Air Force Basic Training: Everything You Need to Know (2021 Edition)
Congratulations on beginning your journey to become a United States Airman. You’re probably feeling excited, proud, and more than likely a little nervous. In the midst of all the final preparation and last-minute packing, life might be getting a little crazy right now. Embarking on any new career can be stressful, but this one especially involves taking on more than what most people face throughout civilian life. It’s going to require a lot of fortitude and courage to meet these future challenges head on. The best friend you could possibly have is a complete guide to what happens next. Because knowledge is the first step. Knowing what you’re up against provides you with the means to defeat it. Read on to learn all about Air Force Basic Training and set yourself up for success.
Know what you are looking for? Click the section to jump right to some of the most frequently asked questions and information!
1. Training Requirements
2. How Long is Basic Training?
3. Where is Basic Training?
4. Do You Get Paid?
5. What Can You Bring?
6. Training Phases (Week 1-8)
7. All About Graduation
8. Family Resources
Air Force Basic Training Requirements
Air Force Basic Training, also called Basic Military Training or BMT, is the first assignment you’ll have after joining up. The most important thing you can do to help yourself before leaving for BMT is to get into decent physical shape. Your cardiovascular and musculature health is going to be taxed to the max during the several weeks of exercises and tests, and going in with a solid workout routine already under your belt will give you a serious advantage over your peers. At the start of BMT there will be an initial assessment.
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Men are expected to be able to run 1.5 miles in less than 18:30 and have a 39-inch waist at maximum. Women are expected to run the same distance in 21:35 and have a 35.5-inch waist.
1.5 miles in less than 18:30 | 39-inch waist at maximum.
1.5 miles in 21:35 | 35.5-inch waist.
At the end of BMT, physical fitness standards for men are a 1.5 mile run in 11:57, 42 sit-ups in one minute (39 for ages 30-39), 27 push-ups in one minute at all ages, and a 35-inch waist. Women will graduate if they can run 1.5 miles in 14:26, perform 38 sit-ups in one minute (29 for ages 30-39), 18 push-ups in one minute (14 for ages 30-39), and have a 31.5-inch waist.
Post BMT Physical Fitness Standards
- Men – 1.5 mile run in 11:57 | 42 sit-ups in 1 minute (39 for ages 30-39) | 27 push-ups in 1 minute (all ages) | 35-inch waist
- Women – 1.5 miles in 14:26 | 38 sit-ups in 1 minute (29 for ages 30-39) | 18 push-ups in 1 minute (14 for ages 30-39) | 31.5-inch waist.
So you think you have what it takes to pass? Put your endurance to the test and explore the Air Force’s fitness requirements in our latest blog!
Download the Delayed Entry Program App
The Air Force offers an app to help you prepare for their physical and dietary requirements. It’s called the Delayed Entry Program App, and you can find it on the App Store and the Google Play Store. Showing up to BMT without physical preparation will likely result in a mandated diet and exercise program. So keep yourself moving in your daily life about six months before you leave so that you’ll be used to daily workouts in addition to classroom time and other duties.
Smoking and Drinking
Make sure to cut down on any drinking or smoking. Not only because this will work against your ability to keep in shape, but because tobacco use is prohibited. Illicit drug use will be screened through drug testing when you arrive.
Another thing you can do to prepare yourself is to become fluent in military time. The Air Force uses a 24-hour clock in order to be very precise and avoid confusion. Knowing that 22:30 is really 10:30 pm might keep you from scrubbing the latrines with your toothbrush someday.
How Long is Air Force Basic Training?
BMT is eight and a half weeks long. Each week begins a new phase of training. You’ll be put through your paces in new and exciting ways every seven days. You’ll only get a few short weeks to make the physical fitness requirements, so it’s vital that you come prepared.
Due to COVID-19, the Air Force is changing up the way it does things. For one thing, BMT is currently 7 weeks long. Social distancing and other precautions are enforced to keep you and others safe.
Where is Air Force Basic Training?
Lackland Air Force Base is the site of every recruit’s BMT. And Lackland AFB is a part of Joint Base San Antonio. You’ll travel to the hot and humid state of Texas and join tens of thousands of your newest nearest and dearest friends in the 37th Training Wing of the U.S. Air Force.
Lackland Air Force Base
6639 Sabine Pass
San Antonio, TX 78242
Phone: 1 (210) 671-1110
Do You Get Paid for Basic Training?
Pay for BMT depends upon your rank. Every enlisted recruit starts out as an E1, and can expect an annual salary of around $20,000.
After BMT, there are many opportunities for extra pay on top of your annual salary, and any promotions you receive will also mean more pay.
