Monday, October 3, 2011

Military Monday: While They are at Basic Training... What to Expect

After last Monday's post:  "So you want to join the Military," I thought it would be appropriate to move on to the initial training, and what you as a loved one should expect it to be like while they are gone.

I don't know about the other branches, but I can tell you about the Army.  The Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard train together and they wear the same uniforms... so all this pretty much applies to those three branches.  Hopefully, some of the other wives will fill us in on what it's like for the other branches.

Basic Combat Training (BCT) is also known as Boot Camp (mostly to us civilians) or just Basic.  This is the rough and tough training you see on all the movies:  the poor recruits getting off the bus only to be ripped apart by eagerly awaiting drill instructors and forced to do a zillion push ups in the rain. This training lasts around 10 weeks, but can differ if your soldier doesn't pass something the first time or they have to make weight or nurse an injury.  The first week, is processing.  This is where they fill out all their other paper work, sign up for benefits, get their military ID's, get the paperwork for their spouse's military ID.  They will also get their life insurance set up, and paperwork signed for "next of kin" stuff.  They will get their uniforms and equipment issued at this time, and their heads shaved.  Ben looked super funny when he first got his shaved... his head was shaped weird, he was a little chubby around the face -- and without his facial hair... let's just say, I REALLY missed his old look.  Then, he totally buffed up and lost the face chub and by the end of the 10 weeks, the shaved head looked great on him.  So don't worry if your loved one looks a little funky at first... give him time to become the soldier body shape and he will grow into the look.

Here is Ben's Pre-Basic Look:

Here is Ben's Post-Basic Look:

Basic Training is where they turn your "civilian" loved one into a soldier.  It's hard and it's taxing... and Ben HATED IT!  But not because of the hard physical work, or the drill sergeants yelling at them.  He hated it because of some of the other guys he was training with were really immature, vulgar, and constantly talking about nasty things.  While at Basic, Ben got a really low opinion of what soldiers were.  He told me in one of his phone calls that he hated the Army.  He wanted to serve his time and then get the heck out.  I told him that it was only Basic training and he should wait until later to really make up his mind (Which he did and now he LOVES the Army).

As a loved one who has "waited" for a soldier in Basic, here are a few tips:
  • Don't expect many letters from him, or many phone calls.  I got maybe 3 letters, and only 2 phone calls from Ben while he was at BCT.  It all depends on where they are, who their drill instructor is, and how many times the guys he is with gets in trouble.  Phone privileges are few and far in-between. (Note on cell phones:  they told us not to bring one.  But when Ben got there all the other guys did and they got to talk and text the first week and he did not.  When he got to his unit, the drill sgts gathered them all up and then let them have them back when they got phone time.  Ben had to wait in line for the pay phone and didn't get to talk as long as the guys who had their cell phones... so I ended up sending him his -- but it's up to you)  If they do go without a cell phone, make sure they have a phone card!
  • Care Packages:  This is my personal opinion, you are allowed to send them... but your soldier will be punished for it, and most of the stuff may be taken away.  They search all the packages and take away any "contraband."  The best advice I will give you on this, is hold out on the care packages until AFTER Basic Training.  They are on a strict diet and can't have treats, they can't have electronics, or anything like that.  Your soldier can get toiletries and other needs at the PX once a week.  I heard one horror story that one girlfriend sent her soldier her panties... the drill sergeant put them on a pole and made the poor soldier carry it around for the rest of his time at Basic.  The girlfriend showed up at the Basic Training graduation and the drill sergeant produced them for her on the pole and thanked her for giving them all the morale booster... too humiliating!!  Moral of the story:  don't send crazy stuff!!  I did send Ben a graduation gift, an MP3 player with all his favorite music and a video of me and the boys telling him congrats and we miss him.  But they took it away until after he graduated.
  • Letters:  WRITE OFTEN!!  Even though they have to do a million push-ups for every letter they get (at least Ben did), they all will agree that a letter from home is worth it!  You can send pictures, articles, I would print out posts from my blog, send him phone cards and other stuff that will fit in an envelope.  Don't send sexy pictures, unless you want every one to see them.  Some drill sergeants require that all pictures are looked at by every one and I have heard horror stories about wives and girlfriends' sexy pictures shown to all and made fun of.  Just a friendly warning.
  • Be Supportive!!!  Even if you cry every night and can't stand the fact he is gone, he doesn't need to know that.  Your soldier needs to stay focused.  Worrying about you is going to distract him... don't do that to him.  Let him know that he is loved and missed, but that you are doing great and that you are proud of him for all he is doing for you and this country.  Tell him you can't wait to see him again and check out all his new Army muscles... or in my case, I couldn't wait for him to see all the weight I had lost!!
Every base has a website with more information you can check out and see what your soldier will be doing.  

Advanced Individual Training (AIT) is the training your soldier will do after Basic training.  This all depends on their job or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).  This training can last from just 6 weeks or up to a year in some cases.  Ben's lasted 7 months.  AIT is more laid back and a lot funner!  Ben was able to call me every night on his cell phone, and I was able to send him his laptop.  He was able to watch movies, play video or computer games, eat treats -- I sent him cookies and candy and stuff.  This is the best time to send those care packages too!!

Here are a few pictures of the AIT housing:

Even though Basic Training was only 10 weeks and AIT was 7 months, I have to say that AIT flew by compared to Basic!!  Mainly because I could talk to Ben daily.

Christmas Exodus:  If your soldier is scheduled to train over Christmas, get excited because he will get to come home for a couple weeks-- Woo Hoo!!  VERY exciting if he has been gone for a while (Ben had been gone for 6 months, before we saw him at Christmas time)... but warning, you have to pay for the ticket, so plan to save up.  (To see Ben's Christmas Homecoming click here -- and the journey wasn't without an adventure either!!)

(Note:  Basic Training and AIT are the paths if you ENLIST first.  There are other officer paths that are different that don't require this training.)

I think that about covers it... feel free to ask any questions in a comment!!

Okay, friends now it is your turn!  If you want to participate, take this button and post it in your post today:

THEN write a post about one of these:
1. About the same thing I did above (Basic Training and or AIT adventures, tips, how best to support your soldier while he is in training, funny horror stories, etc).
2.  Tell us about your branch and how it is different or the same.

THEN come back here and leave us a link so we can come check it out!!

If you have no idea what "Military Monday" is click here!


Allison said...

Great post! I never sent a care package to my husband but he told me a story about one family that did and sent "Skin So Soft" lotion and his drill sergeants made fun of him for the rest of the time.

Check my post out here:

Chelsea said...

It's fun to read about experiences from the different branches of the military!

You can read my post about our experiences with training here:

trooppetrie said...

I have been looking for a new military hop to join. So excited to link up next week. I love your header

freckles and rouge. said...

My post about my Air Force officer training will post tomorrow! Thanks for giving us military topics to write about!


Jazmine Collins said...

great post!

Valerie Powell said...

Hi, just want to start off saying the information I read, that you wrote was helpful to me. Only to say got a letter from my boyfriend saying he wrote me a valentine's day letter and drill sergeant tore it into pieces. Do the drill sergeant really do that?

Cat said...

Valerie - Drill sergeants can be pretty horrible. My guess, is that there might be reason for it, like maybe he was writing it when he should have been doing else - it really angers DS's when soldiers aren't following directions perfectly. Don't worry, They don't give them a lot of time to write anyway, and remember that thoughts of you is probably what keeps him going :) Hang in there, it will all be over before you know it.