Preparing for Basic Training

Attending Basic Training is a fundamental part of enlisting. If you are interested in joining the Military, it helps to know what to expect.

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Navy Service members running during a training exercise

Before You Go

Get all personal matters in order prior to leaving. Potential recruits should turn to family members for such day-to-day issues as figuring out who will be handling their bills, collecting their mail and dealing with their bank accounts.

Be prepared for discipline. During initial training, every aspect of a recruit's life is regimented. Every activity, from the time you get up in the morning to when you go to bed at night, is precisely scheduled.

Take some time to learn about military life.See what type of questions you should ask a recruiter Talk to friends or family who have served, research online or reach out to a recruiter with questions about what you may experience in the Military. For example, in the Services people use a lot of acronyms, salute higher-ranking members and get promoted or advanced via a specific rank structure.

Be Ready for the Physical Demands

Look up the physical fitness requirements for the Service that interests you. During Basic Training, every service member must pass a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) that is specific to each Service:

  • Army ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test): Three repetitions of Maximum Deadlift, Standing Power Throw (10lb ball), Hand release push-up (as many in 2 minutes), Sprint-drag-carry (5 reps up-and-down 25m lane), Plank (between 1 and 5 mins), and a 2-mile timed run. Aerobic alternatives for soldiers with permanent restrictions include a 5,000-meter row, a 12,000-meter stationary bike, a 1,000-meter swim, or a 2.5-mile walk.
  • Navy PRT (Physical Readiness Test): A timed 1.5-mile run, two minutes of curl-ups and two minutes of push-ups. Alternate cardio is permitted at the discretion of your commanding officer.
  • Marine Corps PFT: A timed three-mile run, two minutes of abdominal crunches and pull-ups or pushups. In addition, all Marines must pass a Combat Fitness Test (CFT). Intended to keep Marines ready for the physical rigors of contemporary combat operations, the CFT consists of a timed 880-yard sprint, counted 30-pound ammo can lifts and a 300-yard maneuver-under-fire event.
  • Air Force PFT: Timed 1.5-mile run, 2 minutes to complete as many correct repetitions of pushups, 2 minutes to complete as many correct repetitions of situps.
  • Coast Guard PFT: Timed 1.5-mile run, 1 minute of pushups, 1 minute of situps, Sit-and-reach flexibility test, 5-minute water tread, and a 6-foot platform jump into a 100-meter swim

Visit your doctor before you start training. Even if you've had a physical at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), you should consult your doctor and discuss your workout plan. Your doctor can offer helpful information that may decrease the chances of injury.

Set realistic fitness goals. No matter how fit you are, you won't become a triathlete overnight. Work toward modest goals in the beginning to avoid injury and frustration, and raise your goals higher as you improve.

Don't forget to warm up and cool down. The body needs to transition to a higher or lower state of activity, so stretches and light exercise before and after a workout can reduce the likelihood of injury.

Time yourself. Whether you use a stopwatch or your smartphone, timing yourself is a good way to track your improvement.

Drink plenty of water. Hydration is a good habit to develop before you start Basic Training. Always keep a bottle of water nearby as you exercise so you can replace the fluids you lose through sweating.

Eat your veggies. Eating right and maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height are important to success in the Military. Service members are weighed regularly to ensure they are fit to handle any situation, so you'll need to focus on long-term changes rather than crash diets.

Ask your recruiter for workout tips. Those who enlist under the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) have a waiting period between the time of their enlistment and Basic Training. Therefore, it is crucial that they either improve or maintain the fitness level they had when they enlisted. Recruiters often hold regular workout sessions to keep individuals in shape before Basic Training.

What Not to Bring to Basic Training

NOTE: This list should simply be used as a guideline of what is not appropriate to bring to Basic Training. An individual's recruiter will offer more specifics.

Do Not Bring:

  • Family
  • Pets
  • Expensive personal items—cameras, phones, laptop, jewelry, etc.
  • Nonprescription drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Weapons of any type, including pocketknives
  • Obscene or pornographic material
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Playing cards/dice/dominoes
  • Cigarettes/tobacco products

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