Army Basic Training: Everything You Need to Know (2021 Edition)
Congratulations! You’ve signed on the dotted line, taken the oath and dedicated yourself to becoming Army strong. Being a soldier in the U.S. armed forces is one of the most noble acts of service in our nation, one that will shape your mind, body and spirit for the rest of your life.
But in order to tell your warrior story, you’ve got to start at the beginning: Army Basic Combat Training, aka Army boot camp. It’s here that you’ll build the foundation for your Army career, learning skills such as how to march, repel and handle weapons, proper dress and grooming standards as well as the real-world meanings of discipline, teamwork and the Army’s core values.
Army Basic Training is both physically and mentally demanding, but knowing what to expect before you get there will help you start off on the right foot for your Army journey. And at some point during basic, you’ll be grateful for any leg up you can get.
Know what you are looking for? Click the section to jump right to some of the most frequently asked questions and information!
Army Basic Training Requirements
You wouldn’t show up for your driver’s license test without being able to parallel park, right? Then hopefully you figured out that building up your physical strength before you step into formation for the first time is probably a wise move. You can expect those standards to be tested during Week Zero, also known as Reception Battalion. If you don’t pass this initial test, you’ll be placed in the fitness training company for additional instruction. You’ll have two chances per week to pass the test.
The official Army website offers a guide to help recruits and soldiers train for the physical fitness tests they’ll face in basic and throughout their careers. You can also download the Army’s Pocket Physical Training Guide online for tips on clothing, how to avoid injuries, conditioning drills and more.
You’ll be tested in other physical ways during your reception week too, but there isn’t a lot of studying you can do for vision, hearing and blood exams, among others. However, being in the best physical shape you can before basic even starts will be an advantage you’ll appreciate from Day 1.
So you think you have what it takes to pass? Put your endurance to the test and explore the Army’s fitness requirements in our latest blog!
How Long Is Army Basic Training?
The complete Army basic training cycle is about 10 weeks, divided into three phases: Red, White and Blue, which last about three weeks each. After passing the final tests of the Blue Phase, your next step is the graduation ceremony, where you’ll get to celebrate your accomplishments with your friends and family.
Where is Army Basic Combat Training?
The Army’s five basic combat training locations are:
- Fort Benning, Georgia
- Fort Jackson, South Carolina
- Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
- Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- Fort Knox, Kentucky
Your BCT location is determined by your path:
Your initial training will be followed by additional specialized training at the same installation. Your specialty determines which installation you’ll do boot camp at.
You’ll complete your basic training at Fort Benning then graduate directly into Officer Candidate School.
Do You Get Paid for Basic Training?
Yes. You’ll be glad to hear you’re at least getting paid to struggle through challenges that will shape you into a soldier. During the in-processing of Week Zero, the Army will establish your military pay records and scale. Thereafter, you’ll be paid twice each month — on the first and 15th. Expect to give the wheels of the government a day or so to slowly grind into action.
Pay for BMT depends upon your rank. Every enlisted recruit starts out as an E1, and can expect an annual salary of around $20,170.80.
BMT is 10 weeks, so the average E1 payment for basic training is around $3,800 plus meals and housing.
What to Bring to Basic Training
Wondering what personal items you can bring to make life more pleasant? Think “just the basics.” Everything you’ll likely need will be provided to you. And if it isn’t provided, you soon learn to live without it.
In general, the personal items you can bring include:
1. Casual, Comfortable Clothing
Also bring white underwear, calf-length white athletic socks, a pair of running shoes and your eyeglasses. In addition to these items, women recruits will need to bring sports bras, regular bras, hair ties that match your hair color and feminine hygiene items.
2. Combination Lock or Padlock
One lock is required, either a combination lock or a padlock with two keys.
Required items include a toothbrush with case, hairbrush or comb, one washcloth and towel, antiperspirant, shower shoes (flip-flops), toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, soap and a soap case, a disposable razor or safety razor with blades, and shaving cream (optional for women). If flying to your training installation, make sure your toiletries meet TSA liquids standards.
You can bring a small sum of money as cash, traveler’s checks or money orders.