What to Bring to Basic Training Air Force?
The Air Force provides many basics for all recruits who arrive for basic training, including:
- Nail clippers
- And more.
Below is a list of other items that will make your time in BMT go much smoother:
- Temperature-appropriate clothing
- Glasses, along with your prescription
- One belt
- One regular watch
- Running shoes
- Hair gel
- Shaving cream
- Body wash
- Feminine hygiene products
- Banking information
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Enlistment contract
- Marriage license and birth certificates for your dependents
- Alien card or naturalization certificate
- Visitor Access Request Letter for anyone attending your graduation without a military ID
- Contact information for family and emergency contacts
- Debit card
- Cell phone and charger
Other items that you may want to bring:
- Personal notebook or journal
Do not bring these items to BMT:
- Tobacco products
- Electronic devices
- Smart watches
- Non-prescription medication
- Other items of value that can’t be replaced
Tobacco products are forbidden at BMT, as is personal food and drink items. Everything you’ll need to satiate you is provided already. Jewelry, electronics, and other high value items can’t be 100% secured and as such are better left at home. Bring clothing that errs on the conservative side. The rules stipulate that you must be dressed appropriately at all times. Military-issue glasses will be provided based on your prescription. Contacts are allowed, but only until your glasses are given to you, so don’t bother bringing a year’s supply because you won’t be wearing them. In addition to the above, National Guard and Reserve recruits will need to bring two copies of their orders and Common Access Cards as well.
Air Force Basic Training Phases
You know the requirements to begin with and what you’ll want to bring with you. But at this point, you’re probably wondering what is basic training like? Or, what’s the Air Force basic training workout routine? In brief, it involves a lot of physical activity and classroom time, and not a lot of sleep. You’ll be up and at physical training (PT) by 0500 6 days a week. A great deal of the time you’ll want to be up before 0430 to take care of any details like keeping your hair in regulation, since this is the only time you’ll have to do it. PT staggers strength and running days, so you’ll never be using the exact movements two days in a row.
Here’s a detailed schedule of what to expect week by week.
Week 0 is a lot like the first day of school. It’s the adjustment period where you’re shown what’s expected of you for your time in BMT and given the tools to succeed. One of the first things that’ll happen is that you’ll attend a briefing with the 737th Training Group and be assigned to your Military Training Instructor (MTI). You’ll snag your Air Force-provided gear, get educated on how to use it, and how to fall in during drill. You’ll be given a primer on how to make your bed to standard, clean your shoes, and keep the rest of your outfit looking sharp. This is also when you’re given a rundown on the physical requirements of BMT.
In terms of medical, there will be a general health checkup and blood work, along with vaccinations. You’ll get a phone call home to update everyone rooting for you in the wings. And, of course, you’ll get your haircut. Say goodbye to those beautiful flowing locks and get ready to work.
And now it begins. Monday of Week 1 brings with it the initial physical assessment to show your MTI where you stand. Hopefully, you’ve been training at home and are ready to bring it. You’ll learn how to report and salute, check in to base, fold your clothes and sheets to military standards, how to recognize rank, what will be expected of you in the classroom, and more. Week 1 is also when your weapon is assigned and analyzed. This is also the time for introductory classes on behavioral expectations and successful integration into your training group, and will include lessons on topics like appearance, cultural sensitivity, and suicide prevention. Week 1 begins individual and group drills. This is when the real fun begins.
Week 2 takes the pace up a notch. Here you’ll dive further into classroom learning and drill. You’ll start with the history of the Air Force and its organization. You’ll be given detailed career guidance and have the opportunity to figure out what it is you want to do with your time as an airman. You’ll also be tested on the information you absorbed in Week 1. The MTI will ask you to demonstrate weapon care and maintenance, and they’ll inspect your living quarters to make sure you’re meeting regulations so far. You’ll learn more about professional interaction with your peers and what’s expected of you in an Air Force environment and participate in team-building exercises. Drill exercises will teach you how to move crisply as a group, with weapons and without, and teach postures and movements like parade rest, present arms, fix bayonets, and more. PT will continue to ramp up, with strength days increasing in reps and intensity.
Week 3 is a big one. This is when you’ll demonstrate your fitness level and how far you’ve come in PT. This is called the 3 Week of Training (WOT) PT appraisal. If you aren’t up to snuff, it’s very possible that you could be held back or transferred in order to start training all over again. Classroom sessions will turn to topics like basic leadership and character, cyber awareness, and public relations. Week 3 is when extra duty begins. These are team tasks like laundry, chow running, inspecting beds, guarding the roads during exercises, and dorm monitor. These positions may be volunteered for or assigned to you by your MTI. You’ll also be assigned your dress uniform in Week 3 and shown how to look your absolute best with it on.
