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Surviving Basic Military Training - Air Force

Updated on April 15, 2013


Before we start off with how my BMT experience was, I'd like to give a bit of background information. I decided to join the military later in life. I was 26 years old when I swore into MEPS, which made me significantly older than most of the people I went with. If you read my hub about swearing in to MEPS, I've stated before you should not go in "open general" for a job. I held out, and got the job that I wanted. There was a catch, however. If I wanted that job, I had to come from Cleveland, Ohio to San Antonio Texas in about 24 hours. I had 1 whole day of notice from being a civilian to becoming an Airman. If I can handle that kind of stress, I'm sure 90% of the people reading this can handle BMT.

Day 1

Day one (more like night 1, I arrived at 9 PM at night) is probably the most hectic night. I arrived at the San Antonio Airport at around 7-8ish. We sat in the USO room and watched TV and ate snacks until the bus came to pick us up. While we sat there, a man walked in wearing a TI (Air force calls the instructors "TIs" while Army calls them drill sergeants) hat and that's when it all became real. He didn't yell at us right away, but he did make smart remarks. There were about 5 of us, and he asked the guy standing next to me if he had called his parents to tell them he was in San Antonio. He replied "no" and was immediately scolded and was asked if he loved his parents or if they loved him, and that he should call them RIGHT NOW. He then asked me, and I lied and told him I did.

We hopped on the bus and were taken to Lackland Air Force Base which was about 20 minutes away. Now, here is where my experience may differ from yours. I arrived a day late, due to the fact that I was a replacement for some girl who got pregnant or something. There were maybe 5-7 of us, and I guess there are normally hundreds. I could be wrong, though. We lined up inside some building and were asked our names, and a few other questions. One of the questions was "Do you play an instrument?" I said no, because I thought it was a trick, but they really have band flights that play instruments. I didn't have a choice in the matter, since the other few people with me DID play one, I had to play one too, and I was assigned a base drum. Luckily, weeks later when we started doing band, I changed to trumpet, which was what I played 10 years ago in high school. I highly recommend joining a band flight, it's a unique experience and will get you out of doing a lot of work that you otherwise would do. It's not as fun as high school, but it's better than hard labor.

After they asked the questions we were taken to a room with foot measurements, and we were given a book, and a few other things, I forget what was given, and we were fed some crap food. That was probably the only night we had crap food because the chow hall food is actually really good. From there we were split into our "flights" which is just the group of people you'll be staying with for the next 2 months or so. Also, when I went, basic training was 8 weeks long. There's been talk of shortening it back to 6 1/2 weeks, but I don't know if that's official. When we arrived at our dorms, my other flightmates were sleeping. There's a bunch of single beds and some bunk beds, but you take whatever is open. Anyway, your TI will have you throw almost all of your civilian stuff into a closet and you'll be able to keep some clothes and cleaning items. They'll also take your phone and put it into a locker. After a bit of paperwork and talking (my TI was rather calm since everyone was sleeping already) we went to sleep.

Day 2

Holy.... Freakin'.... Crap.... The TI will shoot the lights on and start screaming to wake up. I don't remember what all the rush was about but we had a lot of stuff to get done, and that's all I knew. Again, since I was a day late, everyone starts rushing to make their beds that are extremely tight and perfect with "hospital corners" and stuff. I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, your flight mates will help you, and there's also a book in your locker that helps as well. Anyway, the first day is just a bunch of yelling and freaking out for no reason. Since I was older, I kept calm pretty much my entire basic stay, since I knew it was probably illegal for them to kill me. Still, basic training has a way of making the easiest tasks some of the most difficult things you've ever performed.

I can't remember much about day 1, but that whole week (also known as 0 week) was mostly learning to march, marching around in your civilian clothes looking like an idiot. The dorms we were in had these really loud generators outside so it was hard to hear our TI at times, and it sucked because we couldn't march to save our lives. I believe in 0 week was when we were given our "details" which are just jobs you have to do every day. These consist of things like laundry crew, latrine crew, bed alignment crew, the people that shine the chrome on the floors, and the people who sweep the stairwell (which was my job). There were a few others, but the worst one would probably be the latrine crew, as that bathroom was "never clean enough" according to our TI.

