Army Basic Training (BMT)
Today, the United States Army basic training only takes 9 weeks to transition all you young men and women out there from being a civilian into that of a soldier. Oddly enough, your Army training never really stops – no matter if you remain in the Army for 5 years or 25. But those first 9 weeks (called Basic Combat Training) of your Army career will be among the most memorable you’ve ever spent. You can do yourself a lot of good by starting your mental and physical preparation a few months in advance to get the most of those 9 weeks and everything that follows.
There are two areas you have some control over before you leave for Army basic training (BCT): your physical conditioning and your basic Army knowledge. If you’re not already doing so you need to dedicate yourself to a basic fitness regime that includes running (both long distances and speed workouts), push-ups and sit-ups.
In the Army your physical performance helps you get promoted. The better you do the more points you get and the more points you get the more rank you get. So the closer you are to achieving these levels of fitness the better off you’ll be.
You will step off the bus, train or plane with other recruits and you all will be held up for a few days until everyone arrives. The Army calls this “Reception Week” This “bonus” time does not count towards Army Basic Training, but it is useful because you get a lot of administrative tasks (setting up finances, getting immunizations, uniform issue, drug tests and more) out of the way during this week. No one can tell you for sure how long reception time will last, I have heard it range from a few days to almost a month!
Your first week or so of BCT will be coming at you fast and furious. You will hear words and acronyms you didn’t know existed.
Study tools that concentrate on General Army knowledge and doctrine are available online in one form or another. You’ll be issued TRADOC Pamphlet 600-4 – IET Soldier’s Handbook shortly after you arrive, but even this can be obtained ahead of time. Again, the sooner you grasp a working knowledge of Army ranks, general orders, the Soldiers Creed, and especially Army Core Values the more confident you’ll feel once Army BCT begins. Having said that, there’s nothing like the high-octane stress of Army BCT to force you to quickly memorize important facts and figures. It’s a lot easier if you’re already familiar with this material to some degree.
And another thing…
When you pack to leave, pack light. Apart from underwear, pretty much everything you’ll need will be issued to you upon arrival. There may be some items you need to purchase and your Drill Instructor will make sure you get them with the money taken out of your pay. If you have designer glasses or contacts you need to leave them at home. You can wear those later – like when you arrive at your first duty location. Your eyes will be examines upon arrival and the Army will give you not one but TWO pair of the ugliest eyeglasses you ever saw in your life. They will not however – break. Which will be important when you’re grappling through the obstacle course.
The United States Army – bless ‘em – is so vast and multi-leveled that it has training location s all over the United States. Where you attend BCT has a lot to do with where your Advanced Individual (Job) Training takes place. For example, if you enlist in one of the Combat Arms MOS’s you may attend BCT and AIT at the same location (Fort Benning, Georgia for Infantry; Fort Knox, Kentucky for Armor; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Combat Engineers to name just a few).
If you are female, plan on going to Ft Leonard Wood, Ft Jackson or Ft Sill.
In the overall scheme of things it’s not that important where you attend BCT because you won’t be seeing much beyond the horizon line. In fact, you do yourself a disservice by thinking beyond the 9 weeks you’ll spend fine-tuning your mind and body into one of the Army finest.
There are 5 phases that must be completed in order to transform you from a civilian to a Soldier. Each phase has goals and standards that must be met in order to enter into the next phase. You will be informed of your movement between phases from your instructors.
The five phases of IET are the “Red,” “White,” and “Blue” which are associated with the BCT portion of OSUT, and the “Black” and “Gold,” which are associated with the AIT portion of OSUT.
Your senior instructor can tailor the phase length in order to make sure each Soldier is hitting the required levels needed to proceed.
These two charts will help you understand the goals and privileges that you can expect in each phase.
Upon the completion of Reception Week, recruits begin training and participating in field exercises while learning the importance of teamwork. Speaking of teamwork, character is the foundation for all you will do as a soldier and all you can become. Remember those Army Core Values we talked about earlier? Right off the bat you get to go on an overnight field training exercise, real fun huh? You will also be instructed on first aid, radio communication, map reading and military law.
