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Surviving The White Phase

Much like the Red Phase, the White Phase of basic training has many nicknames (e.g. gunfighter phase, phase II, white flag phase, etc). This phase encompasses weeks 4-6 of basic training. As you transition from the dreaded Red Phase, you will feel your first sense of relief and accomplishment since you arrived at basic training. In White Phase you are given a bit more leeway. The Drill Sergeants don’t hang on your every breath, but mind you, they are still tough on you. This phase is centered on the development of basic combat skills, with special emphasis on the M16A2 rifle, what will soon be your best friend in basic training. You will receive a weapon in this phase and you will use the same weapon throughout the rest of basic training. I highly suggest you give your weapon a name. I recommend this because if you give something a name, you are more likely to treat it better. Treat your weapon well, and it will treat you well.

In White Phase, you will first learn how to identify every piece of your weapon, and then learn to assemble and disassemble it. Once you can do that you are ready for the range. Since everyone looks into a scope differently, you will have to “zero” your weapon. By zeroing your weapon you are essentially customizing it to give you a more accurate shot. Do not try to zero the weapon yourself. The Drill Sergeants will do it for you simply because they know how to zero a weapon better than you think you do. Even if you have zeroed a weapon before, let your Drill Sergeants do it.

Once you zero your weapon you will be begin to practice hitting targets. When I entered basic training, I had never fired a gun before, let alone a rifle. Most recruits find this phase enjoyable. The M16A2 is an amazing weapon with little kickback. Some recruits e-mail me and ask if it hurts to shoot the M16A2 rifle. I always reply with the same answer – not only does it not hurt, but you will barely feel you are shooting a round when you pull the trigger. You will get to feel what a kickback is when you experience the 20-calibur during U.S. Weapons day.

In addition to the range, you will also be taught skill development, self-discipline, and will go through various team-building exercises.

White phase is filled with the old “hurry up and wait” adage. Some days, you will only get about 20 minutes of shooting practice with about 8 hours of waiting. You will also become very familiar with Meals Ready to Eat (MRE). If you are unfamiliar with how to eat an MRE, my book explains, step-by-step, how to eat one. It is best that you know before you arrive at basic training. When I was at basic training, our Drill Sergeants only gave us 5 minutes to eat one, and the first time you see an MRE, it takes about 10 minutes to figure out how the heater packet works. So naturally, many of us recruits went without lunch a couple times.

When you are waiting for shooting practice break out your Smartbook or any notes you may have. Take advantage of that free time.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have purchased my book and sent me encouraging emails and great book reviews. Because of the great response of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, many opportunities have come my way in the last few months (i.e. TV host, radio interviews, new publishing opportunities, etc). However, the thanks belongs to you for joining the military during such troubled times. Of course, I welcome questions from recruits at


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

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