Unit History: Basic Combat Training School
U.S Military Unit:
Basic Training is divided into two parts: Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training . Basic Combat Training, or BCT, consists of the first 9 weeks of the total Basic Training period. It is identical for all Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard recruits. This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier, from combat techniques to the proper way to address a superior. BCT is also where individuals undergo vigorous physical training, to prepare their bodies for the eventual physical strain of combat. One of the hardest and most essential lessons learned in BCT, however, is self-discipline: BCT introduces prospective soldiers to a strict daily schedule, entailing many duties and extremely high expectations for which most civilians are not immediately ready.
Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, consists of the remainder of the total Basic Training period. It is where recruits train to eventually become experts in their chosen field, and it is therefore different for each available Army career path. For example, if an individual chose to enlist as a tank operator, they would be sent, following completion of BCT, to Armor School. If an individual instead chose to enlist as an Army medic, they would be sent, after BCT, to the Army Medical Department School. Although many AIT schools don’t center around combat the way BCT does, individuals are still subject to the same duties, strict daily schedule, and disciplinary rules as in BCT. AIT trainees are also continually tested for physical fitness and weapons proficiency.
Most recruits will attend AIT shortly after BCT. An additional option for those who enlist in the National Guard or Army Reserves and are high school juniors is the Split-Training Option. These recruits complete BCT the summer before their senior year of high school, and report to AIT shortly after graduation. Additionally, the Army suspends basic training operations during the winter holidays, causing a break in training for recruits in BCT. Unless revoked by the company commander, a recruit may choose to return home for the holidays (with the time taken out of his or her 30-day leave entitlement and paid for out of pocket), or remain on base.
Basic Combat Training
Basic Combat Training, or BCT, is a 9-week training period that is identical for all MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties). This is because the Army believes that no matter the soldier’s speciality, they should all be taught the basic skills of combat so they will be ready to properly defend themselves (as well as their fellow soliders) when and if necessary. It is divided into three phases, each phase lasting three weeks. The three phases are each represented by a color (red, white, and blue).
At some Basic Training stations, the current phase is denoted by the color of guidon carried by the platoon. Following the recruits’ successful completion of the Field Training Exercise (FTX, a final exercise just before graduation), the Phase III blue guidon is sometimes traded for a tri-color red, white, and blue guidon that symbolizes successful completion of all three BCT phases.
During Phase I or "Red Phase", recruits are subject to "Total Control", meaning their every action is monitored and constantly corrected by drill sergeants.
Week 1 begins with the recruits meeting the drill sergeants who will be responsible for their training throughout BCT. The drill sergeants pick up their recruits from Reception Battalion and either transport or march them to their company area. The company area is the common area for the entire company, and is surrounded by four barracks — one for each platoon in the company.
Upon arrival at the company area, recruits are subjected to the "bag drill". This is a training exercise in which all the recruits’ duffel bags are dumped into one large pile, and the recruits are told to find their personal duffel bags simultaneously, and within a set time limit. The exercise is designed so that the soldiers fail in their task and must keep trying again, until they realize that they must work together in order to complete the task within the time limit. Following the bag drill, the recruits are divided into platoons.
Drill & Ceremony training begins during week 1. This refers to correct procedures for marching, and body movements such as standing at attention, "facing" (right-face/left-face), "at ease," etc. For this and many other exercises, soldiers are sometimes issued fake rifles known as "rubber ducks", so that they can become familiar with the proper handling of their weapon before they have actually been trained to use it. More recently recruits have begun to be issued fully functional M16A2/A4s during the first week of BCT to allow for early familiarization with the weapon. These are replaced with "Rubber Duckies" only during notably muddy or dirty events such as the Bayonet Assault or Night Infiltration courses.
Classroom instructions are given in each of the seven "Army Core Values," which include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Note that the initials spell out the mnemonic LDRSHIP (leadership). There are also classes held on subjects that involve day-to-day personal life in the Army, such as sexual harassment and race relations.
During week 2, recruits begin unarmed combat training, also known as hand-to-hand combat, Combatives, or Ground Fighting Technique (GFT). The training often culminates in a competition where each platoon chooses one recruit to compete. At gender-integrated training stations, the platoons each choose one male and one female recruit.
Recruits are also instructed in map reading, land navigation, and compass use. These skills are put to the test at the Compass Course, where recruits are divided into groups and must navigate their way to a series of points throughout a wooded area.
Recruits will also tackle other physical challenges including Victory Tower and the Teamwork Development Course. Victory Tower is an exercise where recruits must navigate through several obstacles at extreme heights, including climbing and traversing rope ladders and bridges. They must then rappel down a 50-foot wall (back-first, with rope harness). In the Teamwork Development Course, squads must negotiate a series of obstacles, with emphasis on working as a team rather than as individuals.
First aid training is also given during this period. Recruits are trained in evaluating and properly treating casualties, ranging from the simple dressing of a wound to application of a tourniquet. Recruits are also trained in how to evaluate and treat heat casualties such as dehydration. Proper procedures for setting up and removing an IV are now being introduced, including closely supervised live practice on each other.
Recruits begin training for bayonet use using pugil sticks and then move on to the Bayonet Assault Course. Other hands-on instruction sessions include person-carrying methods and physical problem-solving.
Recruits are also commonly sent to the "gas chamber" during this week, which is a large, sealed chamber where soldiers are subjected to tear gas while wearing their protective masks. The gas chamber is the culmination of a series of instructions on gas mask use. Recruits are forced to unmask just before exiting the chamber, so that they can briefly experience the effects of the gas. Drill sergeants will usually ask each recruit to recite information while they are unmasked, such as name, rank, social security number, the Pledge of Allegiance, or the three Army general orders, so that the recruit is forced to open their mouth/eyes and/or take a breath. Recruits that answer incorrectly are sometimes sent for another trip through the gas chamber.
Week 3 is also when the recruits are introduced to their standard-issue weapon, the M16A2 assault rifle.