No matter what branch you are going into, odds are you’re pretty nervous about what you just signed yourself up for. You’re excited to serve, you are eyeing that college fund- heck, maybe you just want to fight. You’ve seen Starship Troopers and Black Hawk Down like, fifty times each this week. Full Metal Jacket is saved on your DVR. You’re a level 10 Prestige on Call of Duty and you can’t wait to get that sweet G36 with the laser upgrade.
With all these things in mind, here are a few tips that will help you get through basic training.
1: Forget EVERYTHING you know
Every film, game, TV show and tidbit of advice your grandfather or uncle gave you about going into the military? Forget it. It is nothing like Full Metal Jacket. You won’t be selecting your own weapon. You won’t be polishing boots any more. Much like the war in Iraq, you’re going in with a whole lot of bad intel.
Old war stories are fun to hear, combat films are riveting and games are good entertainment. However, nothing will prepare you for what you will experience.
2: Shut the #&@* up
This one can’t really be stressed enough. In every Basic Training course, you will find no shortage of people who want to ask stupid questions, say stupid things and get everyone punished for those stupid utterances. Don’t be that person. Just shut up. Every word you utter can have dire consequences you cannot even foresee. Best just to speak when spoken to and carefully choose words. But to reiterate on part of the lesson here…
3: Who you were is irrelevant
We get it. You’re awesome. You were in a gang, your team took state, you own a ton of guns back home. You have bedded more maidens than Gene Simmons, you could have any girl (or guy) you want. Nobody cares who you are or where you came from. Nobody cares if your dad is a Lieutenant Colonel or got the Bronze Star in Kosovo. Nobody cares about you, period. They will care about the person you become once the ordeal is over, but the you who showed up with jeans on is dead, gone and irrelevant. The person you were won’t even be recognizable by the person you will become.
4: They can’t kill you on purpose and you aren’t the first to go through this
The military is a place of order. No matter how daunting the task, just remember this: in basic training, they wouldn’t ask you to do anything a slightly slow-in-the head chimpanzee couldn’t do (the only reason we don’t have ape armies is the distinct possibility of rebellion or unionization).
Every confidence course, bayonet range, grenade range, tower rappel, live-fire and crucible is retardedly easy from the outside looking in. You can die in training- but you could also die eating cereal. Remember that. These instructors aren’t asking you to do anything particularly spectacular that couldn’t be turned into some sort of game show. Just listen closely, follow the instructors and do your job. You are a nameless number in a legion of nameless numbers. Your roster number alone has been preceded by thousands if not millions. I was #449. There were many 449’s before me and there will be many 449’s to follow.
5: Don’t be “That Cherry”
Basic will inevitably end. You will no doubt buy a bunch of “moto” military shirts that borderline on Affliction-grade douchebaggery, keep your hair cropped short, stand at parade rest for your mother and say “hooah/oorah/hoorah” excessively. You will feel tempted to talk about basic training when you get assigned to your new unit as if you were Moses coming down from the mountain.
Don’t do any of those things.
Seriously, you just completed Basic training. You don’t know anything aside from the basics. You are possibly about to enter units filled with battle hardened veterans who more or less loathe the military ethos you were systematically conditioned to embrace as religious dogma . Your haircut is stupid. Your mannerisms are stupid. No matter who you were in basic, you are now stupid- all over again.
You will be tempted to buy a bunch of expensive things, marry your sweetheart, get a car you can’t afford and wear outfits that will make you and your cherry ensemble look like The Village People. Process that for a minute, now that it has been put into words.
At the end of the day, you are beginning an endless cycle. However, it does get easier the third time around. Grow that hair out a little, relax and play the game until you are given the opportunity to earn the respect of your comrades. You will find your niche. Eventually, you’ll be bonded to your comrades in such a way that biological family seems distant and alien.
At the end of the day, there is nothing to fear when it comes to Basic Training. Think of it as a really fun employee orientation. I mean, what other job lets you stab things and throw grenades before you even really get the job?
By Andy Wolfe