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The Air Force BMT (Basic Training/Boot Camp) at Lackland AFB

Young Air Force member, happily married and with a baby. Car addict, game addict, beer connoisseur.

Have you been considering joining the US Military? More specifically, have you been considering joining the United States Air Force? The US Air Force is a great thing: you defend the country, have a nice quality of life, a good stable income, and if you're married, you make even more money. But first, you have to go through what every airman, NCO, and senior NCO who is in or has ever been in the Air Force has to go through: BMT. The Air Force's basic training. Is it really as bad as it sounds? What is it really like in BMT, and are the stories that you have heard, true? Keep reading.

Air Force BMT is the "indoctrination" into the US Air Force. You go in a civilian and come out an Airman with new skills, experiences, and discipline. There is further, more extensive training after the fact, more or less depending on what job you have chosen, but for the purposes of this article (and what everybody wants to know), I'm only going to discuss BMT.

On the night before you leave for BMT, depending on how far away the nearest major airport is, you may or may not stay in a hotel overnight. Assuming you have already gone to MEPS (military entrance processing station) and have checked out medically, you will then be bussed to the airport. if you live close by, skip this step, you will head straight to the airport. From there, you'll be flown to San Antonio's airport, where you will have your 'last meal,' whatever restaurant at the airport you choose to indulge at, whatever you eat will be paid for by the government.

Enjoy that, because once you're done, and you all start checking out, the MTIs (Military Training Instructors) will be there, right at the airport, in full uniform with the 'smokey bear' heats, to start in on your "indoctrination" (read: the yelling and screaming). The Air Force, along with the Marines, are the only two branches where the MTIs start in on you even before you get to the base.

The Beginning

From there you and your fellow 'trainees' are herded onto the waiting buses by the MTIs. The bus ride there is calm enough: the driver will probably say over the PA to just think of it as a summer camp with an attitude. And in a way, he's right. It's summer camp with an attitude.

When you get there, you will be rushed off the bus, and you will play the old "pick em up, put em down" game. You'll put your bags down and pick em up again at least about 10 times. The idea is to have all of the 'trainees' pick em up and put em down at the same time. But mostly, it's just a mind game.

From there you begin inprocessing and are organized into your 'flights' which consist of about 40–50 trainees. You'll be herded up to the dorms, where your MTIs will introduce themselves in the worst way possible.

Don't worry though, they can't put you on your face yet. That part is yet to come.

Early BMT

Beginning "zero week" (AKA your first half-week), you and your flight are now the 'rainbow flight,' and you will be treated like the lowest of the low, not only by your TIs but by every other TI in the place who sees you marching around the base in your civilian clothes (or 'civvies'). You will start doing something that you do through all of BMT: Marching. Lots and lots and lots of marching. You'll march for hours and hours and hours. You'll wake up at 4:45 AM to a TI (or more than one TI) running around the dorms, screaming at you to make your bed. This is the week where they really break you, but remember, it's just half a week.

During zero week and week 1, you'll inprocess, which includes getting your BMT address, turning in all important paperwork and records, get all your shots taken care of, glasses, get your trainer weapons (non-firing M16s) issued, be issued all of your uniforms, and take your initial fitness test (the criteria are push-ups, sit-ups, and the 1.5 mile run). You'll march absolutely everywhere that you go, and you will endure the worst of your treatment from the MTIs.

After your fitness test, daily PT will be incorporated into the daily routine Monday through Friday. In addition, you can now be "put on your face" for any and every reason by any TI. This will include rounds of push-ups, flutter kicks, and squat thrusts.

Student leaders will also be selected (dorm chief and the element leaders), as will the assignments for the details (to include fire monitor, latrine crew, chrome detail, bed liners, shoe liners, and more).

Any time that isn't spent marching or inprocessing will be spent learning the right ways to fold your clothes, roll your socks, make hospital corners, tighten the beds, and generally clean the dorm over and over and over, making it as absolutely spotless as possible.

The Middle

Weeks 2 through 5 are where the bulk of the training begins. In addition to the above training, you will start learning how to take apart and clean your weapons, learn Air Force customs and courtesies, learn self-aid/buddy-care (SABC, how to care for a fallen airman or yourself in the middle of a battleground) and integrated base defense (IBD, or all about guarding your base or area of operations when you are in a hostile fire area). You'll learn how to wear chemical protective gear, or MOPP gear, to include a gas mask as well as a full chemical-protective bodysuit.

During weeks 4 and 5, you will fire real M16s at the firing range and will attempt to qualify for a sharpshooter ribbon. You'll go to the obstacle course or the o-course (formerly known as the confidence course), and you will fight with pugil sticks. You'll also go to the gas chamber, breath in the tear gas with the gas mask, then breathe it in without the gas mask. Yes, you will cough, choke, tear up, and blow snot everywhere after you do that last part. That's part of the fun.

Your drill training will also continue, with both new drill movements and perfecting the old movements, being emphasized. You'll find that the MTIs will start to let up on you compared to 0 week and week 1, but by no means have they become friendly. Nor will they ever, so don't worry about that part. You will also finish your inprocessing.

