We arrived in the early afternoon at the Military Reception Center at the San Antonio Airport. But there was no Training Instructor (TI) or any military personnel ready to greet us. The next bus to Lackland AFB was not coming until 17:00. I was one of the first few people to sit in the pews and made small talk with the others as more people started to arrive. The bus showed up an hour late, with a civilian driving a commercial bus. We all were getting a little nervous as we came closer to Lackland. All of us were expecting TIs to suddenly swarm around us the second we arrived and start screaming in our faces about how stupid we were and how dumb we looked. But that didn't happen.
When we finally reached the base, a Non-Commissioned Offcer (NCO) stepped onto the bus, calmly told us to grab our bags and get off. There were a couple more outside who rushed us into a trainee processing building — still no screaming. We all filed into a room and sat down at little desks. Another NCO proceeded to brief us, then we filled out a bunch of papers for in-processing. One of the things they told us to write down was 331 TRS — that's when I found out my assigned training squadron. I forgot what I heard about it, though, so I wasn't sure of what to expect. There were some males from the 319 TRS doing details (the 319th is where med holds and discharges go), and a couple of them were outside with us after we completed the paperwork and fell out into the formation.
We were then bused over to our squadron, located all by itself, as opposed to Hotel Row, where 4 TRS is located, and right next to the little Base Exchange (BX) with the Burger King — which was forbidden. We were herded upstairs to the dorm on the second floor and were told to stand next to a wall locker. Each locker had a corresponding bed, so locker 12 was paired with bed 12. We locked up our valuables in our security drawer. There were several females who were already sleeping. We took showers and got ready for bed, and the lights went out.
At 04:45 the OJT dorm guards woke us up. These were trainees or airmen who performed dorm guard duties, keeping us in line and telling us what to do during the night hours until we learned to do dorm guard ourselves. But it was not that bad — one of them just turned the lights on and told us to wake up. But not all mornings were like that. And it was that day — our first actual day — that the screaming, shock and terror began. Our TIs let the games begin.
A New Reality
Most of us started using the supplies we brought with us after the first couple of weeks. But we were told we needed to buy items like toothpaste, a toothbrush, body wash, and deodorant again. On our first BX run, they told us everything had to be the same — one of our TIs even said they favored the small travel-sized shampoo and certain razors.
They're always messing with you. Different TIs give you different instructions, so everything conflicts and gets frustrating. Your civilian luggage will be locked up in a closet in the dorm, so make sure you take everything out immediately that you need. You won't be able to get into it again until right before graduation.
In the beginning, the TIs will try to rip your flight apart and ground it into the dirt. They will try to pit everybody against everybody so that it's impossible to be a team. That's when you have to unite and create the determination and resolve you are going to so desperately need for training. They are set on breaking you all down — it's up to you and your flight to build yourselves back up.
One of the TIs' favorite things to do is threaten.
"You're recycled! You better be packing your bags tonight!"
"Hell will freeze over before I see you graduate!"
And they seem very serious. They might go so far as to have a trainee pack his bags and head out before they compassionately decide to keep him or her in the flight. But their threats create a lot of frightening moments during BMT.
Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Form 341 is referred to as simply a 341 (three forty-one) in basic. These little slips of paper have your name, rank, roster number, flight and TRS written on them. They record excellence on your part or discipline administered, and for what reason. It is rare that a TI will take one from you for display of excellence. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a TI will take one from you for doing something wrong, such as failing to salute an officer, executing an improper facing movement, incorrect reporting statement or loss of military bearing.
They are folded into fourths lengthwise, and three must be kept in your left cargo pant pocket at all times. If you are Reserve or Guard, a copy of your orders must be kept there also. When you earn your Airman's Coin, that too will be placed into that pocket. Anyone can take a 341 from you — even some civilians are granted authority to do so. They are returned to your TI usually by the end of the same day or sometime soon after. The only time a 341 counts is if your TI has you sign it.
I had one pulled during the entire time, along with several other females. One of the Blue Ropes had us stocking coolers with Gatorade for the Warrior Challenge event.
"These Gatorade in those boxes are new, but the ones in the closet are the old ones. But you only want to use these over here, and one of this one and one of that box," he told us.
We were all so confused that we didn't really know what to do. He left, and we opened up two extra boxes. He ripped us for that and pulled a 341 from each of us. He asked each of us to explain, and before we even got done with our reporting statement, he interrupted us.