Every morning from day one until you graduate, you'll get up, shower, shave, get dressed, wipe down dust (dust drills) around the dorm, do your job (most likely you'll do it wrong) and make your bed. Pretty standard, but repetitive and boring.

Also, they'll assign leadership for the flight. The dorm chief is the person who will be crapped on by the TI the entire time. It's a good job if you can handle it. They have to do push ups, sit ups, etc. every time someone in the flight messes up. It can be a huge pain, but if you can handle it, go for it. I personally, wish I would have done it. The other leaderships are the "element leaders" which are essentially line leaders when you march. Most of ours were losers, but we had a couple really cool ones. They are the ones that make your job much harder than it has to be, and I'd rather have 4 more TI's in my face than deal with 4 element leaders. They are the people that tell people in their line (element) to shut up and don't move, etc. but then turn around and BS with each other. I, for one, don't like double standards, so naturally I hated my BMT leadership. Don't get me wrong, there are certain times where a leader has to lay the hammer down, but these guys were 18-20 year old kids, and I had a hard time being told what to do by some immature kids. I did my job every day in BMT and I did the best I could. Anyway, I should quit venting. My leadership sucked.

The last thing about 0 week is that you are a target. You still wear your civilian clothes and everyone recognizes that you are brand new. Your TI will give you crap, as will every TI that walks near you. Everything you do will be wrong, be it how you step, where you step, how you talk, how you fold your clothes, everything. 0 week sucks, but the best advice to give is that it only lasts so long, and it does get better. You'll hear it from other flights, too. BMT gets better as the weeks go on.

Week 1

After 0 week, things still tend to suck, but hey, at least you're out of your civilian clothes and in your ABUs. You look like an Airman. Kind of. You are still wearing your sneakers instead of boots, so you look like an idiot, and your ABU blouse (shirt) has no name on it. You're easily identified because of this. This week isn't so bad as much as it is boring. You're semi-used to getting up in the wee hours of the morning (I believe it's 0445) and NOW you get to do PT every morning. It's not incredibly hard. You basically do pushups, a variety of sit ups, flutter kicks, arm rotations, etc. Our flight was told not to do as much as we could, we were to work our way up.

PT is done as a squadron, so there's probably a couple hundred people out there. You'll do a set of 30 of whatever, then do some sort of cool down exercise, then another set of 30, another cool down, and a last set of 30, and a last cool down before moving on to the next exercise. We started out with 10 instead of 30 and worked our way up by the end of BMT. That was (I believe) 3 days a week, and we ran on the other 2. I can't remember if we had PT on Saturdays, but I don't think we did. Sometimes, PT was cancelled in lieu of some appointments we had (getting our uniforms, getting our pictures taken for our CACs (your ID card), but this was relatively rare. PT, however, was nothing to fear. If you suck at running, don't stress it, the running part was actually pretty easy, you run at a fixed pace and since you're with so many other people, you're pretty motivated to do decent. There was a few people that couldn't keep up, and they had to run in the fat people group, but in my flight, everyone passed. I'm a horrible runner, and I did fine.

Anyway, first week consists of your new PT schedule, a bunch of briefings (classes about the Air Force, DO NOT FALL ASLEEP), and staying in your room, rolling t-shirts and other clothes. It's extremely boring. As I said before, you're used to being yelled at for everything, kind of. It's the fact that you're in your room and going to briefings all day that sucks. And it continues into week 2. So much so, that we'll just skip that week, because it's essentially the same, except you wear boots instead of sneakers.

Week 3

Week 3 was when things actually got to get pretty cool. We got our blues, so one day was spent at the clothing issue place, getting sized up and fitted. We also got our name tags. I believe it's usually week 4 that you get your name sewn on your uniform, but we were a band flight so everything happened a week early for us, I have no idea why. There's really not too much to say about week 3. I think week 3 we did basic survival skills, where we got issued our blue M16, which really was kind of lame besides practicing taking it apart and putting it together. By the way, later on, you'll have to do that, but it's not timed and you can do it as fast or slow as you please. To push yourself, you should try to take it apart and put it back together in under a minute. It's really not hard.