In Week 4 you’ll be learning about important topics like sexual assault prevention and reporting, STIs, environmental awareness, ethics, and more. You’ll be instructed on Air Force career and progression possibilities and financial preparation for the future. Leadership and mentorship training will continue, with the overall goal to help you become a responsible team player and potential future leader.
Intro to combatives in Week 5 begins hand-to-hand combat training. Here you’ll practice techniques taken from a variety of martial arts that have been adapted for military use in the field. Your progress with overall skills development will be measured, including another look at your weapons and weapons maintenance know-how. Classroom time will focus on preparation for combat and include topics like the Air Force code of ethics and combat stress recovery.
Welcome to your final PT assessment. This is when you’ll have to meet the fitness requirements or be held back from graduation. Hopefully, you’ve made excellent progress so far and this last appraisal will prove that. Week 6 is when Foundational Expeditionary Skills Training (FEST) takes place, which introduces recruits to the skills they’ll need to utilize on deployment. You’ll also be learning about chemical, biological, radiation, and nuclear defense.
Week 7 is BEAST Week, or Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training. In order to demonstrate everything you’ve learned so far and your readiness to use those skills in a combat environment, you’ll be taken to a training field in the western part of Lackland AFB for a simulated deployment experience. Recruits will defend their respective zones against attacks that will mimic chemical, guerilla, or conventional weapons and tactics. Zones are equipped with sleeping quarters, command tents, and field hospitals. Your day will begin at 0445 and include daily intelligence briefings, manning defensive firing positions, and guarding camp. Week 7 will also introduce recruits to the pugil stick, the padded quarterstaff or box that’s been popularized in movies about BMT and in game shows.
Week 8 is a time for celebration, but also preparation. You’ll be graduating from BMT and finishing any last-minute requirements, participating in final briefings, ceremonies, and parades, and finding yourself relieved that the whole ordeal is coming to an end. At the same time though, it’s time to get ready for what comes next in your Air Force career. You’ll accept your orders and find out where you’ll be stationed for the foreseeable future. Your family will come out to support you during the open house and graduation ceremony, and give you the support you’ll need to move forward with your journey as an airman.
Air Force Basic Training Graduation
Graduation occurs on a Friday, and the weekend following is filled with events for the family. This is a special time for airmen when they receive any awards or honors they achieved in BMT. Guests must pass a background check and have a photo ID in order to enter the base. Guests will also need insurance and registration information for their vehicles. Remember when we listed a Visitor Access Request Letter as something to bring with you? Here’s when that form comes in handy. All guests will enter Lackland AFB through Airman’s Gate. No pets are allowed, with the exception of service animals.
Because of COVID-19, graduation is a little different right now. The ceremony itself will be livestreamed until further notice.
Family members are often concerned about the health and safety of their loved one in basic training. For them, knowing what to expect during this time too will ease some of the stress and help them understand what you’re going through.
How to Contact Someone During Basic Training
Families and friends can contact airmen via phone, video chat, email, and messaging. The Air Force also offers Air Force Friends and Family Instant Messaging (AFIM), a service for seamless communication through the Air Force Portal.
What Can I Send Someone During Basic Training?
If you’re looking to send something to your airman to boost their spirits or show your support, good old fashioned letters are still the best way to go. Care packages are discouraged during BMT, and might even have a negative effect on morale for the rest of the training group. Airmen are provided with anything they might need, anyway. And who doesn’t love getting letters in the mail? It’s a rarity and a delight. Go here to find your airman’s training squadron and the mailing address where you can contact them. If you need more help, you can call the reception desk at 1 (210) 671-3024.
What to Wear to Basic Training Graduation?
Guests can arrive casually or in formal wear. Graduates will be wearing their dress uniforms, the most formal military dress there is. You may want to match them with suits and gowns to show your support, but it isn’t necessary to do so.
Air Force BMT isn’t easy. It will take all of your fortitude and wherewithal to make it through. Taking advantage of the resources the Air Force provides is vital. Remember your training in stress relief and mental preparation. And keep close contact with those in your support network at home. Make sure to come prepared in the first place, and don’t wait until you’re about to leave to try to get in shape. Basic training will test you, and you’re going to find out a lot about yourself through these 8 and a half weeks. But when you make it through, you’ll be a better person and citizen with a healthy grasp on what it takes to make it in the Air Force. Good luck, future airman.
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