What is Army Basic Combat Training like? Every new recruit and potential new recruit wants to know, and while the military does not like to let its standards gather dust, so to speak, the basic nature of boot camp involves plenty of physical activity, studying, testing, and yes, marching.
Army Basic Training Basics
Unlike the Air Force, which has a single training base for its basic trainees, the United States Army has five basic training or boot camp locations. They are:
- Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- Fort Jackson, South Carolina
- Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
- Fort Knox, Kentucky
- Fort Benning, Georgia
It would be tempting to assume that these training locations are selected for an individual trainee depending on where they entered military service, but Army literature informs that where you spend boot camp depends greatly on your Army job following boot camp and advanced training.
Those who are joining the Army as officers will attend basic combat training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Those who are joining as Infantry also train at Fort Benning. Military combat engineers train at Fort Leonard Wood. There are many other scenarios, these are just examples.
Army Basic Combat Training Weeks
Army Basic Combat Training is broken down into a set of phases which usually stretch two to three weeks depending on the phase.
Not all recruits make it through basic training in the same way–mostly due to the practice known as “recycling” which is where a trainee may be held back or sent back to an earlier point in the training (and often to a new group of trainees who are in that phase of boot camp) until they get that portion of the training right.
You read that correctly–recycling potentially means staying in boot camp longer than you anticipated, which is why it’s important to apply yourself 100% from the moment you arrive.
The first is known as Week Zero or the “Reception Battalion” phase. You will meet your drill instructors, be put through some initial tasks to build teamwork on Day One and beyond, and be given a set of expectations to follow for conduct in the training environment.
Those expectations include a standard form of address to the training instructors; “Yes, Drill Sergeant” and “No, Drill Sergeant” are expected, and failure to render this military courtesy usually results in push-ups.
Week Zero is when you get all your initial chores done including getting uniforms, military buzz cuts, in-processing, immunizations, etc. All the basic training admin-type functions are handled in Week Zero.
Don’t show up thinking you might get some time to “catch up” physically if you didn’t take the recruiter’s advice about physically preparing for Basic Combat Training before arriving. You are subject to fitness evaluations at any time once you arrive at boot camp and should expect to be evaluated sooner, not later. Week Zero does contain a fitness evaluation according to Army documents.
Weeks One Through Three
This portion of Army Basic Combat Training is also known as Red Phase and includes both introductions to the life of a soldier as well as physical fitness training and testing. During Red Phase you will learn (more about) marching, Army history and traditions, and you’ll learn what Army Core Values are.
During Red Phase you will encounter a great deal of correction and some soldiers in training may be subject to punitive actions for misconduct where appropriate. In general, you should expect to know and follow the rules in the training environment at all times.
In Red Phase this becomes more of a mindset than in Week Zero while still adapting to the training environment.
Weeks Four And Five
Areas of concentration in weeks Four and Five, also known as the White Phase, include learning how to work better as a team, as well as combat training. Combat training includes both hand-to-hand and marksmanship training.
Teamwork training in Weeks Four And Five may seem as confusing to some as the initial team training exercises you are put through in Week Zero but over time most get used to the process.
Weeks Six Through Nine
This is the Blue Phase, and by now many trainees have settled well into the routine. And the training in this phase is a reflection of that–there are additional opportunities to take “additional weapons training” plus more marksmanship training.
There will be field training exercises designed to test what you have learned to date, and there are more specialized scenarios such as “military operations in urban terrain” as well as training on Army convoy ops.
There is also a requirement to pass a test involving more than 200 tasks in the so-called end-of-cycle test. The end of Blue Phase testing requirements includes, according to the Army Recruiting official site, “…a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival, fitness, and Soldier skills.”
At the end of Blue Phase, those who successfully pass all the tests and meet all challenges are sent on to Graduation as fully qualified soldiers ready for the next phase of training before being assigned to a first duty station–Advanced Individual Training or AIT.
This is an environment that is not as strict as Basic Combat Training but still requires a regimented lifestyle in a training-type environment. AIT is not part of Basic Combat Training, it is the next step in a Soldier’s new career.