"No. Whatever. Next."
So we didn't even get a chance. Thankfully, none of us had to sign the 341s.
The Daily Grind
Zero week — or the first days of basic training — by far, is the worst week of basic military training (BMT). You can't do anything right. I broke down the third night and during several nights after. I hated it with a passion and was hoping I had some disease or something that would get me discharged. There are tons of in-processing and appointments you need to attend. Luckily, my flight uniforms were issued the second day, so I didn't have to wear civilians long.
Your personal hygiene items are kept in your security drawer in a specific order and arrangement. Your security drawer also holds your valuables and anything else like letters, stationary, appointment slips — whatever else you may need. You have two keys to your drawer, and wear them around your neck just about every moment in BMT. They should always be tucked into your shirt, otherwise you can get into trouble. You have the right to brush your teeth every morning and night, and to take a shower every night. At Warrior Week, a lot of us showered once — or never — because it was so cold. There was always enough time, but the prospect of freezing made us hesitant.
It's hard to eat at first with all the TIs rushing you and in your face in the chow hall. There's even an entire set of procedures to follow in the chow hall, which we had been briefed on the night before. Of course we couldn't remember everything, and of course, you can't really do facing movements right yet, so they'll get you for that in the chow hall. As you progress through training, they have you do facing, flanking and saluting in the chow hall for practice purposes.
Attention to detail is stressed. There are so many papers and rosters to sign. If you put punctuation, write illegibly or screw up because you didn't do it exactly the way the TIs said to, then you get reamed. Of course, there was always at least one screw up every time.
And there are so many briefings — how to maintain your wall locker, how to make your bed, how to use reporting statements, facing movements and marching.
Within the first few nights, the TIs will pick a dorm chief to be in charge of the entire flight and four element leaders — one for each row of beds. They said they usually select these student leaders by who stands out. Or they may pick someone out of the blue. It all depends on your TIs.
Student leaders have tough jobs that demand a lot of accountability and responsibility. For example, if someone in the flight screws up something, the dorm chief may have to pay for the mistake. If someone does not have their reporting procedures straight, their element leader will get busted. And sometimes the TIs would make the screw-up drop their leader, and that would make it all that much harder on both of them. You are always carrying around your canteen with your TRS and bed number, and that wonderful black portfolio with a pen, notebook and BMTSG (Basic Military Training Study Guide) so that you can study at every possible moment — outside chow, appointments, in the dayroom.
Pretty soon you are going to have to know your entire chain of command, from the president to your dorm chief, their rank insignia and pay grade. Learn them left to right, the right to left, diagonally and every which way, because you will be drilled on it — especially at the snake pit where all the TIs sit in the chow hall. Learn it, and know your stuff backwards and forwards.
We actually did not do details or dorm guard (which I'll explain later) until the first week of training. Everybody was assigned details during an evening briefing (after chow, a time when you all get into the dayroom and go over stuff with your TI — it's usually pretty informal, like an end-of-the-day thing.
They would ask who has confidence. People would raise their hands and he would select a dorm guard monitor — an extremely tough job, particularly during the first couple of weeks. Or who sighted a rifle, leading to the bed and shoe aligners assignments. They ask questions like that so they can put the most capable people in each position. If you tick them off, or just because they want to, they can assign you to any detail. The worst ones are road guard and chow runner.
In the beginning, our TI picked those out because they kept messing up or just ticked him off. And if you don't raise your hand and volunteer, you will get some of the worst details. I tried to stay in the background and was one of the last ones to get picked for something. I was put on latrine crew — which was nasty — but not all that bad. And for each detail, a chief is chosen to head up the rest of the crew, like latrine queen, bed aligner chief, utility room chief. They are usually the ones to get reamed when something isn't right with their detail, so they don't fail to get on their crews to have their stuff done right.
Dorm guard is a big thing at basic. It's an entire set of procedures designed to be followed for the security of the dormitory occupants and their possessions, fire prevention and conservation of utilities. Everybody does it. There are two-hour shifts, and during the night hours, two people take each shift. There's a certain way to authorize entrances and announce entrances and exits into and out of the dorm. There are hourly checks to be done and specific steps to follow in a fire, gas or bomb drill. This is what gets a lot of people in trouble. And if you allow an unauthorized entry in your fourth week or beyond, you will be automatically recycled. The safety of the flight is extremely important. OJTers and TIs will conduct briefings early in training to show you how dorm guard is done. They love you to trick you and make you lose your military bearing when you are on dorm guard, so watch out and be careful.
Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Your TIs will lso aassign a laundry crew. This crew is responsible for collecting and handing out laundry. Hanging on your end-of-bed display is a green drawstring laundry bag with a zipper opening at one end. Inside are three white plastic bags with twist ties and four white zippered mesh bags. The plastic bags are for wet laundry like towels and wet battle dress uniforms (BDUs) if you fell in the water at the confidence course. The mesh bags are for your underclothes. Black wool and cotton socks and other dark items go together, and white bras, underwear and like-colored clothing are placed in another bag. Keep them separate if you don't want your whites appearing strange brown and gray colors.
Laundry crew will periodically collect and return all laundry items, but don't be too surprised if stuff turns up missing. It's just a matter of fact with laundry at basic. The washing/drying machines at basic are junk. You get your clothing back and it looks just about the same, perhaps a bit better. At least it smells a little better. BDUs and blues are always dry cleaned. There's a dry cleaner located on the bottom floor of every squadron. But that comes at a cost. I still actually have all my receipts.
They tell you in the beginning, to wear your BDUs (and later on your blues) for no more than two consecutive days. Of course, we followed the rules tightly in the beginning. But as you progress, you learn the tricks of the trade. There's no way we were spending so much money on dry cleaning if we did not have to. Some of us wore our BDUs for almost two weeks. That may sound pretty gross, but hey, it's basic training. You get used to nasty things. As for our blues, we wouldn't exactly dry clean them every second time. Instead, most of us would simply iron whatever we needed the next day. By the way, at first, you have your night display with a BDU set on the hanger hanging on the front of the wall locker. By the end, you will start hanging the BDUs as a day display, too, because you will have your blues on night display.
Early on your flight will learn how to conduct "dust drills." It's pretty much dusting your dorm top to bottom with your hands, and on your hands and knees. One of your flight members will yell out the commands, and the rest of the flight will echo the command as they do it. Echoing is something you learn to do really well and really often in BMT.
During dust drills you will hear commands like" "Top of your wall locker!", "Windowsill!", "The side of your wall locker!", "Top baseboard!", "Bottom baseboard!", "Between the wall lockers!", "Chair!", "In front of your wall locker!", "End posts!", "Between your bed and your neighbor's bed!", "Beneath your bed and your neighbor's bed!" until "Center aisle, center tile! Prepare for the first sweep!"
Then the sweeper comes down to collect all the dust and dirt and junk. I seriously don't know where all the huge dust bunnies come from throughout the day and night in San Antonio. They probably rig the dorms so they're harder to clean. Then it's off for a second exciting dust drill.
Your wall locker is kept a very specific way. We had things we did to make our delightful stay in BMT a little bit easier. The left side of the wall locker holds your BDUs, field jacket and PC clothes among other things. We learned to keep two sets of BDUs untouched in our wall lockers. They would be dry cleaned, then we'd clip all the strings, remove the dry cleaning stickers and place the uniform properly on a serviceable hanger. That way we wouldn't have to mess with them anymore and they'd always be ready for inspection.
Your clothing drawer has towels, underwear, bras, pantyhose, brown t-shirts and socks. Everything must show signs of use (except the pantyhose), so use them as little as possible — preferably once if you can. Then wash, properly fold and place the item in your drawer so you can leave it like that for inspections. Some people in other flights told us they actually used and folded everything in their drawers all the time, but we saw it as a waste of time. Correctly folding, tweaking, grounding and making flush towels and brown t-shirts alone takes hours upon hours. Make wise use of your time.
Taps sounds at 21:00 Sunday through Thursday night and reveille blasts at 04:45 Monday through Friday morning. On Friday and Saturday nights, taps were at 22:00 and on Saturday and Sunday mornings reveille was at 05:45. Same goes for holidays. But if a holiday is on Monday, then the following Saturday is a regular duty day with regular duty hours because you already had weekend hours on Monday.
I thought reveille was cool before I arrived at BMT, but I quickly learned to hate it. Most weekday mornings your flight has to fall out into formation downstairs under the overhang. From reveille, you have around 10 to 15 minutes to get dressed, fill your canteen, grab your portfolio and stampede down the stairs. Once in formation, there is accountability. Sometimes it ends at that and you fall back upstairs. But usually, we would have the "briefing of the day." Then we'd sing the first verse of the Air Force song, followed by the three core values: excellence, integrity, service before self. And sometimes after that, we would shout out our squadron's motto. It helps build team morale and enthusiasm and competitive spirit.
