United States Army Basic Training
United States Army Basic Training (also known as Initial Entry Training or IET) is the program of physical and mental training required in order for an individual to become a soldier in the United States Army, United States Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. It is carried out at several different Army posts around the United States. Basic Training is designed to be highly intense and challenging. The challenge comes as much from the difficulty of physical training as it does from the required quick psychological adjustment to an unfamiliar way of life.
Basic Training is divided into two parts: Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training.
Basic Combat Training (BCT) consists of the first ten weeks of the total Basic Training period, and is identical for all Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard recruits. This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier, from combat techniques to the proper way to address a superior. BCT is also where individuals undergo rigorous physical training to prepare their bodies for the eventual physical strain of combat. One of the most difficult and essential lessons learned in BCT is self-discipline, as it introduces prospective soldiers to a strict daily schedule that entails many duties and high expectations for which most civilians are not immediately ready.
Advanced Individual Training (AIT) consists of the remainder of the total Basic Training period, and is where recruits train in the specifics of their chosen field. As such, AIT is different for each available Army career path, or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). For example, if an individual has an MOS of Human Intelligence Collector, they would be sent, following completion of BCT, to the Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. If an individual instead had the MOS of Army medic, they would be sent, after BCT, to the Army Medical Department School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. AIT courses can last anywhere from 6 to 52 weeks. Although many AIT schools don't center around combat the way BCT does, individuals are still continually tested for physical fitness and weapons proficiency, and are subject to the same duties, strict daily schedule, and disciplinary rules as in BCT.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Locations
- 3 Reception Battalion
- 4 Basic Combat Training
- 5 Advanced Individual Training
- 6 Punishable activities
- 7 Article 15
- 8 Discharge from Basic Training
- 9 References
- 10 External links
- 11 See also
Drill sergeants are the instructors that are responsible for most of the training that takes place in Basic Training. They accompany recruits throughout the training process, instructing and correcting them in everything from correct procedures for firing a weapon to the correct way to speak to a superior. They are known for their distinctive headgear, often called "Smokey the Bear" hats, as they resemble that character's round park ranger-style hat.
In the interest of effectively altering recruits' reflexes, drill sergeants are trained to maintain an intimidating demeanor and correct behavior through the use of further intimidation. They were even known historically to punish recruits physically, though they are presently prohibited from doing so. Disciplinary tactics are now limited to vocal reprimands as well as CAPE (Corrective Action: Physical Exercise); more commonly know by the informal term, "smoking": If a recruit does something wrong, a drill sergeant may order that recruit, or the entire group, to engage in a series of calisthenic exercises, such as push-ups.
Most AIT courses have begun using platoon sergeants in an attempt to implement the chain-of-command by having the trainees respect military rank rather than merely recognizing the drill sergeant's hat.
A typical day in Basic Training generally follows this schedule. Times can change depending on location, commanding officers, or when drill sergeants see a need for variation.
Time Activity Description 0500 First Call (wake-up) Wake up and perform personal morning tasks. For males, shaving is mandatory every morning. 0530 PT (Physical Training) Line up in company area, perform morning physical training (calisthenics and running). 0630 Morning Chow (Breakfast) 0830 Training Begin the day's scheduled training exercises. 1200 Afternoon Chow (Lunch) 1300 Training Continue the day's scheduled training exercises. 1700 Evening Chow (Dinner) 1800 Drill sergeant time Time for drill sergeants to talk to the recruits about any subject they may think requires attention.
Mail call is also performed during this time.
2030 Personal time Time for recruits to engage in personal activities, such as writing letters, doing laundry, showering, or simply relaxing.
Recruits may also catch up on platoon duties during this time, such as barracks cleaning or wall locker organization.
Meals (sometimes called "chow") are generally given in the Dining Facility, sometimes referred to in its abbreviated form, DFAC (pronounced "DEE-fak"). When a meal occurs during a training session at a remote location, meals are sometimes given in the form of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) or as 'hot chow' served from mermite containers from an MKT, or CK.
In any given week of Basic Training, Sundays are generally scheduled as "personal time", although drill sergeants may make use of the time as they see fit. Chapel (religious) services are also held on Sundays, and are available on-post for most major religions.
Fire guard and CQ
Every night, at least two recruits from the platoon must be awake at any given time, patrolling their barracks area, watching for fires, cleaning the barracks, and watching for recruits attempting to leave the barracks area. They wake the next pair of recruits at the end of their hour-long shift. This duty is called fire guard.
