Ask any soldier about their time in basic and I bet you will hear some pretty awesome stories. Basic training is an exciting time and a unique experience that no soldier will ever forget. And for good reason, things can get pretty crazy in the life of a basic trainee. Have you ever wondered what Army Basic Training is really like? Read on to find out exactly what happens during the process of turning our young men and women into soldiers.
I attended OSUT (one station unit training) from July 21 to December 9, 2010. Here’s how it all started for me. So there I was, just sitting there on the bus with a bunch of people I didn’t know. But that wasn’t even on my mind at the moment. I was too busy thinking about what was to come in the next couple of hours. My heart was pumping with excitement. There was no turning back now. I already signed my life away. Am I going to regret this? I’m just ready to get on with it already!
Just that ride to basic training was an experience of a lifetime for me. I had been on my own since I was 16, but I’d always been in familiar territory. There I was at the tender age of 19 and for the first time, my future was completely unknown. None of my family or anyone I was close to was in the military so I had no idea what to expect. Joining the Army was the first real risk I had ever taken in my life.
Ok, back to the story then. When we arrived at Fort Leonard Wood I figured we would be meeting our drill sergeants right away. But to my surprise, we were staying in a place called Reception. We would be there until our drill sergeants were ready for us to go to our unit. I was there for about two weeks. There were about 15 of us in our group at that point and the others from the bus went their own way. None of the people I was with would later be in my particular unit. This is where the “nice” drill sergeants were.
So we were all sitting around listening to a female DS give a briefing and I asked a simple question. I can’t remember now what it was since it’s been about six years since then, but she made me do some push ups. I was so embarrassed. What had I done to deserve this? I was a mouthy little thing back then and thought about giving her a piece of my mind. But I had already expected this and way worse so I did what she said.
It was partly because she was not too much older than me I guess. I was also in my civilian clothes so it was just a little weird to me. I don’t really know why it was such a big deal to me back then. It’s funny now thinking about my reaction. During the time we were there; we ate, slept, got shots, went through briefings, and socialized a lot. We were also learning the basics to help prepare us for our units.
Meeting Our Drill Sergeants
So the day came at last when our DS was coming to get us. We were all excited and nervous. Everyone said that life would be pretty easy if we were on our best behavior. If you ever go to basic beware of the rumors! People talk a lot of nonsense just so they can look like they know something. They usually are wrong, but that is not limited to just basic training.
The DS came and calmly directed us to put one of our bags on the duty truck. Then we filed into the buses and sat down with our other big green bag on our laps. There was a female and a male DS on our particular bus. They gave us a piece of paper with a number on it. They kindly welcomed us to For Leonard Wood and Alpha 795 MP Company, the best company on the base and home of the Avengers. “Welcome to the Rock…Hooah!”
I was pretty relaxed, looking out of the window at my new home for the next 19 weeks. Next thing we know, the DS’s are freaking out on us and telling us to put our faces in the bag. One person actually tried to open their bag and put their head into it. Haha!
So they continued yelling at us until we got to our unit and then rushed us off the bus. We had to run to our platoon (numbers 1-4). We spent the entire day getting smoked(exercises) and yelled at. The yelling didn’t bother me. My dad was scarier than all the DS’s combined. When you don’t give them a reaction, they move on to someone else. Do not cry! They will eat you up if you do. It was sort of comical seeing some grown men cry.
Finally, the night came and we laid down for bed. I remember thinking five more months of this, before quickly drifting to sleep. I’ve always slept with a fan, but I never had a problem sleeping without one there. You are too worn out at the end of the day to worry about a fan, complete silence, or anything else for that matter. Your body is in a constant state of exhaustion during basic training. You will never know how strong you are until you are training to become a soldier. Different units do some different things, but this is my experience. My timeline is a bit different from what it would be today since basic training is not as long as it was back then. FYI.
Basic (12 Weeks)
So this is the first phase. This is where your life is under total control by the DS. And I mean everything. They are there at every moment of the day with you. In the shower, they are there to rush you out. In the chow hall, they are there to rush you to eat. You better hurry because you probably won’t get more than 2-5 minutes to chug your cup of water then eat your food. I picked a steak one night. That was a mistake. It was so tough that I ate two bites before we had to stop eating.
