Air Force Basic Training Survival Guide

Sick of generic lists of BMT tips? Us too. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty details and giving you tangible tasks to best prepare in what we’ve dubbed our Air Force Basic Training Survival Guide. 

The anxiety and anticipation leading up to the day you leave for basic training has been felt by every trainee before you. While taking heed of this advice won’t rid you of the expected jitters- it will set you up to thrive, not just survive, your time at Air Force Basic Training.

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Air Force Basic Training Timeline and Overview

In just 8 short weeks you will be transformed into a new version of yourself and graduate as a newly coined member of the United States Air Force.

From the first second at Lackland you’ll be bombarded with MTI’s.This is by design. BMT will tear you down and build you back better. 

For a detailed timeline of weeks “zero” to 8 from, click here. 

Over the course of BMT, the days will run together. You’ll do physical training (PT) 6 days a week, take classes, receive shots, blink, and it will be time to go to BEAST week and graduate.

BEAST week is meant to simulate working in a deployed environment. You will get bussed to the Texas desert where a mock deployed environment is set up. There, you will learn how to survive against chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks, shoot an M4, basic combatives, and eat MRE’s.

In week 8 you will graduate and see your family. Check out this article on the Air Force website for a more detailed schedule and overview. 

The first step in ensuring success during your time in basic is to prepare.

Things to do BEFORE Basic Military Training

Get Into Shape 

This is essential. If you’re not meeting standards during the mock physical training assessments, you’ll have to complete additional PT. This will take away from your free time to tidy up your area, study, or write letters.

You should shoot for being able to run 30 minutes straight before leaving for BMT.

I recommend the Couch To 5k program, or one like it, prior to leaving if you are starting with no running experience, or can’t run for extended periods. Over 9 weeks, the program progressively trains you to run for longer periods of time.

DO NOT join the Air Force or any other branch for the purpose of getting yourself in shape. This is a common misconception and will make your Air Force Basic Military Training experience completely miserable IF you make it through. 

Quit Tobacco and Caffeine.

I understand that this is easier said than done. However, you will not be allowed to have any tobacco products or caffeine while you’re in BMT. 

You would much rather deal with the withdrawals and headaches outside of the stressful environment of BMT. 

Get Your Driver’s License

While this may be a given for most, I’ve run into many airmen who didn’t get their driver’s license before going to BMT. 

While this is NOT a requirement for BMT, getting to your first duty station and being completely dependent on strangers for rides isn’t ideal. Depending on your base, this could be a major inconvenience. 

Not having a driver’s license can also negatively impact your job performance depending on the career field you go into. 

For example, in the maintenance career field we deal with ground transportation of aircraft. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can’t drive the tow vehicle. This can negatively impact your performance report. 

While this doesn’t directly relate to BMT, getting your license before you leave your state of record is generally easier than having to do so at your first base. 

I understand not everyone has the support system and resources to easily take a driving test and get their license before shipping out, and that’s okay. Just keep this in mind. 

Learn How to Shave Your Face

You will be required by the military dress and appearance regulations to have a clean shaven face and neck while at basic training and after.

This means you have to shave your face every day at BMT. If you don’t currently shave, I recommend finding a razor you like and getting used to using it every day prior to shipping out.

airplane landing on runway

Pack your bag

Keep it simple. Everything should fit in a carry-on bag. Your recruiter should provide you with a packing list

Don’t wear or pack any clothes that will draw attention to yourself. You want to fly under the radar as much as possible until you are issued all of your gear. 

I recommend packing 3 pairs of blue jeans and 3 plain t-shirts. Along with spandex compression shorts to wear under your PT gear, and 6 pairs of conservative underwear.  

Wear your running shoes to the airport to save space. 

As far as hygiene products go, bring deodorant, travel size body wash, travel size shampoo, travel size conditioner, shaving cream, disposable razors. 

Make sure you bring your ATM (debit) card. Know the name of your bank, routing number, and account number. This will be used to help you set up your direct deposit.

You will need the mandatory paperwork, which your recruiter should help you with. 

Bring your cell phone and cell phone charger. You will get to use it to make phone calls at certain points during BMT. 

Bring anything prescribed to you including glasses with your prescription. 

DO NOT bring anything that could get you in trouble. They will search through your items and find anything inappropriate. 

A Winning Mindset In Basic Military Training

  • Be a sponge.

You will have an overwhelming amount of information thrown at you in basic training. You will be taught many valuable skills that you’ll use throughout your career and life. 

You’ll start to understand military traditions and soak up what it means to be an Airman. Take it seriously. 

  • Don’t take anything personal.

Yes, you will get yelled at. Yes, you will be corrected if you are doing something wrong. However, all of that is designed to make you better. 

The MTI’s are not there just to be mean to you. They are there to mold you into an Airman. Typically, the harder an MTI is on you, the more they see potential for you to grow. 

Your flight in BMT will go through the stages of Team Development together. Also known as forming, storming, norming, and performing. 

