MilFam 101 Courses Help Improve Military Family Readiness

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The MilFam 101 online courses have been updated to improve the user training experience. Content and delivery are now more interactive, providing tools to help continue learning beyond the courses. Users can go at their own pace and select courses that best fit their needs.

MilFam 101 primarily focuses on supporting new military family readiness service providers but can also be a great refresher for seasoned team members. The courses complement existing training by providing a high-level overview of how integrated programs and services contribute to the Military Family Readiness System. Command teams, to include leaders, their spouses and unit family readiness volunteers, can also benefit from completing the courses.

Course content is applicable across services and installations. It helps explain:

  • How military family readiness programs address identified needs of service members and their families
  • Programs and services available within the Military Family Readiness System
  • The role of military family readiness service providers in building resilience and readiness in our military community
  • The new Training Action Plan tool helps users chart a course for continued professional development. Training Action Plans can also be shared with supervisors, trainers or peers to enhance existing training plans. Sign-up is easy and secure through MilLife Learning, and courses are available at no cost.

For more information about each module, see the overview of MilFam 101 courses on Military OneSource.

Deployment Basics By Service Branch

Service members walk towards their next location.

At some point in your loved one’s military service, you’ll probably hear the words, “I’m deploying.” What does that really mean, and how can you support your service member?

The word deployment can mean different things, depending on your service member’s job, and their unit and service branch, but it generally means a scheduled time away from the usual duty station, and usually outside of the United States. It may mean seven months on a Navy ship, 12 months at a forward operating base or three months in a town with restaurants and shops you’d recognize back home. Sometimes, your service member may serve in dangerous situations, but they have intense training and are well prepared for the challenges they may face in their specific mission.

The deployment cycle is the period of time from the notification of a deployment, through predeployment training, through the deployment and immediately after deployment. Every deployment cycle is different, but here are some general things to know:

Army deployment

Soldiers can deploy in large or small groups, or even individually. Many soldiers will do predeployment training at large training centers such as the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center, or at specific training centers located at bases across the country. An average deployment cycle will include months of training at their home base and at these specialized courses.

Soldiers with specific skills may go individually or in smaller units. They will have different types of training requirements based on the job, their prior preparation and the location of the deployment.

Learn more about Army deployments »

Marine Corps deployment

Many Marine Corps deployments happen on Navy ships, or they may fly to their deployment location. The majority of Marine Corps deployments include approximately one year of training followed by six to seven months of actual deployment time. However, a significant number of Marine Corps deployments may be scheduled for one year or more.

The Marine Corps prepares to support a wide variety of missions, often on short notice. Deployment types include training exercises, force readiness, supporting ongoing missions and humanitarian support.

Learn more about Marine Corps deployments »

Navy deployment

Many Navy deployments are on ships or submarines. Whether your service member is permanently assigned to the ship or sub, or joining the vessel as part of a separate unit such as an aircraft squadron, they’ll spend many months before the deployment participating in a wide variety of training both on and off the ship or sub. Ship or sub-based deployments typically last six or seven months, though occasionally, they will go longer. The time at sea may be broken up by port calls, where the ship pulls into a town and the sailors are permitted to go ashore and enjoy some time off.

Sailors who deploy without a ship or sub may go to a variety of locations to perform a wide range of jobs. Their predeployment training may be part of their regular job, so there may not be much disruption to their regular schedule, or they may need to learn entirely new skills for the deployment. These deployments may be with Navy units, joint units or they may be assigned to a unit of a different branch of the military. The latter is usually called an individual augmentee job. Sailors deployed without a ship or a sub may go for as little as 30 days or for more than a year.

Learn more about Navy deployments »

Air Force deployment

Airmen participate in many different types of deployments. Most Air Force deployments involve flying to another location, often an overseas Air Force base, a joint base or the base of another service. Airmen may live on those bases or stay in hotels.

Some Air Force units have a faster deployment cycle, with shorter deployments and shorter times between deployments. While they still may follow the six to 12-month average of the other branches, they may also do a series of two to three-month deployments in quick succession. Differences in deployment tempo are usually based upon job and unit.