Fire guard stems back to the days of wooden barracks and wood-burning stoves. The fire guard would watch the stoves to make sure that the barracks would not catch fire. Since open flames are not generally used to heat sleeping areas anymore, present-day fire guard during Basic Training is more an exercise in discipline than a practical necessity. Although if the weather gets cold enough, some groups conducting overnight outdoor training will still use a kerosene "pot bellied" stove, which must be watched to prevent accidental fires.
CQ (Charge of Quarters) functions in a somewhat similar manner. CQ shifts rotate throughout the entire company, with just two recruits from the company staying awake per shift. The actual Charge of Quarters is the drill sergeant, and the pair of recruits staying awake are the "runners", meaning that they perform tasks for the CQ. They perform some of the same duties as the fire guard shift. Only the CQ on duty may open the barracks doors, and the runners must alert the CQ if someone else attempts to enter or leave the barracks.
For many hands-on instructional sessions, recruits are transported to other locations on-post that specialize in the given subject. For instance, a class on the use of the Claymore anti-personnel land mine is given at a location where a field is already set up with the appropriate props for the simulation, including fake claymores that recruits can practice on. Classes are also given in the use of the AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank missile launcher. For this class, recruits are brought to a mock battlefield riddled with decommissioned tanks and other vehicles. Each recruit fires a trainer AT4 weapon, loaded with tracer ammunition, at various targets on the battlefield. For weaponry training that involves only the use of fake weapons, one real demonstration of the actual weapon is usually performed. For example, at claymore training, one real claymore may be rigged and remotely detonated; and at AT4 training, one recruit (usually the one with the highest rifle qualification score) is chosen to fire a live AT4.
The Army suspends basic training during the winter holidays, causing a break in training. Therefore those recruits who are in Basic Training at that time are usually given the option to return home for the holidays. Since most trainees choose to return home, the volume of people leaving Army posts during this time led to the title "Christmas Exodus".
Split Training Option
Those who enlist in the National Guard or Army Reserves can select split-option training (called Split-Op for short) if they are in school (or in certain circumstances work). This option allows for soldiers to attend the Basic Combat Training (BCT) portion of IET one summer and AIT the following summer. This is used by a lot of rising seniors in high school, where they attend BCT before their senior year and AIT after they graduate. Some college students interested in ROTC use this as a route into the Army Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP).
The location where a recruit is sent for Basic Training depends on his or her chosen Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, which is selected upon enlistment. Recruits requiring air transportation to their training locations are flown via commercial flight at the US Army's expense.
One Station Unit Training
With some MOSs, both the BCT and AIT phases of training are accomplished back-to-back at the same location, with the same instructors, as well as with the same fellow recruits. This is called One Station Unit Training, or OSUT. For example, the Infantry MOS consists of the usual BCT followed by five weeks of AIT, all within the same location. A similar program is followed for cavalry scouts, tank crewmen, field artillery cannon crewmen, military police, combat engineers, and chemical operations (defensive) specialists.
Basic Combat Training
The U.S. Army has five sites for BCT:
- Fort Benning, Georgia; also provides infantry OSUT
- Fort Jackson, South Carolina; largest of all BCT locations.
- Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; also provides engineering, chemical warfare and military police OSUT
- Fort Sill, Oklahoma; also provides artillery OSUT
- Fort Knox, Kentucky
Advanced Individual Training
AIT is held at the corresponding school for the recruit's MOS.
For more information on the different AIT schools, see Advanced Individual Training below.
Reception Battalion (RECBN) is the period that begins when the recruit arrives at the Army post where he or she is to undergo Basic Training. It typically lasts 4 to 10 days, and is where initial preparations for training are performed, including:
- Haircut (head shave for men; women must either cut hair short or wear pinned up)
- Physical examination (including blood and urine tests)
- Distribution of uniforms and personal gear, such as duffel bag and mouth guard.
- Instruction in basic marching and standing, as well as upkeep of barracks.
- Initial physical assessment test:
- 17 sit-ups within one minute.
- 13 push-ups within one minute.
- Men: one-mile run in 8½ minutes.
- Women: one-mile run in 10½ minutes.
Fitness Training Company
Those recruits that fail the physical assessment test can be held back at Reception Battalion, where they are placed in Fitness Training Company (FTC), sometimes referred to in slang form as "Fat Camp." FTC involves daily, rigorous physical training and diet monitoring by Master Fitness Trainers (MFTs). Recruits in FTC are given 2 chances each week to complete the physical assessment test, and upon passing are allowed to move on to the next phase of Basic Training. Recruits that spend 4 weeks in FTC without passing the physical assessment test (failing the test 8 times) may be discharged from the Army via an Entry Level Separation (see Discharge from Basic Training below).
