Comparing Basic Training for the 5 Branches of U.S. Military Service

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2016
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Members of each branch of service typically consider their own basic training to be the most challenging and toughest of all the branches; it’s a debate of hard-knock stories and amazing feats of endurance and learning. The reality is that all recruit training for U.S. military service is strenuous, mentally and physically, and all who find theComparing Basic Training for the 5 Branches of U.S. Military Service intestinal fortitude to complete them should be respected and commended.

A common question may be "How long is military boot camp?" On average training can last anywhere from 8-12 weeks. While each service has different training schedules and requirements, orientation week is basically the same across all five branches. During this time, new recruits:

  • Turn in enlistment paperwork
  • Receive dental and medical exams, as well as immunizations
  • Receive uniforms and training gear
  • Receive required haircuts (women can keep hair long provided it can be worn within regulation)
  • Create direct-deposit accounts for paychecks

Though Week Zero may be considered “intake,” actual training does begin at orientation, with many services beginning physical training (PT) within the first few days. This varies from branch to branch, but overall training typically lasts between eight and 12 weeks, culminating in graduation.


Called: Basic Combat Training

Duration: 10 weeks

Locations: Columbus, GA; Columbia, SC, Lousiville, KY; Waynesville, MO; Lawton, OK

Physical Fitness Requirements: Timed 2-mile run; 2 minutes of sit-ups; 2 minutes of push-ups

Overview: After the Zero Week reception, the week of “fall in” commences, covering the basics of rules, regulations, and processes. Week 2 introduces recruits to their Drill Sergeant (DS), who begins the process of building up mental and physical endurance over the next two weeks. Week 4 begins the focus on marksmanship and the M16A2, teaching recruits proper care and firing from many different positions. Week 5 features recruit trials of the Basic Rifle Marksmanship Qualification Course and the Fit to Win Obstacle Course. Weeks 6-8 focus on building camaraderie, confidence, and combat skills, culminating in Week 9’s Victory Forge, a challenging three-day retreat that tests all the recruits have learned to that point. Week 10 culminated with graduation.

Marine Corps

Called: Recruit Training

Duration: 12 weeks

Locations: Parris Island, SC; San Diego, CA

Physical Fitness Requirements: Timed 3-mile run; pull-up count; 2 minutes of abdominal crunches

Overview: Recruit training is 12 weeks long and divided into three phases. Phase 1 involves education on core values, history, customs, and daily routines, and recruits are introduced to their Drill Instructor (DI). Physical and mental endurance training begins immediately. Phase 2 involves swim qualification, rifle marksmanship training, martial arts training, close-order drill, and the gas chamber exercise. Week 7 introduces Grass Week, where recruits become intimately familiar with their M16, before moving on to Firing Week. During Phase 3, recruits demonstrate their new skills in final drill, knowledge and physical fitness tests, and the Crucible, a 54-hour continuous field survival exercise that culminates with receiving the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem and being referred to as “Marine” for the first time.


Called: Boot Camp

Duration: 8 weeks

Location: Great Lakes, IL

Physical Fitness Requirements: Timed 1.5-mile run or 500-yard swim; 2 minutes of curl-ups; 2 minutes of push-ups; Sit-and-reach flexibility test

Overview: Navy boot camp is typically 8 weeks long, and progresses from basic conditioning, to a “confidence course” and teambuilding week, then on to hands-on training. On week 3, recruits board a land-bound training ship and learn everything from ship nomenclature, to ship-bound first aid techniques, to semaphore (signaling with flags). Around week 4, they encounter their first physical training test, as well as live fire training and an academic test. Week 5 focuses on career path, and week 6 cover on-board fire safety. Week 7 puts recruits through their toughest test in Battle Stations, 12 different scenarios that, when completed, officially change a recruit into a full-fledge Sailor, donning the official U.S. Navy ball cap.

