Joining the Military: Settling into Your Routine

At attention in Navy barracks.

Finally, just when you think you can't keep your eyes open any longer, your drill instructor will tell everyone to hit the rack. It's now 3 or 4 a.m.

After the drill instructor shuts off the lights and leaves the room, don't waste time gossiping with your new squad-mates. Before you know it (around 5 a.m.), your drill instructor will come back in, yelling and screaming for everyone to get up, get dressed, and get their butts on the drill pad.

Remember: You never exit the barracks unless your bunk is properly made and the area around your bunk is neat, clean, and orderly. This first morning will be used as an example because not everyone will think about making their bunk neatly after only two hours of sleep. I can guarantee everyone will be yelled at and ordered back to the barracks to do the job right.

Warning: Many instructors like to throw a tantrum at this point, running around the barracks, ripping apart bunks, taking your clothing out of the drawer, and throwing them around, while screaming throughout the process. Don't get scared — the drill instructor hasn't lost his mind. They learned this routine in drill instructor school.

A Little Drill in the Morning

This first morning will probably be taken up with drill practice. That's what the military often calls marching. I can guarantee your drill instructor was not impressed by your marching abilities the night before and will be anxious to fix that problem right away.

Chow Down

After a couple of hours of drill practice, your drill instructor will figure that you've finally learned enough so that she can march you to the chow hall without embarrassment. The chow hall (excuse me, military dining facility) is very much like the cafeteria where you ate lunch in high school. It serves nutritionally balanced meals at least three times per day. When you finish basic training, you can also get snack food, such as hamburgers and hot dogs (with fries) in the chow hall, but those choices won't be available to you in basic training.

The chow hall is set up very much like a buffet. You move down the line, adding food items to your tray as you choose. At basic training chow, you can take whatever you want and how much you want.

You would think the chow hall would be a pleasant experience. However, the chow hall is a favorite place for other instructors to sit and mess with the recruits, especially the new ones. It's almost like they have a contest to see who can rattle the new recruits the most. Most basic training graduates I've talked to list the chow hall experience as their most stressful experience of basic training.

Settling into the Routine

After chow, and for the rest of the week, there will be more instruction. You'll attend some classroom training, but most of it will be direct instruction from your drill instructor about barracks standards, drill (of course), barracks rules and cleanliness, discipline, and — of course — physical fitness.

From Basic Training for Dummies, copyright © 2011 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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