I just graduated basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina this past December, and there are a couple of things that I would have appreciated knowing before hand. I am a female so this is somewhat geared in that direction, but most of this males will appreciate, too.
Learn to Move Quickly
The army is all about efficiency (at least, that’s what they tell us…) So don’t walk anywhere, “double time” (jog) any time you need to get somewhere. Eat quickly (sometimes you have only 5 minutes to eat, especially at reception and during Red Phase, which is what they call the first 3 weeks). Oh – and don’t expect to get anything done in the mornings. Make sure anything you need is prepared the night before because you often will only have 20-30 minutes to prepare for the day when you wake up, and sometimes you’re doing this all with drill sergeants screaming at you.
…Except in Formation. DON’T MOVE in Formation
Seriously – it’s amazing how much we fidget when we’re not paying attention, but believe me, the drill sergeants WILL NOTICE. They will call you out, they will break you down, and they will humiliate you in front of the entire platoon. If it happens (it will at some point – it does to everyone), play it cool. Don’t whine, don’t talk back. Don’t sweat it too much. But seriously, keep yourself still, find a point in the distance and don’t divert your eyes from it. And don’t lock your knees – you might fall over if you stand that way too long.
Hey, you – FEMALE! (or Guy)
Get used to being referred to as “female,” usually in place of your actual name or last name (they usually call the males guy). Don’t be offended. At basic training, the number one piece of advice I can offer is to not let anything or anyone to get under your skin. One time, one of the “females” in my platoon called out “Hey, let’s go ladies!” when we were forming up on the CTA (company training area). My drill sergeant shouted “You’re not ladies, you’re females! None of you are ladies!”
In Conclusion: Play the Game
In the end, basic training is one big mind game. All the things that the drill sergeants say to make you feel bad or incompetent probably aren’t true, and if they are, they’re things that you can improve upon. Take what they say and make your own judgments on whether or not there is truth to it, but don’t let them know if your confidence is shaken – that will make you a target. Make friends with everyone that you can and rely on those bonds, because nobody understand what you’re going through as well as the soldier beside you. Remember why you chose to do join the Army, and bide your time because the drill sergeants can make your life a living hell while you’re at basic, but the one thing they can’t do is stop time. Eventually, you will graduate, and when you do you’re going to be really proud of what you’ve accomplished.
This is just a short intro to some things I thought were useful to know before basic. I will be continuing to write more articles about basic training and the army in general so stay tuned. So