Learn more about Air Force deployments »

How You Can Support Your Service Member

Deployment can bring about a wide range of emotions for both the service member and the family at home. They may be excited to do the job for which they’ve trained, sad to be apart from their family and perhaps nervous about how the deployment will unfold. It’s natural to feel all these things, sometimes all at the same time.

Realistic expectations are an important part of making it through the deployment cycle. Three key things to remember throughout the process:

  1. Your service member has been training to use their skills during a deployment. They are well prepared to do this job and may be very focused on the mission they’re doing.
  2. Things can, and will, change frequently. Trainings and deployments can be moved up, delayed or cancelled altogether. Departure and return dates will shift. Communication may be limited. The more understanding you are, the more your service member will feel supported.
  3. Your service member will not be able to answer all your questions. Your loved one may not know the answer to your question, or they may not be able to tell you the things they do know.

You can help your service member by asking what they want and how you can help. For example, they may want you to come to homecoming for one deployment but not for another, based upon a wide variety of factors including location, likelihood of date changes and post-deployment requirements. They may need help with things like paying bills or storing their car.

It’s also smart to talk through a couple of “what-if” scenarios and to get some basic information. Be sure you know the specific name of their unit and at least one phone number to call if there is an emergency back home.

Whether you are a parent, sibling or friend, you probably have a lot of questions about your loved one’s deployment. Feel more prepared with Military OneSource’s Plan My Deployment and the predeployment checklist.

VISIT PLAN MY DEPLOYMENT

Check out the rest of the Friends & Extended Family content on Military OneSource to keep connected with your service member’s military life.

Understanding the Roles of Military Officers and Enlisted Service Members

an officer is saluted by enlisted service members

More than 80% of the U.S. military is made up of enlisted members, with officers making up the rest of the military population of the armed forces. Officers are trained to be managers and leaders. They plan missions, provide orders and assign tasks, while enlisted members are technical experts and leaders that hold the specific skills necessary to complete the mission.

Both of these roles are essential to the military and offer rewarding careers. A first step toward becoming an enlisted service member or an officer is to work with a military recruiter. Your recruiter will help you determine which path is best given your level of education, goals and qualifications.

Joining the military as an enlisted member

To enlist in the armed forces, you must:

  • Have a high school diploma. In some cases, a general equivalency diploma will be accepted.
  • Be at least 17 years old. The maximum age to enlist in the military varies according to branch of service, from 28 years old for the Marine Corps, to 39 for the Navy and the Air Force. The maximum age to enlist in the Army is 34. But these are subject to change so check with your recruiter.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.
  • Speak, read and write English fluently.
  • Achieve the minimum score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test for your branch of service.
  • Pass a physical and meet weight requirements. Fitness standards vary by service.

After meeting with a recruiter, you will report to a military entrance processing station. There you will:

  • Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Your overall score on the ASVAB’s 10 subtests will help determine what jobs you are qualified for in the armed forces. You may be required to take additional special purpose tests to help determine the best career for you.
  • Undergo a complete physical exam, which includes hearing and vision tests as well as drug and alcohol testing.
  • Meet with a service liaison to learn about available jobs in your service. Some services assign a job at this time while others wait until after basic training or later. Your job will depend on your preferences and where your skills are most needed at the time of your enlistment.
  • Be fingerprinted for background checks and security clearances.
  • Take the Oath of Enlistment in which you vow to defend the U.S. Constitution and obey the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Serving as an enlisted member

As a recruit, you will attend basic training to prepare physically and mentally to become a member of your branch of service. Basic training typically spans seven to 12 weeks depending on your branch of service. After graduation from basic training, you will attend advanced training and in some cases, additional training to learn your job.

Enlisted members start their careers as junior enlisted personnel, called privates in the Army and Marine Corps, airman basic in the Air Force and seaman recruit in the Navy. Though military titles and rank can differ by service, pay grade rankings are standardized across the military. These are designated as E-1 through E-9. Pay and responsibilities increase as you rise through the enlisted ranks. An enlistee may rise through the lower ranks fairly quickly, although promotions tend to happen less frequently after the rank of E-4 because the number of these positions are limited by Congress.

Becoming a noncommissioned officer

A service member reaches the rank of noncommissioned officer at the rank of E-4 or E-5, depending on their branch of service and military title. Noncommissioned officers are high-ranking enlisted members who have been given leadership authority.

