there). For details, see related article.

As with Air Force Basic Training, you'll want to do some things to prepare in advance before departing for Army Boot Camp. Your recruiter should give you a list of what you can and cannot bring. While it may be cool in high school to loosely interpret "can do" and "cannot do" rules, don't try this in boot camp. If it ain't on the list, don't bring it. Drill Sergeants have a way of using selective new recruits to demonstrate the failings of civilian society for the rest of the recruits, and -- if you can possibly help it -- you don't want to do anything that can award you the MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) of "Temporary Teaching Aid."

As with all military boot camps, tobacco products are forbidden, so if you smoke or chew, now would be a good time to quit.

What to Bring

linuxrox, a member of our Message Forum, recently graduated Army Basic Training at Fort Benning, and recommends the following:

  • *BLACK* shower shoes. Everyone says to bring shower shoes, and I did (along with everyone else), but nobody told us they had to be black.
  • Personal black bag to hold all your toliteries.
  • Extra black calf length wool socks (you are issued something like 8 of them, but we have found that having more is better).
  • Q-tips, not so much for your ears, but they rock at cleaning the M-16.
  • Old white shirt or old thin cloth. This is for shining shoes, and works better then the brush that comes in the shoe polish pack.
  • Shoe polish pack. Nothing big, just the needed stuff
  • Cotton balls -- something else that rocks in cleaning the M-16.
  • Stamps out the butt. Stamps are looked at like money the first week of basic. They work great to trade for fire guard shifts.
  • Cough drops. Enough for 20 years. Everyone will get sick, everyone will have the sorest throat in the world. You will need every single one.
  • Phone cards.
  • At least 100 sheet of small paper, maybe half the size of normal lined paper. This is to have on you at all times for note taking (something very useful).
  • Combo locks. No key-locks. A few people brought key-locks, and in the course of time, locked their key in their lockers. Have a combo-lock, write down the combination and put it somewhere outside of your locker.
  • GUIDE NOTE: You may want to bring a cheap watch. I've had some recruits tell me they weren't allowed to wear watches during basic, and other recruits tell me that a watch was a "necessity." Whether or not you ar allowed to wear a watch appears to be at the discretion of the drill instructor. A cheap digital watch, with a black band can't hurt.
  • Foot powder and foot cream.
  • Don't bother bringing shampoo. Other people will bring it, and since you have little hair, one bottle will last everyone 12 weeks.
  • A tooth paste that you love the taste of, such as get a kid's tooth paste. This will the only "yummy" tasting thing you get.
  • Only bring one or two changes of clothes. I would bring one, and wear it two or three times. It saves space, and after you get to basic, all your civilian clothes get taken away from you, anyway.

A significant portion of your nine weeks at Army Boot Camp will be taken up with marching, drill, ceremonies, and lots & lots of standing in formation. As Frank Pellegrini says in his outstanding Time Magazine Series about Army Boot Camp: "Want to know what it's like to be in the Army? Try standing in one place, ramrod straight and perfectly still. If a mosquito bites you, don't slap it. If sweat rolls into your eye, don't wipe it away. And if you scratch your thigh, do 20 push-ups and jump back into position."

Your arms will thank you if you take some time before arriving at boot camp to study about and practice the basics of drill. It's also a good idea to start ahead of the game by memorizing Army officer and enlisted ranks. You'll also want to memorize the Army General Orders.

For the past two years, the biggest "buz-words" around Army Boot Camps have been "Core Values." There are seven Army Core Values that will be continually hammered into you during your nine-week stay. You'll sleep, eat, and um......eat some more about Army Core Values until you think they're part of the Constitution, and wonder why your high school history class could have missed them. Memorizing these seven core values in advance may give you a little extra breather time while others are trying to commit them to memory. (Tip: The letters spell out "LDRSHIP")

Each new recruit is issued a copy of TRADOC Pamplet 600-4, IET Soldier's Handbook. You can give yourself a head-start in learning some of the things you'll need to know to graduate boot camp by studying this pamplet in advance.