5. Required Documents
Bring with you your:
- Social Security card.
- A valid driver’s license or current state ID card.
- A direct deposit form for your checking account.
- Immunization records.
- High school diploma or GED and original college transcripts.
- Proof of citizenship if you weren’t born in the United States.
- Original or certified copies of your marriage certificate, divorce decree or separation order.
- Original or certified copies of your children’s birth certificates if they’re under 18.
- Copies of your family’s lease or rental agreement.
- Copies of prescriptions for any medications.
- Original or certified ROTC documentation (if applicable).
6. Your Orders
You must bring all copies of the orders and documents issued to you by your recruiter and/or the Military Entrance Processing Station. Carry these documents by hand to your basic training site, and keep them secure while traveling, since they contain your personal information.
Some people still feel the need to be “extra,” even during basic training. Now is definitely not the time.
Prohibited Items During Basic Training
1. Weapons of Any Type
This includes pocket knives, firearms, fireworks, clubs, batons, brass knuckles, etc.
2. Tobacco products and lighters
If you bring cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc., they will be confiscated.
3. Alcohol-based Products
This includes beverages or health products.
4. Food items
This includes gum, candy and chips.
5. Obscene or Pornographic Materials.
6. Nonprescription Drugs
Medications not prescribed to you by the military, including items such as foot powders, antihistamines, sleep aides, acne medication, etc., are not allowed while in basic training.
7. Narcotics, Illegal Drugs or Any Paraphernalia
All of these are prohibited from basic training — and military service in general.
8. Expensive Personal Items
Such as cameras, tablets, fancy jewelry, etc. You’re allowed to bring your cell phone to use while traveling, but it may be locked away for safekeeping after you arrive.
9. Gambling Items and External Reading Materials
Army Basic Training Phases
Now that you have an idea of where you’ll be headed and what you can bring, you may still be wondering, “What is basic training like?” Let’s break it down to understand how the Army will be building you up during the basic training phases.
Week Zero — Reception Battalion
It’s go time! Sorta. In these next few days, expect to do mostly in-processing such as paperwork, orientations, getting your ID, medical exams, vaccinations, being issued eyeglasses, receiving your uniform and equipment (and learning how to wear them), plus settling your personal affairs. If you don’t already have a standard military haircut then, you will now. It’s also the last chance to dispose of any prohibited possessions before facing a penalty.
Remember, making a good first impression is important, and that includes not only your attitude but your appearance. You’ll be building camaraderie within your unit and self pride and discipline in yourself by learning and following regulations that limit jewelry, cosmetics, tattoos, etc. When in doubt, cover it up or leave it behind.
Weeks One Through Three — Phase 1, Red Phase (aka Patriot Phase)
In this adaptation phase, you’ll learn the fundamentals, traditions and ethics of what it means to be a soldier. You will learn how to comport yourself, how to address leadership and will be expected to recite the Warrior Ethos and the Soldier’s Creed.
You’ll receive briefings on basic first aid and sexual harassment and sexual assault awareness and prevention programs.
This phase includes intense physical training as well as road marches and formation marches. You’ll be taking the Army Combat Fitness Test, which will challenge you on a strength deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, a sprint/drag/carry, leg tuck and 2-mile run.
An introduction to Chemical Radioactive Biological and Nuclear (CBRN) readiness also occurs during this phase. At the end of these three weeks, you’ll receive an Army Unit Patch to be worn on the left shoulder of your uniform.
Weeks Four and Five — Phase 2, White Phase
You’ve got the basics down, now it’s time to dig deeper. During these weeks, you will focus on:
- Combat skills.
- Night training.
- Hand-to-hand combat and weapons training.
- Basic rifle marksmanship.
- Physical fitness.
In addition to marksmanship and physical fitness training, you’ll be expected to navigate obstacle courses and rappel from a 50-foot structure, known as the Warrior Tower. White Phase will also be your first introduction to Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, such as first aid skills, navigational skills, weaponry use and much, much more.
Take this tip from the U.S. military itself: The best way to make fitness training easier is to work harder.