"You Just Have to Survive"
The first week, it is still really stressful — a time when you just have to survive. So much information is crammed into your skull that sometimes, even when you know your stuff, you get it wrong because your mind is swimming and you get too nervous. You're also getting used to your flight members. Rooming in close quarters with 50 to 60 other people can get on your nerves very quickly. Starting this week, we integrated with our brother flight. We would separate into A Bay and B Bay, and the males who slept in A Bay of their dorm would integrate with the females who slept in A Bay of their respective dorm, so we would be two flights with males and females in each flight. We would march everywhere together, eat chow together, go to appointments together. The only thing we did against each other was complete for honor flight. But even then points were split.
Cadence was quite interesting. Each TI had his or her own unique way of calling cadence. And then there were the ones who were in training that would constantly get us out of step by calling cadence on the wrong foot then yell at us for being out of step. But it sounds awesome. I don't know how they learn to do it in MTI school or anything, but they make these sounds in their throat, kind of like guttural sounds or something to chant off cadence. But it sounds awesome. And Jody calls are always fun. Our flight made up some of our own and were allowed to use them at the end of training.
The second week is not too bad. You know how to do your job now, you will have to endure your first inspections. The first one is a free inspection which is not counted. Ours, fortunately, went pretty well. It's funny how the ups and downs are so fast. We will make our TI proud one moment, then screw up and tick him off the next. It's all about attention to detail. One speck of dust in the latrine can put a TI in the state of fury. Everything has to be perfect. Try as best as you can, because it can be done. Strings pop out everywhere, especially after dry-cleaning, so make sure you inspect them meticulously. Groups are assigned to the FTX site, Confidence Course, KP, Reception Center and other various locations. You work pretty much all day, but you don't have to eat in the chow hall every other day. You either get to use vending machines, or if you're on KP, you get more time to eat and get the privilege of eating snacks and desserts. You earn them by being on your feet from long before dawn to the late evening.
We had to get up around 02:15 and march over to another squadron's chow hall. We were on our feet until we returned to our squadron around 20:30. You learn to appreciate all the work that goes into preparing meals and what goes on behind those double doors in the kitchen. I hated it, but at least I could eat a lot and was able to have sweets.
Three WOT is classes and more classes. Lots of academics. Make sure you study and pay attention because you are going to need to know the information for 4 WOT. More of those wonderful inspections are conducted. You get fitted for your blues! And you also get those lovely BCG's issued.
You do endure a "Hell Week." As long as you have studied well, pushed yourself to meet the PC regulations and can set up your dorm right, it's not all that bad. This week holds the inspections, PC evaluations and EOC test that will decide whether or not you graduate. It can be stressful. Having a diligent academic monitor — someone responsible for making sure the flight knows their memory work and test material — really helps. Our flight and our brother flight had zero failures for the EOC test and over 40 outstanding grades.
Warrior Week prepared us to handle war conditions and embracing the Aerospace Expeditionary Force concept. You will shoot an M16-A2, go through the gas chamber, do the confidence course, live in tents, eat in a mess tent where you get meals ready-to-eat (MREs), take anti-terrorism classes, self-aid and buddy care, war games, and a big exercise at the end where you put to practice everything you learn. You earn the Airman's coin and complete the transition from trainee to airmen in the culminating ceremony.
Let's Get Physical
The PC program we did was tough. They usually alternate running days with callisthenic days. Stretches and cardiovascular exercises are always performed before PC, with stretching afterwards.
Calisthenics is lots of sit ups, countless pushups of all types, flutter kicks, leg lifts, shoulder presses, partial squats. All in repeated sets until you think you are going to cry and you can't even hold your arms up anymore. Fun stuff, but it's good for you.
For running, we would either run two miles or do a three-part running exercise. For that, we would do "Last Trainee Up," where there's about 10 trainees in the same running ability group running in a line around the track. The lead trainee would be the pacer, and the one directly behind would raise one arm and yell, "Last Trainee Up!" The last trainee would then proceed to sprint from the back to the position right behind the lead trainee. The trainee who just yelled from putting his arm back down and the trainee who just sprinted up would then raise his or her arm and yell the same thing. And you go on and on for 15 or 20 minutes.
