United States Army Basic Combat Training, BCT, is the combined mental and physical training required to become a soldier in the United States Army, United States Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. The training is conducted across the country at different Army posts around the United States. Basic Combat Training is a challenging and intensive program that tests recruit’s physical and psychological endurance in an unfamiliar atmosphere.
Basic Training consists of two distinct phases: Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training.
Basic Combat Training lasts ten weeks and includes standardized training, regardless of a soldier’s specialty or what type of service unit they will eventually join. Advanced Individual Training lasts anywhere from 4 to 52 weeks, depending on a soldier’s Military Occupational Specialty, MOS, their chosen field.
BCT is further divided into three phases, each designated by a particular color. Trainees get more responsibilities and greater privileges as they progress through each phase. While Phase 1is focused on constant monitoring from the drill sergeants, Phase 3 provides much more autonomy and responsibility. Each phase requires trainees to pass a test to advance to the next phase.
- Phase 1: Red
This stage takes recruits through general orientation where they receive their haircuts and uniforms. The initial training starts with Basic Tactical Training, then Nuclear Biology and Chemical Defense, Landmine Defense, and rappelling at the “confidence tower.” Soldiers learn the Seven Army Core Values and take the Army Physical Fitness Test to assess their level of fitness.
- Phase 2: White
The intensity and expectations increase once a soldier moves into the second phase.
They learn marksmanship, combat training, and rappelling at the Warrior Tower. More advanced skills, like Engagement Skills and Situational Training Exercises, further prepare the soldiers for duty.
- Phase 3: Blue
Trainees begin their U.S. Weapons Training and are tested in the Night Infiltration Course to monitor their progress. Trainees become proficient with the .50 Caliber M2, the M249 Machine Gun, and other weapons. A variety of field training, such as tactical foot marches of 10km and 15m, continues to develop the soldier’s skills.
Advanced Individual Training, AIT, begins when trainees complete the three phases of Basic Combat Training. This AIT phase trains soldiers in their specific field and takes up to a year for more specialized fields. There is a wide range of AIT schools, including Infantry, Engineering, and even Financial Management. Each school provides hands-on learning and field instruction for gaining proficiency in a soldier’s chosen career field.
Soldiers continue to be tested for physical fitness and weapons proficiency and are still responsible for the same duties and schedules of the BCT phases. As trainees progress through Phase 4 and Phase 5, the two phases of AIT, and display proficiency and good conduct, their privileges increase. The increasing responsibilities of each stage also provide more freedom. Phase 5 trainees enjoy much more freedom than any of the other phases, with privileges that range from more free-time to being allowed to stay off-base overnight on weekends.