What to Expect at Basic Combat Training
Most recruits are curious about BCT. What is it like? What should I bring? How can I prepare? Are real drill sergeants as tough as the ones in the movies? You’ll find a lot of answers in this section—what to expect from week to week, what to pack, what not to pack, and plenty of other information to help you make it from recruit to Soldier.
Prepping for Basic Combat Training requires mental preparedness, as well as support from your family. It’s important to know what to bring and what to leave at home. You’ll also want to be sure your personal affairs—such as any bills or legal, household or child custody matters—are in order, and that your family and employer are informed about your BCT dates and details.
Know what you’re allowed to bring and what you’re not. See Basic Training Essentials for a checklist of what you’ll need to pack. All of your personal belongings must be able to fit into one medium-sized gym bag—so make sure none of that space is taken up by anything that will get confiscated at BCT.
Settle all personal affairs before heading off to BCT. Take care of unresolved legal or financial matters that could prevent you from finishing your training or even get you sent back home.
Tell your employer about BCT. If you have a job, tell your employer that you’ll need to be away from work—and for how long—and do it now. Employers need to make plans, too.
Take care of your bills and finances. Take care of any car payments, charge accounts, rent or mortgage payments and any other financial matters in advance. Make sure you tell your Family what they need to know to handle bill payments in your absence. Expect it to take up to four weeks to get your first paycheck.
Update contact information. Make sure all emergency contact information is correct and up-to-date.
Provide for child custody. Make any childcare and custody arrangements as soon as possible—your children are too important to wait until the last minute.
Pass along Family Support Group (FSG) information. The Guard offers information, resources and support to your family when you get to BCT—be sure to give your Family your FSG handout.
Communication rules: You cannot receive phone calls at BCT, but you are required to call your Family within 72 hours of your arrival. Your family can use the Red Cross or the IADT Coordinator for emergencies, and can send mail and care packages. However, there are no visits permitted during BCT until Graduation Day.
Now you’re ready to ship to BCT.
Known as Week Zero, you’ll begin at Reception Battalion. When you arrive, you'll be told what you can and cannot bring with you. This will be your last chance to get rid of any prohibited items without being penalized. Refer to our checklist to be sure you show up with all the right items and leave everything else at home.
Over the next few days, you’ll be processing paperwork, getting your physical exam and shots, haircut, uniform, Army Physical Fitness Uniform (APFU) and your first Physical Training (PT) test. All this should take anywhere from two to five days, but it can sometimes take over a week.
During Reception Battalion, you’ll be getting a preview of BCT. You’ll be introduced to Army Values and the Warrior Ethos. You and your fellow recruits will begin exercises in teamwork, self-discipline, responsibility, leadership development, self-reliance, competence and confidence. You’ll continue to learn more about each of these qualities all along the way.
- Amnesty Brief: When you arrive, you'll be told what you can and cannot have at Reception Battalion; this will be your last chance to get rid of any prohibited items without being penalized.
- Military Recordkeeping: With the paperwork you brought with you, you'll set up the medical, financial and personnel records that will last for your entire military career.
- Pay Station: After getting up at 0530 and eating breakfast in the chow hall, you'll go to the Pay Station to receive your ID card.
- Smart Cards: You'll also be issued a Smart Card for BCT expenses, which is deducted from your first month's pay ($250 for males, $350 for females).
- CIF (Central Issuing Facility): Here you'll get your uniforms and your TA-50 (field gear—your web belt, alice pack, canteen, helmet and vest [LBV]). Your civilian clothes will be returned to you when you ship to AIT or return home.
- Medical Exams: You'll take a general medical exam, including a blood test. Females will have a blood test for pregnancy, and then a regular blood test on Day 2.
- Briefings: You'll be briefed on the G.I. Bill, SGLI (Servicemen's Group Life Insurance) and the Reserve component. You'll also have a "Moment of Truth" briefing, in which you need to disclose any obligations you haven't dealt with.
- General Orientation: This station will introduce you to some Army basics, such as the chaplain's role; the Red Cross; the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice); Company policies; and managing your personal affairs.
- PX (Post Exchange): If you don't have items you need for BCT, you'll be able to buy them here. During inprocessing, your feet will be evaluated for the proper type of running shoe. If you are told to purchase new running shoes, you will buy them at the PX.
