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