No matter what you do, you will get smoked. You could just have a stupid look on your face and they will have a heyday with you. It’s quite funny sometimes when the DS makes somebody do something totally stupid. They really get creative. One day some of my fellow basic trainees decided to steal some bread while they were on chow detail. Of course, one person snitched and our whole platoon had to pay for it. (The drill sergeants encourage snitching, but they also punish everyone when someone does. It took us a while to wise up and quit completely.) The people who stole the bread had to eat a whole loaf each, while the rest of us got smoke until they were done. It was not a good day for any of us.
This is the phase that focuses on learning Army basics, like the Soldiers Creed and Army Values. There will be a lot of PT (physical training).If you bring your phone, it will be stored away for a short call on Sunday (like maybe 10 minutes if your lucky).
This is the second phase. This is a huge milestone. You finally get an hour of personal time most nights to write letters, organize your bunk, shower peacefully, or talk to your fellow soldiers. This phase focuses on combat and weapons training. Combatives is a favorite among basic trainees. It’s nice to get some pent-up aggression out.
The worst thing for me in basic training was the ruck marches. This is where you have to march for miles with all of your gear on and a heavy bag on your back. They get harder as you progress through training. I do not miss those one bit. I am 5’3 and most of the other smaller people had a hard time with these as well. If you are tall, who knows, you might be like some of my weird friends that actually like 20+ mile ruck marches. To each their own.
This is the last basic training phase. The weapons training continues and the ruck marches get longer. The longest one was 15 KM! I about died. We got a bit of time to rest, but that evening we all had to crawl through the mud with live rounds going off over our heads. Some poor soul stood up a few years earlier and got killed or got the drill sergeant killed, I can’t remember now. I am pretty sure they changed it to have the rounds going off higher so that couldn’t happen, but I wouldn’t test it.
Finally, there is the Rites of Passage Ceremony. After that, it’s time to move on to AIT (Advanced Individual Training). Some people get a break to go home between phases, some don’t. It all depends on factors like MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and your unit. There are three PT tests throughout basic training that includes push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run that you must pass to graduate. The standards vary for men, women, and their different age groups.
AIT (7 Weeks)
This phase is the first phase of AIT. MPs are introduced to the Beretta M9 pistol. Other MOS’ won’t train with a pistol since they won’t be using one in their fields. Basically, you are learning how to do your job in this phase. There is also a FTX (Field Training Exercise) that’s about a week-long. You will also be doing a lot of stuff in the classroom. Try not to fall asleep! Usually, on Sundays you’re allowed to go roam the base and enjoy some time off for a couple of hours.
This is the last phase of training. This is the recovery period to do things like clean your equipment, turn it back in, and clean the barracks.
This was so exciting. Finally seeing my family again. We got to hang out with them for a bit around the base the day before but had to go back to our unit for the night. That night was probably the longest night during my whole time there. We were all so ready to go home! Finally, you attend the ceremony and perform a cadence with your platoon in front of everyone. I imagine it’s weird for them seeing you so proper. Haha! Then you go back to the unit and have a debriefing, get your paperwork, and you are out of there! I was so happy to be National Guard at that point. The active duty soldiers only got a short amount of time at home before going to their permanent stations.
So all in all basically kind of sucked, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a once in a lifetime experience that changed me for the better. It turned me around from a punk kid to a respectable adult. I did some awesome things and met some really cool people. I am still a part of the Facebook group for my basic training company that people post on. We have all went our separate ways, but it’s cool to check their pages and see what they are up to five years later.
Completing Basic Training comes with a great sense of pride in yourself. I look back and still cannot believe I actually did it. It was far from easy and it is not for the faint-hearted. It is also only the beginning of an awesome journey to serving your country and shaping you into the person that you’re meant to be.
Tip for women
Many women gain weight and start to look a bit manly in basic training. The reason for this is because when there isn’t much time to eat your food, you are more likely to pick a pasta dish and other foods high in carbs because they are quick to eat. I recommend trying to eat more lean meats, fruits, and vegetables to avoid this. You would think they would lose weight with all the physical exercise, but most of the women will gain weight. I did, until I noticed and changed my diet.
Are you going to basic training or do you want to? If you have already gone, what was basic training like for you? Leave your answer in the comments below.
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