You will have PT tests for week 2 and week 4 to judge your progress. None of these tests count against your graduation, but by week 4, if you still aren't meeting all of the minimums (50 situps, 45 push-ups, 11:45 run time), start putting in extra PT time after dark.


Week 6 is your simulated deployment week. You will go to the "tent city" location located on the Kelly annex of Lackland, live in tents for a week with your flight, your brother flight, and two other flights. Your MTIs will be gone all week (you will have the Beast Cadre instead), but when the war games begin, the MTIs will be the "Op-4" forces, AKA the opposing forces. You will be briefed and debriefed every day, and you'll eat MREs for every meal, instead of eating at a dining facility.

You'll spend the entire week wearing a kevlar helmet, and a flak-vest, adding 15-20 pounds to your weight. You will be wearing these at every moment during BEAST except when you're sleeping. You'll sleep in cots inside the tent, and your latrines will be at a location outside your particular circle of tents. Which, by the way, you'll never be allowed to go to alone, you'll be made to take a wingman with you.

During one day, you'll set up a tent-city base in a remote location called "Chindit AFB." During this time, your SABC and IBD skills, as well as your skills with the MOPP gear, will all be put into use and tested. Your daily tasks will be led by the "zone leaders", trainees selected by the MTIs to lead at the BEAST. Also, you will have a mile and a half "IED walk," where you and your flights will search for simulated IEDs on a trail.

The Rest of BMT

Weeks 7 and 8 are the "home stretch" of BMT. By now, you have long since stopped being affected by the MTIs' yelling. And by now, the MTIs are doing a lot less yelling. It's probably been a few weeks since you were woken up by the MTI yelling in your face: likely, you now just wake up to "Reveille" and have the MTI waiting in his office while everybody sets up the dorm. Don't worry; you will still push, though, especially when you first get back from BEAST; they need to let you know that you're still under their control. You will, however, wear your blues for the first time, a huge feeling of accomplishment after all you have been through at this point.

During week 7, you will have your final fitness test. If you don't pass it, you will retest. If you still don't pass, you'll be recycled into a previous flight. You will have the last of your classroom instruction during this week, too, as well as lots of preparation for the graduation parade.

Week 8, you will have your final written test, and if you haven't already gotten signed up for a guaranteed job, you will get your job assignment. You will learn all about what this job entails and where your tech school will be, and then the fun begins.

Midweek, your family will arrive in San Antonio. Your first time seeing (or being seen by) them again will be at the Airman's Run. Your flights will run together, singing jodies (or running songs), running in step, everyone's families all lined up to cheer them on. You will have the coin and retreat ceremony, at which you will receive your Airman's Coin, and you will have your final graduation ceremony, where you are sworn in as an American Airman.

After this ceremony is done, your family will exit the stands and find you, at which point everything becomes worth it again. You'll begin your "base liberty," where you and your family go wherever you want on base. If they drove there, then you get to be in a privately-owned vehicle again, for the first time in two months.

The next day you will have "town pass." This is where you and your family go out into San Antonio and the surrounding areas, go to whatever restaurants you might want to go to (I recommend Texas Roadhouse myself), and especially go to the downtown riverwalk. This is where you get to see civilization for the first time in a long time, and it will be possibly the sweetest time you will ever spend with your family.

After this, you'll go back to the dorms and prepare to be bused or flown out to your tech school to learn your specific job. Your further military training will be in a far more relaxed environment than BMT, because the basic portion of your training is done. You are no longer the scum of the earth; you're an American Airman. Even the MTIs will show you respect and just talk, laugh and BS with your flight at this point.

The hard part is over. From here, your military life gets easier. Your tech school and your next duty station, you won't be getting yelled at for every little thing. You now are equipped with that discipline, and you will lose some of it at your tech school, but what of it you retain is what prepares you for your new life. BMT is done, and the real fun has begun.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2010 Evan Hutchinson


sam on August 21, 2018:

Basic is so different than in our day, '63, wow. I had five weeks of basic and then on to tech school at Amarillo AFB, TX for nine weeks. We did very little of what is printed here! I feel relieved that I didn't have to go through what everyone goes through today. Amazing. Just amazing.

Grew up in the Air Force, dad retired after 35 years as a CMSgt. I love everything, Air Force. Loved basic as well.

Rocio del Sol P. on May 27, 2018:

thanks for this article. I decided to join to the USAF and i loved the way that you describe BMT, even i have been feeling thru those 8 weeks... I hope to do my best and make my family, and this beautiful country proud of myself.

Silentwarrior on April 08, 2018:

I graduated from basic in 1970. Some things are the same, the yelling getting off the bus, the first night in the dorms, pick it up, put it down, etc. But there are many things different. At that time, BMT was 6 weeks, but we packed in a lot in that short period. We went to the range twice, once for dry fire, once for the real deal. Ran the obstacle course twice. We didn't have BEAST week, but did spend a day in the field eating C-rations. The MTI that I had started letting up around week 5, and became quite friendly from there on.