Weeks Six Through Nine — Phase 3, Blue Phase (aka Warrior Phase)
In the final phase of basic combat training, you’ll build on everything you’ve learned before. These weeks will serve as your final transformation from a civilian into a soldier.
Expect to develop these skills:
- Building advanced marksmanship and maneuvering techniques.
- Engaging targets as part of a team.
- Completing convoy operations.
- Identifying and disabling improvised explosive devices.
- Training on advanced weapons, such as machine guns.
- Learning how to throw live grenades.
All of your training will be put to the test on a multiple-day land navigation course. Here you will prove your survival, fitness and soldier skills.
After you make it through this phase and pass all 212 tasks of the end-of-cycle test, then you will be qualified to wear the Army Black Beret as a fully qualified Army soldier.
Week 10 — Graduation
HELL YEAH, YOU DID IT! All the blood, sweat and tears (who saw? Not us — we didn’t see a thing.) you put into basic training have paid off. Now you’re ready for the 10th and final week: graduation.
Army Basic Training Graduation
Most of this week will include inspections, out-processing, personal time, haircuts, family day and the graduation ceremony itself.
With your biggest challenges behind you, you can breathe a little easier, at least for now. Friends and family will be able to attend your graduation in person (relative to base security, of course), and congratulate you on your accomplishment and joining the honorable legacy of a career in the Army.
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
While phone calls seem like an easy option, there’s nothing easy about boot camp. Phone call frequency varies by unit and is at the discretion of the drill sergeants. Soldiers are usually allowed to make a quick call home when they first arrive and another when they are out reception. Don’t take it personally that these first few calls are often limited to 30 seconds or so and that you’ll probably only have time for your soldier to pass along their mailing address.
Your soldier will have the opportunity to earn more phone time as they move through the training process. Calls could come at any time but never after 9 p.m. at their installation.
What Can I Send Someone During Basic Training?
Speaking of mail, we can’t think of a time in someone’s life (other than a deployment) when a written letter could mean so much to a soldier. Words of encouragement will sustain your soldier during this challenging time and make every mail call all that more exciting. Stick to simple stationery, and limit photos. Expect that mail could be delivered a few weeks after you send it.
Since the Army provides all the “basics” the soldier needs during BCT, care packages of treats and creature comforts are not, we repeat, not recommended. Not only will they be withheld until after graduation, but they could draw unwanted attention from a drill sergeant — for the entire unit. Better to save those homemade cookies until after your soldier has gutted through all the physical and mental tests that await them.
What to Wear to Basic Training Graduation?
At this ceremony, your soldier will likely be in their dress blue uniform — the Army equivalent to a suit and tie. As a guest, you don’t need to wear a formal outfit, but you’ll want to look nice to show appreciation for your soldier’s accomplishment. Business casual or your “Sunday best” clothes are more than appropriate.
Remember, graduations are usually held outdoors in some of the hotter months of the year. Take all these considerations into account when deciding your layering, your footwear and, yes, also your hydration.
Bring your pride in your soldier’s achievement, a camera to capture the moments, binoculars, sunscreen and a little cash for any commemorative items you may want. Definitely leave the alcohol, tobacco, weapons, silly string or other offensive items outside the gate. It’s all about respecting how the process forged a fighter from your son, daughter, brother, sister — whatever they are to you. At the same time, you can enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony, such as the national anthem, remarks from leadership, etc. — and telling your soldier WELL DONE afterward.
There will always be “Warriors Wanted” for the U.S. Army, but not everyone has the intestinal fortitude to sacrifice and serve as a soldier. During Army basic training, you will learn very quickly the physical and mental skills that will allow you to survive and thrive in one of the greatest fighting forces on Earth.
Still want more information about the regulations and responsibilities during basic combat training? Download the Army’s Basic Training Survival Guide online for a more detailed look at what to expect in each phase. With courage and commitment, you’ll look back at your time in boot camp as some of the most memorable, yet rewarding days of your Army career.
More From This Series
- Marine Basic Training: Everything You Need to Know
- Air Force Basic Training: Everything You Need to Know
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.