Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How Tough is it Being a Vegan at Basic Training?

I have recently received questions from people asking if they can be a vegan and go through basic military training (BMT) successfully. The short answer is yes, but it would be very difficult.

My longer answer is….

A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal products, which includes eggs, milk, or cheese.  They must either takes supplements (which are not allowed at BMT), or identify other non-animal substitute foods to make up for the lack of nutrients. Foods such as avocado, beans, legumes, nuts, kale, tahini, are all common ingredients in a vegan diet. However, they are not all very common in a BMT chow hall.

Another consideration is the nutrient content of the vegetables provided at basic training. As a true vegan will tell you, any vegetable that has been processed, such as canned or frozen, does not contain the full amount of nutrients as it does in its raw form. Vegans often closely regulate how much heat is used when cooking their food (if any); knowing that at a certain heat index the vegetable looses much of its nutrients. The vegetables at BMT are processed and often cooked, lessoning their nutritional value. However combined with other foods, such as meats and dairy products they can create a complete nutritional meal. Without meats and dairy, they may not provide the necessary nutrients your body will need.

Because of these considerations BMT is not conducive for a healthy vegan diet.
This is not to say that it cannot be done. The human body is extremely resilient; however you will not feel or perform your best while living in this high stress, highly physical environment. Anyone who has gone through BMT will tell you that physically and mentally you are taxed the entire time.  Feeling your best is essential to making BMT as stress free as possible, but if you are adamant about sticking to your vegan diet, just know that it is yet another hurdle you will have to surpass.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Great Fitness Program for Basic Training

 The Following article was written by SGT Volkin, the creator of the Strength Stack 52 a new workout program which I highly recommend for those of you who are getting ready for Basic Training.
The Plateau Busting Mini Workout Theory Put to the Test
By: Sergeant Michael Volkin (aka: The Volkinator)
A typical workout for an average person consists of about 30 minutes to 1 hour of lifting weights.  If exercises are performed incorrectly, the load on the muscles and stress on the joints of these repeated movements causes both short and long term damage to your body.  Most people continue to work out despite a known injury, aching back, or sore muscles because of the improved appearance of their physique as a result of the working out. However, over time, the improved appearance becomes harder to maintain and a “plateau” eventually occurs. A workout plateau is when someone continues to exercise and sees diminishing returns on the improvement of their physique.
Recently, several scientific studies have been conducted which analyzes the optimal duration and intensity for a proper workout.  Some experts claim high intensity and fast workouts are the most beneficial, others claim slow meticulous movements with heavy loads is the easiest way to maintain a great physique and optimal health.
Mini workouts have proven to be extremely effective to both the health of the individual and improvement of the physique, yet often if the most underutilized form of working out. Three to five workouts a day varying in duration from 10-15 minutes provides a boost in the metabolic rate of an individual throughout the entire day.  Therefore, mini workouts are more effective at burning calories throughout the day rather than working out all in one block.  For proper nutrition, an individual will eat 3 meals a day; the same theory should be applied to working out.
A majority of fitness products largely overlook the scientific studies showing the effectiveness of a mini workout because people usually workout in one block hour.  This principle has been adopted not because of optimal health of the individual, but rather convenience.  Only a small percentage of people for very specific reasons (i.e. competitive bodybuilders) will show consistent gains working out in 1 hour blocks. 
The Test
Typically, I work out at the gym during my lunch hour with three other coworkers.  The three of us decided to give the concept of mini-workouts a try for 2 full months. Before we started, we recorded our weight, body fat percentage and body measurements. We used a fitness product I invented called Strength Stack 52, which concept centers around bodyweight mini-workouts.  Instead of doing one 45 minute workout during our lunch hour, we met 15 minutes before and after work and 15 minutes during our lunch hour to complete mini workouts.  The three of us were still exercising 45 minutes per day and to keep the results as pure as possible, we did not change our eating habits or lift any weights. 
The Result
Each of us saw positive results at the end of the two months performing strictly bodyweight exercises in intervals of 15 minutes 3 times per day.  The three of us averaged 11 lbs. of weight loss with the highest of us losing 18 lbs. Keep in mind, that weight loss occurred with no change in our diet from already active people.  Each of us also experienced muscle gain, reducing our body fat percentage an average of 2.2%.  We all agree, the biggest benefit was our mental stamina and attitude. We all feel better throughout the day and our 2 o’clock “is the workday over yet?” feeling has gone away. 
Whether our success is a result of breaking a plateau or the result of the effectiveness of mini-workouts can’t be determined in just 2 months.  However, the reason doesn’t matter.  The results speak for themselves and the mini workouts were fun.  Instead of looking forward to one large workout in a day, we looked forward to 3 intense and fun workouts in a day. 
Other benefits we experienced as a result of the mini-workouts included:
-Less muscle soreness
-less joint pain
-increased cardiovascular stamina
-more mental stamina and intensity per workout
-more calories burned per day
Although we experienced positive results testing the mini-workouts we all miss throwing a few dumbbells around. We have developed a hybrid program where we now do a mini-workout in the morning and start our lunch hour workout with a mini-workout.  After our second mini-workout (during the lunch hour) we perform a weight training program.
Experiencing the mini-workouts was an eye opening experience for us.  We all subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy and we now know that no part of that old adage is true. You can in fact gain muscle and lose weight performing small, fun and challenging workouts three times a day.  
This article was authored by Sergeant Michael Volkin, best-selling author and inventor of Strength Stack 52 fitness cards.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Qualify as an Expert on the Firing Range

The Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy all have badges or ribbons for qualifying as an expert in small arms (rifle and pistol), which can be earned during basic training. The Navy fires shotgun and pistol, and the other branches fire M-16 rifles.  The Coast Guard does not fire live weapons at basic training.  Regardless of what type of weapon you will be firing at basic training, there are a few simple tips to follow that will help you to qualify as an expert marksman.

-Remember to breathe and breathe normally. There is a tendency to hold your breath when shooting in order to keep your site on target. However, holding your breath actually causes you to shake and skew your aim.

-When squeezing the trigger, slowly pull the trigger back in one continuous motion. Quickly jerking the trigger back will move the weapon enough to miss your target.

-Don’t anticipate the recoil (i.e. the kick). There is a natural tendency to jerk your weapon down slightly in anticipation of the “kick.” This is especially true when firing pistols. The best way to avoid jerking your weapon is to imagine there are no rounds (bullets) in the weapon. You can practice this by actually dry firing (pulling the trigger of an empty weapon), and keeping your hands steady. Before going to the firing range you will spend time getting familiar with your weapon, at which time you will have the opportunity to practice dry fires.

-Squeeze the trigger after you exhale and before you inhale. This is known as the natural respiratory pause. This is the point in your breathing cycle where you’re best able to center the weapon on your target.

 PS. I just used these techniques during my annual M4 and M9 qualification and once again qualified as Expert.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Air Force Basic Training Fitness Standards

What are the Air Force fitness standards for basic training you ask?
Every military branch has height and weight requirements in order to join. Throughout the decades these requirements have changed from time to time. Over the past couple of years the Air Force has been tightening it’s belt on spending and in turn requiring it’s member to physically tighten their belts if they want to remain in the Air Force. The same is true for new recruits. In addition to the height and weight requirements, the Air Force now has an abdominal circumference requirement (they measure your waist) and a run time requirement before starting  basic training.
Here are the Pre-Basic Training standards that went into effect as of January 1st 2011.

