Reception Battalion: Believe it or not, for many, this is the hardest part of Army Boot Camp. Desert Shield/Desert Storm proved that much of war for the Army is hurry up and wait. The United States moved thousands of Army troops and tons of equipment, weapons and ammunitions in a few weeks, then the deployed troops waited for months and months for the first sign of action. The Reception Battalion gives you a chance to practice waiting.... and waiting ... and waiting. When you get bored with waiting, you'll be allowed to practice waiting some more. If efficiently organized, the actual processing that goes on at the Reception Battalion would probably take 8-10 hours. You get to do it the Army way, however, and means doing just a little bit of "processing" each day for anywhere between one and three weeks.
The good news is that, while there will be Drill Instructors assigned to watch over you, they don't yell at you very much while you are in the Reception Battalion. At least they don't for the first half of your stay, while you're still running around everywhere wearing your official Army PT Sweats (You won't get your uniforms until several days into "processing"). It's almost as if they don't notice you until you're just about ready to depart for Official Boot Camp. Then they seem to wake up and say to themselves, "Oh yeah....I'd better yell at these guys some before they leave."
There's one exception, however: the Initial PT Test. For males, this consists of 13 push-ups, 17 sit-ups and a one-mile run in under eight and one-half minutes. For females, the test consists of 3 push-ups, 17 sit-ups and a one-mile run in under ten and one-half minutes. If you fail this test, you'll get to spend some time at "Fat Camp," where brand-new Drill Instructors get to practice on you for awhile.
While in the Reception Battalion, you'll get your shots, process your paperwork, be issued your uniforms, and that very favorite of all -- the haircut (like Air Force Basic, you get to pay for the privilege). Between times, you'll go to chow (three times per day), and you'll wait. You'll know your group is getting close to getting out of Purgatory when the Drill Sergeants start to notice you.
You'll also learn how to make your bunk (hospital corners) while in the Reception Battalion. This is a good time to practice sleeping on top of the covers to save time (in any of the military boot camps, there is never enough time in the morning from the time you're awakened, until the time you have to fall in, to get everything done that's supposed to be done). Not having to remake your bed each morning can save you 10 minutes of very valuable time.
You cannot wear contact lenses during basic training. You also cannot wear your civilian glasses, once you have been issued your official government-issue glasses. GI glasses are not pretty to look at. In fact, most people call them "BC Glasses," or "birth control glasses," on the basis that nobody has ever been known to "get lucky" while wearing them. During your first couple of days of basic training, you'll undergo a complete eye examination. If you require glasses to have 20/20 vision, you will be issued BC Glasses (takes a few days after the examination to get them). BC Glasses have thick, hard-plastic frames, with thick, hard-plastic lenses (very hard to break). Think of the movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Once you receive them, they are the only glasses you are allowed to wear, while at basic training. However, if you don't really need glasses to see, you won't be required to wear them. Once you graduate basic training, you can wear your civilian glasses again, as long as they comform to military dress and appearance regulations. Generally, that means their color must be conservative (no green, glow-in-the-dark frames), no designs or decorations on the frames, and no tinted lenses when indoors, or outdoors when in military formation (ie, when lined up for marching). Of course, this only applies when wearing a military uniform. In civilian clothes (after basic training) you can pretty much wear whatever kind of glasses you want.
The Reception Battalion doesn't really use up your entire enlistment period -- it just feels like it. But, within a couple of weeks, you'll finally be loaded on the bus to begin your real experience at Army Boot Camp. One wouldn't ordinarily think that one would look forward to boot camp, but after two or three weeks in the Reception Battalion, you'll be begging to go. Perhaps that's its real function. Don't worry, though: this feeling will only last until about 30 seconds after you meet your new drill sergeant.
A word About Your Pay
Direct Deposit is mandatory for military pay. You should already have a bank account set up before you leave for basic training, and bring your account information and an ATM/debit card with you. If you don't have an account set up, one of the first things the staff will do is require you to establish an account at the base credit union or base bank. However, it may be several weeks before the bank can give you a debit card, which will impact on your ability to access your pay.
During your in-processing, you will complete paperwork to begin your military pay. Military personnel are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. If those days fall on a non-duty day, you are paid on the duty day, preceeding. Your pay is direct-deposited into your bank account.
So, when will you receive your first paycheck? Good question, and one that can't be answered accurately. In general, if your military pay information is entered into the Finance Computer System prior to the 7th of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 15th. If the information is entered into the Finance Computer System after the 7th of the month, but prior to the 23rd of the month, you'll receive your first paycheck on the following 1st. However, please note that the date you fill out the paperwork during in-processing and the date the information is input into the Finance Computer System are not the same dates. A Finance Clerk is going to take the paperwork you filled out, and enter it into the Computer. However, the clerk is entering the information of hundreds of other recruits at the same time, so it may take several days before yours gets entered. I always advise people to estimate that the first paycheck won't be deposited until a full 30 days after arrival. That way, if you're paid before that, it's an unexpected surprise, and if it takes the entire 30 days, it's what you were expecting anyway.
In any case, your first paycheck will contain all the pay you have coming to you at that point. For recruits without dependents, that means base pay, only. For those with dependents, it means base pay and housing allowance. Your first paycheck will be "pro-rated" to the number of days you've been on active duty. For example, if you receive your first paycheck 30 days after arrival, you will receive the full-rate of the monthly basic pay in that paycheck, and (if you have dependents), the full rate for the monthly housing allowance. If, however, you receive your first paycheck two weeks after arrival, it will contain 1/2 of the monthly base pay, and 1/2 of the monthly housing allowance (for those with dependents). Of course, taxes and other deductions (such as deductions for non-issue items, such as running shoes, soap, shampoo, laundery, ect.) are taken out.
All Photos are Official U.S. Army Photographs