Becoming a commissioned officer in the military

A commissioned military officer holds a four-year college degree or higher and has undergone officer training. There are several paths to earning an officer commission in the armed forces.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

Some 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide offer ROTC. This military training program grants scholarships to help pay for college in exchange for military service after graduation. Students enrolled in ROTC attend training and take specialized classes alongside their regular academic classes.

Learn more about the ROTC program at each service branch:

Military service academies

Each service branch has its own undergraduate institution that educates and trains its future leaders. Admission to military academies is highly competitive. Students should begin preparing during high school to ensure they meet the high standards and strict requirements for acceptance. Military academies offer free tuition and room and board in exchange for a commitment to serve as an active- duty officer for a period of time after graduation, usually at least five years.

Learn more about each military academy:

Officer school

College graduates who want to serve as military officers can apply to Officer Candidate School (called Officer Training School in the Air Force). This intensive program spans between 9 1/2 to 12 weeks, depending on the service, and prepares candidates to become officers.

Learn more about Officer Training School and Officer Candidate School by service branch.

Direct commission

Direct commissions may be available to civilians with certain highly-specialized professional degrees that are in demand in the services. Doctors, lawyers, clergy and engineers are among the professionals who are most in demand and therefore most likely to receive a direct commission. Professionals who receive a direct commission receive officer training to help them transition from civilian to military life and learn leadership skills.

Transitioning from enlisted to commissioned officer

Though less common, enlisted members may apply to become a commissioned officer. If you are well-qualified and hold a bachelor’s degree, you may be nominated by a commanding officer to attend officer candidate or officer training school. Some branches of service offer programs in which an enlistee earns a college degree and attends officer school while serving in the military.

Warrant officers

It is also possible to become a warrant officer — a technical and tactical leader — without holding a four-year college degree. Warrant officer pay grades are designated W-1 through W-5 (W-2 through W-4 in the Navy). The Air Force is the only service that does not have the rank of warrant officer.

Serving as a commissioned officer in the military

Officers have significant responsibility as managers and leaders. A newly minted officer typically starts their career as a second lieutenant (ensign in the Navy). Officer grades are designated O-1 through O-10. Promotions bring an increase in pay and responsibility, but happen only if there is a requirement. That’s because, as with enlisted ranks E-5 and above, the number of officer positions is limited by Congress. Officers may spend several years at each rank before rising to the next, though promotions tends to happen faster in the lower ranks.

Whichever path you choose, a career in the military as either an enlisted service member or as an officer offers both tangible benefits, such as a steady income, paid leave and health care benefits; and intangible benefits, such as the pride of service, being part of a community like no other and knowing that you are serving a vital role in protecting your country.

To learn more about being a part of the military, contact your service branch recruiter or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Increase Your Skills and Education From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Soldier using a computer

Current as of Sept 29, 2020

Make the most of the unexpected time you have at home because of coronavirus disease 2019. Explore the wide range of education resources the Department of Defense offers for service members and their families. They include:

If you need help navigating opportunities that are available to you, Military OneSource education consultants can help. They can answer questions about financial aid, scholarships, tutoring and college information. Call 800-342-9647. You can also use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Joining the Military as a Reservist: Eligibility, Obligation and Benefits

Two service members speak with a woman

Joining the Reserve Component of the military is a great way to serve your country. You will also earn valuable benefits without giving up your civilian employment or schooling.

New to the Military

Military OneSource has the information, tools and resources you’ll need to transition smoothly and quickly to military life.

Many people transfer to the reserves from the Active Component. But you can join the National Guard or military reserves without prior military experience. There are small differences among the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and the Coast Guard Reserve. But most have the same requirements, obligations and federal benefits. National Guard members who perform state active duty are eligible for state benefits.

Am I eligible to join the National Guard or military reserves?

You must meet these minimum requirements to join the National Guard or military reserves:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
  • Be between the ages of 17 and 42 (general requirement range; age varies by branch).
  • Pass an armed forces physical exam.
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
  • Meet the minimum ASVAB eligibility standard. You must receive a sufficient score on the ASVAB composite called the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

Each branch or specific job may have other requirements in addition to those listed above.

How do I join the National Guard or military reserves?

