Air Force basic training was a wild journey and the most challenging feat I have completed in my life so far. Before going to basic training, I was incredibly worried about the challenge to come and the various rumors I heard about people who were held back in basic training due to medical, mental health, or other various reasons. Leaving home was also incredibly hard for me. Before now, the longest I had been away from home was a little over a week. I doubted my ability to handle not only being away from home for an extended period of time, but also having limited contact with my family throughout the duration of the 7.5 week basic training. The day I left was an incredibly overwhelming day for me, and the first night at boot camp felt like a surreal experience, almost like a dream. It was hard to comprehend the decision I had made that night and what I had truly gotten myself into. The realization did not hit me until the next morning when my military training instructor banged on the door and stormed into the dorm, screaming at us to make our beds and get ready fast.
Of course, this is to be expected. Almost anyone who goes through basic, even if they do not admit it, questions their decision at some point. Most of the time, this realization occurs during the first week (coined 0 week by the Air Force) of training. Although, this can happen right before leaving for boot camp. In fact, this is when the feeling was strongest for me. I realized I was leaving my family, neighborhood and hometown for a long time. This feeling came back to me many times throughout training. Often times, I felt like I just wanted to quit, get out of there, and come back home where I had some freedom and liberty to do what I wanted; however, during these times where I was tired, sick of the training, and homesick, I had to find a way to push away the bad attitude and anxiety and keep pushing forward. This is something that I struggled with before leaving for basic training.
Although resiliency was one of the most significant traits I learned from basic training, there were many other attributes I learned as well, such as self-discipline, precise attention to small details, and the importance of keeping a consistent routine.
Throughout basic training, we were tested on our ability to pay attention to the smallest details. This would often be manifested through our recruit living area (RLA) and also our personal living area (PLA). The PLA consisted of my bed, towel, laundry bag, and shoe display while the RLA consisted of the contents within my wall locker: all of my uniforms, socks, and underwear. There were very specific rules for how we had to make our bed display all of our uniforms, and display our shoes. For example, the bed had to be tight with perfect 45 degree hospital corners. The towel displayed at the end of the bed draped over the post had to have the edges completely flush and the laundry bag had to be three inches away from the right edge of the bed with the strings draped over the top. The underwear within the wall locker had to be perfectly grounded to the top right of the clothing drawer and folded in perfect thirds, while the socks had to be displaced a specific way and rolled very tightly, same with the shirts. The uniforms in the wall locker had to be displayed in a specific order, as worn, and free of lint, dust, and strings.
Maintaining this area was extremely difficult and one of the hardest, if not the hardest, aspects of basic training; however, this precision has taught me to pay attention to incredibly small details in more important aspects of my job, as well as my life. In the military, attention to detail can often be the difference between life and death.
Even though basic training was incredibly tiring at times, I felt much healthier than I did before arriving at Lackland. A routine schedule with a specific bedtime, wake-up time, and meal times was paramount in this feeling. Now, I try to keep a consistent schedule and have found that I feel a lot better and am more productive as a result.
Overall, although basic training was incredibly hard, it was incredibly important for me and was a great way to learn how to become responsible, disciplined, and independent. I believe everyone needs to go through an experience like this at some point in their lives in order to grow and develop as a person.