5. What is the reception station like, the first stop at my basic training post? What is a typical day at Bootcamp like?
The reception station is your first stop at your basic training post. You'll most likely be in military buses that will pick you up from the airport or the bus station. Many times you'll be arriving in the evening, and you'll be dead tired, hungry and a bundle of nerves! Once you arrive at the building, you'll be met by personnel who are assigned to the reception station. You may or may not see any drill sergeants. Even though this new place may be a shock to you, keep in mind that it isn't anywhere as stressful as your basic training company. As soon as you arrive, you'll be introduced to some of the personnel and procedures, as well as what you will be doing. There will be tons of paperwork initially and once they set you up in your bunk area and have your stuff put away (that's why I say bring a lock with you), you'll probably be fed. Housing here is usually big bays with 30-40 soldiers in a bay. Males will be in one area, females in another.
Some of the things you can expect to do here include: getting your Army file started (mounds of paperwork), getting your paycheck started and in order (make sure your recruiter gives you a form so you can direct deposit your paycheck in your bank at home), your life insurance paperwork done, immunizations (yes, lot's of shots), eye test, getting your ID card, getting your graduation photo taken, getting your initial issue of military clothing (one large duffel bag full), first shopping trip at the mini-PX here to get what's on your shopping list, and to attend a variety of different briefings. You'll also take a mini PT test (2 min push-ups, 2 min sit-ups and 1 mile run). If you don't pass, you'll spend some time in the Fitness Training Unit. You'll also have informal marching classes and instruction on how to make your bunks, etc.. Every minute of your day will be "hurry up and wait". You'll be standing in lots of lines, waiting for your turn mostly. Pay attention to instructions given to you, never assume! When filling out paperwork, they will always lead you through each line...don't get ahead, cause you'll screw up and get embarrassed!
Most of your time you'll walk around in your PT sweats (which are part of your initial issue). At some point early in your stay, you'll be given a "moment of truth" session. This is your chance to "come clean" if you lied about something. You'll also have a chance to drop items off in an amnesty box without repercussions (top items given up include pocket knives, tobacco products and pornographic material). You may spend anywhere from three days to three weeks here. It all depends on how backed up the basic training companies are.
Once you do get to your BT company, things will change drastically. You'll most likely go by cattle car, yes cattle car - a semi pulling what looks like a huge icebox with tiny windows up high. You'll get jammed in there, and of course you'll be carrying your civilian bag AND your duffel bag. Once you arrive at the company area, you'll be running off that bus (no walking). Most companies conduct the "shakedown" right away. You'll get lined up and dump everything you got on the floor or sidewalk. A drill sergeant will start calling things off from his list, you'll then put each item in your duffel bag as he calls them out. While you're at reception, don't lose any of your things and always keep them locked up! You will be in what we call "a world of hurts" if you lose something! Pay attention, don't talk and do what you're told QUICKLY with no hesitation. Some of you won't pay attention, will speak without being spoken to, will look around and then you'll do push-ups indefinitely. This is the drill sergeants' time to establish their authority over YOU. At some point, you'll be left with the stuff you are not allowed to have, such as brightly colored underwear (I hope you didn't bring any), your civilian clothes, etc.. These will get packed into your civilian bag and you'll dump that bag in a big pile. You won't see the stuff again til you graduate. Then you'll RUN inside and get assigned your bunks and your battle buddies. Don't question anything, just do it!
The first two to three weeks can only be described as "hell on earth". You'll get up anywhere from 4-5 am, do PT and then back in the barracks to shower and clean up your area. Time is short, and you'll be lucky to have 15 minutes to shower and get dressed. Then you'll meet back in your platoon formations and be marched to chow. After chow, you'll go to your classes, and later in the cycle, you'll go get your weapon and be taken out to the range by cattle car or roadmarch out.
You will see training schedules posted on a board in the barracks. Platoon and squad guides are tasked with making sure everyone knows what the uniform and equipment is for the next day, formation times, making sure everyone has full water canteens, that type of thing. Drills tend to pick soldiers who show some leadership qualities or someone who needs to come out of their shell. They regularly get fired and replaced throughout the cycle, so don't sweat it.
You can forget any time off or liberty passes while in basic. Sometimes in the evenings, you'll have anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour before "lights out",which is usually at 8:30 pm (2030 hrs). This time is not totally yours though. The drill sergeants, especially at the beginning, will tell you what to do. They may say, shine boots for 15 min, then come back in, check what you did and then tell you to do another task. Sometimes evenings are also used to reinforce tasks you learned during the day. You won't have weekends off either. Saturdays is just like any other week day, Sundays you will have all kinds of church opportunities in the morning, but the afternoon is filled with details, PT, etc.. If you don't go to church, most companies do let you hang out around your bunk, and you'll probably be given a detail or two. If you do go to church, the drills will not accompany you inside, so you can sing as loud as you want, move around and just enjoy yourself. Church services are also available for other religions who do not have services on Sunday morning. Most of these are in the evenings, usually Thursdays and Saturdays. The drills will make every effort to let you go.