What It’s Like to Go to Air Force Basic Military Training


Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT) batters trainees psychologically more than physically. There’s no carrying big telephone poles on the beach at 2am or getting choke-slammed into a cold swimming pool or stacking greasy golf balls or whatever the other branches do. That makes it difficult to describe the melancholic torture. If you’ve never been to BMT, you could try something like this. 

You’re going to need a maladjusted neighbor or friend for this. Set your phone to wake you up at 4:45AM with “reveille” at low volume. Depending on what dorm you’re in, it might be remarkably loud. Take your pick. Have your malcontent run into your room and turn on the lights while shouting “hurry up, hurry up. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hurry up. Hurry up.” Get dressed in running shorts and a t-shirt. Shave and pee. Fill up your water bottle in the bathroom sink. You need to be outside to work out by 4:51AM. 

You can find the Air Force physical training (PT) routine online. It’s pretty simple and actually not a bad workout program for daily bodyweight exercise. Here’s the thing, though. You need to do every movement weirdly slowly. You probably have a natural rhythm for pushups. Don’t do that. Do it slowly. That’s how the Military Training Instructors (MTIs) call the cadence. No one is sure why. 

Run back upstairs and shower as quickly as possible. If you can get several neighbors to stand naked in the shower with you but not actually shower, that would be perfect. They should just hold their soap and act impatient while looking at your genitals. It’s an important part. Walk naked through your house with all of the windows open. Get dressed and make your bed in a very particular way. Then basic military training really begins. 

The time is now 6:00AM. Boil some chicken. Boil some vegetables in the same water.  Let the water cool to slightly above room temperature. Now, drink it. Trainees are advised to drink three-quarters to one water bottle per hour, not to exceed two bottles per hour or sixteen in a day. All water in BMT is lukewarm

Eat the strangle chicken and gum the mushy vegetables in about three minutes. 

The time is now 06:10AM. Go back to your bedroom and sit in a folding chair next to your bed. Remember those neighbors who were butt naked in the shower with you? Get them to sit in your bedroom with you and argue about something mundane and knowable. If you need some help choosing topics, I’d suggest something infuriatingly basic and for which you know the answer. The shape of the earth was a popular topic when I was at BMT — specifically, whether or not the earth is the only flat body in the 93 billion light-years of the observable universe. Remember: you have no phones, no internet, no television, and no source of outside news. So, you just have to sit there and listen to them misstate facts. This goes on for roughly six hours. 

During that six hours, you have to stay awake. That’s basically the only requirement. Sit in your chair and just be conscious. Randomly, your malcontented neighbor will run in the room. If you’re asleep, he’ll scream at you. If he’s just generally bored, he might yank the sheets off your bed and force you to make the bed again. Randomly, he’ll decide you’ve done something wrong (you probably haven’t) and shout “Get on your face.” You’ll then do push-ups or flutter kicks at his really oddly slow cadence. 

If there’s not a pandemic, you’ll go to class and march as well. Classes are typically about three hours. You’ll go to lunch at some point. That’s more choke chicken and soggy broccoli. Then you’ll march for about two or three hours. Sometimes the order is reversed. Everything in between is sitting and waiting for someone to run in and shout at you. 

It’s like having a wasp in your house. You see the wasp fly in and you spend a few minutes trying to corner it to kill it. It flies behind the blinds and gets trapped between the blinds and the glass. It manages to scramble up into a corner you can’t reach. You’ve got other stuff to do, so you just leave it. You check the window again in an hour or two, but it’s not there. Now, you’ve got a wasp somewhere. It didn’t fly out, so it has to be in the house. Now, every time your phone buzzes or your hair touches the back of your neck, you jump like you stepped on a pushpin. That’s Air Force Basic Military Training. 

If you reached this article because you’ve joined or are planning to join the Air Force, you should know a few things. Air Force Basic Military Training is exactly what it says on the tin: basic. Some elements of it will be difficult, but no part of it will be complicated. You’ll know what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, and how you’re supposed to do it. You’ll likely fail a few times, and the MTI will shout at you. His/her job is to scream at you. Your job is to get screamed at. Never forget you’re getting paid for this. 

You’re not going to fail. If you make an honest attempt to do what you’re told, you’ll keep moving forward. The taxpayers are spending a lot of money to turn you into an airman. 

MTIs will threaten to recycle you constantly. They probably won’t unless you break some rules. Stay awake in class, stay awake in the dorm, and don’t steal peanut butter cups from the dining facility. Volunteer for laundry crew, don’t talk while marching, and don’t move at the position of attention. Zero week, first week, and second week are pretty bad. By third week, you’ll have your name on your uniform, and you’ll be coasting to the finish. Don’t buy a bunch of the squadron/flight gear. With rare exceptions, you won’t talk to any of the people in your flight ever again. 

Don’t fall asleep.