Air Force

Called: Basic Military Training

Duration: 8.5 weeks

Location: San Antonio, TX

Physical Fitness Requirements: Timed 1.5-mile run; 1 minute of push-ups; 1 minute of sit-ups; Abdominal circumference measurement

Overview: Every enlisted Airman begins their Air Force career with 7.5 weeks of Basic Military Training (BMT) followed by Airmen’s Week. Week 0 is considered intake and introduction to the Military Training Instructor (MTI). Week 1 begins mental and physical conditioning, and Week 2-3 covers Air Force history and its role in countering diverse threats to national security. Week 4 begins to prepare airmen for combat with defensive fighting techniques and lifesaving skills, leading up to Week 5 which is considered the most challenging week of BMT, focusing on field training exercises and combat scenarios. Week 6 covers final evaluations of fitness and airmanship skills. Once you’ve survived all this, you celebrate with the Airman’s Run and graduation in Week 7, followed by the final step before leaving for tech training, Airmen’s Week.

Coast Guard

Called: Recruit Training

Duration: 8 weeks

Location: Cape May, NJ

Physical Fitness Requirements: Timed 1.5-mile run; 1 minute of push-ups;1 minute of sit-ups; Sit-and-reach flexibility test; 5-minute water tread; 5-foot platform jump into a 100-meter swim

The Coast Guard refers to the process of becoming a Coast Guardsman as “forming,” and it entails 8 weeks at Camp May. After three days of intake and admin, Recruit Training begins in earnest, when recruits are assigned to a company and introduced to their Company Commander (CC). The first week or two is often considered to be the most difficult, as recruits engage in intense physical fitness training and an introduction to required knowledge. At the end of the fourth week, recruits take the mid-term exam that marks a turn in training towards more hands-on skills like marksmanship, line handling, seamanship, and firefighting. Recruits then complete their Assignment Data Card that designates recruit preferences on potential service location. At the end of week 5, recruits receive their orders, then training shifts to focus on final first aid and CPR training, as well as arranging for travel and graduation.

Written By Megan Hammons


20 Responses to “Comparing Basic Training for the 5 Branches of U.S. Military Service”

  1. Felix De Angelis says:

    I'm a marine... No comment

  2. John Ambrook says:


  3. Bill Paul Thompson says:

    AZC(AW) US Navy 25 years retired in 1988

  4. Mario Troncarelli says:

    I respect each and every one of you, and I cherish what you've given me with your service; freedom. I'm a 59 year old man and I wish i had listen more to my inner voice to serve. I wish I could serve in some way now I want to give back to what for most people is imperceptible. Thank you

  5. Alycia says:

    I enjoy the article

  6. Xeno says:

    A former Marine going into any other branch of service does not have to go through that branches boot camp. Any other prior service member that wants to change over to Marine Corps has to go through Marine Corps boot camp. Enough said. Semper Fi

    • Chris says:

      I’m not debating which one is more difficult. However, I found out recently when a friend of mine who is prior service MC was trying to join the Army NG. That after 3 years of stopped service, regardless of what branch, you HAVE to go through that branches boot. Never knew that, and found it quite interesting.

    • Nathaniel says:

      That might be true... minus Infantry OSUT even had prior marine sgts fall out on some of our runs or workouts.

  7. Julien says:

    I’m 17 going to basic this summer at Fort Leonard wood Missouri. I just wanna thank you for giving a description on the army.

    • Tammy says:

      Congratulations. Be Proud! And thank you for choosing to serve. My son is at Ft Leonard Wood. He absolutely loves it. Good luck. Stay strong. Best decision you will ever mak

  8. USMC 1984-1992 0311/1371 I will be a Marine until the day they shovel dirt on my Casket.

  9. Enery says:

    I am a 21 year old female who has chosen to serve my country. I will leave to basic training on August 5th to become a United States Marine!

    • Anna T. says:

      Congratulations for your decision to serve your country. My hubby served 23 years retired as LCDR USCG our grandson is now at Parris Island. He will graduate basic August 30, 2019. Best wishes devil pup....God bless you.

  10. Chuck Walker says:

    My son is a Marine Sergeant in the middle east. My daughter is in the Coast Guard. I was Army (cavalry) in Korea and Germany. Still a cop. (47 years). My wife tells her family in the Philippines that she's the mother of warriors.

  11. Anna Davis says:

    The Army has now extended it’s OSUT/Basic Trainingto 22 weeks in at least 2 sites, including Fort Benning. Army is considering on doind this for all it’s sites. More high speed warriors.
    - I’m disabled and retired, with 7 tours. My blood is Army green for life.

  12. Finley says:

    I want to become a helicopter pilot or medic
    Within the u.s. military. I'm 16 and considering
    the coastguard or the army. What should I do?

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