Boot camp, Basic Training, Basic Combat Training… whatever you want to call it, it’s something that every service member from every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has to go through. Though it can vary in length – with Marine recruits in for 13 weeks and Army recruits in for 10 – there is the same goal at its core: to build a soldier.
Whether you’re planning to get your boots on the ground as an infantryman, or to fight behind the lines as a cyber specialist, you’re still going to be prepped for combat. A 10 to 13 week course can’t completely transform you, but it is the first step down a long road of military readiness.
There’s an explanation for all the push ups, screaming, and waking up at the crack of dawn every day. The military has no time to waste on you; they are breaking you down as a civilian, and recreating you as a soldier. It’s a precise exercise that has been tried and tested on many before you, and many to come.
The thing is: it doesn’t just build a soldier. All the blood, sweat, and tears culminate into an important life lesson that you can take with you long after you leave the military. Here are 7 fundamental skills that you learn in boot camp.
Honorable mention: Packing & folding
If you somehow didn’t get anything else out of boot camp, at least you know how to pack a bag. This is actually a pretty useful skill; maximizing space, knowing where all your stuff is and exactly how much you need – that can serve you on many moves and vacations. Plus, becoming a folding master is a quick way to impress your significant other on laundry day.
7. Regular exercise
Hand in hand with good sleep habits is consistent exercise. In the military they leave you little choice on this, especially in boot camp. But continuing to incorporate a workout routine into your daily life prevents illness and disease, helps you sleep easier, keeps you trim, and increases your overall health.
6. Waking up early
If you were a night owl before boot camp, it was probably a pretty bumpy transition. Getting up at 0500 hours is no easy feat for most civilians, let alone a military recruit who is already aching and tired from constant PT. Good news is: this habit can help you for the rest of your life, if you let it.
Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink is convinced that waking up at 0430 every single day makes his life better, and would make yours better too. It can lead to deeper sleep, increased productivity and time management, and even lengthen your lifespan. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.
Something you learn quickly in boot camp: if one person messes up, everyone does. For example, if even just one person makes their bed wrong, every bunk gets tossed, and everyone must work together to reorganize. This can be hard to get past – after all, if they made the mistake, why should you get punished? But getting over that mentality and learning to help your peers succeed creates a foundation of teamwork in everything you do.
You will likely be working with other people for the majority of your life. Coworkers, siblings, a life partner; whoever it is, you need to be able to function effectively as a unit to do the best job possible.
Routine isn’t for everyone. Some people enjoy and thrive in spontaneity, and live their life as such. But if you’re going to be in the military, you need to know how to organize your days down to the last second. In boot camp you get up, get dressed, eat, train, and sleep at designated times each day. They set it up so that you can (hopefully) manage a schedule on your own once you graduate.
Having a solid routine means you won’t let yourself fail. If you can get over that obstacle in your mind that says “You can’t/won’t do this”, then you can achieve every goal you give yourself. It makes you reliable, both to yourself and to the people around you.
Discipline may as well be the service members’ motto. Its definition is: “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” That’s all that boot camp really is.
You shouldn’t have a shred of disobedience going into military service. While there are tons of benefits to the military, and a million reasons why people join, there’s no mistaking the fact that they control you for the period that you’re in. Essentially, they own your time, your work, and pretty much your whole life. While that can be a big sacrifice to make, it’s the nature of the job, and the discipline you gain from strict military life helps you in other ways.
It makes you a good worker; you know how to respect rules, manage your time, and get the job done. This can also translate to goals you have in your personal life. All in all, if you have discipline, you can find a way to accomplish almost anything.
2. Mental toughness, AKA dealing with sh*t
Drill sergeants will do anything and everything to annoy, rattle, exhaust, and break you. In fact, they want you to break, so they know who they need to target even more. Not only do you have to deal with drill sergeants, but you have to deal with everyone around you either slowing you down or messing you up. It’s not just another annoying coworker, but someone you have to eat, sleep, and breathe with until your last day there.
There will always be people you don’t like, and stuff you don’t want to do. If you’re lucky, you find meaning in your work and your coworkers are the kind, considerate type – but most likely you will still manage to come across someone who really grinds your gears. At the end of the day, knowing how to deal with the bad stuff is a lot more productive then wallowing in it or blowing up about it.
1. Getting up when you’re down
Finally, boot camp teaches you to not give up. It pushes your boundaries. It takes every self limitation you have and says “You can do better than that.” You can do more than 30 pushups. You can run farther than two miles, and carry that dude on your back. That target you couldn’t hit – now you’ve got a bullseye. Most importantly, you can be shoved to the ground, your face smashed into the mud, and still get up and go again.
This is vitally important because you’ll feel like life has shoved you into the mud more than a few times. The only beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to keep moving forward. You don’t ask “Why did this happen?” or say “This was my fault.” You don’t lay around and cry about it. You don’t give up. At the end of the day, you can push through anything, and getting past that initial failure will be an even better feeling than instant success.