Then there's the run-at-your-own-pace run for around the same amount of time, then the last exercise is six sets of sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for two minutes. They go easier on you in the beginning and give you a few walking breaks, but pretty soon you're going to have to run the entire time through these exercises.
And there's no stopping. TIs will be right out there with you — some running, some watching — and they'll yell if you're walking. If you are dehydrated and faint, complain to the IDMT (Independent Medical Technician) or have any problem other than a serious injury, expect no sympathy from them. They will scream at you for being weak.
Honor Grad PC requirements held to the new standards for our flights. For the females, you needed an 18-minute run, 27 pushups and 60 situps (from the 19-min run, 22 pushups and 50 situps) to be eligible. For flights with the new PC program, trainees attained the title "Thunderbolt" if they met the minimum standards stated above — males have higher standards except for sit ups. With that title, one would receive an extra Town Pass and a certificate. If you met even higher standards, you can earn the title of "Warhawk," get a Warhawk t-shirt, certificate and extra Town Pass.
Recently added to BMT is the new Warrior Challenge. If you are a fitness buff or love stuff like running, pushups, sit ups or pull ups and other physical events, including tug-of-war against the TIs, then you'll love Warrior Challenge. It's during the first Saturday of every month, and trainees and airmen from every squadron come together and compete. The best physical performers in every flight have a practice session after every regular PC session. Lots more pushups, sit-ups and running. Then they take the top 10 from each flight to compete. They held Warrior Challenge on the PC pad next to Hotel Row. A lot of the VIPs come — squadron commanders, the TRG commander. It's a big thing. There are some pretty high numbers: two-minute sit ups and pushups were in the hundreds, and for the two-mile the males' times were in the 10:00s and the females' times were in the 12:00s. It's a lot of fun to watch the events, cram down junk food and mingle with other trainees and airmen.
This Isn't For Everyone
In my flight, we lost only three trainees, all of them early on in training. The first one couldn't handle the physical demands of BMT at all. I think she had asthma, heart problems and other ailments. I'm not sure how she got there in the first place.
Another hurt her ankle and was sent to the 319th, where they do details if capable, or have patio breaks and sit around with other med holds and discharges, like people who are pregnant, very ill, have a disease or have a mental illness. She was put back into training a week behind us but had a panic attack after she returned. She was discharged and sent home.
The third tried taking a lot of pills because she supposedly couldn't handle BMT. She was sent down to CQ (Charge-of-Quarters) to recover and was held for observation. They gave her a dishonorable discharge and sent her home. Amazingly, those were the only three we lost. No recyclees or anything later on. That's good and bad. You like your flight members and hate some, and there are the few that have to be carried through or they won't make it. Some people just aren't military material. But hey, we're a team and we help each other out.
Church was awesome. They allow all trainees two hours a week of religious activities: one for church services and one for religious instruction like a Bible study class.
They hold many different kinds of services for different types of beliefs. I attended the Protestant services, which happens to be the most popular one. It was contemporary and upbeat, comforting and encouraging. It's just what trainees need. I bawled during my first Sunday at church. I was just so emotional — so homesick, so frustrated and stressed out. But with time, I got over it. The best thing about the church is that TIs aren't around. No one's going to yell at you or play mind games with you. On the way there, you're told to smile and relax. It's a great way to de-stress and go back to training a little bit refreshed. As classes or church is ending, you're told to get back into the training mode.
"Get your game faces back on."
After you're released, you have to put your mind back into gear.
Phone Calls and Letters Home
A patio break is when trainees are allowed to go outside on the patio and eat snacks and candy from the vending machines, and make phone calls on one of the many pay phones. It can range from a couple minutes to a few hours. Keep in mind every TI has a different set of rules. Some flights are allowed some or all of these privileges right off the bat, while some flights may never get a chance to have any of them — save for the mandatory phone call or two and some letters.
Our TI was never fond of patio breaks. Another flight in our squadron had their fourth patio break by their second week. We got our first and only one the night before Warrior Week, which was almost our fifth week. Luckily we were given a 10-min phone call every weekend. And that meant 10-minutes for each bay, so we had 20 to 25 people wanting to use the limited number of pay phones. Sometimes calls have to be cut short. And the first few times don't be surprised if a TI, dorm chief or element leader is in your face yelling at you to hang up. It gets frustrating, but it eases up after a while.
