Army soldiers low crawl while negotiating an obstacle course in basic training

Army Basic Training and Officer Candidate School: What to Expect

Basic training is the first step in preparing you to be a soldier. It starts with basic combat training or Army boot camp. Then comes specialized training in your career field — or you may go to Officer Candidate School to master Army leadership skills.

In basic, you'll learn teamwork and discipline, and how to handle a weapon, rappel and march. The work is physically and mentally demanding. You’ll experience stress and you’ll test your limits. Know what to expect and arrive prepared.

What you need to know: where and how long is Army basic training

The Army has five basic combat training locations:

  • Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Fort Jackson, South Carolina
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • Fort Sill, Oklahoma
  • Fort Knox, Kentucky

How your training location is determined:

  • Enlisted member? Your initial training will be followed with more specialized training at the same installation. This will determine your basic training location.
  • For example, infantry and armor specialties complete basic and advanced training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Military police and combat engineers complete both trainings at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
  • Female recruit? Your basic combat training location will be Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill or Fort Jackson. These installations have gender-integrated training.
  • Plan to become an officer? You'll complete your basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Then you’ll go straight into Officer Candidate School.

The 10-week basic combat training schedule: (It’s the same for the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard):

  • Reception Battalion also called "week zero." Expect paperwork, physical exams, immunizations, haircut, uniforms — and your first physical fitness test.
  • Tip: arrive prepared to pass the physical fitness test.
  • If you don't pass this test, you'll be placed in the fitness training company for additional training. Then you’ll have two chances per week to pass the test.
  • Phase One, Red Phase (weeks one through three). The civilian begins to become the solider. You'll learn:
    • Fundamentals of soldiering
    • Core Army values
    • Army traditions and ethics
    • What it means to be a solider
    • You'll also take the Army physical fitness test.
  • Phase Two, White Phase (weeks four through five). The focus is on:
    • Self-discipline
    • Teamwork
    • Combat skills
    • Night training
    • Hand-to-hand combat and weapons training
    • Basic rifle marksmanship
    • Physical fitness
    • Tip: the best way to make fitness training easier is to work harder.
  • Phase Three, Blue Phase (weeks six through nine). You’ll cover:
    • Additional weapons training and rifle marksmanship
    • Overview of convoy operations
    • Military operations in urban terrain
    • Field training exercises
    • The final step of the Blue Phase: Pass all 212 tasks of the end-of-cycle test.
  • Graduation. Celebrate. You officially graduate from basic combat training. You'll get a day with your family.

Life after Army basic combat training

You’ll take one of two paths: Advanced training or Officer Candidate School, OCS. The length of training will depend on your specialty. For Officer Candidate School, you must be a college graduate with at least a four-year degree.

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
  • Receive a direct commission as a professional in a field such as law, medicine or religion

Army Officer Candidate School

Officer Candidate School is a 12-week program to determine your mental, physical and emotional potential as a leader. There are two phases:

  • Phase One: You'll learn the basic leadership skills and the physical and mental challenges required of a commissioned officer.
  • Phase Two: You'll put your leadership skills to the test with an intense 18-day training mission.

Additional information regarding basic training is available at this Army website.