Length of Basic Training and When You Will Get Your First Paycheck

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Physical fitness training during Basic Combat Training
Soldiers attending Basic Combat Training conduct physical fitness training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 10, 2016. (Staff Sgt. J. Byers/U.S. Army Reserve)

Not all military basic trainings are created equally, and how long you'll have drill instructors yelling at you depends on your service branch:

  • Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) lasts nine weeks. This length of time doesn't count time spent in reception, nor does it count the time spent for job training if you attend an OSUT (One-Station Unit Training) unit, which combines basic training and job training into one combined course.
  • Air Force basic training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas is eight weeks, plus one week of in-processing, called zero week. Until recently, Air Force basic training was only six weeks, the shortest basic training of any military branch However, the Air Force recently redesigned its basic training program, tacking on two extra weeks in the process.
  • Navy basic training is seven weeks, plus one week at the beginning called processing week, which isn't officially part of basic training. Because you still will have drill instructors yelling at you and telling you what to do, it might as well be, though.
  • The Marine Corps has the longest basic training -- 12 weeks, not including four days of in-processing time.
  • Counting the half-week you spend in forming (in-processing), you'll spend a total of seven-and-a-half weeks in Coast Guard basic training at Cape May, (N.J.,) the shortest basic training of all the services.

When Do I Get Paid?

You're in the military and entitled to receive military pay at the time you take the final oath at MEPS. However, don't expect anyone to hand you any money yet. In order to get paid, the military has to establish your military pay records, and that won't happen until you in-process during the first few days of basic training. Military members are paid twice each month -- on the 1st and 15th of each month.

You get one-half of your monthly pay on the 1st and the second half on the 15th. Remember, this is the government, so getting paid isn't instantaneous. It takes a few days for the gears to grind. If you arrive at basic training before the 10th of the month, you'll get paid on the 15th. If you arrive after the 10th of the month, you won't see your first paycheck until the 1st of the following month, but it will include all pay you're entitled to, as of that date. Everyone in the military is entitled to base pay, which depends on your rank and the number of years of military service you have had.

If you have family members (dependents), you're also entitled to receive a monthly housing allowance. The exact amount depends on where your family members live. Also if you have dependents, you'll receive a monthly separation allowance any time you've been separated from your family for longer than 30 days.

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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