Next to Marine Corps Boot Camp, Army Basic Training is the most physically intensive. If you are not physically active, you'll want to start preparing yourself a couple of months before leaving for boot camp. Concentrate on running (both sprints and distance), push-ups, and sit-ups, as these are the basis for both the "pre-test" and the final PT Test.

Medication. Over-the-counter medication is not allowed in basic training. If you bring any with you, it will be taken away. All prescription medication will be re-evaluated by a military doctor upon arrival. If the doctor determines that the prescription is necessary, the civilian medication will be taken away, and the recruit will be re-issued the medication by the military pharmacy. This includes birth control pills (for women). Women are usually encouraged to continue taking birth control pills during basic training, if they took them before going to basic, to ensure that their systems maintain their regular cycle.

I'm often asked what females do during their (to put it politely) "time of the month," at basic training. The answer is nothing different. Pads and tampons are readily available, and women use them and continue with training. Bathroom breaks are given often enough that changing pads/tampons are not a problem. Many women report that they don't have a cycle during their entire time at basic training, due to the high levels of activity and stress. The thing to remember is that thousands of women have been to basic before you, and they survived just fine.

Sarah Lyles, who went through Army Basic at Fort Jackson, gives this advice (especially for females):

Rule #1: Bring plenty of undergarments to get you through about a week, because (1); having time to do laundry is scarce, and (2); finding an open washing machine is just about as difficult.

Rule #2: If you want to have a short hair-cut, go to a salon BEFORE you leave. The PX salons are about as great as letting a 3-year old with a pair of scissors cut your hair. Please, get it cut beforehand or you will be forced to fix your hair with a pair of sewing scissors! (Trust me, this takes forever!)

Rule #3: Don't take any unneeded items with you. This will just cause a ton of grief for you. Leave all the make-up, radios, magazines, etc. AT HOME. Don't believe me? Wait until you get there. The Army DS aren't too keen on people who like to hide their contraband.

Rule #4: And last but not least, get into shape BEFORE you leave for Basic Training. This will help so much. The physical training starts as soon as you get there, not a week or two after. You want your body to be prepared, not put into shock.

LeeLee62, a member of our Message Forum, graduated from Army Basic Training at Fort Jackson, and gives the following advice:

Stamps and some stationary are good to bring. Take about $20 worth of quarters for the PowerAde machines, too. You will need it at Jackson.

Make sure you have an ATM card you can use from time to time to get more cash for the machines.

Get some moleskin ahead of time for use in your boots, too. It will cut down on the blisters of breaking in new boots.

At Jackson, you will probably have to buy a lot of new stuff anyway at the PX. They will give you a chitcard for about $250 to spend on assigned items at the PX. You will not be allowed to buy any items not allowed in BCT barracks. The $250 comes out of your first pay, so be ready for that.

The PX will have prepared baskets of required BCT goodies for you to buy. Things like toothbrushes, toothbrush holders, soap bar holders and all that.

Most BCT units require you to buy new running shoes, so don't bother getting new ones before you go. Make sure the shoes you wear to Reception at Jackson are very comfy. There is no telling how long you will have to run in them before you get out of Reception.

Only exercise when the drills tell you to exercise. They don't want you getting hurt before you actually go to BCT. You can't run, do push-ups, nothing, without their ok. It will probably drive you nutty.

Some folks got trapped at Reception for nearly a month. Don't let it get you down if that happens. The real Army isn't at Reception. Hell, it isn't even at BCT or AIT, but you will see what I mean.

While at Reception make sure to stay in your own lane, do what the Drill Sergeants tell you to do, and don't gossip or get into other people's business. That seems to be the quickest way for fights to occur. You do not want an Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment) before you even start BCT.

Army Basic Training is divided into three phases: Phase I (Red Phase), Phase II (White Phase), and Phase III (Blue Phase). Before you're allowed to begin Phase I, however, you have to spend time in Purgatory, officially known as The Reception Battalion.

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