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A Day in the life of Basic Training-RED PHASE

It is 0230 in the morning, and I got the second to last fireguard shift. It is hard to wake-up at this hour because lights out time is the only personal time a recruit truly gets. During lights out, no one is yelling or listening to orders. Since I know so little about the military, this fireguard shift seems pointless, which makes this task even harder to wake up for. As my fireguard shift continues, I sit there in the dark hallway of the barracks wondering what my friends and family are planning to do today. As my shift ends, I report the head count number to the relieving shift and go back to bed. My nap lasts one hour until its time to wake up.

After breakfast our Drill Sergeants yell at us, calling us filthy animals because our barracks are so messy. Honestly, I have never seen them so clean, but arguing with them would be suicide, so my fellow platoon members and I clean absolutely everything.

Once we pass the cleaning inspection, we learn about our M16A2 rifle (never call it a gun). It was weird holding a rifle for the first time. I have shot a rifle before, but now I am being trained to aim at people rather than animals or soda cans, which feels different. The first lesson we are taught is to properly identify the parts of the rifle. Then, we learn to assemble and disassemble the rifle in just a few seconds. Once our lectures are complete we head outside to learn “Drill and Ceremony” which is a series of strict maneuvers in which a recruit must position the rifle with clear and crisp movements. There is much to learn about Drill and Ceremony, so we break for lunch after just a brief introduction.

After lunch, we learned to adjust the site of our rifles to make sure we are able to shoot straight. Everyone looks through a rifle differently, so adjusting the site is almost like customizing the rifle to your body.

Just before dinner our platoon had a chance to assemble in an informal group in the barracks and study what we learned about the rifle. After our timed 3-minute dinner, we were forced to stand at attention for 20 minutes for not marching correctly back from the chow hall. It was snowing outside and a snowflake landed on my nose. I couldn’t restrain myself and wiped it off as quickly as I could. The Drill Sergeants surrounded me like a fallen gazelle in a lion pack. My entire platoon was doing push-ups in the snow for what seemed like an hour because of me. I felt awful but surprisingly my platoon members understood because that could have been anyone of us. It seemed like the Drill Sergeants were waiting for something like that to happen anyway before they released us from the position of attention.

Eventually the Drill Sergeants got tired of yelling and allowed us to go upstairs for a quick shower. I couldn’t wait to get that hot water on my face and freezing hands. As I peeled off my soaked clothes I heard a recruit yell “no hot water”. As my platoon groaned, I took my washcloth and rinsed my body with cold water as quickly as possible.

I shine my dirty boots to end my day. For me, shining my boots is a nice break; I use that time to reflect on my life. I only wonder how much more of basic training I can take. I am mentally and physically aching and I have many more weeks to go. The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook told me to expect these mental challenges so I am not surprised by these events. I can take comfort in the fact that I have prepared properly for basic training.

I don’t have fireguard duty tonight and a continuous 5 or 6-hour sleep will feel very nice. To end the day, the Drill Sergeants lined up our platoon and checked if our toenails and fingernails were cut properly and were not infected. As I headed to bed ready for my long awaited sleep I heard a whistle blow. A Drill Sergeant yelled from a distance “Everyone outside maggots! No one and I mean no one steals crackers from the Chow Hall”. The other recruits in our room moaned and got dressed as quick as possible to avoid being the last one outside. There goes my comforting sleep.


Mike Volkin is the author of the Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, available at

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