How to Prepare for Basic Training

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No matter which branch of the military you intend on joining, your military career will begin with basic training. Whether your basic training lasts for nine weeks or three months, you'll remember those days for the rest of your life. Basic training is more than training--it's a complete transformation. Boot camp will break you down to build you up again; it will challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally. But you'll never be asked to do the impossible. With the right preparation and the right attitude, you can survive basic training and learn what it truly means to be a soldier.

  • Prepare your body. Physical fitness is essential to every branch of the armed forces; consequently, physical training comprises a large portion of every basic training regime. Do yourself a favor--get in shape before boot camp. This includes running, marching, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches and stretching. The physical fitness standards required during enlistment are far lower than those required to graduate from basic training, but don't wait for boot camp to improve your scores.

  • Prepare your mind. While a lot of your time at basic training will be spend in the field, a large amount will be spent in the classroom. Before you can graduate boot camp, there are countless pieces of information you will need to memorize. While most of these are taught to you at basic training, a number are not. Core values, command structures, rank insignias, honor codes and official songs are included in a manual you will be expected to study on your own time. If you memorize this information before basic training, however, you will be able to spend your free moments on better things.

  • Prepare your emotions. Be prepared to be screamed at, swore at, insulted and humiliated. Drill instructors don't care if you have a fragile character; they are there to push you, test you and change you. Be prepared to be homesick as well. While a few months may not seem long, no longer than the sleep-away summer camp of your childhood, the sheer exhaustion of boot camp will make you miss home like you've never missed it before. That, combined with the infrequency of phone calls and letters, can break your spirit. Before leaving for basic training, spend time with your family and loved ones--don't save goodbye for the last minute.

  • Prepare your tolerance. From twisted ankles to blisters, at basic training you will experience pain like you've never felt before. While training before boot camp will help, it can rarely mimic the intensity and enormity of basic training drills. However, the closer you model your exercises after boot camp exercises, the better prepared you will be for pain. When you run, run in a pair of military boots. Run through the woods or on dirt paths, not just on a treadmill. Mix long-distance marching into your workouts, and march with weighted backpacks and heavy jackets. Start waking up at four in the morning, every morning, and run before the sun rises. If you're blistered, chafed, overheated and exhausted before basic training, you will be far less likely to notice when you're really there.

  • Prepare your life. While training for boot camp is important, you can't forget about the life you'll leave behind. Basic training may be a kind of hiatus, but life as you know it will go on. Your bills will have to be paid, your dog will have to be walked and someone will have to take over your civilian job. The moment you enlist, you must start preparing for the day you leave. On a similar note, don't leave packing for the day you leave. All branches of the military have specific requirements for what you can, can't and must bring to basic training. But remember, anything you bring you'll have to carry, so limit your supplies to the essentials. Once at basic training, you will be able to purchase additional items on base.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember, the less you are surprised by boot camp, the better your chances are for excelling at your training. Prepare with intensity, dedication and passion.
  • Don't overtrain. One of the worst things you can do is hurt yourself before basic training. If you are unable to attend boot camp, you may be discharged from the military. And depending on the nature of your injury, you may not be allowed to re-enlist. Train hard, but train within your capabilities. Attempting to do too much, too fast can be detrimental to your military career.
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