1.5 mile run in 18:30
Abdominal Circumference no greater than 39 inches or Body Fat of 20%

1.5 mile run in 21:35
Abdominal Circumference no greater than 35.5 inches or Body Fat of 28%

Trainees failing to meet these requirements may be processed out of the Air Force. In the last year, I have personally witnessed two new recruits processed out of the Air Force right before their basic training ship date. One was not able to meet the minimum run time and the other could not get his waist under 39 inches. The best way to insure this does not happen to you is to take the time and start a fitness regimen before basic training. The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook has a comprehensive fitness program designed specifically for those preparing for basic training.
Good luck at basic training!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Play to Your Strengths

By the time you complete basic training you will have rolled more shirts, folded more towels and made more beds than you will care to remember. However, there will be some things you wont be able to do right no matter how many times you try. For some people it’s making hospital corners on their bed, for others it’s folding towels into perfect rectangles with every edge the same length. For me, it was getting my duffle bag perfectly folded into a square. No matter how many times I tried I couldn’t make it perfect. On the other hand, rolling socks and shirts into perfect, wrinkle-free tubes was easy for me.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from your fellow recruits. For example, if you can’t role a shirt but can make a great hospital corner, find someone that can roll a perfect shirt faster than a roadrunner on speed, but who’s hospital corners look like a deformed taco. In other words, help each other out. Much of basic training is learning to work efficiently with other people, and the training starts with the little things, such as folding clothes and making beds.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Second Thoughts About Basic Training?

It’s normal for all recruits to think at one time or another that they have made a mistake by joining the military. Usually this thought occurs during the first week of basic training. Some trainees will find it hard to avoid thinking about their cushy civilian life. If you think you may be one of those recruits that lay awake at night dreaming of your family and friends, keep these tips in mind:

Tip #1

Understand the first week of training is the hardest.

Yes, everything is new and no one seems to likes you. Don’t worry, you aren’t doing anything wrong. Everyone is feeling the same worries and fears. At this point, just understand what is to be expected of you and try your best to accomplish those tasks.

Tip #2

Hurting yourself or others will not get you home sooner.

As crazy as it may sound to you now, there are recruits desperate enough to leave basic training that they will hurt themselves to get discharged. Unfortunately this tactic doesn’t work. As a result, the recruits who self inflict an injury spend more time away from home stuck in military medical facilities while the other recruits have graduated.

Tip #3

You’re not alone.

Even though you are living night and day with fifty plus other people, at first you may feel like you are going through hell and you’re all by yourself. That’s because you have not yet connected with the other recruits. After the first week of training, you’ll find that you have built a friendship with the other recruits.

A parent of a military recruit who is currently going through basic training asked me “What will the military do if my son doesn’t want to finish basic training?” My answer to that is – the fastest way out of basic training is to graduate from basic training.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Basic Training During the Holidays

For those leaving for basic training in the near future you have probably realized that you will be there during the holidays, and you probably have questions as to what will happen at basic training during Thanksgiving and Christmas. The following is for Air Force Basic Training only.

The Air Force has a program called Operation Homecooking which has been around for 35 years. For Thanksgiving, and only Thanksgiving, trainees will get a break from training and have the opportunity to spend this holiday in the home of a local active duty member (don’t worry it won’t be your Instructor’s). Participation in this program isn’t guaranteed. If you are in your first couple of weeks of training you will not go anywhere. Instead you will continue with training but that night’s dinner usually consists of turkey. The number of trainees that can participate in Operation Homecooking is dictated by the number of active duty members who volunteer to host a trainee. If you are selected to participate it is important to remember the following information which your Instructor is sure to give you.

- You are not allowed to drink any alcohol, even if offered by your host family.
- You must remain professional and respectful.
- Don’t badmouth your Instructor or fellow trainees.
At the same time it’s alright to relax and have a good time away from Lackland AFB.

Historically Christmas is a relaxed training day. With Christmas being on a Sunday this year you will have the option of going to church that day. Sundays are normally non-PT and appointment days which means you will spend the day in your dorm. Usually you will be given cleaning details or told to work on your wall locker, but your Instructor will stay away as much as possible which will make the day a lot more relaxed.

Remember, before leaving for BMT remind your family not to send you presents while at basic training.

