Phase I: Phase I is also known as the "Red Phase," or "Patriot Phase." Phase I runs from Week One to Week Three. The first thing you'll notice about your new drill sergeant is that he or she appears to be a different species from the ones hanging around the Reception Battalion. He/she will appear to be much larger, much meaner, and very much louder (like Air Force Training Instructors, Army Drill Sergeants are also known for their chronic hearing problems). Unlike Air Force Training Instructors, Army Drill Sergeants absolutely love push-ups. "Drop and Give me Twenty" is a favorite phrase (shouted, of course). On this first day, pretty much everyone will get "dropped." You'll be dropped individually, you'll be dropped in pairs, and you'll be dropped as an entire platoon.
Week one is best characterized by a term known as TOTAL CONTROL. Total control is were the soldiers only do what they are told to
Older "Grunts" at Boot Camp
I am currently home on Exodus from Army BCT at Ft. Sill, OK. I thought some of you would be interested in some insights from the perspective of an older person (I turned 34 the week before I shipped) going through BCT.
First of all, I recall several discussions on this forum about the advantages/disadvantages of being older and going through BCT. Let me tell you that success at BCT really has nothing to do with age but rather, with your level of maturity. If you are able to follow orders, focus on the task at hand, work in a team, understand the mental game, and keep a positive attitude, you will have a good time at BCT. The people who bring an attitude with them or have a problem accepting authority will quickly draw negative attention from Drill Sergeants and will likely hate the BCT experience.
Having said all that, my experience has been that DS's tend assume the younger guys AREN'T mature and tend to give the older guys the benefit of the doubt. Specifically, they will assume you are mature and not focus too much attention on you...until you prove that you are NOT mature. THEN you become a glorious target. Case in point: There is a 33 yr old in my platoon who just doesn't do real well in dealing with others. He is the type of guy who takes things very personally and lets it get under his skin. He bunks right next to an 18 yr old who likes to pick on those type of people...especially when he can see it really bothers them. One day on the drill pad while practicing Manual at Arms, the younger Pvt was picking on the older Pvt. They were in the back of the formation. In the middle of the DS explaining Inspection Arms, the older Pvt raised his hand and said "Drill Sergeant, the Pvt to my left is harassing me!" It sounded like something you would hear on the school yard. The older Pvt didn't get the response he wanted from the DS. It was more like "so, you have a problem with your left private, Pvt? Sounds like a feminine problem! 'Course I always wondered about you anyway but I am not allowed to ask and you damn well better not tell me! Now the both of you...PUSH!" By the way, the older Pvt is one of my Squad Leaders.
One thing I found in my situation is that the Platoon looked at me early on as a mentor. I have a lot more life experience (I am married, have two kids, and a good civilian job -- I am NG) than alot of these guys so some of it was natural. However, I have not been an ass about things and have kind of enjoyed and respected the mentor role. Before a PG (Platoon Guide) was assigned, whenever there was a conflict, people came to me to try to resolve it. They thought "Gramps" (my nickname) could work it out and I often did. I tried to deal with my "Battle Buddies" in a respectful way even if they were complete idiots. One guy thought I was too soft and tried to insult me by describing my style as a "Dr. Phil" management style. I took that as a compliment. I figured that we have 3 DS's assigned to our Platoon who scream at us all the time. The Platoon didn't need a "Drill Private" doing the same thing. I am not writing this to pat myself on the back but rather, to give a heads up to anyone else who may be going to BCT in a similar situation. You really need to "act your age".
As far as those who give the advice to "lay low" and don't draw any attention to yourself...that's not realistic. Sooner or later you will be drawn out. The DS's look for ways to get people out of their comfort zones. For example, in week 3, the DS's started assigning psuedo PG's. In every instance, the person who was chosen was someone who either was "laying low" or was someone who was very timid or shy and needed to be brought out of their shell. Typically they were fired after a day. We went through 6 in one week and not one of them would have been considered (at that time) a strong soldier. So, it's best that you prepare yourself to get attention. In my opinion, that's the way to get the most out of the training.
