If you look at the first page of the Surviving Air Force Basic Training article, you'll note a chart which lists the things you should bring to Air Force Basic Military Training. It is the official list produced by the folks at Lackland Air Force Base. The very first thing you should do with this chart is throw it away. This chart contains a list of things you will need at basic training but is not a good list of things you should bring with you.
Why not? Well, one of the very first things you're going to learn about your T.I. is that he/she likes "standardization." In other words, he/she wants every single member of your flight to look exactly the same, as much as possible. Therefore, even if you bring something on the list, the T.I. is going to want everyone to have the same color or style as everyone else. In that case, the T.I. is going to "recommend" that you buy a certain color or style at the Base Exchange (BX) during your initial shopping trip there. (It's always wise to listen to a T.I.'s "recommendations" even if you don't agree — it'll save you some "discomfort."
On your second day after arrival, you'll be issued a special "debit card." This debit card has $250 worth of credit on it (which, by the way, is deducted from your first paycheck), and is designed for you to purchase items from the "Troop Mall" (The Troop Mall is a small BX, located in the basic training area, designed specifically for new recruits to purchase needed items).
On the day after your arrival (probably Wednesday), your T.I. will take you by the hand (actually, not really — T.I.s are not allowed to hold hands with trainees), and march you and your flight to the Troop Mall. There you will be instructed as to what you need to purchase.
In fact, you could show up at basic training with just your important papers and the clothes on your back, and survive just fine (We don't recommend this, because you won't get your uniforms issued until Thursday or Friday, and if you wear the same set of clothes for four days, we wouldn't want to be standing downwind of you).
Here's what we recommend you bring with you:
Make a copy of any important paperwork so you'll have a backup if something is misplaced. (Also, find a PLAIN blue or black folder to bring this in)
- College transcripts, Civil Air Patrol Certificates, and any JROTC Certificates. You won't need these at basic training, but you'll want them with you during your final trip to MEPS because college credits and/or JROTC can give you advanced enlistment rank.
- Driver's license. You won't be driving while at Air Force Basic Training, but some Air Force jobs require a driver's license. If you can't prove that you have one, you will not be eligible for consideration for any of those AFSCs (jobs).
- Alien Card and/or Naturalization Certificates (if applicable).
- Marriage License and birth certificates for your dependents. These are required to start your housing allowance, and to obtain/complete the necessary application for dependent ID Cards.
- Social Security Card. ALSO-MEMORIZE your Social Security Number. Once on base, this number will act as your identification number and will be used often.
- Enlistment Contract. It will be provided to you at MEPS after you take the final active duty oath (except Guard/Reserve, who do not take a "final oath."
- Banking Information. The military requires all recruits to set up a direct deposit account. This will require a voided check to activate the account. The recruiter should give you a form for the direct deposit, and in most cases, if the form is filled the voided check is not needed. Your bank you should be able to get temporary checks printed, and you'll only need one. It is also recommended that you have someone/some way to pay your bills while you are gone, or better still, have automatic transfers/bill pay start about halfway through basic. It is a good idea that you contact your bill collectors and inform them you will be unable to be contacted for 8 weeks. You will need to have this information on hand:
- The name of your bank/credit union
- Your bank routing number
- Your account number
- ATM Card/debit card (so that you have quick access to cash)
- Important Paperwork Relating to Any Prescriptions. You will not be allowed to continue to take any prescription medication that you may bring with you (this is because there is no way to tell if you've substituted a prescription for an illegal narcotic). However, your prescription will be examined by a military doctor after arrival, and — if necessary — you will be re-issued the medication from the military pharmacy. Ladies, this applies to birth control pills as well. You may continue to take birth control pills during basic, but your prescription will be re-issued by the military pharmacy. If you are a military dependent and you have Birth Control, try to bring a full prescription with you, because although they will issue you a new prescription, more than likely they will just transfer your prescription. This process can take a little bit of time, and you don't want to run out in the middle of Basic.
Other Items to Bring
- Shampoo. Save yourself some hassle and get 2-in-1.