This article was written by SrA Nick VanWormer, author of The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook available at http://www.ultimatebasictraining.com/

Friday, September 2, 2011

5 Common Mistakes in the First 5 Minutes

No matter how often it is said, or how many times it is printed, there is always someone on the bus heading to basic training that makes at least one of these obvious mistakes. Don’t let this person be you. Read the following list bellow and then read The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook for more advice and tips on how to stay out of trouble at basic training.

  1. Hair: Do not shave your head before basic training. This applies to both males and females. Do not even arrive at basic with a military style cut (Flat Top, High-and-tight etc). Males should shave all facial hair before arriving at basic training. Females do not worry about shaving your legs; it is not a requirement for basic training.

  1. Recruiting T-Shirts: When you enlist in any branch of the military you will probably be given a t-shirt. This t-shirt will have a military logo on it. Your recruiter may even tell you to wear it when you go to basic training. DON’T! Unless you want to be yelled at more than everyone else your fist day of basic training, leave this t-shirt at home.

  1. Other Clothing: In addition to the t-shirt, you should also not wear clothes that are out of the ordinary or will draw attention. What would that be? When I got off the bus for basic training there was already a group of recruits standing in formation. As I approached them to take my place my attention was automatically drawn to a male recruit wearing a bright yellow one-piece jump suite. If I noticed it you can be sure the Instructors couldn’t help but go out of their way to introduce themselves to that individual. That is an extreme example but I think you get the point.

  1. Luggage: If colorful clothing will catch the Instructor’s attention, than you can be sure colorful luggage will too. Leave your cartoon character luggage at home. Yes there are people that still do this. I would even go so far as to only bring neutral colored luggage to basic training. (No purples, reds, yellows etc).

5. Attitude: When you first get to basic training it is important not to show any type of attitude. Attitude doesn’t only refer to a bad attitude, although that is the worst type to have at basic training. It also refers to an exited attitude. Do not get off the bus with a big smile on your face, or stand in formation acting as if you are enjoying every minute of it. Even if you are, don’t let the Instructors see it yet.

I know this information has been stated over and over, but again, it never seems to fail that either people misunderstand or simply think the rules do not apply to them, and as a result they arrive at basic training wearing purple pants, an Army t-shirt, with a newly shaved head, carrying a smurfs suitcase and grinning from ear to ear. Do not be this person - don’t even stand near them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guard Duty at Basic Training

Basic training is designed to teach you how to work under pressure, to keep your military bearing under the most stressful situations, and to accomplish your mission even while being distracted.

At the beginning of basic training you must learn to decide when to open and when not to open a door. In the Air Force it’s called Entry Control Duty (EC Duty). This “simple” task of guarding the door to your dorm leads to stress and punishment for many trainees.

Your Mission: Prevent unauthorized personnel from entering your dormitory.

Your Adversary: Any and all Military Training Instructors (MTIs) trying to gain access to your dorm without showing proper identification.

If You Should Fail: At the beginning of basic training the punishment will be an MTI in your face, and then your face in the ground while you complete a given number of pushups. If you are to fail later in training, the punishment increases, and can even included being recycled (held back in training).

How to Accomplish this Mission and Succeed at EC Duty: At the beginning of basic training everyone will be assigned an EC Duty shift. The unlucky trainee who’s given the job of writing and monitoring those shifts is responsible for teaching you EC procedures.

Step 1 Make the EC Monitor show you all the procedure, in detail.

Step 2 Practice, practice and more practice. Once you have been shown the procedure, take the time to practice with your fellow trainees until you can say the instructions in your sleep (and some trainees will).

Step 3 When the MTI is pounding on the door yelling at you to let him in, ignore him. Do not listen to what he’s saying. Nothing he says or threatens you with gives him authorization to enter the room.

By the way - You will have specific instruction printed, (instructions are written on the door for you), which tell you who to allow entrance to and when to allow it.