The first step is to contact a recruiter. Your recruiter will explain the process and available opportunities. Speaking with recruiters from different branches can help you get an idea of which branch you would like to join. You can also find out more information at the recruiting websites for each branch:

The process could go quickly or slowly, depending on different factors. Sometimes you can get through the requirements very quickly. It can also take weeks or months from when you first contact a recruiter to when you leave for your military training.

What’s my obligation if I join the National Guard or military reserves?

Joining the military reserves or National Guard is a significant time commitment. This is true especially at the beginning. You will get settled in your permanent unit. Then, you can expect to attend unit assembly, known as “drill,” one weekend per month. You will also participate in a two-week annual training each year.

  • Initial training: As a new military member, you will attend your branch’s basic military training. That may last from eight to 12 weeks. Depending on your job, you may also attend an advanced training course.
  • Monthly drill: You’ll need to drill for 48 periods or units per year. Most units drill one weekend per month. A typical weekend drill has four periods. Some military units have additional drilling requirements, which may include the weekday.
  • Annual training: You’ll also need to participate in annual training for two weeks per year.
  • Activations: You may be activated to full-time service in a voluntary or involuntary status. This can be with your unit or individually. These activations may vary in length and location. They may include 30 days in a unit near your hometown. Or up to a year supporting a mission outside of the United States. Generally, you cannot opt out of involuntary action. This is because the military has ordered you to active service.
  • Length of commitment: Your total contract may range from three to eight years. This depends on the branch of service and your specific occupation/job.

What kind of benefits will I earn?

For your commitment to the National Guard or military reserves, you’ll receive many benefits including:

  • Part-time pay: Reserve Component pay is based on rank and service time. Bonuses are sometimes available for high-demand and low-density skills. Your pay will be based upon the Active Duty Pay Table during full-time and annual training, and active duty. You will receive prorated payment while on partial month duty. This will be calculated using the daily rate. Learn more about Basic Pay, the fundamental component of military pay.
  • Skills training: You’ll be trained for your Reserve Component job. The selection of jobs available will depend on the needs of the military and your ASVAB scores.
  • Health care coverage: TRICARE Reserve Select is subsidized, fee-based health care coverage. It is for reservists and their families when the military member is not on active-duty orders. Reservists on active duty for more than 30 days receive comprehensive medical and dental care at no cost. While their service member is activated for more than 30 days, family members receive health care coverage.
  • Education: Selected Reserve or National Guard members who have signed up for at least six years, can access up to three years of educational assistance. This benefit is available through the Montgomery GI Bill® for Selected Reserve. Additional funding may be available for certain high-demand fields. Reservists may also earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which may be transferred to eligible dependents when certain eligibility criteria are met.
  • Commissary and exchange privileges: Reserve Component members and their eligible dependents have full-time access to on-base shopping. This includes the discounted food and department stores.
  • Retirement: Service in the Reserve Component earns points toward a reserve retirement.

Joining the National Guard or military reserves can be a great way to serve your country without leaving your full-time job. Once you decide to join, you can learn more about your new community. See Military OneSource’s New to the Military resources. Military OneSource can answer your questions about military life. Call 800-342-9647 or connect via Live Chat 24/7/365. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Becoming an Officer in the Military After College

Officer Training

While it’s common knowledge that basic training sets recruits on the pathway toward becoming an enlisted service member, those with a desire for leadership opportunities and a bachelor’s degree can take another route into a military career – as a commissioned officer.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program for college students and Officer Candidate School or Officer Training School for graduates are great options for those who want to earn a four-year college degree before joining the military. Each service branch offers both ROTC and officer schools as entry points to an officer commission.

The benefits of joining the military after college

Joining the military as a commissioned officer can offer the best of both worlds for those who want the college experience but who also want to serve their country. The benefits include:

  • A guaranteed job after college
  • A leadership role at a young age
  • Higher pay than joining as an enlisted military member
  • Greater opportunities for promotion and training

Rising through ROTC

The ROTC program prepares students to become military officers while they pursue a four-year degree at an accredited college. ROTC is offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide.

The Army, Navy and Air Force each offer four-year ROTC scholarships to college-bound high school students, and two- and three-year scholarships for students already in college. Navy ROTC students have the option of joining the Marine Corps after graduation.