Again, week 3 was basic survival skills. You rub your face in the sand doing crawls and learn how to use your weapon in hand to hand combat. It's nothing too serious, and it's kind of boring (see the theme?) but at least you get out of the dorm. Your TI's don't teach the classes, it's usually ex-TI's but they are really cool, they rarely act all TI-like. They share their Air Force stories and are genuinely interesting people. I also believe this was the week we learned some medical training. We just wrap each other up in bandages. There's a lot more to it, but it's really not too hard.

Week 4

I wish I had written this right when I got out of BMT because I feel like I have my weeks mixed up, but week 4 was the week we did the obstacle course. Week 4 is amazing. Your TI starts to warm up to you a little bit, but just enough for you to realize he's human. The obstacle course is really fun. You're in relatively decent shape, and you do the whole thing at your own pace. You can look up videos of what you have to do, as explaining each obstacle would be a pain, but if I were you, I'd save it as a surprise. I loved it. It's a confidence course, which is fairly difficult but everyone can complete it. When you're done, you feel so accomplished. There were 2 or 3 obstacles involving water, and we had a few people fall in, but most of us finished with no problems. Once you're done, you feel like you're on top of the world.

Also, week 4 was the gas chamber. I really want to write as much detail here, but there's really not much to write. You go into a gas chamber with your mask on, you'll do some jumping jacks, they'll tell you to take off your mask. Once done, you yell your social security number and your reporting statement "Sir trainee whatever reports as ordered" and get the hell out. My eyes were burning so bad, which is the worst part. Breathing wasn't much of an issue for me, but others struggled, and the snot that comes out of your nose is disgusting. It lasts a good 5 minutes or so, but it's not too bad.

Week 5

Week 5 is combatives. Kind of. You hit each other with sticks. It's exhausting. There's really no winners or losers, you just have a minute to beat the hell out of each other. Also, you get to call out someone if you don't like them, which, without a doubt, you will hate someone in your flight. The guy I fought was actually really down to Earth. I recommend looking up some videos and seeing what gets done. It may look fairly lame from the outside looking in, but it's fun.

Also week 5 is when you get to shoot your M16. You sit in a class all day with a gun learning exactly how to prepare it for shooting. After a few hours, you go out to the shooting range and show off your skills. You shoot a total of 50-something shots, and only 24 count. If you want to earn your marksman ribbon, you have to hit 21 of 24. I'm not one to brag, but I did it. My advice would be to take your time. You have 1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large target. Shoot the largest 2 first, and take your time on the smallest. As much time as you need.

Week 6

Beast week. It sounds terrifying. It's not. Week 6 is basically a recap of all of your training. You go to a simulated warzone. You practice your medical skills, your bomb seeking skills, and your guarding skills. And you do this over, and over, and over. It's boring, but in the same breathe, it's nice. You have no TI's for an entire week, you don't have to march everywhere, and you get to BS with other trainees. In one sense, it sucks because it's so repetitive, but in another, it's a much more relaxed atmosphere that you love every minute of it.

Apparently there are "chalk walks" where you go on missions and rescue dummies, but we had a ton of rain the week before that it was too dangerous to go. Speaking of danger, nothing in BMT is too dangerous. Since you are in training status, they will not risk you getting hurt. When you go operational (see SERE training), it's a different story. Yes, people sprained their ankles, got stung by non-poisonous scorpions, and had nervous breakdowns, but it's nothing to be scared about. But I digress, BEAST week has ups and downs, but try your best to enjoy it. Besides, there's a sweet ceremony at the end (which I won't give away), and you get your dog tags.

Week 7

Week 7 is pretty stressful. You're all done with the fun stuff, but now you have your final PT evaluation, your drill evaluation (marching), review of your Air Force knowledge, and reporting and courtesies. It's stressful because you'll want to become an honor flight, which does nothing but boost your ego for, like, a week. It's really something to strive for, I shouldn't downplay it, but it really doesn't do anything. However, to make the most of your Air Force BMT experience, you should strive to be the best at everything you do.

Again, week 7 is stressful, with all of the evaluations, plus you'll be having briefings all week just like you have been the entire time you're there. Just try your best, it's not physically demanding, just kind of mentally tough.

