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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Air Force Basic Training Tip: Conquer the Snake Pit

The following article was just published by 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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Basic Training Tip-Air Force Inspections

The following video is my first video blog. My goal for the video blogs is to provide visual learning tools on subjects that lend themselves to visual learning. Please leave a comment and even suggestions for other Air Force Basic Training video tips.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

But My Friend Said...

As you prepare to leave for basic training friends and family who are in the military will give you a lot of advice. This can be a good thing but it can also just raise more questions and cause more confusion. With so much on your mind and a list of things to get done before leaving for basic training, it is important to be able to separate the good advice from the bad.

When anyone is telling you stories or giving you advice about your upcoming basic training experience, simply ask yourself the three W questions. What? When? And Why?

WHAT –What military branch is this person in? While every branch of military training has the same goal, to turn civilians into military members, every branch has its unique style, methods, and processes to achieve that goal. A member of the Navy cannot tell you what you will be learning in Air Force basic training, just as a member of the Air Force could not tell someone about the daily routine in Navy basic training.

WHEN – When getting advice from an Air Force member about basic training, it is important to keep in mind that Air Force basic training has dramatically changed in the past couple of years. Basic training has gone from 6.5 weeks to 8.5 weeks, and changed it's focus to training all Airmen in base defense. Therefore more training is focused on combat skills than ever before. My brother in-law joined the Air Force over 10 years ago, and he recalls handling an M16 for only one day of training. However, when I went through basic training in 2007, we were all given our own M16 within the first week of training and had to carry with us throughout training.

WHY – When listening to basic training advice and stories think about why the person is telling you specific things. Are they telling you horror stories about what the Training Instructors will do to you, how you will be treated, etc? If so, then they are only trying to make you more nervous, which you don't need. The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook address a specific situation where this often occurs, and how to keep it from effecting your state of mind prior to arriving at Lackland AFB. In general, if people are telling you specific 'horror stories' about what happened to them during basic training, they're not being helpful.

Usually the type of advice you will get is very generic, like, “Do what you’re told” or “Don’t upset your Instructor.” Good advice, but how do I do it? Well, that’s where The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook comes in. It was written specifically to give you simple, direct and most importantly, practical advice for you use before and during basic training.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Make the Most of Your Phone Calls

Phone calls during basic training can be stressful. You have very limited time to talk, it’s hard to talk freely surrounded by other people, these other people are anxiously waiting for you to get off the phone for their turn, and you may even have a Military Training Instructor (MTI) yelling at you to hurry up. On top of all this, your family can add to the stress in their own ways. 1. They get frustrated because you don’t sound like yourself (this is more common between spouses). 2. More time is spent with them passing the phone around from family member to family member than actually talking. 3. They want to talk about, and solve, serious matters, which you are not in a position to help with (issues with finances, family, children, house repairs etc), and this only frustrates both you and them even more. While you can’t control your surroundings during your phone calls, you can control the phone conversation.

Prepare with your family before you leave:

  1. Let them know that your phone calls will be short, and that you may not ‘sound like yourself’ because you will be pressured to get off the phone. (This is especially true of your first phone call).
  2. Agree not to talk about serious issues or topics that have lead to disagreements in the past. (If you have a family emergency you will be allowed to take care of it).
  3. Don’t expect to talk with everyone in your family during one call.

Phone calls home should be morale boosters that help you get through BMT. Don’t let them be another stress factor during training. Follow these three simple tips and you will hang up the phone recharged to tackle more training (i.e. get yelled at and demoralized).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Welcome to Ultimate Air Force Basic Training

Welcome to the Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Blog! I’m Nicholas Van Wormer, author of the upcoming book The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guide Book. This book, which is being released this month, is the ultimate guide for anyone joining, or even thinking of joining the US Air Force. Not only will it show you how to survive and succeed in Air Force basic training, it begins by explaining the job opportunities in the Air Force and how to make the recruiting process easier for you.

That is the purpose of the book. Now the purpose of this blog is to, 1. Address specific questions you may have about Air Force basic training 2. Keep you updated on any changes to basic training and 3. Give you visual tips and tricks for basic training through the use of video blogs.

Upcoming blog topics will include

Making the Most of Your Calls: Talking to your family during basic military training is very limited and can actually be stressful. Here’s how to make every minute count.

But My Friend Said…: Even though everyone does the same training at BMT, everyone has their own unique experiences. Here’s how to know what stories to listen to and which ones to ignore.

Upcoming video blog topics will include

Acing Your Wall Locker Inspection: Quick easy steps to prepare your uniform for inspection.

The Three Minute Meal: A short (meal times are short) visual of what meals are like during basic military training.

If you have suggestions for blog topics let me know by leaving a message in the comment box below.

Where to get the book? The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guide Book is available for pre-order at