This sounds simple right? It can be, if you stay focused and aren’t that trainee who believes the MTI’s threats. “Open this door or I’ll recycle your #@! back to next year!” What typically happens after this threat? The trainee looses focus and opens the door. The trainee now smells the breath of the MTI as he yells at him for opening the door. The trainee then notices the dirt between the tiles as he starts his third round of pushups.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Ultimate Basic Training Radio Show

Last Saturday I hosted he Ultimate Basic Training Radio Show. During this show I talked about the following...

1. What often happens when you don't make an appointment with a recruiter, and just pop into the recruiting station.

2. I talked about a rumor going around that you will be sent home from basic training if you fail your first PT test.

3. Lastly I went into more detail about an article I wrote for Military.com that talked about ways to work with the people you will be living with at basic training.

Enjoy the show and leave any comments or questions you have.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3 ways to Avoid Team Conflicts at Basic

An article I wrote for Military.com

By Senior Airman Nick VanWormer

During basic training up to 60 recruits, each with their own unique background, prejudices, and ideas, live in close quarters in a high stress environment. In this situation there is bound to be conflict, in fact it is expected. It is also expected that this disunited group of people will learn to work as a unified team. Success strongly depends on how soon each individual learns the following key points of working with others during basic training.

1. Focus on others. As you prepare to leave for basic training your focus should be about what you need to do before you leave. When you’re with friends and family the conversation focuses around what your basic training experience is going to be like. At this point, the focus is on you. However, once you arrive at basic training you should change your mindset from ‘what do I need to do?’ to ‘what do we need to do?’

2. W hen one individual fails the team fails. Just like a sports team, in order to win the game the team must work well together. While at the same time it takes individual achievement to bring the team to victory. Likewise, the failings of one team player can cause a loss for the entire team. Therefore it is important that everyone looks out for their fellow teammates, stepping in to compensate for an individuals weakness (which could be as small as folding shirts, or rolling socks) and capitalizing on an individual’s strength.

3. Being right isn’t always best. During basic training you and your group will be faced with many tasks that must be completed in a short amount of time. Your instructor will not necessarily tell you how to accomplish these tasks, but rather leave it up to the group to figure out. This is often when conflict occurs. During these times you may be right about the best way to complete the task, but arguing about it is not the best use of time. If there is a strong enough conflict that is hindering the task from getting done, it is better to swallow your pride and do it their way in order to accomplish the task.

Consciously think about these basic concepts during basic training and it will help you work with your team.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Air Force Basic Training: Push Up Tip #1

If you're working on push ups before leaving for basic training (which you should be), here is a good exercise that will help increase the number of push ups you can do. You can do this at home, and no special equipment is needed.

Include this exercise with your pre-basic training workout.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ultimate Basic Training Radio Show

Exciting News! I have been guest hosting the Ultimate Basic Training Radio show off and on for a couple of weeks. I have now been brought on board as a co-host with SGT Volkin. Together we will be providing the most up-to-date and useful basic training information available.

Last week was my first show as co-host and I talked about how to go into the military with a guaranteed job, three essential tips for receiving mail during basic and how to make the most of your phone calls home during basic training.

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ultimate Basic Training Radio

Once again I guest hosted the Ultimate Basic Training Radio show. On this show I answered question about options for vegetarians during basic training. I also discussed how to separate the good advice from the bad, when talking to people about your upcoming Air Force Basic training experience.

Click on the link below to listen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ultimate Basic Training Radio: Air Force Basic Training

Click the play button to listen to my first appearance as guest host on the Ultimate Basic Training Radio.

During the show I talk about
- The importance of looking at all your options before joining the military.
- The new Air Force policy regarding bringing and using cell phones at basic training.
- The new cyberspace training taught during the fourth and seventh week of basic training.

Enjoy the show.

Listen to internet radio with Michael Volkin on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Interview on Ultimate Basic Training Radio

Listen to internet radio with Michael Volkin on Blog Talk Radio

I just did an interview on Ultimate Basic Training Radio with host Sgt Micheal Volkin. We talked about preparing physically for Air Force basic training and other tips for surviving basic training.

