So, Basic Training is broken up into three “phases,” with each phase being about three weeks each. The phases are Red Phase, then White phase and finally Blue Phase. Theoretically, with each phase you are treated more and more like a real soldier and are given more respect, but that is up to the discretion of your drill sergeants, and usually it is dependent upon your platoon’s ability to be “squared away” and work together.
During Red Phase, one of the first tasks you must complete is called Victory Tower (My company did this the second or third day of basic). It involves a few different obstacles, but the main event is rappelling down a forty foot wall. First, they show you how to make a harness for yourself and double check that it’s safe, then they make you rappel down a mini version of the wall, which is much more difficult than the real thing because it’s at a weird angle. Anyway, back to the forty foot wall. As someone who is terrified of heights, I was extremely nervous the entire time. Climbing the ladder to get up to the wall, and looking down once you get to the top are the scariest parts though – the actual rappelling was surprisingly a ton of fun! Also, my drill sergeants, who were usually pretty intense, were very encouraging when they saw that I was nervous but doing what I had to do. There are also a few high ropes obstacles you have to do, but they feel like nothing in comparison to the wall. If you’re a baby with heights like I am, you feel really amazing after rappelling down the wall. For those of you who aren’t afraid of heights, this will probably be one of the most fun days throughout basic training.
Basic Rifle Marksmanship, followed by ARM – Advanced Rifle Marksmanship, takes up the majority of White Phase and also part of Blue Phase, so you spend a lot of time at the range. They do a really good job of getting you used to your rifle – by the time you actually fire it, you already know how to take it apart, clean it and put it back together. You already know the “fundamentals” of firing a weapon and every detail of its safety.
Night Infiltration Course (NIC)
Some people call this “Nick at Night,” like the 90’s TV station (is that still around?). However, don’t let a drill sergeant hear you call it that, as they’ll point out how stupid it sounds (Night Infiltration Course at Night). Honestly, I thought this was one of the most fun events at Basic Training. Our senior drill sergeant low/high crawled along side us as we made our way down what was probably about a football-field sized sand-pit, as live rounds were being fired above our heads and flashy explosions were going off all around us.
Buddy Team Live Fire One of the final events during Basic Combat Training is called “buddy team live fire,” and it involves doing different types of crawls (low and high crawl), and the two-to-five-second rush (you run for two-to-five seconds and then hit the ground to avoid being fired at by the enemy). There are two lanes next to one another with different obstacles (cars, walls, et. cetera). You and your battle buddy are expected to take turns firing to cover one another, and moving behind the next source of cover, until you both reach the end of the course and throw a dummy grenade. This exercise can be a lot of fun, but you need to be extremely aware of your every action as safety is very important when you’re firing live rounds within a couple of yards of your friend.
FTX I and FTX II
FTX stands for Field Training Exercise, and at Fort Jackson there are three FTX’s required for graduation (the final one is about 5 days long and is called Victory Forge). Usually during an FTX, you have to sleep outside one to two days in a sleeping bag (sometimes you put your sleeping bag under a “hooch,” which is basically just your poncho tied to trees as a kind of low roof). You won’t get too much sleep, especially if it’s extremely hot or cold, but during they day you go on “missions” which can be pretty fun and definitely are good learning experiences.
Victory Forge The Final FTX is called Victory Forge, and it can be a lot of fun, depending on the weather. During my Victory Forge, it went down to 10°F, so it was too cold to really function properly. The missions themselves were a ton of fun, though, and really tied together everything you learned throughout basic training. A lucky few were chosen as “OpFor” (oppositional force aka the enemy), and they spent the entire FTX attacking those of us on our missions, dressed up as “the enemy.”
So there you have it – some of the main graduation requirements of basic training. Though I listed the ones at Fort Jackson, they are pretty much the same at other basic training sites (I saw the team building course at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and it looked EXACTLY like the one at Fort Jackson). Hope this helps quell some of the feelings of unrest that come along with not knowing exactly what to expect. There are many other things involved in basic training, but these are just a few of the more major ones.
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