Week 8,Graduation

So week 8 is finally here (it may be week 6 coming soon, I've heard rumors of BMT going to 6.5 weeks instead of 8), and you're looking forward to having your friends and family come home. For us, week 8 was a breeze. You're given base liberty nearly every day, which means you can go do whatever you want on base. You can drink soda, eat junk food, and just go nuts. The catch is that you have to be back in your dorm by 8 PM, and you have to be with a wingman. Your family will come in on Wednesday or Thursday, and you'll be able to see them those days as well as Friday and I think Saturday. To be honest, I did not want my family to come when I left. I thought it was a waste of a plane ticket and money. However, I would have regretted it ENTIRELY had they listened. I loved that they came. It was so nice seeing them. You get to leave base with them, go to Sea World (it's free for military!) and go wherever they want to take you so long as you don't leave San Antonio. You cannot go drinking, though, and your TI will be taking the day off, so don't test it by going out on the town and maybe running into them.

This week includes a coin ceremony where you get you Airman's coin, the Airman's Run, as well as your regular graduation ceremony. It's pretty cool stuff. I was a bit numb to it, because throughout the weeks I had already seen 3 or 4 of them, being in the band. But this signals the end of hell for you. It's such a weight off of your shoulders. You're a human being, and a better one. It's done, and now you have the rest of your career ahead of you. It's up to you now to make the most of it.

Other Notes

I just want to point out a few more things, and maybe some tips to know before you go. First thing is that you should know what an officer is, and learn a bit about customs and courtesies. No, you will not see a lot of officers in BMT besides your commander, and he or she is going to be cool as hell, but you should know the proper respects to give to them. Know to salute them outdoors, and to stand when they enter the room. Learn what their uniforms look like. A hint is to look at their hat instead of their arms. Their hat has their rank on it, whereas your enlisted folks don't. I know this sounds stupid to people who know about this stuff already, but you should do a little bit of homework before you go.

Also, I failed to mention KP duty (kitchen patrol), where you just wash dishes and stuff all day. It sucks, but volunteer to do it, it's a day where you don't get yelled at, plus you get ice cream at the end, usually.

The worst part of BMT? The other trainees. Seriously. I can handle a TI yelling at me all day, that's fine. The trainees literally lose their mind and can drive you insane. I blame this on the fact I went in as an old man, though, and seeing a bunch of 18-20 year olds try to boss you around was irritating to no end. I understand now, as I have Lieutenants and Captains who are about my age who outrank me by a mile, and they can boss me around as they please. However, in operational Air Force, they don't abuse their power (at least not so far) like the morons in BMT. That was the worst.

The best part of BMT? It was an awesome experience. I got to do so many cool things that I never thought I would or could do. It pushes your limits, and makes you question yourself, and you become a better person because of it.

So, that's about it! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer whatever I can. Good luck and have fun. Don't be scared of BMT, be excited of the experience.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hey, awesome article!!! Thank you! One thing though, if you achieve Honor flight, you get a ribbon!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really appreciated for the great info about BMT. I am waiting for my job. I am 31 years old female. I know I am enlisting way too old. But, is that a problem?

      Again, thank you

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Well done arcitle that. I'll make sure to use it wisely.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I feel so much happier now I unratsdend all this. Thanks!

    • nickshamrock profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Anything I can do to help, I'll try my best. You'll need to run 1.5 miles altogether for your PT test, but during PT at BMT you'll run more than that. I think we averaged about 3-4 miles on our run days, which were 2 or 3 times a week, but it's a pretty easy pace and it doesn't seem bad at all while you're doing it. You run for 25 minutes or so as a group, then you run a 10-15 minute self-paced run, then you'll do sprints for about 10 minutes (I think it's 6 sprints with a 30 second to one minute break, but I don't recall exactly). If you have any more questions, absolutely ask, I'll do my best to answer them

    • yasurewatev profile image


      7 years ago


      1. I am physically fit. But I can always start now. I do however, exercise about 250 minutes a week.

      2. Well this is really great news! I was a concerned about that big time. It really helps that you being a guy and all are confident that this won’t be an issue.

      3. I will certainly start now then. Just curious, how far exactly will I need to be able to run?

      4. Ok, it’s settled, I won’t take up shooting anytime soon.

      5. I am sure I will eventually learn a little something about teamwork. I think it is great that people are treated like one of them. In fact, it makes the person feel confident. That’s great!

      Hey, if I have any more questions, do you mind if I ask you??