Click the play button to listen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tips for Receiving Mail During Air Force Basic Training

For a lot of people, Air Force Basic Training is the first time they receive and write letters to friends and family. With e-mails, texting, instant messaging, etc, etc, etc, there isn't much reason for writing to or receiving letters from friends and family anymore. Air Force Basic Training changes all that.

Being unable to send abbreviated messages every other minute to your boy friend or girlfriend is just one of the harsh realities of being in the basic training environment. Without these modes of communication, letter writing suddenly comes out of the drawer of obscurity, and becomes the lifeblood of communication between friends and family.

I am not going to explain how to write letters to one another, that is for a different blog. I am simply going to explain what not to send through the mail to your trainee during Air Force Basic Training. If you are the one leaving for BMT, make sure to give the following list to your friends and family.

1. First and foremost, do not send anything that your trainee is prohibited from taking to basic training. A list of prohibited items can be found in The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook under Chapter 10 - Packing for BMT: Helpful Tips on What to Bring.

2. Avoid sending any food. Any packages received during basic training will be opened in front of the Military Training Instructor and the rest of the trainees. MTIs have different ways of handling it when trainees receive food. A common practice is to give the receiving trainee a chance to eat the food. However, there are conditions. 1. The trainee must eat all the food, and 2. The trainee must eat it within 2-3 minutes. This may not sound so bad, but consuming a box full of brownies in 3 minutes is a gut-wrenching experience, especially when your body is has been otherwise deprived of all sweets.

3. Don't send clothes. This is more prevalent during the holidays. Friends and family want to send their trainee presents. Don't. Not only will they not be able to wear any of it, but they will have to pack it when they leave for technical school and packing space is very limited. On top of that, any clothing item, especially with any type of logo, is fuel for the fire when it comes to MTIs belittling trainees.

4. Don't send letters that smell of perfume or cologne. This is a favorite of MTIs when they are handing out mail. Again it is just one more bit of ammunition for them .

5. Don't send pictures you don't want others to see. Any pictures that you send will be seen by the MTI and probably all of the other trainees. Provocative pictures will be confiscated and at have been known to appear hung up for the entire group to see.

These are five of the most common things sent to trainees that should not be. What you should send are letters filled with words of encouragement, love and support. That is what your trainee will need from you doing Air Force Basic Training.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Pass Pop Quizzes During Basic Training

This is an article I wrote for military .com. It appeared in their latest issue of The Recruit Newsletter.

Click here to see the article at military.com

By Air Force SrA Nick VanWormer

Your training at Air Force BMT is far from trivial, but there will be days when you may feel you’re playing Trivial Pursuit® with the devil himself. These pop quizes can have embarassing and painful results.

The following is a typical conversation between an Air Force Military Training Instructor and a recruit at the U.S. Air Force Boot Camp:

MTI: "What is the rank insignia of a Chief Master Sergeant?!!"

Trainee: "Sir, Airman Smith reports as ordered. The…The …Uh… ."

MTI: "The rank insignia of a Chief Master Sergeant is a 'The, the, uh?!!' Wrong. Give me a 341!!"

It’s not uncommon for “conversations” to end this way during basic training. Within the first two weeks of BMT, trainees are expected to study, memorize and present a vast amount of new information. It can be hard enough to try and memorize so much information in such a short time, but add someone yelling in your face and it may seem impossible.

Here are three tips to help you memorize everything you’re expected to know:

  1. The best preparation you can do is to learn the memorization work in advance. While everyone else in your flight is struggling, you are refreshing your memory. In Chapter 15, I have compiled the information you will need to memorize during BMT in The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook.

  2. You will learn a lot of different names and positions that mean nothing to you. To help you remember all these names and their positions, use word and association tricks. Here’s an example. The name Schwartz reminds me of Schwarzenegger. He is the Chief of Staff, and the hockey team in my hometown is the Chiefs. So I imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing a Chiefs hockey uniform, bench-pressing a table with his entire staff standing on it. The more personal, detailed and bizarre you make it the better.

