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How to Prepare for Basic Training: What You Need to Know to Be Ready

When you enlist in the military, you’ll often hear horror stories about getting through Basic Training, which is sometimes called “boot camp,” or just Basic for short. While Basic is one of the most physically and mentally challenging things you’ll experience, it is also one of the most important. This is where you will learn the fundamentals of your chosen branch of the Armed Forces, which will set you up for the rest of your military career. In just a few weeks you’ll go from a civilian to a servicemember, trained in not only physical fitness and hand-to-hand combat, but general orders, current chain of command, military’s core values, first aid, marksmanship, and more. And while Basic sounds incredibly daunting, there are many things that you can do to get ready and have a leg up when you arrive.

In this article we will go through how to prepare yourself, physically and mentally, as well as how to pack and get your affairs in order before you leave. Read on to discover how you can get ready for Basic Training! 

What is Basic Training?

First, let’s go over what Basic Training actually is. Basic is a 7-12 week training programming, depending on your military branch, where you learn the foundations of how to be the best servicemember you can possibly be. For the Army, the program lasts 10 weeks with four phases: Yellow, Red, White, and Blue. Below is a brief guide of what material is covered during each phase, from the Army’s official website:


  • Yellow Phase (Weeks 1-2)
    o   Core Values: Learn Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage
    o   Physical Training: Begin physical and tactical military training
    o   First Aid & Army Programs: Learn life-saving skills for combat and get briefed on sexual harassment prevention programs 
  • Red Phase (Weeks 3-4)
    o   Weaponry: Begin training with your assigned weapon
    o   Combat Skills: Learn hand-to-hand combat skills
    o   Obstacle Courses: Build confidence and teamwork by navigating obstacle courses and other terrain 
  • White Phase (Weeks 5-7)
    o   Rifle Basics: Show your skills and understanding of basic rifle marksmanship, maintenance, and target engagement
    o   Combat Development: Learn hand-to-hand training and how to prioritize multiple targets
    o   Field Training: Complete a two-day, two-night field training exercise known as The Anvil 
  • Blue Phase (Weeks 8-10)
    o   Advanced Weaponry: Learn how to handle more advanced weaponry, like machine guns and grenades
    o   Marksmanship: Continue advanced marksmanship and maneuvering
    o   Navigation Course: Carry out a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival, fitness, and Soldier skills


Throughout Basic Training you will be tested on physical skills like planks, push-ups, and how fast you can run, as well as memorizing information like general orders, current chain of command, among many other things. 

By the end of Basic you will have the “physical and mental strength to carry out the duties of a Solider,” as well as confidence and knowledge that comes with learning First Aid, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, and many other necessary skills.


Physical Conditioning for Basic Training

Physically preparing for Basic Training is one of the most important things that you can do, and not something to overlook. While it’s true that any fitness level is accepted as long as you meet your branch’s height and weight requirements, you’ll still want to start preparing your body before you set foot in boot camp. The more fit you are when you start, the less of a physical and mental hurdle it will be for you to complete the required exercises.  

There is no one right way to workout in order to prepare for Basic. Depending on your starting point, your areas of focus will vary. The most important muscle systems to develop are the upper body, especially the shoulder girdle, as well as your core. Everyday exercises during Basic Training include planks, sit-ups, and push-ups, among others. It is also not uncommon for a small infraction to result in having to “drop” and do 10-20 push-ups, so you will constantly be in need to shoulder and core strength. 

You’ll also need to work on running and stamina. It is highly recommended to speak with your doctor when you’re planning a workout regimen. They can help you set realistic goals and reduce the risk of injury. 

You don’t need to belong to a gym or have workout equipment at the ready in order to prepare for Basic. Some of the best exercises you can do involve only body weight, and if you don’t have dumbbells or other weights you can improvise with common household objects like a gallon of milk from your fridge. And don’t forget to run! Do the exercises you’ve chosen until they are too difficult, and then stop. 