      Again, thanks for this article! :)

      BTW: don't mind my new name, it is still me. I just signed up, which I have been meaning to for a while now.

    • nickshamrock profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      1. The most important thing to prepare for would just be physically fit. My biggest fear was not passing the PT test, but so long as you are in reasonable shape, you should do fine. The Air Force will help you get to where you need to be, but having all of that squared away will definitely make things less stressful.

      2. Not so much anymore. I went in during the aftermath of the sexual assaults. People are losing their jobs and going to jail, and there's zero tolerance for any sexual assaults. Although I'm a male, I'm confident that this will not be an issue in BMT for a long, long time.

      3. Always run! There's no reason not to. You might as well time yourself to see where you're at. Running is where I struggle the most, so I always harp on running as much as you can.

      4.You don't need to know how to shoot. I had shot a rifle once ever, and I did extremely well shooting. I wasn't, nor am I now super educated on shooting anything, but this was not a big deal, so don't stress it at all.

      5.I was kind of the same. I found myself trying to do everything by myself, but they'll drill teamwork into you, and you'll be forced to work with others. Everyone has a hard time with people being in control over you, even if you got a civilian job, you'll have a boss. The difference with the military is that they treat you like one of them. Yes you will get yelled at, but it's very tolerable.

    • profile image

      Naomi Baldwin 

      7 years ago


      This is great! Really helpful! :-)

      I am 16 and am going to enter the Air Force in the next few years. I have been trying to learn and prepare for everything as much as possible. But I have just a few questions…

      1. What is probably the most important thing to prepare for?

      2. I have been reading a lot about sexual assaults, is that something I should really be concerned about??

      3. I used to be in soccer and had to run quite a bit, but I haven’t really been doing it that much. Should I start running again?

      4. I have asked my dad to teach me how to shoot a gun, but he adamantly said no( I think that he is secretly terrified of them). Should I learn that now or just wait?

      5. You might not be able to answer this next question. But here it goes…I come from a serious dysfunction junction past. While it was terrible, I have learned to be stronger from it all and have (Thank GOD) gotten away from it all. Therefore, I am not really not concerned with people yelling at me or in my face for that matter. But as someone that has had to deal with so much crap, I have learned to depend only on myself and no one else. What I am trying to say is this; I do have some emotional baggage. As a result, do you think that I will have a hard time with the military and people being in control over me(Because I am quite strong willed)? Or is that something I really shouldn’t concern myself with? But then again, you might not be able to answer.


    • Cantuhearmescream profile image


      7 years ago from New York


      See, looking forward to being deployed, that's what I'm talking about! :-)

      What you said about self confidence is true, I have noticed everyone that has gone into any branch of military coming out with some new sense of respect for themselves and that's awesome because you guys have earned it. Besides, everyone looks sharp as heck in those uniforms!


    • nickshamrock profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you. So far, I've liked it. It's weird because you never know what's going to happen next. I haven't deployed, yet, but I'm looking forward to that.

      I know what you mean by everyone looking the same. It took me awhile to be able to tell people in my flight apart. We're just a bunch of bald, pale, scrawny guys, but it's funny because at the end your self confidence goes way up, and you know you're twice the man you were before. You can even tell, as I was told by people when I went home after tech school.

      Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate it.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image


      7 years ago from New York


      This is awesome! I might be a bit biased as my brother not too many years ago went through this same thing. My family traveled by car from New York to San Antonio, Texas for his graduation ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base. I remember that when we arrived there seemed to have been thousands of Airmen, all standing at attention and we had to find our loved one. They all looked the same! I don't know how many times we said "Oh, there he is" and it wasn't. I was sad to see some of them still standing there, a half hour in, while other families were reuniting and I wondered if they had no one coming for them. I was so proud of my brother, I cried most of the time we were there. I felt almost the same thing looking at even the strangers! You guys/gals are so awesome and so courageous, I give you so much credit for what you do!

      I don't know how far you will go but my brother has taken a lot of pride in the Air Force and has flown Air Force One more than once. I will brag about my brother to anyone who will listen and I'm guessing that you have a ton of people who will do the same. Many of us brag about all of you in general because you all rock. Thanks for sharing and you should continue to share your military experiences with others!

      Voted up, awesome and interesting!



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