You will have some disagreements in your flight especially in the storming stage. Don’t take it personal. Grow as a team and overcome adversity. 

  • You will get out what you put in. 

If you apply yourself to studying when you have free time, practice your time management skills, and push yourself at PT, you have a better chance of becoming a BMT Honor Graduate and reaching your full potential.

This is a great opportunity for you to challenge yourself and prepare you for a long successful career in or out of the military. 

Physical Training (PT) in Air Force Basic Military Training

You will do PT 6 days a week. Every other day is a cardio day in which you’ll run at your own pace for around 45 minutes. The other 3 days will be strength workouts where you do a collection of bodyweight exercises to increase your muscular strength with a focus on abs and upper body.

There is a progression system where you’ll be expected to do more reps of the strength exercises as you progress through Air Force BMT. 

The run days are at your own pace, but you should challenge yourself to increase your cardiovascular endurance.

Expectations from you at Air Force Basic Military Training. Open up the linked score chart and follow along. 

Find your gender and age gap at the top of the page. The majority of you will be Males < 25 years of age. There are 3 categories that you will be tested under: cardio, upper body strength, and abdominal strength.

By the end of BMT you must be able to score a combined 75 points in these 3 categories and at least hitting the minimum scores in each component. 

Now let’s break down an example:

  • A male under 25 can do 61 pushups in a minute or 37 Hand Release Pushups in 2 minutes. He gets 18.8 points
  • He can do 52 situps in a minute, 43 Cross Leg Reverse Crunches, or 3:05 minutes of a forearm plank. He gets 17.9 or 18.0 points. (Depending on Exercise Performed) 
  • He can run a mile and a half in 10:30 or do 80 20m Shuttle Runs. He gets 57 points.
  • That will get him 93.8 points. That is an excellent score of greater than a 90 which is what you should shoot for.  

My personal tip is to do traditional pushups and cross leg reverse crunches. These exercises are easier for me to max out on than the counter parts.

For the cardio component, find what works for you. 

Disclaimer: There is recent guidance that your Physical Fitness Exam at Air Force BMT does not count as an official test anymore. You will have to test within six months of arriving at your first duty station. Stay in shape and crush it! 

Writing Letters at Air Force Basic Training

The only way you are going to be able to write letters home with some consistency is time management. Each day, you will be going nonstop from 5:45 in the morning to 9 at night. 

The most time you will have throughout the week to write letters will be at night after you have cleaned the dorm as a team and your area is squared away. If your flight can manage to knock these tasks out every day, you will get to write often. 

However, if you and your flight push it off until the last minute, you might not get the opportunity to every day. You will be limited to writing on Sundays. You will have time throughout the day to go to Church and write letters. Take advantage of this. 

DO NOT try writing letters outside of your dorm or especially in classes. You will get destroyed by an MTI and you do not want that, I promise. 

  • Prepare and be efficient. Before you ship out, buy a pack of envelopes. Get a good amount pre-addressed by writing the recipient’s address in the middle, and pre stamp them. 

All you will have to do is put your return address on the top left corner, put your letter in, and drop it off at the mailbox. You will be provided your return address within the first few days of arriving. 

Your return address will be moderately long. Consider taking some time on a Sunday to prewrite your return address on your envelopes to save some time if you want to write quickly through the week.

Phone Calls at Air Force Basic Military Training

Phone calls at BMT are limited. You will use your own cell phone to call home, so make sure your phone is actively working or bring a prepaid cell phone. Every time you get to use your phone you will be under direct supervision. 

You will make your first phone call by Saturday of the week you arrived. You will be given a script to read to tell the person of your choosing your mailing address. 

Make sure the person you call will share the address with those you’d like to hear from, but only to people that know the etiquette of sending you letters.

Other than that, you will get to make a phone call on the 4th week of training and the 7th week of training. That time is given to you to give your family information about graduation and travel arrangements. 

You may get rewarded with extra phone calls if your flight performs well, but do not count on it. They can also take away or add time during your authorized phone calls.

DO NOT use your phone for anything other than voice calls. In my flight at BMT, someone sent a snapchat during his phone call time and was caught. He got recycled 2 weeks and was in BMT longer than he needed to be. 

Eating at Basic Military Training

I won’t sugar coat it, when I went through BMT, eating was a struggle. It gets better as you progress through the weeks. 

All of this information may be completely irrelevant 6 years later, but this was my experience. 

You walk in with your flight, get a protein bar for later, and get in line. You go through the line like a toy soldier yelling to the servers what you want to eat. The food is not great, but it is edible. You have the opportunity to make yourself a salad from a salad bar, then you slide down to the drinks. 

You must get 2 waters or gatorades and 1 other drink of your choice. Your choices are milk, juice, or gatorade. 

Then, you through the line, and the chow runners will seat you. It is a very meticulous process that your whole flight is bound to mess up and get destroyed by an MTI for.

You finally sit down to eat and do just that EAT. On average, they will try to get you in and out in 10 minutes. You will scarf your food down, put your tray away, and get back in formation outside. 