The first phone call is usually an emotional one. I cried, and just about everybody cries or at least gets teary-eyed when you hear the voices of your loved ones. You have only enough time to spit out your address and that you're not dead (yet) and that you love them. Then it's goodbye. It's tough, but by the next couple of times, you're more relaxed and can speak clearly enough for them to hear what you're saying. But then sometimes you're so excited and so full of information and interesting things to say that you speak too fast for them to hear you. Right after my first phone call, I accidentally ran into a Blue Rope on the patio. Not fun. Just watch out where you're going.
Letters were a big issue in my flight, and I'm sure every trainee in every flight looks forward to letters. You need that source of comfort and connection to your loved ones. Mail call is normally conducted during evening briefings on weekdays. Sometimes things get busy, and a week may pass with no mail call. It's really disappointing, but all the mail that comes at the end is worth it. We were not given permission to read or write letters until the end of our 1 WOT. We were actually given letters a few days beforehand but were told to lock them up in our security drawers. It was torture to have those letters just sitting in there but not being allowed to open them up. We were ecstatic when we were finally given permission to read them.
We were never actually given real personal time by our TI until the very very end. Before that, he would leave it up to our dorm chief and element leaders. They would have us get all of our stuff done and help each other out before we got a little free time. And during the times when we would work on our personal areas, we would sometimes be able to read and write letters then. Or after lights out, there might be a little time to do so. If we didn't have our stuff straight or screwed up somehow, our leaders would revoke privileges. They have the authority to do that. Our dorm chief once took away all letter privileges for three days. But then we made it up to her by performing well as a flight and got back the privilege the next day. Remember, too, that your TIs can take away your privileges at any time for any reason, and in certain cases, your student leaders can do the same also.
CQ is a hallway downstairs in the main part of the squadron with lots of offices in it. TIs will hang around here and a lot of your commanders and higher ups have offices here. Dorm chiefs report here for accountability every night, trainees report emergency drills being conducted in their dorms, TIs monitor the dorms by video and sound, etc etc etc. It's like the headquarters of the squadron. And like a version of the snake pit because TIs are everywhere. If you're waiting in the bench area, stand up at attention when an NCO or TI walks past or you'll get busted. Correct facing and flanking movements are required at all times.
Video cameras are positioned in the hallway outside every dorm's main door. It monitors all entrances and exits. There's an intercom in every dorm, too. It's where reveille and taps sound, dorm guards report for accountability during the night hours, CQ calls up for any reason, to report emergencies, or for TIs or CQ to give instructions including uniform of the day. And they can flip a switch so they can hear sounds coming from the dorm. Be careful with what you say.
Right after we returned from Warrior Week, my flight switched dorms. We went downstairs so we could be right across the hall from our brother flight (our older sister and brother flights had graduated a week earlier and their dorms were empty).We moved into a previously male dorm, and was exactly the same except the layout of the dorm was a bit different. So, I am assuming the latrines and bays are the same for every dorm. With all the water they make you drink to prevent dehydration, using the latrine is almost a constant need — at least for us females. It's crazy how much you have to go in basic — almost like we needed to go every five minutes. A lot of the time you will just have to hold it, because you might be marching, in formation, in class or the TIs will just tell you that you're an adult and can hold it. Of course, they allow latrine breaks, and if it's an emergency they will let you go but yell at you for it. Sometimes the breaks don't quite seem often enough, though.
At Warrior Week it's really hard because you have an assigned latrine building you can use, and none other. If you're on one side of the camp and need to use the latrine, good luck getting to it before it's too late. It wasn't uncommon for "accidents" to occur. Make sure you utilize every break you get. I was pretty self-conscious before basic training, but immediately got used to showering and changing with 50 other females. Before long, females were walking around the dorm during showers/changing butt naked and didn't even care. No one else did either. You get used to it.
Prior to deployment, we inquired about the road march during Warrior Week. We were informed there would be no march. There was lots of marching, some lengthy ones, but not an official "road march." The TIs told us there used to be a two-mile march — it was actually a 5.3-mile march — however, a male died at one point. His death was completely unrelated to the march, but they eliminated the road march from Warrior Week anyway. So, as of this time, there is no road march being conducted during Warrior Week. I don't know if they'll bring it back or what, but it doesn't exist right now.