Recruits that sustain injuries during Basic Training, such as a broken arm, may also be assigned to a FTC for rehabilitation.
Basic Combat Training
Basic Combat Training, or BCT, is a ten-week training period that teaches identical skills for all MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties). This is because the Army believes that no matter the soldier's specialty, they should all be taught the basic skills of combat so they will be ready to properly defend themselves (as well as their fellow soldiers) when and if necessary.
BCT is divided into three phases. The three phases are each represented by a color (red, white, and blue) for Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III. BCT trainees are progressively allowed more responsibility, privileges, and independence each time they achieve a new phase of training. Whereas trainees in Phase I are constantly monitored and led around by their drill sergeants, Phase III trainees are largely responsible for making sure tasks are completed correctly and on-time, and keeping themselves on-schedule.
At some Basic Training stations, the current phase is denoted by the color of guidon carried by the platoon. Following the recruits' successful completion of the Field Training Exercise (a final exercise just before graduation), the Phase III blue guidon is sometimes traded for a tri-color red, white, and blue guidon that symbolizes successful completion of all three BCT phases.
During Phase I or "Red Phase", also called the "Patriot phase" recruits are subject to "Total Control", meaning their every action is monitored and constantly corrected by drill sergeants. As may be expected, recruits are often subjected to group "corrective action" for even minor infractions. The purpose being to develop an acute attention to detail as well as foster a sense of common responsibility among the unit.
Week 1 begins with the recruits meeting the drill sergeants who will be responsible for their training throughout BCT. The drill sergeants pick up their recruits from Reception Battalion and either transport or march them to their company area. The company area is the common area for the entire company, and is surrounded by four barracks — one for each platoon in the company.
Upon arrival at the company area, recruits are subjected to exercises such as the "bag drill". This is a training exercise in which all the recruits' duffel bags are dumped into one large pile, and the recruits are told to find their personal duffel bags simultaneously, and within a set time limit. The exercise is designed so that the soldiers fail in their task and must keep trying again, until they realize that they must work together in order to complete the task within the time limit. Following the bag drill, the recruits are divided into platoons.
Drill & Ceremony training begins during week 1. This refers to correct procedures for marching, and body movements such as standing at attention, "facing" (right-face/left-face), "at ease," etc. For this and many other exercises, soldiers are sometimes issued fake rifles known as "rubber ducks", so that they can become familiar with the proper handling of their weapon before they have actually been trained to use it. More recently recruits have begun to be issued fully functional M16A2/A4s during the first week of BCT to allow for early familiarization with the weapon.
Classroom instructions are given in each of the seven "Army Core Values," which include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Note that the initials spell out the mnemonic LDRSHIP (leadership). There are also classes held on subjects that involve day-to-day personal life in the Army, such as sexual harassment and race relations.
During week 2, recruits begin unarmed combat training, also known as hand-to-hand combat, Combatives, or Ground Fighting Technique (GFT). The training often culminates in a competition where each platoon chooses one recruit to compete. At gender-integrated training stations, the platoons each choose one male and one female.
Recruits are also instructed in map reading, land navigation, and compass use. These skills are put to the test at the Compass Course, where recruits are divided into groups and must navigate their way to a series of points throughout a wooded area.
Recruits will also tackle other physical challenges including Victory Tower and the Teamwork Development Course. Victory Tower is an exercise where recruits must navigate through several obstacles at extreme heights, including climbing and traversing rope ladders and bridges. They must then rappel down a 50-foot wall (back-first, with rope harness). In the Teamwork Development Course, squads must negotiate a series of obstacles, with emphasis on working as a team rather than as individuals.
First aid training (known as CLS "Combat Life Saver") is also given during this period. Recruits are trained in evaluating and properly treating casualties, ranging from the simple dressing of a wound to application of a tourniquet. Recruits are also trained in how to evaluate and treat heat casualties such as dehydration.
Recruits begin training with pugil sticks. Other hands-on instruction sessions include person-carrying methods and physical problem-solving.