You don’t want to strain yourself. Once you’ve set a baseline for how many repetitions you can do of each exercise, and how far you can run, set realistic and measurable goals. Don’t expect to be able to do double overnight but keep at it and track your progress. 

Time yourself too, because you’re timed during Basic, and it will help to be used to that kind of measurement. Record where you started so that you can see how much you improve, and use that to motivate yourself to keep going.

Tips for Working Out: 


  • Always warm-up and cool down. Your body needs time to transition into rigorous training, and not doing so can result in injury. 
  • Don’t go for the most challenging workouts right away. It is better to start slowly and build up the intensity.
  • Listen to your body and know when to stop. It’s important to push yourself, but you don’t want to risk an injury. 
  • Don’t forget to hydrate! The more you work out, the more water you’ll need to drink.


 Preparing for basic training


Other Considerations for Physically Preparing

Working out is an incredibly important part of physically preparing, but there are other considerations you need to make regarding your overall health.


Anyone who has gone through Basic Training will tell you how valuable sleep is. When your days begin at 04:30 and end at 21:00, you need to maximize every moment of sleep you can get, so it’s best to start early. If you know what time zone you’ll be in for Basic Training, you can begin to adjust your sleep schedule to match that location, so you won’t have to deal with jet lag when you arrive. If the time zone is drastically different than where you are currently, start by shifting the time you fall asleep and wake up by a half hour every few days. 

Even if you’re not sure what time zone you’ll be sent to, practice spending roughly six hours and 30 minutes in bed each night. If you’re able to get accustomed to this before you head off to boot camp, it won’t be such a shock to your system when you arrive.

Nutrition & Health

While you’re at Basic you’re given three meals per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), which are all nutritionally balanced in order to support the physical demands of training. There are no snacks, and there are no alcoholic drinks allowed. If you’re a fan of drinking alcohol, eating snacks between meals, or having lots of sugary sweets, you’ll need to start working on those habits before you get to Basic Training, or you’ll have a more difficult time transitioning in the first few weeks. 

It’s essential to incorporate the right amount of protein and vegetables into your diet, especially as you ramp up your physical activity. You may want to consult your doctor to discuss what kinds of meals are preferable while you’re preparing for Basic Training.

Additionally, if you are a smoker, you may want to seriously consider quitting tobacco or nicotine use altogether prior to starting Basic Training. Smoking is officially discouraged in the military, and all tobacco and related products are banned during Basic, so if you wait to quit until you arrive you’ll end up experiencing withdrawal while going through boot camp, which is not a recipe for success. All that aside, your overall health, lung capacity, and stamina will improve if you quit using tobacco or nicotine products, making it easier to get through the rigors of Basic Training. If you’re interested in quitting, this is another area where your doctor may have useful insight on how you can best achieve that goal.

Mental and Emotional Preparation

While movies and television tend to dramatize the experience at boot camp, there are still mental and emotional challenges to prepare for. The first challenge that comes to mind for most people is overcoming the difficulty of being yelled at by drill sergeants and instructors. While the media has played up just how tough those instructors can be, it is true that they are harsh, and they will scold and criticize you in front of others. A way to combat this is to constantly remind yourself that the purpose of that kind of treatment is to help you perform well under pressure. When you’re deployed around the world you may be under high levels of stress, and you will be expected to remain level-headed and able to make informed decisions. You have to adopt a tough mentality and be prepared for adversity.

You’ll also have to improvise and adapt to difficult situations. If you’re someone who doesn’t handle change well, it’s good to start working on those reflexes before you enter Basic Training. There are lots of ways that you can learn to change your cognitive cycles, but it starts by telling yourself that you can do it. One exercise that combines mental and physical preparation is to randomly select the amount of repetitions of an exercise you’ll do, or the distance you’ll run that day. Cut up some numbers and throw them in a hat or use a random number generator to determine your workout that day. Make the numbers reasonable but challenging, and whichever number you pull is what you will do that day. Try not to have an opinion about the number you pull, but just continue to repeat that you can handle it. You’ll be amazed how quickly little mental exercises like this can change your whole perspective.

