Thursday, May 07, 2015

Basic: Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training

Talk about bringing back memories.  

Reading Basic: Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training made me remember (sometimes fondly, sometimes not so fondly) things I have not thought about in since they happened way back in 1968 while I was in the process of completing Army basic training at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  I am certain that anyone who completed basic or boot camp during the Viet Nam era (because most of the book’s first-person anecdotes seem to come from those years) will react the same way.  The awakening of those memories, along with a better understanding of things that made little sense to most of us while they were happening, makes Basic a fun (and worthwhile) read. 

But, first things first.  The title of the book might seem a little redundant to some because it references both “Boot Camp” and “Basic Training.”  There is, however, good reason for that: Marines complete “boot camp” and the Army’s “soldiers” complete “basic training.”  And, although I am less certain about it, I believe that the Navy puts its recruits through “boot camp,” while the Air Force prefers the “basic training” designation.  So, although the training is somewhat similar across all branches of the U.S. military, the terms really are not directly interchangeable.

Basic describes each of the segments and milestones that are part of a military recruit’s first few weeks of military training, beginning with the calm-by-comparison first week during which hair is shorn, shots are given, and uniforms are issued, and ending with the graduation ceremony.  Along the way, Colonel Jacobs describes both training whose purpose is apparent and “training” that seems to have little purpose at all.  Through a combination of stories from those who have gone through the training themselves and the colonel’s explanation of what that training entails, the reader learns about things like: close-order drill, hand-to-hand combat training, bayonet training, guard duty, barracks life, weapons qualification, mess hall protocols, and PT training and testing. 

Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Colonel Jacobs emphasizes the two distinct types of training that occur during basic, physical and mental, because it is critical that new soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, be as well prepared mentally as they are physically to take on the responsibilities for which they are training.  That being the case, most of the training whose purpose is not so readily apparent most often relates to the mental aspects of basic training.  Those in charge of such training believe that new recruits must first be broken down before they can be rebuilt into the military men and women they are meant to be.  And they are correct; the process works beautifully.

At the end of a recruit’s training, the Drill Instructors who were his worst enemy (and someone to fear), suddenly turn into peers who show him as much respect as they have demanded from him just a few days earlier.  And that has to be one of the best feelings in the world, something that no graduate of Basic Training or Boot Camp will ever forget.

Bottom Line: Basic: Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training will be of interest both to those who have not undergone the training and to those who have.  I had fun with this one.

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