Surviving Air Force Basic Training

Air Force Basic Military Training trainee fires at his target while wearing his gas mask.
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The Air Force's only enlisted recruit training program is located at Lackland Air Force Base. Its job is to ensure orderly transition from civilian to military life. Recruits are trained in the fundamental skills necessary to be successful in the operational Air Force. This includes basic war skills, military discipline, physical fitness, drills, ceremonies, Air Force core values, and a comprehensive range of subjects relating to Air Force life.

More than 7 million young men and women have entered Air Force basic military training February 4, 1946, when the training mission was moved to Lackland from Harlingen Air Force Base in Harlingen, Texas. Over the years, Lackland's BMT program has changed drastically in a wide variety of ways as the operational needs of the Air Force changed. Some of the recent updates in the curriculum are some of the most significant in its more than 60-year history, as every component of the program received a full overhaul.

Meals at Air Force BMT

Before reporting to basic training, all prospective trainees are examined by a doctor at their local Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. Trainees receive their initial weigh-in when they arrive at Lackland. If the trainee is under or over the height and weight standards, the trainee is placed on double rations if underweight (known colloquially in BMT as a "skinny"), or in a "diet" status if overweight.

Training Weapons of Air Force BMT

In the "old days" of Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT), recruits didn't even get to see a weapon until they went to the firing range. Then, they got to spend a couple of hours learning how to take the M-16 rifle apart, clean it, put it back together, and then a few more hours qualifying by actually firing the weapon. Sometime in 2003 or 2004, Air Force basic recruits were given "rubber duckies," (a rubber M-16) to use during certain portions of basic training.

Rubber Duckies are no more. Beginning in November 2005, recruits began receiving an M-16 replica on the first day of the first week of training (after "zero week"). The replica is exactly like the M-16 they will be expected to use in combat, except it won't fire. The replica is the same size, same weight, and has the exact same parts. The rifle-replica can be stripped and cleaned just like the real thing. It's an exact same replica, down to the small springs. To avoid confusing the replica with the real thing, the stocks on the replicas are painted blue.

After your "weapon" is issued you'll carry it with you throughout the remainder of basic training. You'll be required to treat this, just as if it were a loaded weapon, at all times. So, why doesn't the Air Force use real M-16s (other than on the firing range) in Air Force Basic? It's because real M-16s are a high-priority theft threat, and Air Force regulations require M-16s to be guarded by an armed guard, anytime they are outside of an alarmed armory.