One thing that helps many servicemembers is reminding themselves why they chose this path. Basic Training is hard, and you may question if this is really right for you. Determine why you’re joining the Armed Forces, whether that is to protect your country, serve others, improve your life, or just challenge yourself. Once you’ve determined your reason, let it become your mantra. It is essential to connect back to this ethos throughout your time at boot camp. When the going gets tough, remind yourself of why you’re here in the first place, and allow that to reinspire and reinvigorate you to keep pushing forward.

And don’t forget that this is temporary. Basic Training is one of the most difficult things you can do, but you can do it! Every active servicemember or veteran you’ve ever met got through it, and so will you. 

Research and Familiarization

Another way to mentally prepare for Basic Training is to start familiarizing yourself with some of the information you’ll need to learn when you arrive. It might surprise you, but you’ll spend nearly as much time learning in a classroom as you will out in the hot sun. You will take a vocational test while in Basic to see where you best fit within the military, and there is studying required for this. Additionally, you will take written tests on topics such as first-aid procedures, protocols, customs and courtesies, weapon handlings, and more. 

While you’re preparing to enter Basic Training, make sure to read up on your branch of the military and learn all you can. Look at who the current leadership is, brush up on current events as well as history; you’ll often find some of the best inspiration in past battles, and learn amazing leadership skills from famous generals and war heroes.

Below we’ve listed a few things you should consider familiarizing yourself with: 


  • NATO/Military phonetic alphabet (A-alpha, B-Bravo, C-Charlie, etc.)
  • Military time (0:00 – 24:00) 
  • How to identify military rank
  • Soldier’s Creed 
  • Code of Conduct
  • Core values of your chosen branch 


Organizing Personal Affairs

Before you leave for Basic Training you will need to get your personal affairs in order. First and foremost, this means getting your finances taken care of, or setting up a plan for while you’re unavailable, but it also means getting your loved ones ready for your absence.


First, you’ll need to sort out your financial situation. While you’re away from home you will still be expected to pay your credit card, phone, rent, utilities, and other bills. This is especially important because if left unattended, unpaid bills can affect your credit score or go to collections. You need to be in good financial standing in order to receive certain security clearances after passing Basic Training, so you don’t want to let this go to the wayside. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we recommend planning ahead. Contact your different providers let them know that you will be in Basic Training. Often times, cell phone companies can suspend your plan until you return from training so that you don’t have to worry about those bills. Credit cards and other bills may be able to be set to automatic payments, but there are some bills that you will have to pay regardless.

To pay your bills while you’re gone, you’ll need to have someone trusted in your life who you can give access to your accounts. It is most recommended to have this person be a spouse or trusted family member, since they will be handling your sensitive information and have access to your bank account. Create a list of the different bills that will need to be paid, along with each due date, and show this person how to pay each charge, whether it’s electronically or by physically mailing a check. Make sure to also leave an emergency number so that they can get a message to you if there is a problem with payment. 

Communication with Family & Friends

You will need to let your family and friends know that while you’re in Basic Training, you will be very hard to reach. Most boot camps will allow you to bring your cell phone with you, but you will not be allowed to keep it on you. Typically, you’ll be allowed phone calls on Sundays, but this varies, and those calls are timed. Everyone misses their family and friends when they’re in Basic, so make the most of those phone calls you get to rejuvenate you. But make sure that your loved ones know that contact will be brief.

If a family emergency, such as death or serious illness of an immediate family member, tell your family to contact the Red Cross. This is the fastest way to get the message to you, as the Red Cross will verify the emergency and then contact your command. Trying to contact you directly will not be sufficient because the military only accepts emergencies that are verified by the Red Cross. Once verified, your command will arrange for you to have emergency leave to go home.

