How to Survive Military Basic Training

Basic Military Training
Air Guard/Flickr

Can you believe it? Civilian "Boot Camps" are springing up all over the place. Folks are paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of having someone yell at them while they do pushups, sit-ups, and run an obstacle course. Not quite the same thing as real military boot camp, however --at the end of a couple of hours, they get to go home and shower. By the time they are working on their first cup of carrot juice and granola bar, the real military recruit is several hours into his/her day -- with several more hours to go.

Surviving the First Four Years

Currently, over 40 percent of those who enlist in the military do not make it through the first four years. A significant portion of these do not even make it through boot camp. For many, this is because of unrealistic expectations. The military (and especially Boot Camp) is not what they thought it would be. Sometimes recruiters do too good a job of selling the military as just another occupation. Then, once the recruit wakes up at 0300 with a drill instructor screaming in their face, they say to themselves "Whoa! Where's the 'Condos' and the 'gourmet food?' Where's the NCO Club, and the Gym, and the discount PX items? Where's the job I was told about?"

In this multi-part article, we'll examine military basic training. We'll discuss what it is, where it is, what you can expect, what you should bring, how you should act, and some basic tips on surviving 6 to 12 weeks of "Hell."

You Do What You're Told

Regardless of what your recruiter told you, being a member of the United States Armed Forces is not just like having a civilian job. You need to understand this right down to your toes before you sign that contract and take that oath. In the military, there will ALWAYS be someone telling you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it -- and you've got to do it.

Sometimes they'll tell you to do something that you don't want to do, or tell you in a way that makes you angry. Failing to do it is not an option. The willful disobeying of a lawful order won't just get you "fired," as it would in a civilian occupation, it can get you sent to jail.

In the military, you'll work the hours you are told to work, you'll work "overtime" with no additional pay, you'll do the tasks you're assigned to do (even if they don't relate exactly with your "job"), you'll live where you're told to live, and you'll deploy where and when you're told to deploy. If you're not absolutely willing to make these sacrifices, then do yourself and the government a big favor and don't join up. However, if you are willing to put the needs of your country and your service ahead of your own, you'll find several rewards in a military career (or even a short term of service). You'll also be one of the 60 percent who make it to the end of their service commitment and either reenlist or walk away contented with an Honorable Discharge.

Military boot camp is like nothing you've ever experienced. However, the rigid routine and absolute control over every aspect of your life is several times worse than normal military duty -- on purpose.

It's the job of the Training Instructors (T.I.'s) and Drill Instructors (D.I.'s) to either adjust your attitude to a military way of thinking (self-discipline, sacrifice, loyalty, obedience) or to drum you out before the military spends too much money on your training. They do this by applying significant degrees of physical and mental stress, while at the same time teaching you the fundamentals of military rules; and the policies, etiquette, and customs of your particular military service.

While it may seem sadistic to those who are going through it, the T.I.'s and D.I.'s really do not kill and eat small children in their off-duty time. Nor do they derive any particular pleasure in your pain and discomfort (Okay, okay, Technical Sergeant Danelack, my T.I. probably did, but few others do).

In fact, most of them are pretty nice folks. The training programs are scientifically and psychologically designed to tear apart the "civilian" and build from scratch a proud, physically fit, and dedicated member of the United States Armed Forces. Go into it with a little fore-knowledge, the right attitude, and a few tips, and you'll graduate with no problems. You'll find that boot camp simply gets just a little bit easier each and every day.

In fact, when you're finished and you go through that final parade, you may find that most civilians seem to be just a tad unorganized and undisciplined to suit your tastes.