The scholarships help pay for tuition and books and includes a monthly stipend for living expenses. ROTC students who accept scholarships commit to service as an officer after graduation. The military service obligation varies according to branch, but ranges from three to eight years.

Enrolling in ROTC

Enrollment requirements differ among service branches, but in general, ROTC candidates are required to:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be at least 17 years old and on schedule to receive their college degree before age 27
  • Score above a certain minimum on the SAT or ACT standardized tests
  • Meet physical fitness requirements for their branch of service
  • Receive medical clearance

How ROTC works

While there are differences among each service branch, as an ROTC cadet, you can expect to:

  • Take courses in military science, leadership and related topics alongside your regular college curriculum
  • Participate in regular drills and summer training activities
  • Maintain a minimum grade point average during college

Army ROTC graduates earn a commission as a second lieutenant and continue their training in their specific branch at Basic Officer Leaders’ Course. Navy and Air Force ROTC graduates continue their training at Officer Candidate or Training School before receiving their commission as a second lieutenant.

Learn more about the ROTC program at each service branch:

From officer school to officer

The Army and Marine Corps call it Officer Candidate School. In the Navy and Air Force, it’s Officer Training School. No matter its name, this intensive training program will prepare you mentally and physically for the demands of being a commissioned military officer.

Requirements for officer school

Being a U.S. citizen and having a four-year college degree or higher are the bare minimum requirements for officer school. Beyond that, the selection process is highly competitive across service branches. Candidates must meet physical standards, may have to pass a qualifying test, and demonstrate that they have leadership ability, integrity, dependability, academic discipline and adaptability.

About Officer School

Officer school spans 9 ½ to 12 weeks, depending on your branch of service. During that time, you will begin to develop the qualities of an officer, including military bearing, teamwork and the ability to perform under pressure and under adverse conditions.

Curriculum varies according to service, but in general, training school includes:

  • Regular physical conditioning and physical fitness tests
  • Academic classes in military subjects, leadership and ethics, and other subjects
  • Military training, including inspections and drills

Learn more about Officer Training School and Officer Candidate School by service branch.

Other paths to becoming a military officer

Attending officer school after college is just one way to earn a commission in the military. There are other paths as well:

  • Attend a military service academy. Each branch of the military has a four-year university that offers full scholarships to its students. Graduates serve as commissioned officers in the military. Acceptance into these academies is highly competitive.
  • Advance through the enlisted ranks. Enlistees may use their military education benefits to earn a four-year degree, then apply to officer school.
  • Receive a direct commission after earning a professional degree, such as a medical, law or religious studies degree. Direct commission officers are required to attend officer training. This is a good option for civilians who want to serve their country and who have special skills to offer.

You can learn more about joining the military as a commissioned officer by contacting a recruiter from your service branch or calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Higher Education Is Costly: Military Service Can Keep it Affordable

ROTC students sit and listen to a speech.

The cost of higher education and the thought of taking on student debt can be overwhelming. Perhaps you don’t think college is right for you now and want to wait. The military has options to make education affordable – whenever you choose to attend. In addition to the unique training and skills you gain as a service member, the military offers several ways to ease the cost of college. Learn more about tuition assistance, credentialing assistance, scholarships and other education benefits.

Committing to military service while in school: ROTC and military institutions

ROTC scholarships: Each service branch offers Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at various universities and academic institutions across the nation. Through ROTC, you will learn leadership and special skills while participating in the military and academic experiences. The ROTC program has several options, whether you’re straight out of high school, already attending a school or prior enlisted. There is a service commitment after graduation. Learn more:

Military Service Academies: Each branch of the military has a four-year university that offers full scholarships to its students. While in a service academy, you will be held to high academic and physical fitness standards. The application process is lengthy and extremely competitive. Applicants must be between 17 and 22 and unmarried with no children. After graduation, cadets and midshipmen serve as commissioned officers in the military. Get more information:

Tuition assistance and other education options while serving

College Loan Repayment Program: Various benefits are available to those who join the military after graduating from college. Qualified candidates could fast-track to officer training and apply for the College Loan Repayment Program and more. The military could pay off a portion or all your loans in exchange for a service commitment. This offer is not always available and is contingent on several factors such as your military job and your loan amount. Keep in mind that not every service branch offers this program. A local recruiter can provide specific details.