In week 4 I was assigned as the "permanent" PG (permanent being the phrase the DS used but he did remind me I could be fired at any time!). It is a challenging position that requires a lot of extra time and stress. It is excellent leadership training but you do sacrifice some (ALL if you are not careful!) of your free time to accomplish what you need to. It is a job with a lot of responsibility but with no perks (except I get to call cadence!) and no "real" authority. To be effective, you really have to lead by example and always have a positive attitude. If you are given this opportunity, look at it as such...an opportunity. Give it your all. This is another way of getting the most out of the training. Just be prepared for the extra work and responsibility.
In terms of the physical aspect of the training, I have been a little disappointed. Although I have lost 15 pounds so far and am in the best shape I've been in for a long time, we are limited as to how much PT we can do. We have one organized PT session in the morning. This usually alternates from run days to MSE (muscular strength and endurance) days. However, we have only had 4 runs so far. The DS's are clearly frustrated about the fact we are not allowed to have any evening runs or PT sessions. When I get back (the day after tomorrow), there are only three scheduled runs before our final PFT for record. Also, on days where we are scheduled to do an obstacle course or a road march, there is no organized PT scheduled. Of course, this does not apply to "smokings"! These rules have come down all the way from TRADOC according to our DS's.
Overall, the experience has been a good one. The worst part is being away from my family and I have new found respect for those soldiers who are deployed for long periods of time. Especially during the holidays. To reiterate my advice to anyone going to BCT as an "older" person: Act your age, treat your Platoon with respect.
Above contributed by SPC Chris Harben
do by their Drill Sergeants. While the Army actually likes initiative and innovation, Drill Sergeants hate it (at least during the first three weeks). The first few weeks of Basic Training is definitely NOT the time to find a better way of doing things. Soldiers arrive to the Basic Training Unit from the Reception Battalion and are immediately immersed into an environment where every move they make is scrutinized by the Drill Sergeant.
One word of warning here: while the Air Force wants its recruits to address T.I.s as "Sir," or "Ma'am," don't try this with an Army Drill Sergeant unless you want to witness a one hour tirade (shouted, of course) about how s/he "works for a living." Said tirade is normally followed by the unfortunate "Sir-sayer" demonstrating the definition of "work." The correct way to address an Army Drill Sergeant is "Drill Sergeant," such as "Yes, Drill Sergeant, or "No Drill Sergeant," (Remember, they are hard of hearing, so your response must be shouted at the top of your lungs).
When you respond to a Drill Sergeant, DO NOT look him/her directly in the eyes. This is known as "eye-balling," (such as, "Are you eyeballing me, boy?????"), and is a bad, bad, thing. Eye-balling a Drill Sergeant will immediately result in him eye-balling you back. This is done by placing his eye-balls about 1/8th of an inch away from yours. Suddenly, fire will erupt from his eye sockets and burn you down to your soul. Unfortunately, uncrisping your soul requires a ceremony which normally involves several push ups.
No matter how tough you think your Drill Sergeant is, he is nothing compared to his Grandmother. No matter how fast you run, how high you jump, how well you shoot, or how far you throw a grenade, his Grandmother can always do that better. Luckily, few people have ever met a Drill Sergeant's Grandmother. Those who have, rarely talk about the experience (with the exception of the Drill Sergeant, of course - who talks about his Grandmother every time there is something physical going on).
During the first week, you'll start Physical Training, and you'll also be given an initial PT Test. This test requires a little bit more than the screening in the Reception Battalion: push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run.
The typical day throughout Basic Training runs from 0430 (You got to get up very early in able to "do more before 12:00 then most people do all day"), with lights out at 2100 (9:00 PM).
As with Air Force Basic, during the first week or so, nobody will be able to do anything right. However, by the end of the first week, you'll be able to do what you're told, when you're told, and exactly how you're told to do it. The word, "why?" will be surgically removed from your vocabulary before that first week is finished.
