This week is all about Basic Training. I’m sharing ten tips for Basic Training. These are things I wish I would have known before heading off to my Basic Training (called Field Training) along with how some things have changed in the past few years. Basic Training is meant to be tough. The military is working to break you back down and then build you back up into an Airman, Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Guardian, or Coast Guardsman. So let’s dive in and don’t forget to check out the full episode of the Women of the Military podcast, along with the advice shared in this post I also include an interview with Alison who had just finished Basic Training when the interview was recorded.
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1. Know Basic Training is a game
I loved what Air Force veteran Dr. Angela Karnes Padron said, “Everything, in the beginning, is to see if they can break you, everything in the back half is to build you back up. You’ll chip away perhaps but don’t you won’t break. When it starts to feel “easier”, then [you will] know that you’ve made it to the building up phase and past the trying to break you phase.”
Part of the process of Basic Training is to break you down. Knowing that this is coming does not make it easy but it can help you to remember nothing you do in Basic will be right and part of the process is being broken down so you can be built into who your branch needs you to be. Some people call it the game of Basic Training and knowing about it can help you keep pushing forward one more day. And eventually, you will get past the tear-down stage where they start to build you up. And you will be stronger for it.
Don’t take correction as a statement about your intrinsic value as a person. Use each new day as a new chance to be better. – Navy veteran, Lisa Rielage
2. Be Physically Ready
Basic Training is physical. Besides the additional exercise required throughout the training. Just the aspect of marching from place to place, going through various obstacle courses, or other challenges can be physically draining. Being at a moderate or above average fitness level can help make the training less challenging. But just know the stronger you are the harder you will be pushed. So it won’t ever be easy no matter how in shape you are. Being in shape can also help prevent injuries, especially shin splints.
Also, make sure to prepare for your branch’s physical fitness test. At the end of training (and sometimes at the beginning) you will be required to pass a physical fitness test. If you fail you can be disqualified from training or be recycled through another training.
3. Know the standards
The military has undergone a lot of changes in the last few years and while some changes are widespread others have not trickled down to Basic Training. For example, the military hair standards have been changed for the Air Force and Army allowing braids and ponytails, but when Alison went to the training she wasn’t allowed to wear her hair under the new regulations until after she graduated.
Alison also talked about using her cell phone during her free time. In the past, recruits relied on letters and sporadic phone calls home. But things have changed a lot and some training allows for communication back home via cell phones. This may not always be the case and you should prepare for the lack of communication by making sure you have addresses to send letters home to. But be prepared for some level of things to be different than what you expected.
4. Be Prepared
Know all you can about the branch you are joining. Some of the best things to help you in your training are to learn the ranks before you go. Especially the difference between an officer and enlisted ranks. Other great things to know before you arrive are your branch’s creed, core values, and song. You will be required to memorize them while at training so learning them before you go can make there be one less thing to worry about.
Another helpful thing to learn is military time. The military uses a 24-hour clock so that there isn’t confusion about when to meet. Instead of saying 3 PM, the military says 1500 hrs. It is pretty easy to learn but in the beginning, it can be tricky. But with time it becomes second nature (almost). Some people recommend learning the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is a six-article statement for military members that apply to all military members and can rely on if captured during the war. All military members learn the Code of Conduct during their training. You can read the whole thing here.
5. Don’t Give Up
You can do it. Don’t ever forget that you can do this and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Rely on those around you to help you. Make friends with the other women you meet. Know that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Try to help others who you see struggling. Basic Training is the first step in your journey to the military and uses the time to grow and push yourself. You can do more than you think. And you can get through your training.