What to Expect at Army Basic Training and Officer Candidate School

Army Basic Training and Officer Candidate School are the programs of physical and mental training required to become a soldier in the United States Army, United States Army Reserve or Army National Guard. While entering Basic Training or Officer Candidate School can be intimidating, understanding what to expect can help prepare you to be successful.

Location of your training

All recruits of the active duty Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard start their military careers by attending Basic Combat Training. If you are entering the Army as an enlisted member, your initial entry training will continue with Advanced Individual Training. Advanced Individual Training is specialized training based on the job you enlisted to perform. The job you will perform in the Army is based on your military occupational specialty. Within some specialties, both basic combat and advanced individual training are conducted back-to-back at the same location. This is referred to as One Station Unit Training or OSUT. If your specialty has OSUT, you will be required to complete your basic training at that location. Female recruits are required to complete Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Sill, Okla., or Fort Jackson S.C., as these three installations have gender-integrated training. The Army has five installations for Basic Combat Training:

  • Fort Benning, Ga.  This includes OSUT for Infantry and Armor specialties.
  • Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. This includes OSUT for Military Police, Combat Engineers and Bridge Crewmen.
  • Fort Sill, Okla.
  • Fort Knox, Ky.

If you are entering the Army to become an officer and are required to attend Officer Candidate School, you will complete Basic Combat Training followed immediately with OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Army BCT schedule

Basic Combat Training consists of 10 weeks of training and is identical for all Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard recruits. During basic training, recruits learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier to include combat training and proper military etiquette. Recruits undergo rigorous physical training, preparing their bodies and minds for the strain of combat. Basic Combat Training begins with the Reception Battalion and continues through three phases: Red, White and Blue.

  • Reception Battalion.  All recruits begin at the Reception Battalion, sometimes called Week Zero. When you arrive, you will be told what you can and cannot bring with you to basic training. During your time in the Reception Battalion, you will be processing paperwork and getting your physical exam and immunizations, haircut, uniform, Army Physical Fitness Uniform and your first Physical Fitness test. If you are unable to pass your PT test, you will be held back in the Reception Battalion and placed in the Fitness Training Company. The Fitness Training Company involves daily, rigorous physical training and diet monitoring. You will be given two chances each week to complete the physical assessment test and upon passing, you are allowed to move on to the next phase of basic training. During Reception Battalion, you will be introduced to Army Values and the Warrior Ethos. You and your fellow recruits will start practicing teamwork, self-discipline, responsibility, leadership development, self-reliance, competence and confidence.
  • Phase One: Red Phase (Weeks One - Three).  The goal of Phase One training is to begin the transformation from a civilian to a confident soldier. During the Red Phase, recruits learn the fundamentals of soldiering, including Army heritage and the seven core Army values. You will undergo the Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, to assess your physical abilities. During these first three weeks, you'll get a thorough introduction to the Army's traditions and ethics; assembling, disassembling and caring for your M16; the Nuclear-Biological-Chemical chamber; security and crowd dispersion discipline; hand-to-hand combat and guerilla exercises; barracks inspections; and running, tactical daylight marches and fitness training.
  • Phase Two: White Phase (Weeks Four - Five).  The White Phase focuses on developing combat skills, with special emphasis on weapons and physical fitness training. During this phase, you will hone your self-discipline and teamwork and learn basic rifle marksmanship and rifle qualification; hand-to-hand training; continued study of Army values, ethics and traditions; night training and fitness training; and map and compass reading. 
  • Phase Three: Blue Phase (Weeks Six - Nine).  The Blue Phase builds your individual tactical training, increases your leadership skills and self-discipline and improves your understanding of teamwork. During the Blue Phase, you will cover the advanced rifle marksmanship training; training on maneuvering and engaging targets as part of a team; continued study of Army values; overview of convoy operations; additional weapons training (machine guns, grenade launchers and mines); defeating improvised explosive devices/mines; military operations in urban terrain and field training exercises. Before you can complete the Blue Phase, you will be required to pass all 212 tasks of the End-of-Cycle Test and the APFT.
  • Graduation.  The final week of basic training is about soldiers and their families. After finishing your final training events, including one week of field training and a 15-kilometer march back to the post, you will receive a day with your family. The next day you will graduate before moving on to your next phase of training.

AIT schedule

After you complete basic training, you will be ready for Advanced Individual Training where you will learn the skills to perform your Army job. At one of many diverse AIT schools, you will receive hands-on training and field instruction to make you an expert in that specific career field. The length of the advanced training varies depending on your specialty.  Army advanced schools cover a wide range of military specialties such as artillery, armor, logistics, chemical, engineering, finance, infantry, military intelligence, military police, ordnance, signal corps and transportation.

Your training in OCS

There are four ways to enter the Army as an officer: attend Office Candidate School after you have earned your bachelor's degree, attend the United States Military Academy after high school, join the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, or receive a direct commission as a professional in a field such as law, medicine or religion.

Army OCS is a 12-week program of intense classroom and field training. In OCS, you will receive a leadership development training that develops your mental, physical and emotional potential. Your training starts by being grouped into squads where you'll gain experience in all leadership roles culminating in verbal and written feedback on your improvement. The Officer Candidate program is divided into two phases:

  • Phase One.  During this phase, candidates learn the basic leadership skills required of a commissioned officer. Candidates face both physical and mental challenges designed to develop and evaluate your determination and desire to excel.
  • Phase Two.  This phase of OCS tests all of the skills you have learned in your training in a field setting. You will be tested on both leadership abilities and your ability to work as part of a team. Phase two is an intense 18-day training mission that hones the skills learned during your previous training.

More information

For more information on Army Basic Training or OCS, speak to a local recruiter. The nearest Army recruiter can be found through the Army's Locate a Recruiter website.


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