If you have good TIs, they earn your respect. And if you do your part, you will earn theirs. We missed our TIs at Warrior Week because we have an entirely different set of instructors. Not individual ones assigned to flights, but lots of instructors — each with his or her own duties like teaching the anti-terrorism class, being IDMT, conducting muster — a briefing conducted every evening.
There were 16 flights total at our Warrior Week, four female and 12 male. We were then separated into four different Air and Space Expeditionary Forces (AEFs), each named after an important person. Each AEF was assigned different activities throughout the week. FTX, CATM (M-16 training), NBC training and classes were all conducted at different times for each AEF. My AEF had FTX first off, whereas another AEF had that as its last activity at the end of the week. It was tough, but it's preparing you for deployment conditions.
Your flight can start designing a flight t-shirt. Your design can represent the essence of your flight. The creative and the artists in your flight with suggestions and advice from all the others, can create your flight's own unique t-shirt. A design is sketched out and given to the local BX design store so they can put it on a t-shirt. All flight shirts are black with a small logo on the front and a large one on the back. All the names of the flight members and TIs, as well as the flight number and TRS are on the back. It can also include a slogan or motto you want. It's up to your flight to do whatever — all at the discretion of your TI. You can also have the design put onto a coin. At the end, the flight almost always buys an extra shirt for their TIs. The TIs then put the shirts up in their flight office (their office in the dorm) or wear them. After BMT, you can wear black t-shirts under your BDUs instead of only the brown ones.
It's All About Trust
It can be extremely difficult just holding the flight together. All the mind games and integrity issues almost made my flight fall apart. Without trust, it's hard to work as a team. And females can get surprisingly bitchy. But eventually, we pulled together and learned how to cope with all the stresses and demands of basic training. We also learned to build up team spirit and cooperation. I was lucky to have such awesome females in my flight. There are always a few in every flight with attitudes — just don't let them get to you. Stay focused and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
It Does Get Better
Always remember that things will start looking up. It was hell at first, much harder than I expected, but after the initial shock passed and everything started setting into your brain, things improve. And I was really emotional. I didn't show it — never show any sign of weakness in front of your TIs — but it really got to me. Like the first time a TI ripped me, and the first time someone got dropped, I felt like crying. But then I got over it. Some say it gets better but not easier, while others say the opposite. And some say it doesn't get better or easier. I say it does.
As you learn more and more and how things are done, it gets easier to do. Of course, they pile more things on top, but you learn to deal with it. I liked the marching, the discipline and the order. As you start becoming accustomed the military way of life in basic training, it does get better. It's all about attitude. If you keep a negative outlook, you are going to get depressed and easily discouraged. But if you're positive and look back on what you've survived through and what you've achieved and looked forward to your goals and graduation, you'll stay focused and be able to cope with the hardships of basic training.
Basic Training is really is a lot of hurry up and wait. We'd be rushed somewhere then have to wait forever until we actually got inside or were able to do whatever we needed to do. Weekends usually weren't crammed with activities, at least during the later weeks. Usually just study time, details, working on personal areas. Not too bad.
Remember — it's all a big mind game. I never took that literally when I heard it. I was always like, whatever. I never realized what it meant until I endured the mind games myself. They really do mess with you. But I would tell myself that sometimes, it's just a mind game, just to comfort myself and my flight mates. I went from hating it to missing it. It's an intensely interesting and wonderful transition that occurs.
You've Come to the End
You've come to the end and Graduation Week is awesome. The day you have been waiting for is so close, and seeing your family and friends is just days away.
You're so proud to be an airman and walk with your head held high. You learn how to wear your blues and get to wear them everywhere. They look sharp but are a hassle with the gig-line and garter straps and everything. It's an exciting time, but don't forget it's not over yet. Don't relax too much or get complacent, because in your blues you're a target. TIs will try to trick you into making mistakes. You better know your memory work, how to properly wear your uniform and render customs and courtesies — everything you learned over the past five weeks should be put into practice and maintained. You can still get recycled even after graduation, and you can have your Airman's Coin confiscated. Just don't do anything stupid and follow the rules. The TIs aren't always hounding you and they will lay off quite a bit.
Just be sure to know your stuff. Keep your head high, your hopes up, and never say "I can't" and never give up. Push yourself to your limits and beyond, and you will be trained to become the best Airman possible in the United States Air Force.
But be proud, because you've earned the right to be called an Airman in the United States Air Force.