    You will also need to learn the rank structure and be able to match pay grades (E-4, E-8 etc) with rank insignia. The simplest way to memorize what pay grade goes with what insignia is to remember that enlisted insignia is always one-less stripe than the pay grade. Example: an E-1 has 0 stripes; an E-2 has 1 stripe, and so on.

  3. Someone once told me that practice does not make perfect. Instead practice makes permanent. What this means is that you will perform the way you practice. If you practice incorrectly than you will perform incorrectly. When memorizing this information it is important to say it aloud. If you only review the information mentally, your voice will freeze when an MTI asks you to say the information aloud. You want the muscle memory of your mouth and voice to be as prepared as your memory.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to pass a socks inspection in Air Force Basic Training

The following basic training video tip was made specifically at the request of someone who is leaving for basic training very soon. Good Luck!

PART 1 of 2

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ultimate Basic Training Radio

Click here Ultimate Basic Training Radio to listen to Sgt Volkin talk about my book The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook, and expound upon my article written for military.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Air Force Basic Training Tip: Conquer the Snake Pit

The following article was just published by military.com in their Recruit Newsletter

To view the newsletter click here

During basic training in all military branches recruits are yelled at, pushed to the physical limit, and taken to the edge of the mental breaking point. However, there is a challenge unique to Air Force basic military training (BMT). It’s a challenge that Air Force trainees must overcome not just once or twice, but three times per day. They face this obstacle three times a day because it is located in the chow hall and they must pass it, literally, every time they eat. This obstacle is known as the Snake Pit.

What is the Snake Pit? Is it a pit filled with snakes that trainees must maneuver around while holding their food tray? Or perhaps there is a thin board laid across this pit filled with poisonous snakes, and trainees must edge their way across in order to conquer their Indiana Jones-like fears. Unfortunately, it is neither of these things, and it is much harder to pass unscathed than a pit filled with snakes.

The Snake Pit is in fact the table where all the Military Training Instructors (MTIs) sit during chow. They sit waiting for their prey, the trainees, to walk past as they sit down to eat and walk out to leave. At anytime MTIs will pounce on an unsuspecting trainee and turn an already chaotic experience (eating a meal in a few seconds) into an even more gut wrenching, digestion-blocking meal. The purpose of the Snake Pit is for MTIs to catch trainees off guard and test them on their knowledge of rank structure, military bearing, and customs and courtesies.

Here are three simple tips for successfully navigating the Snake Pit.

1. Don’t get called over to the Snake Pit. Although chances are high that at some point every trainee will get sent to the Snake Pit, there are ways to avoid being a target. When trainees go through the chow line MTIs are looking for any trainees out of step, looking around, or going too slow. Remember to focus on getting your food and don’t chat with the civilians serving it. Before reaching your table you will walk directly toward the Snake Pit. At this point don’t show any fear. MTIs are like hungry beasts that can smell fear and will jump at the weakest looking member of the pack. As you walk past the Snake Pit look confident and focused on getting from point A to point B. However don’t look directly at the MTIs. This is a sure way to get called over and grilled.

2. Know your stuff. If you are ever called over, make sure you know the information in accordance with the week of training you are in. If you are supposed to know the rank structure by now, know it backwards and forwards. Otherwise they will drill you until you make a mistake, and one mistake outweighs a thousand correct answers.

3. Don’t carry anything with or on you that is unauthorized. You will know exactly what you are and are not supposed to have with you. If you are pulled from the chow line and into the Snake Pit, chances are you will have your portfolio (the bag you will carry everywhere) dumped out and ransacked. If anything is missing you’re in trouble. Worse yet, if there is something not authorized in there, you’re in even more trouble. Check and double-check your portfolio every night before bed. You never know when the MTIs in the Snake Pit will strike out and bite.

This article was written by SrA Nick VanWormer, author of The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook available at http://www.ultimatebasictraining.com/