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What to Expect at Basic Combat Training

Most recruits are curious about Basic Combat Training (BCT). What is it like? What should I bring? How can I prepare? Are real drill sergeants as tough as the ones in the movies?

You’ll find a lot of answers in this section—what to expect from week to week, what to pack, what not to pack, and plenty of other information to help you make it from raw recruit to proud Soldier.

What happens first?

In the event that you're not able to ship to Basic Training within 30 days, you'll enter into the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP). RSP will introduce you to military life and keep you on track mentally, physically, and emotionally while you prepare for Basic Combat Training and your career in the Guard. You'll start knowing what to expect once you get to BC, and you'll have the tools to be successful—plus you'll be getting paid to attend each RSP drill. For more information about RSP, check out "Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP)" section.

Now that you've learned a little about what's ahead, you're ready to ship to BCT.

Reception Battalion

You’ll begin at Reception Battalion—sometimes called Week Zero. When you arrive, you'll be told what you can and cannot bring with you. This will be your last chance to get rid of any prohibited items without being penalized. Refer to our checklist to be sure you show up with all the right items and leave everything else at home.

Over the next few days, you’ll be processing paperwork, getting your physical exam and shots, haircut, uniform, Army Physical Fitness Uniform (APFU) and your first Physical Training (PT) test. All this should take anywhere from two to five days, but it can sometimes take over a week.

During Reception Battalion, you’ll be getting a preview of BCT. You’ll be introduced to the Army Values and the Warrior Ethos. You and your fellow recruits will start practicing teamwork, self-discipline, responsibility, leadership development, self-reliance, competence and confidence. And you’ll continue to learn more about each of these qualities all along the way. And before long, you’ll be headed for Week One.

Welcome to Basic Combat Training.

You’re here now. This is the real deal, as your drill sergeant will quickly point out! So here’s a little advice: Listen to your drill sergeant.

Your drill sergeant’s job is to teach you the skills you’ll need to become a Soldier. These are skills that will keep you and your fellow Soldiers alive in the field. Drill sergeants are very concerned about your success—and they will insist that you achieve it. Listen to every word, and do everything they say.

The Three Phases of BCT

Basic Training runs 10 weeks and is broken down into three phases: Red, White and Blue. Here’s an overview of what you can expect during each phase:

Phase 1: Red Phase (Weeks 1-3)

“Shakedown” - When you get off the bus from Reception Battalion, you’ll be told to line up your bag in a certain way to see if you can follow instructions. Then you’ll be ordered to empty your bag. If any contraband falls out, this will be your first opportunity to see a drill sergeant go ballistic.

Training - The goal of your Phase 1 training is to begin your transformation from a confused volunteer to a confident Soldier. During Red Phase (or “Patriot” Phase), you’ll learn the fundamentals of Soldiering, including Army heritage and the seven core Army Values. Most of your classroom training will occur during this time. You’ll also undergo the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to assess your physical abilities. You’ll have several of these tests along the way to be sure you’re getting into the best possible shape.

During these first three weeks, you’ll get a thorough introduction to the following:

  • The Army’s core values, traditions and ethics
  • Assembling, disassembling and caring for your weapon
  • The Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) chamber
  • Security and crowd dispersion discipline
  • Combatives: hand-to-hand combat and guerilla exercises
  • Barracks inspections
  • Running, tactical daylight marches and fitness training

Obviously, this is an intense training schedule, geared toward reinforcing the principles of discipline and teamwork. From here, you’ll look forward to moving toward the rifle range to learn some exciting—and very useful—skills.

Phase 2: White Phase (Weeks 4-5)

The White Phase (also known as the "Rifleman" or “Gunfighter” Phase) focuses on developing your combat skills, with special emphasis on weapons and physical fitness training. You'll learn how to identify, track, target and engage targets with a rifle. It's all about marksmanship. This time is also spent honing your self-discipline and teamwork.

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll cover:

  • Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) and Rifle Qualification
    - Zeroing a rifle
    - Engaging targets at various distances and from different positions
    - Prioritizing multiple targets simultaneously
  • Hand-to-hand training
  • Rappelling the Warrior Tower
  • More barracks inspections
  • Continued study of Army values, ethics and traditions
  • Night training and more fitness training
  • Map and compass reading

By now, you’ll be starting to get the hang of military life. You may even think your drill sergeant is noticing an improvement. You’re developing all the essential Soldier skills—which you’ll be putting together in the next phase.

Phase 3: Blue Phase (Weeks 6-9)

The final phase of BCT—the Blue or “Warrior” Phase—will build your individual tactical training, increase your leadership skills and self-discipline, and improve your understanding of teamwork. It will also include challenges and tests you’ll have to pass in order to graduate from BCT. It’s time to dig deep.

These three weeks are spent on the following:

  • Advanced Rifle Marksmanship (including the use of aiming tools such as lasers)
  • Maneuvering and engaging targets as part of a team
  • Guard ethics and standards, with continued study of Army values
  • Convoy operations
  • Additional weapons training: machine guns, grenade launchers and mines
  • Defeating Improvised Explosive Devices/Mines
  • Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT - fighting in a city)
  • 10-Kilometer and 15-Kilometer tactical foot marches
  • Field Training Exercise on bivouac, where you’ll tie all your training together
  • The End of Cycle Test (EOCT)—212 tasks, which you’re required to pass
  • The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)—you must pass in order to graduate from BCT

Graduation (Week 10)

The final week of BCT is about Soldiers and their Families. After you finish the final training events (one week of field training and a 15-kilometer march back to the post), you'll receive a day with your Family to catch up on your recent experiences—and you'll have plenty. The next day, you'll be graduating, before moving on to your next phase of training (usually Advanced Individual Training, or AIT). Congratulations—you’re now a National Guard Soldier.