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I’ve been meaning to take on this project for quite some time, but tech training has kept me busier than planned. I want to put a lot of effort into these posts so they can be a resource for those of you looking for inside info. That being said, I have forgotten much of what happened in those first weeks of Basic Training, and I’m glad I found a bit of time to jot down notes about each week as they were happening.
What is Air Force Basic Training like?
Your first week of Air Force BMT is called Week 0. It doesn’t technically count towards your training because it’s full of in-processing and medical appointments. This week is dedicated to setting you up for training, like having uniforms issued, learning how to fold your laundry, and ensuring you don’t have any diseases or disqualifications that will ruin your career. Be prepared. It is the toughest week of your life.
The stress starts the morning you arrive at MEPS. This day is always a Tuesday. It will be very similar to your first time at MEPS. They’re going to make you wake up at 4 a.m. and get ready for the day. Please do not stay up late that night because the next day will be the longest of your life.
They’re going to make sure you are still fit to go to BMT. They’ll be doing routine stuff like checking your blood pressure and ensuring you’re not prego (females). Believe it or not, one of my flight mates got down to Lackland, where we received ANOTHER pregnancy test 3 days after arrival, and she came up positive. She was young, just out of high school, and devastated. She was gone by the next Tuesday. DON’T GET PREGNANT! (You’ll find that a lot of people get sent home in the first couple of weeks due to medical issues.)
Anyways, just do what they tell you like you did the first time. Leave your phone in your bag and don’t trust anyone but your liaison. If you need more info, read about the initial experience I had at the St. Louis MEPS. After you’re all cleared for BMT, you’ll do another oath of enlistment and have the chance to say goodbye to your family one more time, if they happen to come watch you take the oath.
After that, you’ll sit in a room with everyone heading out to their respective training sites. There were only 6 people heading to the Air Force and I was put in charge of getting them there. They will give you a packet with everyone’s flight information so you can safely make it to San Antonio. They’ll also give everyone meal checks to cover food. This may work a little differently based on where you’re coming from, but this is how it was for St. Louis.
We were set to arrive in San Antonio around 6 p.m. I heard some arrived at noon that day, while others took until midnight. Again, your experience may vary. Getting to Texas was the easiest part of our day. It was all downhill from there.
THE SAN ANTONIO AIRPORT
We were all so excited to be going to BMT that we had no idea how sucky our lives were about to become. As we stepped off the airplane, we felt a bit lost, as there were no signs pointing where to go. However, one girl (also heading to BMT) told us that we should not go sign in yet because the guys were really mean and you wouldn’t have anymore time to do anything. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t listen to her, simply because it could have delayed our arrival to Lackland and made our night much longer. You’ll see what I mean as you read further.
We ignored the girl’s warning and headed towards the area she’d pointed at. We came upon a large group of silent teenagers, all with their heads down. I tried asking them what to do, but none of them responded.
That’s when I heard someone yelling for us to check-in. This was our first introduction to life at BMT. Two technical sergeants were sitting at a table and told us to find our names on a list. They were curt and talked down to us. I immediately questioned myself on my decision to join, though I was told to expect this kind of treatment. Some people were treated worse than I was. They were sarcastic. I’ll warn you now; sarcasm does not bode well in BMT.
We were given some papers (some of which were totally useless, found this out later), and told to call 5 people and get their names, driver’s license numbers, date of births, etc. I found this redundant because my recruiter had given me a sheet several weeks prior to fill out earlier with this same information, though it was for all the people who I thought might attend my BMT graduation.
Of course, at this point, you’re already scared and they don’t tell you why they want this info, so you do it because they told you to. I realized later that it was totally pointless. I believe they had us do this as a way to begin to instill fear and obedience. So I called my family members and told them NOT to question me, just give me the info. I told them I didn’t know what was going on, just do it. Luckily, I could reach my 5 people. Other kids were freaking out because they couldn’t get ahold of anyone. Like I said, as of now, I realized that the whole situation was a ploy and completely stupid, but at the time… I was scared and didn’t want to be yelled at.
After I finished my calls, I put my phone away and was silent, as people were being yelled at already to shut their mouths. We sat and waited. If we had to use the restroom, we had to go in twos. This was all part of preparing you for BMT and the Wingman Concept. I was fortunate that I got put on a bus fairly quickly. I only had to wait for about an hour. Others had to wait at the airport for 6-10 hours.
