Anyone wishing to complete U.S. Army boot camp must approach the challenge with a clear resolve and purpose. The many challenges faced require considerable mental toughness and an unwavering desire to be a soldier, a warrior, or a patriot, devoting one’s energy to a higher national purpose involving sacrifice, commitment, and the willingness to risk death in service of the country.
Any participant in a land war will naturally require physical strength and endurance, so it is not surprising that there are specific physical criteria recruits need to meet in order to join the ranks. The minimum requirements are published in many places. In some cases they include a timed 1.5 mile run. While the standard can be higher for specific units, men generally need to run 1.5 miles in 18:30, and females in 21:35.
Prospective soldiers will also need to complete a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups within 1 minute, with the number depending on age and area of focus. There is also a sit-and-reach flexibility test and a 5 minute water tread. Future soldiers must also demonstrate the ability to jump into water from a six-foot platform and swim 100 meters.
Critical to meeting these physical parameters is an ability to perform them while under stress. Combat is known to involve sleep deprivation, fatigue, and emotional strain. Potential soldiers are therefore required to perform tasks while being subjected to extremely intense mental and physical stress, something designed to fully prepare them for the rigors and risks of war. Sleep deprivation may prove to be the largest challenge for many recruits.
Pushing the Limits
Weapons training is fundamental to Army boot camp. Recruits will qualify for rifle shooting on an M-16 or M-4 and will probably shoot an M-240 machine gun. Available information on boot camp adds that soldiers will learn to carry and fire an M9 pistol.
Boot camp also focuses on several key principles and activities including orderly and disciplined marching and the ability to rappel, fire weapons, and close with an enemy in a combat scenario.
The most rigorous part of boot camp is described as a “red phase,” and it involves three weeks of intense, regular exercise including push-ups, calisthenics, running, and other kinds of physical stresses. Numerous anecdotal accounts of boot camp report that staying awake can be one of the biggest challenges, given the sleep deprivation potential soldiers are subjected to.
Finally, perhaps one of the most significant, if obvious, requirements for boot camp would be a simple ability to listen and follow directions.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.