You will have an in depth tutorial on military drill and ceremony, as well as getting acquainted with your M16 series rifle. The confidence coarse looks anything but a confidence builder upon first site. Most people have never repelled from a 40 foot tower and would probably be scared standing on top of their car.
During this phase you will also have your first (hopefully) encounter with tear gas. I won’t spoil the fun for you, but get ready for some gross stuff.
Red phase will also include events and instruction on subjects such as how to walk in formation, Army drill, obstacle courses, the Warrior Tower and your initial physical tests.
As you approach your halfway point you’ll roll into “White Phase” which is possibly the most important part of BCT. Here you will spend countless hours honing your marksmanship skills in addition to taking the obstacle course. You’ll be assigned a “Battle Buddy” and you’ll learn the true meaning of teamwork. Because as your platoon succeeds then you succeed. And when anyone fails it’s face-down and back in the mud doing more pushups. You will go on a 2 day field training exercise and train and qualify with your rifle.
The m249, grenade launcher, claymores and the light shoulder anti-tank weapon are a few more toys you will get to play with. After some time you will get to throw live hand grenades at a pile of dirt. Not all training is done with a weapon though. You will also receive some training in unarmed combat and pugil sticks.
Again during this time you will continue to learn about Drill and Ceremony (marching, saluting and general orders) and the wear and care of your uniform. You’ll get your Dress Uniform for Graduation and before you kick off the Blue Phase you’ll have it all nice and altered and hanging proudly in your locker waiting the day when you complete Army Basic Training.
O-k, someone cue the soundtrack to the movie “Patton”: Up until week seven you were probably still in a major learning-mode. But by now, some things will start to become second nature. In fact during Week Seven and Eight you should be connecting the dots and demonstrating everything you learned up until now. Your weapons training culminates with a weapons qualification test on your M16A2 automatic rifle. Soldiers continue with their weapon training and participate in the Night Infiltration Course.
During this time you’ll learn how to set up tents, use individual tactical movements and go on night patrols. You’ll be eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). This is all just a precursor for your special tactical field exercise. This basically mirrors field deployment and is a part of Basic Training for all the Armed Services. The night infiltration course can be especially hard if you have not mastered many of the things taught over the past few weeks. Field deployments are realty of the Army. And although there is an element of fun to this portion of Army Basic Training, its importance cannot be ignored.
Prior to graduating you will go on a 7 day adventure that will test your dedication to learning and graduating. You will go on a 6.25 mile march in full gear where your legs will be tested. You will cover everything you have learned so far, including doing an urban operational training exercise. This is designed to give you a taste of what to expect when you get to the Sand Box.
Before you know it you’ll be finished and the last week of BCT will be spent getting ready for your graduation and preparing for the next stage of your career which focuses on Advanced Individual Training. Where you go depends on what you are going to do for a living. Non-combat specialties will attend formal Army Schools while combat specialties will find themselves back in the field for another 8-to 12 weeks depending on the job.
Some of you that enlisted into the Army with a little college under your belt may find that you have an automatic promotion coming your way upon graduation from BCT. The same goes for those soldiers with prior service. For the rest of you it will be a matter of accruing time-in-service and time-in-grade in addition to performing well in your PT tests and review boards.
The person who completes Army basic Training won’t be the same person who began it only a short 9 weeks prior. It’s better that way. The civilian you were wouldn’t have made the grade in the United States Army.
Where you attend boot camp depends on the job in which you have chosen or been assigned.
Baic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT)
Many Army enlistees attend BCT at one site, then travel to other installations for advanced individual training, or AIT. The Army tries to send recruits to a BCT site hosting their AIT school as well, but that’s not always possible. Fort Jackson, South Carolina, is the Army’s largest BCT site. In addition to Fort Jackson; Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, host gender-integrated training for female recruits. Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Benning, Georgia, are male-only basic combat training installations.
One-Station Unit Training (OSUT)
Army recruits enlisting for one of several jobs (MOS) are sent to One-Station Unit Training, for BCT as well as AIT. Fort Sill provides artillery career field OSUT while Fort Benning is the OSUT site for infantry and cavalry scout career training. Fort Leonard Wood is the Army’s engineering, chemical unit and military police OSUT site. New Army recruits attending OSUT go through BCT as a single unit followed by AIT, also as a single unit.