On the bus ride to Lackland, I sat next to a girl who ended up being in my flight and became a good friend. We both questioned what we had done and how it was going to be. The ride only took about 15 minutes. Let me say, I was so thankful to have only packed a plain black backpack. It made all the running and moving around we had to do so much easier. I also heard that some people had to pick their bags up and put them down a hundred times when they got off the bus. That didn’t happen to me, thank the Lord. Just remember to PACK LIGHT.
LACKLAND AFB | OFF THE BUS
You will arrive at the Pfingston Center. Get to know this building, as you’ll be there a lot through BMT. It’s where the auditorium is and where you spend most of your first night.
Getting off the bus was exactly as you’d expect it to be. An MTI (military training instructor) was waiting for us and started yelling the minute we arrived. We were told to go inside and make two single file lines. People who talked got yelled at. I stayed quiet and wanted to cry. I knew I’d given up all control of my life for the next 8.5 weeks and I hated myself for it.
We went into a room where they handed us a mesh bag filled with items – BMT Study Guide book, a master lock/key, 2 pens, 2 Sharpies, and a flashlight. If you don’t have all the items in your bag, God help you, because at this point – speaking to anyone meant getting yelled at. Still, make sure you tell them if you don’t have all your items, as you’ll need them to survive the week.
After getting those items, we headed into a large auditorium where other trainees waited. We were handed a cold box of food and told to fill in the seats. We later found out these food boxes were affectionately known as box nasties. They contained a hoagie sandwich, juice box, bag of pretzels, and Oreos. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat hardly anything. By this time, it was about 8 p.m. We were exhausted, dirty, and scared. A welcome video from General Welsh (who will soon be retiring) was played on repeat, as new people began to shuffle in.
Soon, they began separating us by gender. We sat in that auditorium for several hours. I believe it was around midnight that they finally called my flight together and we were shuffled outside. A flight is a group of about 30-60 people (trainees). You will eat, sleep, and shower with these people for the next 2 months, so be nice.
There were three MTI’s with us. They didn’t seem so bad. Honestly, they didn’t yell at us much that first night. They led us to our squadron and explained what would happen.
323rd TRAINING SQUADRON | FLIGHT 596
Fondly referred to as Disneyland by its troops, the 323rd is the MTI training squadron. That means that you usually have 1 to 2 new instructors who have never had a real flight. Supposedly, the 323rd is the easiest squadron to be in because the newbie MTIs are still figuring out how to be mean. I would say that was my flight’s case. We had two new MTIs who were fatherly and struggled to yell at us. Then we had two seasoned MTIs who would do most of the yelling. I thoroughly liked all of them.
The problem with the 323rd is that, just like you, your MTIs make quite a few more mistakes because they’re learning the ropes. Some struggle at calling cadence, keeping track of appointments, and teaching classes. Still, it’s kind of awesome to take part in helping train new MTIs.
Back to the night upon arrival… forty-some females headed up to Dormitory 2A1 to pick their beds. Don’t make the mistake I did and pick a wall locker with deficiencies. Make sure the wall locker you pick looks like all the others and isn’t missing a door or something. I got yelled at and had to pick another one. It was terrifying. This is also the time when you learn how to speak to your superiors. Sir, trainee Patten reports as ordered! Sir, my wall locker doesn’t have a door. THEN FIND ANOTHER ONE TRAINEE!! Note: Don’t end your statements with sir or mam. They hate that. None of that, sir yes sir stuff.
Anyways, after you’ve found your bed, you will set your stuff down and go to sleep. Don’t try to get on your phone or anything like that. There are older trainees (later weekers) doing EC shift (more on that later) and they will tell you to go to sleep, as you will need what little rest you can get for the next awful day. They walk around and make sure you’re not doing anything wrong.
Another note, make sure you at least have some little shorts and a t-shirt to sleep in, otherwise you’ll be like me, sleeping in your underwear.
I think my flight hit the hay at 0200. That was day one.
THE REST OF THE WEEK
We woke up super early the next morning, before revelry. To be brief, it’s a lot of yelling and feeling dirty, since you still haven’t taken a shower. I don’t remember if they gave us time to brush our teeth or not. All I know is that I felt gross and dirty and only had time to apply deodorant and change my underwear. Typical wake-up will be at 5:45 every day. Bed is at 9 p.m.
