If you’re considering joining the military you probably have a lot of questions, like how hard is Air Force basic training? This list of Air Force facts has the in’s and out’s of how Air Force basic training used to be. If you wanna know what it was actually like, this article paints a good picture. Here are 50 surprising facts about basic training a recruiter probably wouldn’t tell you.

Some BMT experiences from this list are mentioned in a Basic To Blues Podcast episode as well.

Experiencing Air Force Basic Training

What to know about Air Force basic training, in no particular order.

1. Pooping In Basic TrainingNearly everyone that goes through basic training can’t poop for the entire first week. Stress and adapting to the situation causes it, it’s completely normal. After a week of not going #2, you’ll start to wonder how much poop a body could hold, even with eating all the Air Force basic training food every meal. Prepare for it to take a while. After a week or two, using the bathroom in basic training will be like clockwork.

2. Air Force Basic Training Meals – By the time trainees sit down with their food in the defac (dining facility) there are only minutes to eat. So the basic training diet is simple, eat fast. When rushed expect to be eating everything in 3 minutes. If not rushed every meal is still eaten in under five minutes. With the number of people that need to go through the defac three times a day, time is always limited. Find out what it’s like eating in basic training and after.

3. Basic Training ShowersFor Air Force basic training showers the entire flight of trainees showers together, openly at the same time. There are no separate stalls, only one big open shower room. Twenty or so people clean themselves together at a time with two to three people sharing a single shower head. The shower room is only so big so half of the trainees have to shave while the other half shower, then everyone rotates. Sometimes there is so little time to shower that everyone has to just hit the hot spots, as in the face, armpits, and groin.

4. PT In The BathroomOn rare occasions when the instructor is upset with the flight everyone is piled into the bathroom and put on their faces. It becomes crowded fast with over 50 people on the ground trying to do push-ups and flutter kicks. The worst part of it is that no one’s able to stop until the bathroom mirrors fog up and condensation runs down them. Yes, it will get that hot and humid with everyone doing PT in the bathroom! So expect some unpleasant locations for Air Force basic training exercises.

5. People FaintingTrainees spend a lot of time standing together in formation and sometimes for long periods of time. As a result someone usually will fall out and faint cause they had their legs locked standing there. Instructors will tell people time and time again to not lock their knees in place cause it will cut off blood circulation. However it never fails, multiple people will fall out and faint in basic training.

6. Basic Training Humor And Crazy StoriesCrazy stories and gossip run rampant passed around the laundry room. A few trainees are in charge of washing the entire flight’s laundry and hear gossip from other flights while in the laundry room. Nobody ever knows what’s true and what’s a lie hearing all the crazy stories.

I heard a story of a basic training instructor demonstrating to his flight how clean he wanted the bathrooms to be. Anything other than spotless was unacceptable, and to show it the instructor ate a pubic hair off a toilet seat. Another crazy story passed around was a trainee jumped down a flight of stairs and broke his back to get out of basic training.

7. Shoot An M-16 While Wearing A Gas MaskAll trainees will be knowledgeable, trained, and qualify shooting an M-16 at the range. To qualify some of the requirements are to use different shooting stances and shooting with those stances while wearing a gas mask. Shooting in a gas mask is much simpler nowadays, masks have smaller filters on the sides. Before gas masks just had one big filter only on one side. For some shooters, the old mask filter was in the way too much in order to shoot.

8. Bed FlippingAir Force instructors keep trainees on their toes in basic training, even when it comes to making beds. It’s bad news if an instructor gets annoyed with how sloppy beds are made or how slow it’s taking to make them. There will be multiple times your instructor pulls the blanket off your bed after you finish making it with hospital corners. Unfortunately for some of the trainees, they will get their beds flipped. Mattresses tossed around and bed frames in pieces on the ground. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single bed or a bunk bed, it can still get flipped.

9. Psychological Effects Of Military TrainingA good degree of basic training is more mental then it is physical, and some people break down in training.

During my third week at basic, there was one person who just couldn’t adjust. He declared himself mentally unfit in an attempt to quit Air Force basic training and get discharged from the military. He was sent to mental health at the Lackland Air Force base hospital, and never returned to our basic training flight.

10. Grasshoppers In The BathroomIf trainees go through Air Force basic training beast week (a week of outdoor training) in the summer, then they’re in for a surprise. Hundreds of grasshoppers find their way into the bathroom each day, covering the floors and walls. Trainees are using the bathroom, brushing their teeth, and showering with grasshoppers jumping all around them. For the entire week expect grasshoppers jumping in the shower, and be prepared to swat them away. One of the jobs during beast week is to clean the bathrooms and sweep out all the dead grasshoppers. Large piles of them are swept up and tossed, just to turn around and do the same thing the next day.