While the Air Force uses "Dormitory Guard," the Army uses "Fire Guards." (Actually, this duty starts in the Reception Battalion). It amounts to the same thing: two hour shifts of walking around the barracks, keeping watch in case someone tries to steal it, or worse yet, set it on fire.
As with Air Force Basic Training, the Drill Sergeants will probably select the oldest (at least initially) as "Platoon Leader." You tall guys will be able to try your hand at being "Squad Leaders."
Total Control continues the second week, along with courses on Army Core Values (including classes on sexual harassment and race relations), and other military-related subjects (such as the fundamentals of bayonet fighting, and first aid training). During the second week is also where you get to practice hacking, coughing, and crying in the "Gas Chamber." This normally occurs in the afternoon, shortly after lunch. No matter how hungry you are that day, eat a very light lunch. While in the chamber, you'll take your mask off two times (once, you merely lift the mask to state your name, rank, and social security number, then you redone the mask). If you can get away with keeping your eyes closed and not breathing this nasty stuff, go for it. However, it's far more likely that the Drill Instructor will make sure you open your eyes and take at least a small breath before you're let out of the chamber. Remember, tear gas won't kill ya, but it'll make you wish you were dead.
Also during the second week, you'll be introduced to your rifle. In the Army, it is never called a "gun." It is a rifle. More specifically, it's an "M16A2 Rifle." Remember that phrase -- you'll use it often. You don't get to shoot it during the second week -- that'll come later. Right now you get to learn how to hold it, point it, take it apart, clean it, put it back together, take it apart again, put it together again, take it apart once more, put it together one more time, etc.
One of the requirements of Army Basic Training is to keep your locker locked at all times. Because spinning a combination lock can use up valuable time (especially in the morning), there is a trick that every new recruit tries: Locking the lock, but then spinning the right combination, so it is really unlocked, and can be opened by a mere push. As PFC Robert Bowles explains, this is a good way to get selected as an Involuntary Training Aid:
"It was common for soldiers to keep the combination on their locker already dialed in, so all they had to do was pull it open in the morning, thus saving a few seconds. Evidently, the DS has been going around searching for those troops doing that. And alas, I was the one he found.
'Drill Sergeant, the private was --'
'Didn't I tell you to shut-up?? Now you're ignoring me! Drop and give me 40 while I do a locker inspection!'
I dropped to the cold hard floor and began knocking out the pushups as he opened my locker, and began grabbing my uniforms, shirts, socks, underwear, towels, and throwing them down the middle of the barracks. By the time I was down with my pushups, and had recovered to the position of attention, my locker was empty. He warned me that if I ever left one of his lockers unsecured again, he was going to throw ME down the barracks aisle.
That was only the beginning of week two, so for the next six weeks, he let me have it with both barrels every chance he got. He made me a running road-guard, and also put me in charge of setting up the wet bulb, and just about every other thing he could volunteer me for. And during every PT test we had, he would run right behind me, dogging me out. Needless to say, I was glad to get away from him.
One time out in the field, he caught me with my helmet unbuckled. He asked me for my helmet, so I gave it to him. He then asked me if I knew what an artillery helmet was, and of course I said no. He smiled and then with a big wind-up, threw my helmet as far away as he could, yelling 'Boom! Artillery!'"
During the final week of Phase I, the Drill Sergeants will (very slowly) start to move the emphasis of training away from individual, to "team." You'll be assigned a "Battle Buddy," and guess what? Throughout the remainder of Basic, everything your Battle Buddy does wrong, you get the "credit for!" What could be better than that? At least you'll no longer be alone when being "dropped." Your Battle Buddy is like your Siamese twin. You'll go everywhere with him/her and do everything with him/her. Of course, as with all weeks, physical training and drill continue during week three, as well as more training/practice taking your rifle apart, and putting it together.
All Photos are Official U.S. Army Photographs