The very idea of basic combat training can strike fear into the hearts and minds of civilians everywhere. Visions of terrifying drill sergeants are conjured. It is the challenge of a lifetime. The following five steps can ensure one’s very survival at basic combat training.
Physical preparation is the absolute most important way to survive basic combat training. So many recruits overlook this step. It seems obvious, but many new soldiers just expect for the Army to get them into shape. Overweight recruits also have a very difficult time in basic training. There is no doubt that basic training will get them into shape. That is a guarantee. Being in poor physical condition is a great way to have an unbearable time in basic training.
The temperatures at Fort Jackson, South Carolina can easily hit triple digits during the summer months. The low country humidity doesn’t help. It will be a lot more bearable for recruits that can already run two miles without dying.
An easy goal to shoot for is meeting at least minimum Army physical standards. If a recruit can pass a test before shipping out, he or she will have a comparatively easy life at basic training. In fact, these recruits are most likely to be maxing out their scores by graduation. Out-of-shape recruits will most likely be struggling to pass the physical fitness test with low marks. Being out of shape or overweight also ensures recruits will be singled out by drill sergeants. This is also undesirable. The importance of being physically fit prior to basic training can’t be overstated. This is the number one way to ensure survival.
Not everybody who joins the military is mentally tough enough to handle the rigors of basic combat training or boot camp. That’s okay. It is important to get excited about the prospect of training. It is going to be terrible, but men and women do it every day. Just remember that the training is a means to an end. It will not last forever. Preparing mentally is just as important as preparing physically.
Rent all of the movies. Rent Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Annapolis, Jarhead and even Top Gun! It doesn’t matter if a recruit is going to be a mechanic or an infantryman. Rent all of the military movies. Get into the soldier mindset. Be prepared to get smoked. Everybody gets smoked at one time or another. Get ready to low-crawl through the muck. Remember that most people don’t even have the courage to sign up!
Being a good battle buddy is a very important step in surviving basic training. There is no need to be a lone gunman. Help fellow soldiers when they need it. Unit cohesiveness is all about taking care of one another. Drill sergeants will test bonds. They will try to get recruits to turn on each other. The worst thing a person can do at basic training is rat another soldier out. The drill sergeants hate it, and the other soldiers hate it. It is the best way to become singled out by drill sergeants and ostracized by the platoon.
One of the few redeeming qualities of basic training is the camaraderie. Being part of a team is a great feeling. Mutual trust and respect are important for mission readiness and completion. The platoon basically becomes a soldier’s family, friends and support system. Turning away from these people or working against them is a bad idea. Everybody is in the same boat. Help each other survive. It will make basic training so much easier.
This step seems pretty simple. Recruits kind of expect to follow orders when they ship out for basic training. It is always surprising to see how many new soldiers are terrible at actually following orders though. Sometimes, the point of the exercise is just to see how well a soldier can execute an order. This means so many orders will seem stupid and pointless. A recruit must never question a drill sergeant’s order. It should become second nature to execute an order immediately. Even a slight hesitation can be cause for getting singled out and smoked. If a recruit simply must question orders or not follow them properly, it is important to be in top physical shape. There is always one soldier who doesn’t want to follow orders. Their life immediately becomes much more difficult.
The final step in successfully completing and surviving basic training is to avoid getting singled out. There are ways keep a low profile during training.
1. Be in good shape physically.
2. Be mentally tough.
3. Don’t smile at drill sergeants.
4. Don’t shirk responsibilities.
5. Be a good battle buddy.
6. Don’t sandbag workouts or marches.
7. Don’t fall out during company runs.
8. Stay hydrated.
9. Don’t pass out because of heat exhaustion.
10. Follow orders quickly and exactly as they are given.
If a drill sergeant has a hard time remembering a particular soldier’s name by graduation day, that soldier has succeeded. Keeping a low profile is all about sticking to a deliberate strategy. It can be done. Do everything right. Life will be easy. The red phase doesn’t last forever.
The isolation and strangeness of it all will be an unparalleled learning experience. There will be little to no contact with the outside world. Letter writing will become one’s only link to family and friends. If these five steps are taken into consideration, a recruit will have a fairly okay time at basic training. It is never going to be easy, but there is no reason it shouldn’t go smoothly.