United States Army Basic Training

United States Army Basic Training (also known as Initial Entry Training, IET)[1] is the recruit training program of physical and mental preparation for service in the United States Army, United States Army Reserve or Army National Guard.

Carried out at several different Army posts around the United States, Basic Training is designed to be highly intense and challenging. The challenge comes as much from the difficulty of physical training as it does from the psychological adjustment to an unfamiliar way of life. Basic Training is divided into two parts: Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT). BCT consists of the first ten weeks of the total Basic Training cycle[2] and is identical for all Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard recruits.

AIT instead consists of the remainder of the total Basic Training period and is where recruits train in the specifics of their chosen fields. As such, AIT is different for each available Army career path, or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). AIT courses can last anywhere from 4 weeks to 7 months, and possibly more for foreign language training. Soldiers are still continually tested for physical fitness and weapons proficiency and are subject to the same duties, strict daily schedule and disciplinary rules as in BCT.


Drill sergeants

A drill sergeant posing before his company

Drill sergeants are the instructors responsible for most of the recruit training that takes place in Initial Entry Training. They accompany recruits throughout the training process, instructing and correcting them in everything (from firing weapons to the correct way to address a superior) and are also largely responsible for the safety of recruits. They are recognizable by their distinctive headgear (campaign hats), often called "brown rounds" or "Smokey Bear" hats, as they resemble that character's round park ranger-style hat.

Battle buddies

Battle buddies generally refer to partners in a combat scenario. However, throughout Basic Training the term is used to describe a disciplinary principle whereby recruits are generally prohibited from walking anywhere alone. When traveling away from the platoon or a drill sergeant, recruits are expected to travel in pairs, known as battle buddies. Battle buddies are sometimes assigned, or can be chosen by recruits when the need to travel arises.

Daily schedule

Morning company formation at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina

A typical day in Basic Training generally follows this schedule. Times can change depending on location, commanding officers or when drill sergeants see a need for variation.[3]

Time Activity Description
4:30 a.m. First Call Wake up and perform personal morning tasks. For males, shaving is mandatory every morning.
5:00 a.m. Physical Training (PT) Line up in company area, perform morning physical training (calisthenics and running).
6:00 a.m. Breakfast
6:30 a.m. Training Begin the day's scheduled training exercises.
12:00 p.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m. Training Continue the day's scheduled training exercises.
5:00 p.m. Dinner
5:30 p.m. Drill sergeant time Time for drill sergeants to talk to the recruits about any subject they may think requires attention.
Mail call is also performed during this time.
8:00 p.m. Personal time Time for recruits to engage in personal activities, such as writing letters, doing laundry, showering, or simply relaxing.
Recruits may also catch up on platoon duties during this time, such as barracks cleaning or wall locker organization.
9:00 p.m. Lights-out

Fire guard and charge of quarters

Every night, at least two recruits from the platoon must be awake at any given time, patrolling their barracks area, watching for fires, cleaning the barracks and watching for recruits attempting to leave the barracks area. They wake the next pair of recruits at the end of their one-hour shift. This duty is called fire guard.

Fire guard stems back to the days of wooden barracks and wood-burning stoves. The fire guard would watch the stoves to make sure that the barracks would not catch fire. Since open flames are not generally used to heat sleeping areas any longer, present-day fire guard during Basic Training is more an exercise in discipline than a practical necessity, although if the weather gets cold enough, some groups conducting overnight outdoor training will still use a kerosene "pot bellied" stove which must be watched to prevent accidental fires.

Charge of quarters, commonly called CQ, functions in a somewhat similar manner. CQ shifts rotate throughout the entire company, with just two recruits from the company staying awake per shift. The actual charge of quarters is the drill sergeant and the pair of recruits staying awake are the "runners", meaning that they perform tasks for the CQ. They perform some of the same duties as the fire guard shift. Only the CQ on duty is permitted to open the barracks doors and the runners must alert the CQ if someone else attempts to enter or leave the barracks.

Hands-on training

For many hands-on instructional sessions, recruits are transported to other locations on-post that specialize in the given subject. For instance, a class on the use of the Claymore anti-personnel land mine is given at a location where a field is already set up with the appropriate props for the simulation, including fake claymores that recruits can practice on. Classes are also given in the use of the AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank missile launcher. For this class, recruits are brought to a mock battlefield riddled with decommissioned tanks and other vehicles. Each recruit fires a trainer AT4 weapon, loaded with tracer ammunition, at various targets on the battlefield. For weaponry training that involves only the use of fake weapons, one real demonstration of the actual weapon is usually performed. For example, at claymore training one real claymore may be rigged and remotely detonated; and at AT4 training one recruit (usually the one with the highest rifle qualification score) is chosen to fire a live AT4.

Split training option

The Split Training Option (also known as STO or Split-Op) is an enlistment option available for Army National Guard and Army Reserve recruits. This program allows individuals to attend Basic Training during one summer, drill with their respective units once a month on weekends while attending school, and then attend Advance Individual Training after graduation. This enlistment option is popular among high school students who want to enlist right away while still attending school. [4]