11. Air Force BandAt the airport in San Antonio everyone entering basic training is grouped together and asked if anyone has musical talent. Out of a portion that says yes, specific instrument skills are grouped together and those people form a band flight in basic. The band flight will practice throughout bmt and play at the Air Force basic training graduation ceremony and other events.

12. Air Force Basic Training In TexasBasic training is at Lackland Air Force Base on the edge of San Antonio Texas. Thousands of people go through training each year for Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB. Be prepared if you ship out in the summer months, summers can be pretty demanding and hot.

13. Can’t Exercise SometimesBasic training summer months can have hazardous heat conditions for exercising. A Colored flag system was set up to identify different head conditions. Generally, a black flag (90 degrees or above) advises against doing vigorous exercise. Sometimes trainees get lucky and don’t have to go out to exercise in the afternoon, but other times the black flag is ignored.

14. Air Force Basic Training Zero Week Push-up Restrictions For the first week of basic after trainees eat a meal, they can’t be punished to do push-ups and other exercises till an hour after eating. There is an adjustment period when first arriving at bmt. After the first week there are no restrictions, anytime becomes fair game to get put on your face.

15. Lackland AFB Church ServicesWhat do you do on Sunday’s in basic training? Whether trainees are religious or not almost everyone can be found going to church on Sunday. The church is a break from the normal grind of basic training. A place where there is a brief amount of time to forget where you are. Multiple other religious services are offered on Sunday also. Some people try out a different one each week.

16. Air Force Basic Training Letters – Instructors will pass out mail delivered to trainees, but they won’t send out mail trainees try to write. There are no mailboxes around the dorm bays to send letters to loved ones. Find out how to mail letters, tips for writing letters in basic training.

17. Leaving Base During Basic TrainingAfter the basic training graduation ceremony airmen are able to spend a few afternoons off base. There is a curfew, and everyone has to return back to the dorm bays each evening. Many airmen have their families come for graduation and enjoy what San Antonio has to offer, like the Alamo, and the river walk. Everyone going off base is still required to wear their blues uniform. This is typically the first time an airman will get thanked for their service by a civilian.

18. Air Force JodiesJust like in some of the movies trainees will be marching or running while singing Air Force jodies. They help control and improve breathing to run better for PT. You’ll actually come to enjoy singing jodies while marching and get motivated by the songs and comradery. Every now and then some instructors do funny Air Force jodies about Chuck Norris to boost morale.

19. Shaving PubesFor graduation, many trainees have significant others attending and are excited to reconnect. Many male trainees go on a shaving spree and shave their pubes beforehand. There is a lot of laughing and pubic hair in the bathroom the last day before Air Force basic training graduation.

20. Guard DutyThroughout basic training there is a 24-hour guard duty in the dorm bays. Every single trainee in the flight will perform the guard duty for a few hours each time. Doing perimeter walks and controlling access to entries and exits, reporting any activity. Guard shifts cycle from bed to bed so It’s not fun being woken up in the middle of the night for guard duty. Later on, in the last stretch of basic training, volunteers are selected or “voluntold” to perform night guard for newly arrived trainees.

21. Phone Calls During Basic TrainingCell phones will be turned off, taken away, and stored pretty fast. They are locked up and only distributed back to trainees once a week each week to make a 5 minutes phone call. That first week phone call can be rough for some people with being away from family for the first time. Everyone should go to basic training with a fully charged battery or else it will be a challenge to find an open outlet.

22. Bus Ride To Basic TrainingThe bus ride from the San Antonio airport to Lackland Air Force Base is dead silent. It’s as if everyone is struck by the realization that they are heading into something terrifying and unfamiliar. Then the bus arrives and the silence is broken by military instructors yelling at you to get off the bus.

23. After Basic Training In The Air ForceWhen airmen graduate and leave basic training, depending on the tech school location some airmen get to fly to their destination and some ride the bus. Remember basic is in Texas and it’s a big state to drive.

When I left Lackland AFB for tech school my bus went to Sheppard AFB. Both bases are in Texas so I never even left the state, and still was on the bus for eight hours!

24. Basic Training PhotosThere are two photos that are taken during bmt. One is a basic training flight photo of everyone with their military instructors, and the other is your Air Force portrait. While taking the Air Force portrait only the top half of people are dressed in their blues uniform. The camera doesn’t capture the bottom half so trainees march to the portrait location in ABU’s and just change shirts essentially. The photos are professionally done and even touched up in editing to remove blemishes and acne people receive in basic.

25. Morning PT Before The Crack Of DawnPT starts earlier then anyone is wanting to wake up. The speakers are playing Reveille to wake everyone up and the Air Force instructor is going through the door yelling. In a matter of minutes, trainees are dressed and formed up near the door for pt. Going outside 6 days a week for PT before the crack of dawn. The sun hasn’t even come up, its still dark and pt has started.