Recruits are also commonly sent to the "gas chamber" during this week, which is a large, sealed chamber where soldiers are subjected to CS gas while wearing their protective masks. The gas chamber is the culmination of a series of instructions on gas mask use. Recruits are forced to unmask just before exiting the chamber, so that they can briefly experience the effects of the gas. Drill sergeants will usually ask each recruit to recite information while they are unmasked, such as name, rank, social security number, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Soldiers' Creed, or the three Army general orders, so that the recruit is forced to open their mouth/eyes and/or take a breath. Recruits that answer incorrectly are sometimes sent for another trip through the gas chamber.
Week 3 is also when the recruits are introduced to their standard-issue weapon, the M16A2 assault rifle or the M4 carbine. This does not yet involve the actual firing of the rifle. It does include Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) fundamentals training (instruction in marksmanship techniques without firing the rifle), as well as maintenance tasks, including "field stripping" (quickly disassembling) the rifle, cleaning it, and reassembling it correctly. With the focus toward Weapon Familiarization, many of these tasks (such as maintenance, and disassembly and reassembly) are now done during Week 1 as a part of the initial round of classroom instruction.
Phase II, called the "White Phase" or "Gunfighter Phase", is where soldiers begin actually firing weapons. With the service rifle (M16 A2), they will fire at various targets, which are progressively farther-and-farther downrange, making each successive target more difficult to hit. Additionally, there are pop-up targets at long range. Other weapons the soldier becomes familiarized with include various grenades (such as the M67 fragmentation grenade), grenade launchers (such as the M203 grenade launcher) and machine guns such as the 240B and 249 SAW " Squad Automatic Weapon ", Soldiers will also be familiarized with the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun, referred to as the MA deuce.
The second week of Phase II involves familiarization with anti-tank/armor weaponry and other heavy weapons. There is also an obstacle course which the soldiers are expected to negotiate in a certain amount of time. This is also known as the confidence course since the main objective of running the course is to build self-confidence. There is also the expectation of working as a team with the assigned Battle Buddy.
Additionally, there is continual, intense physical training (PT), as well as drill and ceremony training. At the conclusion of Phase II, soldiers are expected to demonstrate proficiency with the various weaponry in which they trained, using numerous "go or no-go" (pass/fail) exercises, prior to being allowed to move on to Phase III.
Phase III, the "Blue Phase" or "Warrior Phase" is the culmination and the most challenging of all the training phases. During this phase, there is a PT final. At some locations, soldiers that fail are not allowed to go into the field with the rest of the platoon. The Final PT Test consists of the Standard Army Annual PT Examination. A minimum of 150 points is required to pass US Army Basic Training. Those that pass will move on to "Bivouac" (camping) and FTX (Field Training Exercises), such as nighttime combat operations and MOUT training. There is no access to the dining facility during these exercises, so meals are given in the form of either MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) or "hot alphas". Drill sergeants will make much of this an adversarial process, working against the recruits in many of the night operations, trying to foil plans, etc. Other BCT companies also in their FTX weeks may join in simulated combat scenarios, generally at night, with intense competition to prove their particular company the better trained.
Week 2 of Phase III (the 8th week of Basic Training) culminates in a special tactical FTX (Field Training Exercise), during which the drill sergeants will advise, but allow recruit platoon leaders and squad leaders to exercise primary decision-making. They attempt to make virtually every one of these exercises different. Because being a soldier is potentially an extremely hazardous job, recruits must demonstrate extreme aggression and fearlessness, tempered by intelligence and common sense. Only those that demonstrate these vital attributes will be permitted to move on to AIT.
Following their FTX, recruits then move into the final week of training, often called "recovery week". At this time, soldiers must service and/or repair any items they are not taking on to AIT including weapons, bedding, issued equipment (helmet, canteen, gas mask, etc.) as well as ensuring the platoon barracks is in good order to receive the next platoon of trainees. This week also includes a final fitting of the recruit's dress uniform as well as practice for the graduation ceremony which takes place at the end of the week.
Advanced Individual Training
Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, is where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS. The length of AIT training varies depending on the MOS and can last anywhere from three weeks to nearly two years. The current longest AIT training lasts 84 weeks (1 year and 8 months).
Just like BCT, AIT progressively allows trainees more and more privileges. At the start of AIT, trainees are in Phase IV. After a varying length of time and satisfactory performance, the trainees are awarded Phase V. Phase V often includes the privilege of applying for off-post passes or use of a cell phone. Phase V+ is awarded after a similar length of time and continued good conduct. Phase V+ trainees may walk about the base without having a battle buddy present, be able to drink alcohol on weekends (provided one is of legal drinking age), and even stay off-post overnight on weekends. These privileges vary, however.
