Your journey to Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) should start months in advance before getting on the plane. You will need to pack the right gear on the day you leave, but you should also prepare physically for a rigorous training cycle, and learn basic military information (ranks, orders of the sentry, history).
You'll Be Told What to Bring
Your recruiter should help you with the physical and mental side, but they should have given you an official list of what you are allowed to take with you to basic. The list has been around for many years, and there are no exceptions to bringing things not on the list.
But, just in case, one of the first things that occurs at Lackland is a complete search of your personal possessions. Anything not approved will be confiscated and stored until after graduation.
While the instructors at Lackland Air Force Base have prepared this "official list" of items you will need at basic training, any good recruiter will tell you that one of the first things you should do with this list is lose it. Air Force Training Instructors (T.I.s) at basic training love it when everyone in their flight looks the same, acts the same, talks the same and owns the same gear.
You'll be given opportunites at regular intervals to purchase things you need throughout training at the exchange.
On day one or two after arrival, you will be taken to the Troop Mall, which is a small BX (Base Exchange) dedicated to basic training recruits. The Troop Mall has absolutely everything (for the most part) you will need to purchase for basic training, and you will find that your T.I. likes you a whole lot better if your gear looks just like everyone else's.You should only bring enough money to buy what you need initially.
Another reason to pack light is that when you graduate, you will only be allowed three bags (one carry-on and two bags that can be checked). This is true, even if your technical school is going to be at Lackland. One of those bags will be your duffle bag full of uniforms. The other will be a garment bag to carry your dress uniforms, and the third bag will have the civilian clothes and personal affects you brought with you.
Here's what I recommend you bring with you.
Important Paper Work
- College transcripts, Civil Air Patrol Certificates, and any JROTC Certificates. Actually, you won't need these at basic training, but you will 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 / ID. 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 jobs.
- Immigration card and/or naturalization certificates. (If applicable).
- Marriage license and any birth certificates for your dependents. These are required to start your housing and family separation allowances. You'll need them to obtain/complete the necessary application for dependent ID cards, which are necessary for military medical benefits, and shopping privileges.
- Social Security Card.
- Enlistment Contract. This 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").
Financial Information and Cash
- Banking Information. You'll need the name of your bank, the bank routing number, and the account number. If you bring a blank check or blank deposit slip, this will have the required information on it. This is required because the military requires your pay to be "direct-deposited" in a bank account. You'll also want to bring an ATM card for the account so that you will have easy access to your money.
- Cash. No more than about $40. You will be allowed to keep cash in your security drawer, but you will have to record the serial number in a notebook and keep that list up-to-date.
Medications and Hygiene Items
- 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 you will be re-issued the medication from the military pharmacy. 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. Over-the-counter medication is not allowed in basic training. If you bring any with you, it will be taken away.
- Toothbrush, toothbrush tray, and toothpaste/powder. Your toothbrush tray should be the square kind. If you get the round kind it will roll 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.
- Shampoo. Again, this should be a square-type bottle or tube, so it doesn't roll around in your drawer.
- Soap (bar or liquid). Keep in mind that liquid soap is easier to keep in inspection condition.
- 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.
- Shaving Equipment. You can bring/use an electric razor, but they are hard to keep clean enough to pass inspection.
- Sanitary supplies. Napkins or tampons, your choice. I would recommend only bringing a few (if you expect your menstruation within the first week), as there will be ample opportunity to purchase these at the BX.
- Brushes or Combs. More important for women. Men will only need a comb for the first day. By the second day, they won't have any hair left to comb.
Note-taking and Writing Material
- 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. The T.I. is going to want everyone to purchase the "Air Force Style" notebook at the BX.
- Envelopes. To write home. 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.
Clothing and Accessories
- Civilian Clothes. Enough to last three or four days. You will 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 will 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, you will 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.
- Underwear (male). Enough for three or four days. By Thursday or Friday of the first week, you'll be issued six pairs of boxers or briefs (your choice).
- Underwear (female). You will be required to purchase your underwear at the BX (too many different styles/sizes to issue it).
- Makeup. You are not going to be allowed to wear makeup during basic training until graduation day.
- Hair bands, bobby pins, etc. 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 those with long hair, this means tying it up in a bun. Hair bands or bobby pins must closely match the color of your hair or be clear.
- Nylons/pantyhose. You won't need these until the final week of training, so unless you're hard to fit, I 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. Anything not on the official list mentioned above can wait until after you get to basic.
Don't bring your own running shoes. Recruits are now required to wear the issued plain white running shoes that you'll purchase at the BX shortly after arrival.
Take care with what you pack. One of the very first things that's going to happen when you first meet your T.I. is that they will dump out your belongings in front of everyone and discuss anything unusual you may have brought.
Even items as innocent as a book or magazine will bring wrath ("What do you think this is, a library? Answer me!"). If you bring a book or magazine to read on the flight, leave it in the Reception area of the Airport. Try to pack clothes that have no writing, slogans, or pictures on them. This includes that neat "Air Force" T-Shirt the Recruiter gave you. (" How dare you wear a shirt that indicates you're a member of my beloved Air Force? You have NOT earned the right to wear that, yet, scum ball, and you probably never will. Answer me! ")