I’m not sure of the order of events I’m about to describe, just know that they happen during zero week. You will be issued uniforms. You will stay quiet and not speak unless spoken to. You’ll be issued four uniforms, several pairs of socks and shirts, blousing straps, two hats, and two pairs of boots. You will have to change into a uniform immediately upon issue, so be prepared to say goodbye to civvies.
During this week, you’ll also be given another pregnancy test and urinalysis (that’s where that one girl found out she was pregnant). You’ll also start learning to march and fold your clothes. Oh, they’ll also do an inspection of all your items to make sure you don’t have any contraband. This includes magazines, books, pornographic material (including on your phone), weapons, electronics, etc.
When they do this inspection, be prepared to say goodbye to your loved ones and your phone. They’re going to give you a slip of paper that says something along the lines of “Hi, I am fine. I need you to get a pen and paper to write down my address. Here is my address: blah blah blah. I love you. Goodbye.” It is awful. I started bawling the minute I heard Mike’s voice, and our Instructor Supervisor was yelling at us not to cry because that sends a sign of distress, and that we were NOT in distress. We were perfectly safe and fine.
I did not feel fine or safe. And during this phone call, you are only allowed to read what’s on the paper. You will get yelled at if they hear you saying anything else. So even if your family members are asking you all kinds of questions, stay strong. You might want to mention this to them before you head down there. It will make everything easier. Also let them know that you won’t get another phone call for 4 weeks.
*You’ll also be assigned special duties related to chow time (meals) during this week, but this post is getting really long so I’m going to cover them in a future post.
INITIAL PT TEST
This typically happens on Saturday. That’s when we had ours. Don’t worry if you’re horrible. PT is meant to get you in shape for the fitness standards. However, if you’re really out of shape, you may have to go to supplemental PT, which isn’t fun.
You’re going to be really scared of PT if you’re out of shape, but it’s not a huge deal. PT is one of the least stressful things at BMT. For the most part, you won’t start PT until Week 1. Start getting fit by trying these 5 exercises.
Note: There’s no such thing as “DROP DOWN AND GIVE ME 20!” in the Air Force. They don’t do that anymore. So if you’re scared of Army style treatment, don’t be. It doesn’t exist. We actually only did strength building once a week. I believe we only had about 7 strength days total, because some of those days were dedicated to progress check PT tests. Believe it or not, we ran more than anything.
After you move through the first couple of weeks, everything gets monotonous and easy.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Don’t wear a shirt with writing on it. Just wear a plain crew neck. They will make you turn it inside out or backwards if it’s low cut.
- Same goes for jeans. Do not wear ripped jeans. Those aren’t gonna fly.
- Your shoes and underwear don’t matter. They can be rainbow bright. Nobody cares anymore.
- Pack a belt and a shirt with a collar (like a polo). Sometimes on graduation weekends, you get to wear civilian clothes. It’s a RAM (random anti-terrorism measure). Just be prepared or you’ll have to buy something.
- Just do what they tell you and lay low. Unless you’re looking for leadership, don’t volunteer for a thing. According to the Air Force, everyone is a leader, which is true, but if you feel like you’re going to struggle, don’t volunteer for more than you can handle.
- Check out my female BMT packing list for detailed info on what to bring and wear. It will help you out immensely (if you’re a girl).
- The dining hall will be your worst nightmare in 0 week. I will cover everything there is to know about “chow” in a future post.
- If you haven’t pooped in over 5 days, TELL SOMEONE. People can get really sick because they’re too scared to mention that they’re constipated. It’s totally normal. You’re either going to have diarrhea or constipation. Tell someone if it’s the latter. They take medical stuff seriously. You won’t get yelled out.
- That being said, don’t complain about every little sore muscle. Learn the difference between soreness and pain. You do not want to get recycled because you miss so many classes and appointments due to medical issues. Med hold is bad, and a lot of people that go there don’t come back. It’s not worth spending more time at BMT or getting discharged.
- Unless you are very particular about your uniforms, you do not need to take them to dry cleaning. It’s expensive and time-consuming.
- Study, study, study. Learn your chain of command as quickly as possible. It will save you so much heartache.
And that is WEEK 0. Week 1 starts on Sunday.