This Is What Privates Go Through During Army Basic Training

Joining the Military

In the Army, basic combat training is the first step of training as a soldier, and for those in fields like the infantry, it marks the beginning of an arduous and comprehensive skills-based training regimen.


Basic training typically takes place over 10 weeks and occurs at four locations: Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina; Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma; Fort Leonard Wood in St. Robert, Missouri; and Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, where infantrymen and armor are trained.

Infantrymen take part in one station unit training, also called OSUT, at Fort Benning, which incorporates their basic combat training and advanced individual training, or AIT, into one location. Basic training is typically broken into three phases, formerly identified as red, white and blue, phase, they’re now designated numerically, and at Benning, there are five phases instead of three.

Over the course of 14 weeks, civilians are transformed into soldiers and trained as infantrymen by Fort Benning’s drill sergeants, all of whom served in the infantry. The majority of drill sergeants at Benning are also combat veterans like Staff Sgt. Kristopher Jackson, who deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq.

Task & Purpose spoke with Jackson about how Army infantrymen are trained

“All our training is training infantrymen,” says Jackson. “They’re taught to shoot, move, communicate, carry a lot of weight, and become the most fit soldiers in the Army.”

U.S. Army soldiers from the one station unit training, OSUT, negotiate an obstacle course during their first week of Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, March 9, 2012.U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

Each platoon of 50 to 60 privates — soldiers are identified by their rank from day one — are overseen by two junior drill sergeants and one senior drill sergeant, Jackson explained.

Related: Why Drill Sergeants Should Stay With Soldiers Beyond Basic Training »

The soldiers live in an open squad bay where any vestige of privacy is gone. They sleep in bunks and store their equipment in wall lockers. When the drill sergeants need to address the platoon, they do it en masse.

“In the middle of the bay we tape off a section in the middle, called the kill zone, and whenever we need to talk to the whole platoon we’ll tell them to toe the line and they’ll come right to the edge of it and wait for the senior drill sergeant to come in,” explains Jackson.

This kind of discipline and structure is instilled the moment they arrive at Fort Benning.

According to Jackson when the soldiers first get off the bus they are greeted by their drill sergeants, though “greeted” is a nice way of saying they’re harassed and harangued by complete strangers, which is called the “shark attack.”

“What happens when they first arrive is we have a thing called the shark attack,” says Jackson. “We toss a little bit of confusion at first to kind of put the fear factor in them. That way we can start the whole discipline process for what they need to do.”

The initial 72 hours involves in-processing and paperwork, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the training.

“We want to go ahead and set that confusion and those loud noises out of the gate at the beginning,” says Jackson “Once they put that first foot down on the ground, they kind of know what they’re in store for.”

Once the in-processing is out of the way, it’s on to phase one.

“You’ve got the team development course, you have the obstacle course, and the confidence course,” says Jackson. “You have a lot of team building things right in phase one because those guys are going to have to rely on those guys to the left and the right.”

According to Jackson, one of the defining moments of phase one is the confidence course, which privates face during the third week of training.

After climbing a half wall with the aid of a rope, Infantry recruits learned why the obstacle is called the Wall Hanger. The Soldiers had to reach the other end of the pole and use the ropes to climb down off the obstacle at the Sand Hill confidence course at Fort Benning, Georgia.U.S. Army photo.

Completing the confidence course involves navigating a host of grueling obstacles, with the ultimate goal of instilling a sense of accomplishment in the soldiers as they make their way through it.

“They complete an obstacle, and say to themselves, ‘I can do this, I can be a soldier,’” says Jackson. “You’ve got kids from different backgrounds; you know from a city, for instance, and coming right into a course like that and being able to complete it is a step in the right direction for them.”

After the confidence course, the soldiers move on to rifle marksmanship during phase two of their training.

This phase is very crucial as far as becoming an infantryman and doing the job once you complete training,” says Jackson.

The privates start training with the M4 carbine and learn the weapon’s clearance procedures, safety rules, and weapons maintenance. As the training moves along, they shoot with back-up iron sights as well as the close combat optic, and go over single, multiple, timed, and moving targets prior to their rifle qualification.

Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training Jan. 12 on Fort Benning, Georgia.U.S. Army photo.

For the rifle qualification, the soldiers fire at 40 targets from three different positions: the prone supported, the prone unsupported, and the kneeling.

Throughout it all, their drill sergeants instruct them in marksmanship.

“Some of the things that we see they have trouble with is obviously they’re shooting for the first time,” says Jackson. “Some of these individuals have grown up using weapons and they’re a little bit easier to mold and teach, and some who have never touched a weapon in their life, and it can be scary for them shooting a weapon for the first time.”

However, by the time they finish their rifle marksmanship training, they’re effective shooters, says Jackson.

Then it’s time for the third phase of their training.

At week seven, they start moving into heavy weapons.

“You’ve got your .50 cal, we do hand grenades, your M320 grenade launcher, your M249 squad automatic weapon, your M240, and your land navigation assessment,” explains Jackson.

Throughout the third phase of training, the soldiers are tested on first aid, which is taught continuously to infantrymen throughout basic. They also cover their weapons clearing procedures, are trained on how to use their radios, and are taught buddy and fire team tactics.

“I think the crucial part, in my experience, from third phase is the buddy team and fire team training,” says Phillips. “This is when they start to move together as a buddy team and as a fire team. When they become infantrymen, that’s what they’re going to operate in, as a fireteam and at the squad level.”

For soldiers in many other military occupational specialties, the end of third phase marks their graduation from basic, but for the infantry, it’s on to phases four and five where they learn the finer points of infantry combat and receive even more comprehensive training in battlefield skills and tactics.

The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.

"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."

Read More Show Less
U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.

"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army photo)

After a year and a half since the Army took delivery on the first of its souped-up new version of the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the Pentagon's Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio is ramping up to deliver the service's first full brigade of upgraded warhorses to bring the pain downrange.

Read More Show Less

On Tuesday, two political veterans groups, one on the left, the other on the right, announced a new lobbying campaign aimed at ending America's 'forever wars.'

In a video tied to the announcement, Dan Caldwell, the senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative veterans' group, and Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets, a liberal vets group which aims to get former service members into office, laid out their plan for a lobbying campaign aimed at changing policy on how the United States wages war.

Read More Show Less

The Army is working on developing an alternate fitness test for soldiers with permanent injuries that prevent them from completing the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

Read More Show Less