- Toothbrush, toothbrush tray, and toothpaste/powder. Your toothbrush tray should be the square kind. If you get the round kind, and it rolls when the T.I. opens your drawer to inspect it, it will be out of place, and you'll get a demerit. For toothpaste, get the "flip lid" kind. The "screw top" is almost impossible to keep clean.
- Soap (bar or liquid). Note: Liquid soap is a whole lot easier to keep in inspection condition.
- Soap tray (if bar soap is used). Bar soap is not recommended.
- Deodorant. No aerosol allowed, and a gel is not advised because it will wear off. Stick to good old stick deodorant.
- Ball-point pen (black). The "official" list says "black or blue," but you'll find out that the Air Force likes official documents signed with black ink.
- Notebook and paper. Bring only a small notebook to take notes for the first couple of days. This is one of the "standardization" things. The T.I. is going to want everyone to purchase the "Air Force Style" notebook at the BX.
- Laundry soap. Only take laundry soap if you have allergies and require a specific brand. Otherwise, it's traditional for all the recruits in the flight to contribute money and purchase one gigantic box at the BX for use of the entire flight.
- Shower Shoes. NOT just flip-flops. These should be the plainest black flip flops you can find. If you don't get shower shoes, you will shower in whatever shoes you came in- even if it's cowboy boots or sneakers.
- Shaving Equipment. You can bring/use an electric razor, but those are hard to keep clean enough to pass inspection. You'll want to have two razors, one you use that you keep in your secured items, and a disposable razor as your display razor. It prevents any stray hairs, and you don't go through a new razor head every day. Sometimes recruits will pitch in and buy a bag of disposable razors to share with their flight. Ladies, it's suggested that you shave the night before you arrive at BMT, and ride it out with just the disposable razor as your display razor. You won't be shaving until around week 6/7.
- Fingernail Clippers. An absolute. Can use these to trim loose threads on your uniforms, since you won't be able to have scissors.
- Civilian Clothes. Enough to last three or four days. You'll receive your initial uniform issue on Thursday or Friday of the week of arrival. After that, all your civilian clothes will be locked up until after graduation. Don't wear/bring anything outlandish. You do not want to "stand out" from the crowd during basic training.
- Civilian eyeglasses. If required to see, you'll wear your civilian eyeglasses until your "military" glasses are issued, which takes about two weeks for most people. Once you receive your "military" glasses, you'll be required to wear them for the remainder of basic training.
- Contact Lenses Case. If you wear contacts to basic training, you'll need the case to store them until after basic training. For safety reasons, you will not be allowed to wear contact lenses during basic training, so you'll need to bring your civilian glasses, as well.
- Envelopes. To write home. Here's a neat trick. Bring about ten or so envelopes, pre-stamped. Then, when you get a chance to write home, you never have to worry about running out of stamps.
- Stationary. To write home on. Although, before you'll have a chance to write your first letter home, you'll have already made your first "shopping trip" to the BX, and they have some pretty neat "Air Force" stationary that you may wish to purchase to "impress" the folks back home when you write your first letter.
- Pre-Paid Phone Card. Periodically through basic training, you'll get a chance to phone home. Bring a card with lots of minutes on it (you can always use it after basic, as well). If you forget the phone card, don't worry. They are readily sold at the BX.
- Active cell phone with charger. With minutes loaded if pre-pay by minute phone. For recruits coming from overseas, it may be more beneficial to have someone stateside buy one of these phones for you and send it to you before you leave, rather than activating a plan for about 4 phone calls.
- Brushes or Combs. More important for women. Men, you'll only need a comb for your first day. By the second day, you won't have any hair left to comb. Make sure that they are easy to clean.
- Underwear (Men). Enough for three or four days. It has been suggested that you wear boxers. Try to get plain black, nude, or gray. By Thursday or Friday of the first week, you'll be issued six pairs of boxers or briefs (your choice).