- Vaccinations: You'll get six vaccination shots: measles, mumps, diphtheria, flubicillin, rubella and smallpox.
- Vision and Dental Exam: You'll have a general vision checkup, along with a dental exam (including X-ray). At the dental exam you'll be issued a protective mouth guard, which you'll use during certain BCT training exercises.
- Personal Affairs Division: Here you'll review your personal affairs, and verify that everything is complete. If anything remains unresolved by the time you get here, it can be a real showstopper, so make sure you've settled your affairs before you get to Reception Battalion.
- Eyeglasses/Insert Lenses Provided: If you need glasses, they'll be made on site. You'll receive two pairs of glasses, plus insert lenses for your protective mask.
- Photos, Yearbook, BCT Video and Ring: You'll be photographed in military uniform for the yearbook. At this station you may opt to purchase a yearbook, BCT video or graduation ring in advance.
- Final Processing: If everything is complete, you’ll get assigned to a unit and ship on Day 4. If you missed anything for any reason, you’ll do it on this day and then ship on Day 5. Before you ship, you’ll clean the barracks, get your ID tags and stencil your name on your bags.
Welcome to Basic Combat Training.
You’re here now. This is the real deal. Your drill sergeant will quickly point that out. Listen to your drill sergeant. Your drill sergeant’s job is to teach you the skills you’ll need to become a Soldier. These are skills that will keep you and your fellow Soldiers alive in the field. Drill sergeants are responsible for your success and will ensure you achieve it. Listen to every word, and do everything they say.
Basic Training runs 10 weeks and is broken down into three phases: Red, White
and Blue. Here's an overview of what you can expect during each phase:
Phase 1: Red Phase (Weeks 1-3)
"Shakedown" - When you get off the bus from Reception Battalion, you'll be told to line up your bag in a certain way to see if you can follow instructions. Then you'll be ordered to empty your bag. If anything contraband falls out, this will be your first opportunity to see a drill sergeant go ballistic.
Training - The goal of your Phase 1 training is to begin your transformation from a confused volunteer to a confident Soldier. During Red Phase (or "Patriot" Phase), you'll learn the fundamentals of Soldiering, including Army heritage and the seven core Army values. Most of your classroom training will occur during this time. You'll also undergo the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to assess your physical abilities. You'll have several of these tests along the way to be sure you're getting in the best possible shape.
During these first three weeks, you'll get a thorough introduction to the
- The Army's core values, traditions and ethics
- Assembling, disassembling and caring for your M16
- The Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) chamber
- Security and crowd dispersion discipline
- Combatives: hand-to-hand combat and guerilla exercises
- Barracks inspections
- Running, tactical daylight marches and fitness training
Obviously, this is an intense training schedule, geared toward reinforcing the
principles of discipline and teamwork. From here, you'll look forward to
moving toward the rifle range to learn some exciting--and very useful--skills.
Phase 2: White Phase (Weeks 4-5)
The White Phase (also known as the "Rifleman" or "Gunfighter" Phase) focuses
on developing your combat skills, with special emphasis on weapons and
physical fitness training. You'll learn how to identify, track, target and
engage targets with a rifle. It's all about marksmanship. This time is also
spent honing your self-discipline and teamwork.
Here's a rundown of what you'll cover:
- Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) and Rifle Qualification
- Zeroing a rifle
- Engaging targets at various distances and from different positions
- Prioritizing multiple targets simultaneously
- Hand-to-hand training
- Rappelling the Warrior Tower
- More barracks inspections
- Continued study of Army values, ethics and traditions
- Night training and more fitness training
- Map and compass reading
By now, you'll be starting to get the hang of military life. You may even
think your drill sergeant is noticing an improvement. You're developing all
the essential Soldier skills--which you'll be putting together in the next
Phase 3: Blue Phase (Weeks 6-9)
The final phase of BCT--the Blue or "Warrior" Phase--will build your
individual tactical training, increase your leadership skills and self-
discipline, and improve your understanding of teamwork. It will also include
challenges and tests you'll have to pass in order to graduate from BCT. It's
time to dig deep.