Education assistance is available.

Learn which of these various options can help you best reach your education goals in the military.

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Tuition assistance: As an active-duty service member, you may be able to attend school part time. Each service branch offers tuition assistance of up to $250 per semester hour for academic classes. Tuition assistance can be used for undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as several other programs.

Tuition assistance may not cover the full cost of college, but the Top-Up Program allows you to use GI bill funding to cover the rest. Talk to your education counselor for more information.

GI Bills: The Department of Veterans Affairs offers several programs to help veterans and active-duty service members pay for education. The GI bills are two of the most well-known programs. See the next section for details on the GI bills.

National Guard/reserves: Joining the National Guard or reserves allows you to serve in the military part time and receive education benefits.

Credential program: Earning credentials can help you develop as a service member and prepare you for civilian employment after separation or retirement. The Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program can help pay for education or training that leads to certification or license. It may also cover the exam fees of a credential.

Education options after military service

Post-9/11 GI Bill: This is available to those who serve at least 90 days of active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001 and receive an honorable discharge. The benefit covers up to 100% of tuition and fees, a yearly stipend for books and a monthly housing allowance. As a bonus, if you’re a veteran at the 100% benefit level, you may also be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program, available at military-friendly institutions, pays any tuition or fees not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You may be eligible for full housing allowance during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Montgomery GI Bill: This education benefit requires you to have served at least two years on active duty and have a high school diploma or GED. Unlike the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill covers tuition and fees only, and you have up to 10 years after discharge to use the benefit.

If you’re already serving or recently transitioned, Military OneSource offers a free specialty consultation to help you reach your education goals, whatever they may be. Call 800-342-9647 for 24/7 help.

The cost of higher education and the thought of taking on student debt can be overwhelming at times. Perhaps you don’t think college is right for you now and want to wait. Whatever the case may be, the military has options to make college affordable – whenever you choose to attend.

Supporting Your New Recruit’s Preparation for Basic Training or Boot Camp

Two men working out outdoors

The myth that nothing will get a person into shape faster than boot camp is just that – a myth. The truth is, the hard work of getting fit starts long before basic training begins.

Preparing for initial military training is a recruit’s responsibility, but friends and family play an important role. Encouraging good nutrition and passing along tips for overall well-being are ways to support your loved one as they embark on a military career.

If your service member is well beyond basic training, consider sharing the information here with somebody whose loved one has recently enlisted.

Let your recruit know you’re on board

Your new recruit likely has a fitness plan from the recruiter. Set aside time to talk about a workout schedule as well as the overall goals.

Ask how you can help, especially if the fitness plan will require big changes in your loved one’s life. Your support can be as simple as helping your new recruit stay accountable to goals, such as waking up in time to make it to the gym, or as involved as joining in as a workout buddy.

Preventing injury

An injury can derail your recruit’s efforts to get in shape. But most injuries can be prevented with a few precautions. Your loved one may be balancing a lot right now as they prepare for basic training. A few examples of things to focus on include:

  • Using proper footwear. Shoes should fit well and be comfortable. Replace running shoes when they become worn.
  • Wearing appropriate workout clothing. Choose light, breathable material. Dress in layers during cold weather. Make sure clothing has reflective material for exercising when visibility is low.
  • Taking time to warm up and cool down during workout sessions.
  • Staying hydrated. It’s a good idea to drink two glasses of water 30 minutes to an hour before each workout.
  • Not overdoing it. Many injuries are caused by overusing muscles through too many sets and repetitions.
  • Avoiding outdoor exercise when it’s extremely hot or cold. Heat exhaustion and hypothermia are dangerous conditions that may require hospitalization.

Meeting nutritional needs

It takes more than regular workouts to build strength and stamina. Good nutrition and adequate rest are essential as well. Eating right means:

  • Avoiding fast food and other processed foods
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Eliminating sugary beverages
  • Choosing lean proteins
  • Eating whole grains
  • Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water per day

Your recruit may already follow a healthy diet. But if not, and your recruit is still living at home, work together to plan out a shopping list that meets their healthy eating goals. Look for nutritious recipes to try. You can find recipes on the ChooseMyPlate website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commit to healthy eating as a family. The rewards will be more energy and overall well-being for everyone.