26. Air Force Basic Training Hydration Or ElseTrainees are issues a canteen and required to drink so many canteens of water each day. Sometimes the instructors will put a time limit on how much needs to be drunk. To make sure everyone has drunk the entire canteen Air Force instructors make trainees raise canteens above their heads and turn the lid upside down. If anyone still has water in their canteen it will get poured over their head. Then they have to fill it back up and actually drink the water.

27. Air Force Basic Training Gas ChamberDuring beast week one of the big things trainees will do is enter a gas chamber. Everyone puts on their gas mask and enters the gas chamber a few people at a time. While inside instructors activate chemical pellets that release gas throughout the chamber. Trainees are then required to take off their gas mask and stand at attention saying their Air Force reporting statement surrounded by all the chemicals. A few seconds later they are told to leave the room. Stepping outside everyone leaves with watering eyes, a running nose, or snot running down their face. For a basic training gas chamber tip, don’t touch your eyes when you leave the chamber.

28. Air Force Hair CutsAll male trainees are required to have their hair buzzed in basic training, so say goodbye to the luscious locks. The barber is visited three times to have everyone’s heads buzzed, shortly after arriving at basic, halfway through, and before graduation.

29. Sweep Floors With Shower ShoesIt’s crazy the amount of dust and debris that accumulates each day. The dorm bays are swept twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. It is a task that involves everyone. Trainees will all use their shower shoes aka flip-flops to sweep from the wall, under the beds, and to the center aisle. Then someone collects everything from the center. Piles of dust bunnies are removed with flip-flops from under the beds day after day, it’s a never ending process.

30. Nightly Basic Training RoutineIt will become a required nightly routine for everyone to sing the Air Force song and say the Airman’s Creed. Right before lights out usually around 2100, (learn military time) the speakers go off for everyone to stand in front of their wall locker and recite both every night. Trainees run to their lockers quickly too, cause if the instructor spots you not at your locker it’s going to be a bad night.

31. Reporting Statement TrickAt basic training, every trainee will become so familiar with the reporting statement that it will start to come out automatically. However, after the graduation ceremony, trainees become airmen and the reporting statement changes. Instead of saying Sir/Ma’am, trainee (name) reports as ordered. It becomes Sir/Ma’am airman (name) reports as ordered. This simple change from trainee to airman throws people off. Air Force instructors like to ask questions after graduation to make people say the reporting statement. The instructor then tells the airman to get on their face and do push-ups, cause the airman tend to still say trainee in the reporting statement. The instructors ask the question again, and the same thing happens. The third time around the instructor reminds everyone the reporting statement changes to airman cause everyone graduated basic training.

32. Least Used Military Issue ItemThe military issue trench coat is absolutely the least used military issued item anyone will ever use in basic training. Let alone their entire Air Force career.

I used my trench coat a total of one time. It is still folded up from my time spent in basic training and will remain that way.

33. Sneaking FoodThere is someone usually in every flight that tries to sneak food out of the defac (dining facility). Air Force instructors like to punish everyone for it when they find out, not just the person sneaking the food. If it happens in your flight, every trainee will be put on their face for it except for the one sneaking the food. That person has to watch as everyone does push-ups and flutter kicks for that person’s mistake.

34. Active Duty Or ReservesWhether someone enlisted in the Air Force as active duty or as a reservist, either will find themselves in the same basic training flight together. There is no separation between the two at this level of training except for officers. Every enlisted person goes through basic training.

35. More Mental then PhysicalObviously there are physical aspects to basic training and the military in general, but the mental toughness is far more important in basic. If a trainee stays positive, keeps a low profile, doesn’t piss off the instructors, and does what they are told then things will be a breeze. It might even be fun sometimes. Keep the personal moral up!

36. 341 Slips – What is a 341 in the Air Force? 341’s are a form that all trainees will have with them during basic, these forms are taken away if something bad is done. The offense is written on the form and if too many of them get taken the person will get “recycled”. Air Force instructors are always threatening to recycle people, which is repeating a previous week of basic training over. Nobody wants to stay in basic longer then they have to, so it’s best to not have 341’s pulled.

37. Military Shaving WaverMales have to be clean shaven every day, but for some guys razor bumps get to be too much. If it becomes an issue for some males it is possible to get a shaving waiver for a specific duration of time. Shaving wavers allow facial hair to be unshaven up to a certain length. That waver will have to be carried at all times cause a lot of grief will be given over seeing facial hair. Air Force instructors from other flights will constantly ask to inspect the waver.

38. Counting Down DaysMany people count down the weeks and days left until basic training is over. Some people make it a point to count and cross out the days in a calendar. Others countdown and cross out how many meals are left. When it gets close to the end it’s impossible not to think about it and count.