These three weeks are spent on the following:
- Advanced Rifle Marksmanship (including the use of aiming tools such as lasers)
- Maneuvering and engaging targets as part of a team
- Guard ethics and standards, with continued study of Army values
- Convoy operations
- Additional weapons training: machine guns, grenade launchers and mines
- Defeating Improvised Explosive Devices/Mines
- Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT - fighting in a city)
- 10-Kilometer and 15-Kilometer tactical foot marches
- Field Training Exercise on bivouac, where you'll tie all your training together
- The End of Cycle Test (EOCT)--212 tasks, which you're required to pass
- The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)--you must pass in order to graduate from BCT
Graduation (Week 10)
The final week of BCT is about Soldiers and their Families. After you finish the final training events (one week of field training and a 15-kilometer march back to the post), you'll receive a day with your Family to catch up on your recent experiences—and you'll have plenty. The next day, you'll be graduating, before moving on to your next phase of training (usually Advanced Individual Training, or AIT).
Congratulations—you’re now a National Guard Soldier.
Once you've finished BCT, life in the military begins. You'll learn what to do with your paperwork, move into Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and begin studying your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).
At the very end of AIT you’ll be given your training record to bring back to your RSP. Do NOT lose this training record. In many cases, this paperwork is irreplaceable. If you lose the paperwork, you lose the proof of what training you’ve completed. There is no way of getting it back.
Save your training record and hand it in immediately when you get back to your RSP.
Whether you go right after Basic Combat Training, or after your phase two RSP training, you’ll eventually be going to AIT. In all likelihood, unless you’re in One Station Unit Training (OSUT), your AIT will be at a different post than your BCT.
At the time you leave for AIT, you’ll have graduated from BCT and will have been trained for every Soldier’s primary responsibility—being a combat rifleman. While you are at AIT, you’ll learn your secondary area of responsibility, your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Upon completion of AIT, you will be MOS Qualified, or MOSQ.
The APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test)
You are required to pass the APFT before you graduate from BCT and during AIT. After AIT, you’ll take the APFT once a year and the results will become part of your records. At your commander’s discretion, APFTs may be administered at any time in order to gauge your fitness level. These tests might not be added to your permanent record, but it is essential to always stay prepared for an APFT at any time.
How the APFT Is Administered
When you take the APFT, push-ups come first, followed by sit-ups, then the two-mile run. You’ll have a rest period of 10-20 minutes between each set. You’ll be tested in small groups for the first two exercises, and there will be a demonstration of proper form before the exercise begins. For the two-mile run, you’ll be tested in a large group and will wear a number on your chest that must remain visible at all times.
Guard Fitness: The APFT and Your Career
You’re required to pass the APFT before you graduate from Basic Combat Training, but that doesn’t mean your fitness tests are over. You have to take the APFT for record at least once a year, and you’ll also need to take it every time you want to take a step forward in your career. Fitness is of critical importance in the Army, and only those who are in the best shape get to become NCOs, or get invited to join special training schools.
As you move up in rank, you’ll earn promotion points for many reasons—one of which is APFT scores. You can earn up to 75 points for excellent APFT scores. One or two more push-ups can be the difference between getting a promotion or having to wait another year. Develop good fitness habits early.
In addition to earning promotion points, high APFT scores can also help you gain admission to special schools, such as Air Assault, Sniper and Mountain Warfare. The availability of these schools is partly based on your MOS and unit mission, but with some, you’ll also need to score very high on the APFT in order to be considered. The opportunity to attend these highly selective schools may come once in a lifetime, and each demands intense physical training. Only the best, brightest and most physically fit are chosen.
NCOES (Noncommissioned Officer Education System)
If you show leadership potential, you may have the opportunity to become a Noncommissioned Officer. NCOs are leaders and trainers of Soldiers. They become eligible for promotions by completing training courses at an NCO Academy. As one of the first events at the academy, you’ll take an APFT and the results will go on your permanent record. But if you fail the APFT, you will be sent home, regardless of your academic scores.
The Guard may be deployed at any time. Being ready to go from citizen to Soldier at a moment’s notice means constant physical fitness. And if you get promoted to a leadership position in the Guard, you’ll have to be able to perform any task you ask of your Soldiers and lead by example.