- Underwear (Women). Ladies, you'll be required to purchase your underwear at the BX (too many different styles/sizes to issue it). However, you'll receive a monetary allotment in your paycheck to cover the cost. If you are a "hard to fit" type, you may wish to purchase your underwear before your arrival, as we're told the selection at the BX for women isn't all that great. You'll want a couple of white sports bras and about four regular (white) bras. You may wear any kind/color of panties you wish, but remember the rule about "standing out." You will want to avoid thongs, should be "granny panties" to avoid embarrassment when your male TIs come. Try to get plain black, nude, or gray. No designs or logos. Also, if you are accustomed to wearing thongs, try getting used to wearing granny panties about three weeks out. Remember the rule: be conservative.
- Sanitary Supplies (Women). Napkins or tampons, your choice. Bring about enough to last you one cycle, although many women skip their cycle while in basic due to the stress.
- Hair bands, bobby pins, etc. (Women). Women don't get their hair cut (unless they want to) during Air Force Basic Training. However, while in uniform (most of the time), you must wear your hair in such a style that it does not protrude past the bottom of the uniform collar, and does not interfere with the wear of the hat. For most women with long hair, this means tying it up in a "bun." Hair bands, bobby pins, etc., must closely match the color of your hair, or be clear. Hair must not exceed three inches off the top of your head when in a bun. A good suggestion for long hair: sock bun. Learn how to do it before basic, so it doesn't take very long.
- Hairnet. For the women.
- Nylons/Panty Hose (Women). You won't need these until the final week of training, so unless you're "hard to fit," we would recommend purchasing these at the BX. If you bring your own, purchase the "nude" color.
- Watch. Not mandatory, but nice to have. You can't wear it all the time during basic, but you can wear a conservative watch most of the time, and you'll want to know how much time you have before chow.
Anything on the "official" list that we've not mentioned above can wait until after you get to basic.
Things Not to Bring
- Cigarettes or tobacco of any kind. If you use tobacco wean yourself off of it about 4 weeks before basic.
- Personal running shoes. You will have a pair issued to you.
- Expensive jewelry. Leave your wedding ring at home. It's less to worry about damaging, and less to worry about losing.
- Food or candy. You do not want that on your person when you meet the TIs. And international recruits: no free beer on the plane over. You have to have it out of your system by the time you land.
- Radio/CD/MP3. International recruits it's ok to bring one device to keep you occupied on the 8-18 hour flight. Just be smart and only bring one or two devices.
It's important to take care of personal matters before you leave for training. BMT is designed to be stressful, and you will need to focus all your attention on training during your program. Check with your recruiter if you have questions or are unsure about how to handle any of the following matters:
- Who will receive your mail?
- Does your family have access to your finances? Bank accounts, etc.
- How will your bills be paid while you are gone?
- Does someone know what bills are due and when?
- What other things could pop up in the time you are away?
- Does your family know whom to contact in the event of an emergency?
- Have you set up a bank account prior to your arrival?
The absolute quickest way to contact a member of the military (whether in basic training or not) to notify them of a family emergency is through the American Red Cross. Each major Air Force base has a Red Cross office, and the Red Cross can do "magic" when it comes to locating a service member and notifying them of emergencies in a very short period of time.
Before you depart, make sure your family knows how to contact their local Red Cross office.
First Phone Call Home
At the end of "Zero Week," most likely on Sunday afternoon, you'll get your first opportunity to call home. It will be a very short phone call (only about 3 minutes), enough time to pass on your mailing information. Warn your family/loved ones in advance about this phone call. You will not sound "well." Your voice will be shaky, and you'll sound like you're on the verge of tears. During this particular stage of training, you'll swear that T.I.'s are around every corner, under every table, just waiting for you to do something wrong so they can yell at you for it. This "scared rabbit" feeling transfers to your telephone voice. The bad thing is that you won't have time to tell them that you're really okay. You've got enough time to spit out your address; then you have to give the phone up to the next recruit in line. So, make sure your family is ready for this. Otherwise, they may spend the next several days thinking they made a mistake about letting their "baby" go away to basic training.