  Preparing for basic training

What to Pack for Basic Training

When you’re physically and mentally ready for Basic Training, and you have all of your affairs in order, you’ll need to pack what to bring with you. Keep in mind that while you’re at Basic it may be hard for you to get additional items because you’ll only have access to what is sold on base, or what your family and friends send you, so you’ll need to make sure you have all the essentials. You’ll also need specific documents so that the military can identify you upon arrival.

Documents to Bring

Below we’ve outlined the essential documents to bring, but make sure to check with your recruiter. 


  • Identification: you will need to have all of your identifying documents such as social security card, bank card, and your state identification. It is also recommended to bring a certified copy of your birth certificate. 
  • Military Orders: whenever you travel for the military, you are issued orders that command you to report for duty. 
  • Direct deposit form: in order to receive payment from the Armed Forces, you will need to bring a direct deposit form so that your paycheck can be deposited directly in your bank account. You can talk to your recruiter to get a form or get a blank one from your bank. Make sure to bring a blank check so you have your account and routing numbers, as well as your bank’s information, or print that information from your account on the bank’s website. 
  • Prescriptions: This includes medical prescriptions and eyeglass prescriptions. Unfortunately, if you wear contacts you will not be able to do so while in Basic Training, so also make sure to bring your glasses with you. The military will usually issue you new glasses to wear, but you will need to be able to see until those are available.
  • Other essential documents: These will vary depending on your situation, but include transcripts for college, and information regarding your spouse and dependents. If you have additional documents related to citizenship, bring those as well. 

Personal Items to Pack

If you need additional items while you’re on base, you’ll be limited to what is available there, which means you may not be able to get your favorite brands or you’ll have to wait for your friends and family to send them to you. So, make sure you pack everything you need – but don’t overdo it! You won’t have much space to call your own, so still to the essentials. 


  • Required Items for Men & Women
    o   1-2 changes of civilian clothes (it can take a few days for everyone to arrive and for uniforms to be issued)
    o   Personal hygiene kit (shampoo, conditioner, brush/comb, body wash, shaving needs, toothbrush & paste, nail clippers, etc.)
    o   Underwear (& bras for women) o   2 combination locks 
  • Optional Items for Men & Women
    o   2 plain towels o   Stationary & stamps
    o   White calf-length socks with no logos or color
    o   Shower shoes
    o   Address book
    o   Bootkit
    o   Running shoes (check regulations)
    o   Laundry detergent
    o   Absorbent powder
    o   Black marker (for labelling your items)
    o   Calling cards (so your friends & relatives don’t have to accept charges when you call) 
  • Additional Optional Items for Women
    o   Hair ties & pins (must match the color of your hair)
    o   Feminine hygiene items  

There are also several things you should make sure that you do NOT pack, as these will be considered contraband. 


  • Items to NOT Pack
    o   Knives
    o   Pornographic material
    o   Tobacco/Nicotine products & lighters
    o   Products containing alcohol
    o   Medication not prescribed or approved by military medical personnel
    o   Magazines or newspapers
    o   Large bulky items
    o   Jewelry other than your wedding band
    o   Food


While Basic Training is a daunting endeavor, it’s important to know that there are ways you can prepare yourself for the utmost success. From physical and mental exercises, to getting your affairs in order, to making sure you pack everything you need, if you plan ahead, you’ll be sure to put your best foot forward. Basic Training is one of the most challenging and difficult things you can do, but you will get through it, and when you come out on the other side you will be more than ready for your career in the Armed Forces. 






From all of us at Garmont, we commend you for enlisting and taking this first step toward the rest of your military career. Though you can’t wear our boots during Basic Training, we know you’ll need strong boots to carry you beyond. Our Tactical Collection was designed with the Armed Forces in mind, built to withstand tough terrain and demanding field conditions without compromising on comfort. No matter where you get assigned, we have boots to fit your needs. Whether you want boots to support you across vast terrain, keep you quick and agile on your feet, or protect you from the elements, we have you covered!