The importance of sleep

Sleep is central to overall health. It helps the body fight off infection and improves learning. Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If your recruit doesn’t have good sleep habits, now is the time to change that. A good night’s rest will power your recruit through those days of basic training. Here are a few tips to pass along:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. That means going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day. Avoid sleeping in.
  • Finish workouts at least two to three hours before bedtime to be relaxed enough to fall asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both can interfere with a deep, restful sleep.
  • Sleep in a cool room.
  • Avoid using a phone or watching TV in bed.

Staying healthy and fit as a service member

Before you know it, basic training will be over and your recruit’s military career will have begun. As a service member, your loved one will have access to Department of Defense resources for overall well-being. These include:

  • Health and wellness coaching. Service members and their immediate family have access to free health and wellness coaching to help them eat better, get fit, tackle stress and manage transitions.
  • Non-medical counseling. Trained counselors experienced in military life offer free, confidential sessions. A non-medical counselor can help with relationship issues, stress or anger management, parenting challenges and more.
  • Wellness apps. These digital tools were created by DOD and its partners to help service members and their families stay strong in body and mind.

This is an exciting time for you and your new recruit. Supporting your loved one’s efforts to prepare for basic training is just the beginning of a lifetime of healthy habits and a successful military career.

Military OneSource offers service members and their immediate family members 24/7 access to information, answers and support. To learn more, visit the Friends & Extended Family section >>.

Supporting Your New Recruit’s Preparation for Basic Training or Boot Camp

Getting in shape for basic training starts at home. Find out how you can help your new recruit start off with strength and stamina.

10 Tips to Take to Basic Training

Basic training obstacle course.

Basic training varies by service branch, but it’ll help you to know these facts of military life before you report for duty. Own these 10 bits of advice from people who have been there.

Your Basic Training Schedule May Be Impacted by COVID-19

Contact your recruiter or commander for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Safeguarding Your Security Clearance During COVID-19

Financial difficulties due to the pandemic should not affect your security clearance.

  1. Have an appreciation for rules and regulations.
    From day one, you will be told what to do and how to do it. Follow all instructions closely and learn to be disciplined in doing so — one day your life may depend on it.
  2. You are the master of your own discipline.
    You’re not going to be taught discipline. You’ll be expected to bring it, and on a daily basis. That means your behavior and its consequences are in your own hands. Taking that to heart will take you a long way.
  3. Focus is your friend.
    Focus on the task at hand and put everything else out of your mind. Forget about worrying, what comes next, why or what just happened. Look at the task directly in front of you and accomplish it to the best of your abilities.
  4. Don’t let it get to you.
    Building up your mental and physical toughness takes hard work. You will be challenged in ways that can be frustrating, tiring and confusing. It’s all part of the training. Don’t take it personally.
  5. Master being part of a team.
    The success of the military is dependent upon teamwork. Basic training allows you to learn a variety of skill sets in being part of a team. Everyone will work, eat, sleep and fight together as one. Check your ego at the door, focus on the task at hand and promote collaboration.
  6. Be a leader in the culture of fitness.
    Physical fitness is absolutely critical for readiness, retention and resiliency! Take fitness very seriously. Don’t expect military training to make you fit — plan to arrive fit. If you can do push-ups, sit-ups and run all day, you will be better off than the person in the next bunk.
  7. Show up knowing the language.
    Learn as much as you can before you report — military jargon, acronyms and general orders. Get familiar with your chosen branch of service, its song, creed and the values. Learn rank structure, military time and the phonetic alphabet. It will give you a big leg up.
  8. Learn the principles of healthy eating.
    The amount of time you’ll be given to eat will be less than 10 minutes per meal. As such, it is critical that you know and choose the right menu items to maximize your human performance. Check out www.choosemyplate.gov for tools and resources.
  9. Get on top of your finances.
    You haven’t left your responsibilities behind. All of your bills still need to be paid. If your debt piles up, or bills go into collection, you could be denied a security clearance and lose your chance at your preferred job. Practice good financial management skills and plan for the future.
  10. Let everyone know the limits of your communications.
    You’re leaving the world of instant, constant communication. But there’s no texting from foxholes, and when you can call, it’ll probably be short and less than private. Tell the important people in your life that you’ll get in touch when you can.

And by the way, welcome to the military.