39. Getting SickAt some point throughout the 8 1/2 weeks of training, the majority of people get sick to some degree. Everyone is always in close proximity to each other in the dorm bays, eating in the defac, and marching. When someone gets sick others typically follow suit.

40. Sick FlightIf someone gets too sick they’ll go to the sick flight to recover where basically they just rest and eat meals at their own pace. Which sounds amazing, but there is a drawback to sick flight. Being there too many days means that person is gonna get held back and recycled into a new flight. Usually, it’s a flight a week behind, so some days might have to be repeated cause of getting sick.

41. Air Force Basic Training Vaccinations –  In the Air Force be prepared to get a slew of immunization shots, especially in basic training. Everyone will line up for their shots and walk through a line of needles. One after another about five different people give the trainees a shot all within a minute. To cap it off there is a shot that is given in the butt cheek, and it’s a very thick shot that feels like peanut butter is injected in the cheek. After all the shots and the peanut butter shot in the cheek, trainees are instructed to sit down on the floor and wait. The hard floor and a sore butt cheek don’t get along.

42. Sneaker Weeker’sGetting a military uniform issued for the first time is kinda exciting. Breaking in the combat boots on the other hand can leave blisters and hurt heels. To prevent this and slowly break in everyone’s boots, trainees only wear them for half the day during the first week. The other half of the day everyone is wearing running shoes with their military uniform. These group of trainees are called sneaker weekers by people further along in higher weeks of basic training.

43. Basic Training Knife HandMilitary instructors love it when a trainee messes up. It’s like they can smell fear and mistakes, as soon as an instructor sees someone make a mistake they swoop in and get in the trainees face. Immediately pointing a straight hand up towards the persons face, this is known as knife hand. Other Air Force instructors will notice this and jump in on the barrage of yelling and invading of personal bubbles.

44. Air Force Basic Training JobsWhile going through training everyone in the flight will be assigned chore duties to perform each day or a leadership responsibility role. Some of the chore duties are making beds, cleaning the bathroom every morning and night, or doing the flights laundry. One desirable duty is KP duty, where trainees go to a different squadrons defac and help out. After breakfast, KP duty gets to sit down and enjoy a meal without being rushed out the door. The leadership roles handed out are dorm chief and element leaders. Air Force instructors make these people responsible for different tasks.

45. Setting Alarms5 to 10 minutes before the instructor arrives in the morning tons of alarms go off. Trainees are getting a jump start to the day and using the bathroom or getting dressed without being rushed and yelled at. Just about everyone will buy a watch at basic training. There are restrictions to watches that can be worn with a military uniform though, stick to simple black watches.

This is just like the watch I bought at the BX (base exchange shopping center) while in basic. The majority of everyone had this watch. Be prepared and get it early on Amazon https://amzn.to/2FnI4tP

46. Airman’s CoinWhen trainees graduate basic training and become airmen they are given an airman’s coin during the graduation ceremony. This coin is important later on in airman’s career. At some point, young airmen will get “coin checked” and told to show the coin or any other military coin. If someone can’t pass a coin check and show one then they have to buy a round of beer for everyone. Many airmen keep their airman’s coin from graduating in their pocket for this reason.

47. Military GlassesAnyone who wears prescription glasses will be issued military glasses to use. Civilian glasses don’t always adhere to dress and appearance standards, so even if someone likes there’s they’ll still have to switch to military issued ones. Be thankful that the glasses nowadays are a million times better than the old birth control glasses that used to be issued. Still, all are required to have a glasses strap while worn in basic training though.

48. Boot CheckDuring beast week trainees sleep in large tents with cots and desert creatures can easily find a way in. Being outdoors the entire week means everyone needs to check their boots and running shoes for scorpions and spiders before they slip them on.

49. Dummy IED’sTowards the end of beast week there is a large troop march were everyone is in a simulated hostile area. Trainees have to keep their eyes out for dummy IED’s hidden along the path. If IED’s are not spotted early enough there will be a loud bang and a plume of smoke to simulate an explosion.

When I did this I was one of the first few people to march in my group, it was really exciting.

50. Sir, Yes SirSaying “sir, yes sir!” will be the quickest way for a trainee to get put on their face. Air Force instructors do not like hearing that, the movies have it wrong. Just “yes sir” is all that’s needed.

To Wrap It Up

I hope these Air Force facts and experiences give you the best sense of what Air Force basic training was like, not every aspect of bmt has changed. Going to basic training you can find yourself familiar with some things from this list. If you still have any specific questions feel free to leave a comment below.

Corey Porter

Corey Porter

Air Force Veteran

Corey is an Air Force veteran and the lead writer at Basic to Blues. He refueled fighter jets as a young airman and deployed twice to the Middle East. Now Corey can be found hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

Who the hell… POL!

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