I was lucky enough to have been selected for training with the USAF Security Service, now known as the 25th Air Force and IS&R. I mention this because a funny thing happened. My first permanent party assignment was on Shemya Island in Alaska, which was a hell hole. But, my next assignment was San Vito Air Station in Italy. The first day I reported for duty, I met my supervisor. And wouldn't you know it, he was also my MTI in basic training. It was the craziest thing, and we had a lot of laughs.

charlie mcclain on February 08, 2018:

wow things have changed a whole lot since 1974- no training weapon then .shot M-16 once never touched a weapon again in 4years of service never had a beast week or tent city training I t would have helped because after tech school I was assigned to a TAC outfit. which was really wierd because i didn't have a drivers liscence and it was a mobile unit,lot's of driving and living in tents school should have included drivers ed

Kehinda Pryor Jr on October 16, 2017:

I feel a lot better reading this. I know what to expect now. I'm more excited to go into the Air Force. Supposed to be going in next year August.

James Donohue on September 26, 2017:

My son is just begining his Air Force journey. I am excited for him and hope he will excell all challenges.

Kimberly A Tansley on August 27, 2017:

We just attended our daughter's graduation at Lackland AFB. Her Airman's Run and Coin Ceremony were Thursday morning, followed by base liberty until 8pm. Her graduation ceremony was Friday morning, followed by a town pass until 8pm. She had an all day town pass for Saturday, a shorter one for Sunday, and is still there (her entire group, not just a few) for outprocessing until tomorrow, a full week after graduation. I'm thinking the split ceremonies was a concession to the August heat? Spectators, as well as graduates, were passing out from heat exhaustion and it was still morning. The heat was brutal if not used to it. My daughter lives in San Antonio, so she was thrilled to be able to go home to hang out with her husband, son, dogs and extended family for her town leave. She's very excited to be released tomorrow!

McLean on June 27, 2017:

i couldn't feel more prepared than i do after reading this. My interview is tomorrow, i am confident that i will get in, and i'm actually more excited.

Neal - MSGT Retired on July 27, 2016:

Basic training is much harder now then it was in 1968 when I enlisted. Spent 22 years and enjoyed every minute. Good Luck and thanks for your service.

Garrison on July 10, 2016:

Great read, we were wondering what happens this first 8 weeks.

Jeanette Sanchez on July 05, 2012:

This information was very informative. After reading this I have a much better understanding of what my Granddaughter will be experiencing in the next 8 weeks of her trainging. I also want to give her my deepest gradatude for wanting to defend her country. My thunbs go up to her and to all those that have made this decission as well. My God bless each and everyone one of you.

Aaron Rau on June 07, 2012:

I leave in 20 day to BMT I'm 19 signed my junior year. This was very helpful as my recruiter has just told me the basics. I feel the need to stress to anyone working out prior to basic is a critical component to success. I am so exited to begin a new life, to everyone else thank you or your sons commitment to the USAF. God Bless the USA

Wendy Stringer on June 04, 2012:

My son is there now starting out his first day of BEAST week! One note....If people think they can be lazy and not physically prepare for the USAF as they request before entering...think again...Stess Fractures are more common now days and my son was in Med Hold for over a month and its the most common medical problem among all recruits. So some of my best advice is to prepare your bodies before entering. If your not an the requested training! My son is such a different person and talks to me respectfully and he is so excited about his life now when before he left he was in a slump. Im so proud of him. His brothers (flight) help support that motivation and encouragement and by all means...get your family to write, write, write! Love to all

austin on May 04, 2012:

my uncle just graduated

Nicole on May 03, 2012:

My boyfriend left 2 days ago for USAF BMT and since I can't talk to him I was wondering what he was doing and going through. This really helped me understand and feel more relaxed. THANKS :)

Haley from Baltimore, MD on March 22, 2012:

Oh, and thank you for your service in the military.

Haley from Baltimore, MD on March 22, 2012:

I leave for USAF BMT in 5 days. I am beyond nervous/excited. Thank you so much for passing on your experience and knowledge.

mike on January 11, 2012:

THEY SAYING AIR FORCE IS PROB one if not the hardest military as far as PT standards is concerned and the mental is tough, sure the marines train hard but the Air Force is just a back breaker according to my cousin. He was Sally star football player ad they broke him

Magdelene from Okotoks on February 14, 2011:

Well done, been there and done that. Might say there were some more peculiar stories in my experience.

Thumbs up to you Hutchinson.

tgkidder on December 12, 2010:

Thank you for this information. My son left 1 week ago, and i haven't heard from him since the day he got there. It's helpful to see what he will be doing week by week. im sure i will be reading again every week until graduation

TonyShepard from Dallas Texas on November 06, 2010:

This has been a most encouraging article. Thank you for posting this.

Kindest Regards

Tony S.

Pam on September 02, 2010:

Thank you so much for posting this information. I have read this over and over and over during the past 7 weeks. My son will be starting his 8th week next week and we are getting ready to fly out for his graduation. Can't believe how fast it has gone. It was nice reading this and feeling like I knew a little more about what he was doing on every given week.

Teresa on July 14, 2010:

I found this information very useful. My son will be going to bootcamp in the fall and this let me know what his plans will be. Thanks for the help although it doesn't make it easier to let him go I know this is what he wants to do.