That is what the experience is like. Here are the tips. 

  • Time Management. This of course is a common theme in BMT and the military. Use your time wisely and eat. That is what you are there for anyway. 
  • Eat for your goals. If you want to put on weight, focus on eating meats, whole grains, and fats to beef yourself up. If you want to lose weight, just eat normal with maybe a salad. You will be in a calorie deficit. 
  • Keep a wingman! This is most important. After you eat, you will have to have a wingman to march out to where you get in formation outside. If you get lost, you will be in a world of hurt when an MTI finds you by yourself. 

Living Conditions in Air Force Basic Military Training

You will have a dorm that is in a 4 story building. The dorm will consist of 2 open bays with enough beds to sleep 50-60 trainees. There is no privacy. You will have your own bed and your own wall locker. That is it. 

The showers are open bay showers with around 26 shower heads. Again, there is no privacy. Make sure to laundry mark your towels correctly because they all look the same.

You’ll have to clean your whole dorm as a flight two times a day. Once before you head out for whatever activities you have for the day, and once when you get in for the day. Whenever you’re not in the dorm or whenever you’re sleeping, your area must be inspection ready. 

You will have a wall locker. Here you’ll keep your uniforms, hygiene items, and personal stuff.. My tip is to make sure your belongings stay squared away. Keep a travel bag of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, and shaving cream for use. Get a duplicate of everything for inspection. 

MTIs will do random inspections when you are least expecting it, so keeping your dorm and wall lockers clean and squared away will keep you ahead of the game.  

Graduation and Family Days at Air Force Basic Military Training

When the day comes for you to graduate and see your family, you’ll be understandably excited. The day kicks off with an Airman’s run where you will run with your flight from your dorms to the stadium where all of the families will see you and cheer. 

I wish I was making this up- when I went through, there were a handful of trainees that fell out of this run because they weren’t in shape. It’s about 2 miles of running. 

After that, you will get ready for your graduation. This will be in your OCP’s. Your family will come and “tap you out.” After that, you will be on base liberty until the evening. 

The next day, you will get ready for a graduation parade in your blues. After it ends you may be given on or off base liberty until the evening. 

Emotions will be running high during these couple days because it will be the first time you have seen your family for two months. You need to remember that all eyes are going to be on you so you will need to keep it professional. 

Remember these do’s and don’ts when it comes to your graduation and liberty. 

  • Do– enjoy the moment. It is a great honor to join the world’s greatest Air Force.
  • Do– spend as much of your liberty with your family as possible. You won’t get to go home on leave until after you graduate tech school. 
  • Do– keep it professional and avoid excess public displays of affection.
  • Don’t– drink alcohol or use tobacco products while you are out on liberty. It will get you in trouble.
  • Don’t– try to be sneaky and take off your uniform if not authorized. You will have a bald head and stick out like a sore thumb. 
  • Don’t– scarf down your food when you go out to eat with your family. This one is hard because you have been doing it for two months. Breathe. Enjoy your food!

Moving on to Tech School After Air Force Basic Military Training

After your graduation events, you will get ready to go to Tech School. This is going to be an exciting taste of freedom that you haven’t had for two months. It is also your next step into becoming a functional member of the Air Force. 

Keep this advice in mind. 

  • Be humble when others thank you for your service. The best way that I have found to answer this when people come up to me is, “Thank you for your support.” This is a genuine, humble response that means more than a simple, “You’re welcome.”
  • Be a good ambassador of the United States Air Force. The easiest way to do that is to always feel like you have your uniform on. If you wouldn’t do it in uniform, do not do it. Easy. 
  • Continue to learn and soak up the information you are given in tech school to be the best you can possibly be in your career field. 
  • Do not post videos of yourself on TikTok for “clout”. Active Air Force members hate seeing this stuff and it is the definition of cringe. Your recognition will come when you do real things to get yourself noticed. 

Air Force Basic Military Training FAQ

Where is Air Force Basic Military Training? It is located in San Antonio, Texas at JBSA Lackland, AFB. 

Is Air Force Basic Military Training hard? It’s only as hard as you make it. If you put in the work, before, during, and after you graduate, you will have a successful Air Force career. 

Is Air Force Basic Military Training easier than the Army? I cannot speak on the Army’s basic training because I did not go through it. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. Don’t pick one branch over the other because you think it will be easier. Follow your heart and find the career path for yourself. 

Do you go through the gas chamber at Air Force Basic Military Training? Yes. While not enjoyable, it will be over before you know it.

Do I get to go home after I complete Air Force BMT? No, you will be allowed to take leave en-route to your first duty station after you graduate from tech school. This is when you will use the Recruiter Assistance Program if you were offered it. 

The Enlisted Experience

Take your preparation and time in Air Force Basic Military Training seriously. If you follow the guidelines I have given you in this article, you will not only survive, but thrive

BMT is meant to prepare you for a successful career in the Air Force, and much more. 

Keep yourself out of trouble and focus on the task at hand one at a time. You will be just fine. 

-The NCO You Never Had

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