What I wish I knew before I went to Air Force Basic Training

As a current Airman, I know how confusing it can be heading off to basic training and really not knowing what’s about to happen or what you need to know. Here’s my list of what I wish I knew before I went to Air Force Basic Training.

What do I need to know before I leave for Air Force Basic Training?

The first thing you need to know is the reporting statement:

“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee [Last Name] reports as ordered.”

Be sure to say it in this exact manner with your own last name. This will be the first thing out of your mouth every time you talk to a Military Training Instructor (MTI). Be sure to note that it is ‘reports’ not ‘reporting’ – you will be sure to hear this at some point during the first few weeks, so try not to laugh at the MTI’s quip back! Learn more helpful tips about what to learn before heading to Air Force Basic Training.

Can I bring religious material to BMT?

The answer is yes. Trainees are also afforded the opportunity to attend religious service on Sundays every week. These services range from the Latter Day Saints to the Wiccans. Bibles or other form of scripture may be kept in your wall locker’s personal drawer.

Any jewelry worn must be concealed underneath your shirt. I do not recommend wearing any rings as they will hinder you in your daily activity (A lot of married members either don’t wear their ring during basic or wear it on a chain around their neck; the soft rubber ring option is also a good alternative).

Even if you are not particularly religious, all of these services are still available to you. I am curious by nature and visited several other services to broaden my horizons. And if you have any concerns or personal issues during any portion of basic training, the Chaplain is available to you at all times.

Again, this is available for every person from any faith or no faith. The Chaplain services start and stop at the Chaplain – this means that anything you tell the Chaplain is confidential and will not affect you or your BMT experience. It is only if you wish to reveal this information or utilize other military services that it leaves the Chaplain’s office.

Can I bring ‘X’ item to basic training?

Apart from the items I’ve listed in my previous blog on Air Force Packing List, you will most likely have to throw the item away or pack it into your civilian bag and not see it again until the end of training. Things that you will be permitted to have (But be sure to talk to your recruiter or MTI upon arrival – of course with your reporting statement) should be things like your retainers or contact lenses. Anything else like extra shoes that aren’t your running shoes or your wallet will be stored away until the end of training. Again, contact lenses should only be worn if you do not have any glasses and will not be worn once you are given issued glasses. Your cellphone will be stored separately in a lock box and kept with the MTIs in Charge of Quarters (CQ). CQ is a location where there will always be an MTI on duty, so don’t worry about your social media feeds; they will be there when you get back.

Do I need to know the Air Force Creed before I go?

You will certainly learn it quickly once you get to basic training but I’d advise learning it before you leave.  The creed embodies what it means to be an Airman, the oath you made when you decided to wear the uniform, and the promise you made to your fellow Airmen and country:

I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.

I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.

I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.

I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.

How do I keep contact with family or friends at Air Force Basic Training?

Beyond the first phone call to your family to tell them you are alright and give them your mailing address, it will be a while before you hear their voices again. So you will have to go back to the ‘archaic’ form of letter writing.

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On the plus side, the Sandboxx app makes this easy and has brought letters into the 21st century. By simply downloading the app or accessing the website, your family and friends can type up a letter and get letters to you the next day with overnight shipping from FedEx if you send it by 1700 Eastern time! This allows you to quickly connect with your loved ones as a return envelope and stationary is included.

Trust me on this one, you’ll want to have this in your life during BMT. There is a sort of emotional let down every time mail call happens and you get nothing while you stare at the trainee across from you who received six letters. And no, no one reads your letters – that’s illegal. But if there happens to be something amusing in the addressing line that the MTI can read… that’s free game.

Can I get sent packages?

I would refrain from sending your member anything outside of perhaps money or gift cards and even then, they will be provided everything they need. There isn’t a need for any of these things during BMT and more than likely an MTI will confiscate it or have the trainee experience an upset stomach if you sent them any perishables (The old, ‘You’ve got 30 seconds to eat all of it’). Anything that is needed by the trainee will be provided for them while they are at basic; for small scrapes, they have band aids; for aching feet, they have boot inserts; for itchy throats, they have cough drops.

Even if the member falls ill, they will attend sick call and be cared for. If it is a case that is beyond a few lozenges, then, unfortunately, they will most likely be rolled back into a new flight after spending some time at medical. But worry not, these are very rare instances and usually are more related to serious injuries than anything else.

How to make your bed for basic training?

There is one essential skill that everyone will need to know: making your bed. I know I used to be in the faction of jumping out of bed and heading out for the day; besides, you’re going to mess it up again anyway, right? Think again! You will be making your bed every day during BMT. You’re welcome, parents and guardians: you now know that your loved one will be fully capable of making their own bed after BMT – dreams do come true!

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The essential thing you should know is how to make a proper hospital corner. This is a method in which you fold the sheets under the mattress in a manner which creates a crisp, 45-degree angle that is tight and neatly tucked so that nothing could get into your bed without you knowing.

If you can’t manage this, prepare to get your mattress flipped! This doesn’t mean that you become a pro and pat yourself on the back, either. If your wingman has some jacked up hospital corners, this probably means that your whole flight is going to be tearing sheets off their beds and starting from the beginning. In this case, it really pays to show the way.

What if I joined as Open General?

This means that you will be learning what your operational position will be during training. Preceding this, you will be given a list of jobs available to your based on your Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score in conjunction with any limiting factors based on your physical examination.  You then get to rank the jobs available to you by preference.

But be aware that the needs of the Air Force take precedence over your personal desires; like how I wanted to be Combat Camera but instead became a Digital Network Exploitation Analyst. Don’t be discouraged! Within every job lies an opportunity that you can seize. Having been in the operational Air Force for two years, I can say that I’m glad I got the job I have and I can’t wait to see what it will provide in the future.

What if I have a dietary restriction?

The food provided at the dining facility (DFAC) is a wide array of proteins, seafood, vegetables, fruit, and grain that should be able to provide for just about any dietary restriction. Though some may find it more difficult than others, it is definitely viable to join with these things in mind. In my experience, I’ve met several vegetarians and even vegans who have braved BMT and came out just fine.

With three square meals a day and mandatory hydration, you will be receiving enough nutrition to support the vigorous training you will be enduring. Meals are mandatory. You will not starve. The BMT environment is meant to push your limits and mold you into Airmen, not to break you down and crush you. Who else offers Gatorade for every meal of the day? But do not expect to have any luxuries such as snacks or caffeine.

My advice to those joining the Air Force

Honestly, it just comes down to caring about more than yourself. You chose to join and put on the uniform. You decided to be more than someone in the crowd. Sure, maybe your dad told you it was this or kick rocks. Maybe this was the last option you had or you were on the streets. But this is the option that, in the end, was your own choice. If you choose to change your mind in the middle of it all and decide you made the wrong choice, that is your choice. You can quit and go home. It is a long process. The only thing left would be disappointment.

You took a spot that someone else truly was willing to sacrifice their life for. You gave up the oath you swore before you even started. You threw away the opportunity that someone who isn’t even qualified due to age or ability wasn’t even able to take. Think about this before you decide to commit to something that is bigger than yourself. If you don’t have to conviction to truly uphold and fight for the freedom, liberty, and justice that the United States of America is built upon, walk away. But if you do, I welcome you. Welcome Brother. Welcome Sister.

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