Until recently, AIT was run by Drill Sergeants, just like BCT. That is no longer the case, it is run by NCOs in the Soldiers chosen field. This is a choice assignment for NCOs looking to progress in their career, the days are easy, you do not have to deploy and there is plenty of personal time providing an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Army AIT schools include (not a complete list):
- Adjutant General School, located at Fort Jackson, SC.
- Air Defense Artillery School, located at Fort Sill, OK.
- Defense Information School, located at Fort Meade, MD.
- Armor School, located at Fort Benning, GA.
- Army Aviation Center, located at Fort Rucker, AL.
- Aviation Logistics School, located at Fort Eustis, VA.
- Chaplain Center and School, located at Fort Jackson, SC.
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, located at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
- Engineer School, located at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
- Field Artillery Center, located at Fort Sill, OK.
- Finance Corps School, located at Fort Jackson, SC.
- Infantry School, located at Fort Benning, GA.
- Intelligence Center, located at Fort Huachuca, AZ.
- John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS), located at Fort Bragg, NC.
- Medical Department Center and Schools, located at Fort Sam Houston, TX.
- Military Police School, located at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
- Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. Fort Lee, VA
- Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School, located at Redstone Arsenal, AL.
- Quartermaster School, located at Fort Lee, VA.
- Signal School, located at Fort Gordon, GA.
- United States Army Signals Intelligence Analysts School, located at Goodfellow Air Force Base, TX.
- Transportation School, located at Fort Eustis, VA.
Activities that are prohibited during Basic Training include (but are not limited to):
- Use of any tobacco product.
- Possession/consumption of food, except during designated meal hours (or "chow time") and in designated areas
- Possession of any contraband
- Failure to perform duty (such as neglecting fire watch or CQ watch duties)
- Being absent without leave (AWOL)
When a recruit engages in a prohibited activity, their drill sergeant may recommend the Commander impose non-judicial punishment (UCMJ Article 15). An Article 15 (also called "NJP") is a type of disciplinary action and can entail any or all of the following:
- Restriction to specific limits (normally work, barracks, place of worship, mess hall, and medical facilities) for up to 45 days
- Extra duty for up to 45 days, usually meaning that the recruit's personal time is replaced with work detail
- Forfeiture of up to one month's pay over a period of two months
- Reduction by one grade of rank (demotion), which also means a permanent pay reduction until the recruit is promoted again
- Verbal or written reprimand
If a drill sergeant sees fit to recommend an Article 15, the recruit is brought before the company commander and given the choice to have a public or private hearing. In either case, the drill sergeant recommending the Article 15 presents their reasons for the recommendation, as well as a recommendation for an appropriate punishment. The recruit is then given the opportunity to defend their actions. If the company commander then agrees with the recommendation, the Article 15 is imposed. The recruit is then given the choice of either accepting the punishment or appealing the decision. If the recruit chooses to appeal, he or she is brought before the battalion commander, who makes the final decision following a similar hearing.
There are various grades of Article 15.
- A Summarized Article 15 can put the recruit on corrective training or extra duty for up to 14 days, and restrict the recruit to certain designated areas. This restriction bears the most weight during AIT, when "pass" privileges are revoked, meaning the recruit is confined to barracks while others are allowed the use of certain recreational facilities on base.
- A Company Grade Article 15 extends the severity and length of these disciplinary actions, and can also impose a deduction taken from the recruit's pay and one reduction of rank.
- A Field Grade Article 15 can impose some or all of the most severe actions, and can include two reductions in rank. This goes on the permanent file, and is not erased after graduation.
Some combinations of actions can also consist of being "held over" to start training from a phase already passed.
Discharge from Basic Training
A recruit can be discharged from the Army before the conclusion of Basic Training. Discharges that occur before the completion of 180 days (approximately 6 months) of training are considered uncharacterized, which are neither honorable nor less than honorable.
- An Entry Level Separation (ELS) can occur when a recruit demonstrates unsatisfactory performance and/or misconduct. A recruit can only be ELSed after at least 4 weeks of training and 2 counseling sessions, except under extreme circumstances, such as the recruit being deemed suicidal.
- If it is found that a recruit is unable to train due to a chronic medical condition, he or she may obtain a medical discharge by the recommendation of an Army medical doctor.
- A discharge due to any condition Existing Prior To Service (EPTS) may occur when a recruit is found to have a prior medical condition existing before enlistment. A recruit may receive a rare honorable discharge for an EPTS condition if they have been in Basic Training for more than 180 days.
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