Military Life Resources Basic Training

4 Tips for recruits to remember as they ship off to basic training

You can prepare for basic training in a way to get through relatively unscathed, unscarred and maybe even with an honor graduate award.
Recruit getting a boot camp hair cut.
A Coast Guard recruit has his head shaved as part of his basic training aboard Training Center Cape May. (USCG Photo/CWO Donnie Brzuska).

There isn’t much foundational knowledge you need to know when going off to boot camp for the first time. After all, that’s kinda the whole point of basic training: to get everyone joining a certain branch of the military onto the same level playing field before they go out into the “real” military. But there are a few things you can remember to prepare for basic training that will help you get through relatively unscathed, unscarred and maybe even with an honor graduate award.

Not all branches of the service are the same, and as a result, their basic training experience varies wildly. There are a few simple points that are universal and can be applied to every branch and even training beyond basic. The best part is, they’re really easy to remember.

Here are 4 tips for recruits to remember as they ship off to basic training

1. Don’t lie

The word “integrity” can be found in every branch’s creed, motto, mission or values. You’re going to be learning about individual integrity at some point. In basic training, the fundamental aspect of displaying integrity is not to lie, even when not lying is going to result in an embarrassing confrontation with your Drill Instructor, RDC or whatever your branch calls the person training you.

Did you store your dirty laundry in your wall locker? Own up to it. Did you forget to bring an important item? You sure did. Did you lose your rifle? Chances are good your drill sergeant stole it because you weren’t watching and already knows you did. So confess that you did, do your push-ups and thank whatever God you believe in you didn’t lie, because the outcome is always much worse.

A group of soldiers standing on bleachers and learning how to salute while in basic training.
A group of soldiers learning how to salute while in basic training. (US Army photo by Robin Hicks)

2. “The Basic Training Way”

You will be taught a number of things that seem ridiculously complicated for the task at hand. You’ll learn new ways to fold shirts, new ways to make a bed and new ways to clean things. They are all convoluted and weird and definitely not the easiest or most efficient. Shut up and learn to do it this way anyway. Why? Because they told you to.

It’s not about folding your socks in a better way, it’s about learning attention to detail and paying attention to the way things are done, even if there’s an easier way. You do things the military way because it won’t get you killed. Cutting corners in basic training will earn you push-ups. Cutting corners in a war could cost lives.

3. You aren’t doing it alone

Are you really good at some of the absurd ways you learned to do things? Maybe you’re in good shape because you were on the cross-country team in high school and have some running tips for those who weren’t. Maybe you finish your tasks faster than others. If any of that is true, take the time to help someone in your training unit or the unit as a whole – there’s always something that needs to be done.

Not only will your training instructor see it, but this is going to be the story of your entire military career. Some people will just not be as capable as you are in some ways. So help them out. Eventually, the least capable person will be you, and you’ll be wishing someone was there to give you a hand.

Marine recruits run through water in the Day Movement Course during Basic Warrior Training.
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, run the Day Movement Course during Basic Warrior Training, at Paige Field on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 7, 2019.

4. Perception is reality

In the civilian world, you grew up in a system where you could defend yourself with a proper explanation. In the military world, that explanation is just an excuse for poor judgment. If you think you’re in a situation that you think could be misconstrued, such as being left alone with a recruit of the opposite gender with the door closed, then you’re probably right and you should change it or leave it entirely.

The military world runs under a different set of laws and understanding, and the outcomes of those situations aren’t always fair and the punishments aren’t always evenly applied. So always make sure you’re always correct and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Once you get a bad feeling, it’s time to walk away.