Mental Preparation For Military Basic Training
Many new recruits are briefed by their recruiters about the physical demands of military basic training, but little is said about the extreme mental and social pressures faced during this time. Here's how to prepare yourself mentally for the challenges of military basic training.
Many young people today join the armed forces for the educational benefits or the guarantee of steady employment, rather than share the 'patriotic chore' mentality of their parents who served. Faced with a tight job market, military recruiters often play up the benefits of a career in the armed forces while simultaneously downplaying the physical and mental demands of basic training. Consequently, few recruits are prepared for the extreme mental stress they face immediately upon entering the training program. Here are some common stressors experienced by new recruits, and some advice on how to handle these situations and still survive basic training.
1. Separation anxiety can be crippling. For many younger recruits, basic training may be the first extended time spent away from the comfort and security of home. You make believe that you are ready to begin a life without a support network, but all too often the separation proves stressful and emotionally difficult. Except for a rushed collect phone call placed to assure your family that you have arrived safely, contact with your family and friends will be severely restricted. It's perfectly natural to miss the people you left behind, but you must find ways to minimize the stress of this forced separation. Once you make the decision to enter the military, begin 'practicing' self-reliant behaviors. Make sure you openly express your concerns about separation with your family and friends. Anxiety of this magnitude can only be lessened through self-discipline and self-confidence. Try your best to resolve any emotional conflicts you may have with your family or significant other. There is nothing more difficult than being hundreds of miles away from a situation you feel needs your attention. Try to board the transportation to the camp with a clear sense of purpose and resolve.
2. "Right is left, up is down and black is white" syndrome. Many things that take place in military basic training make little sense to an outsider looking in. If you have a strong sense of what should be 'right' and what is definitely 'wrong' with your environment, put it aside for the time being. You are entering an atmosphere where your drill instructor will order you to perform tasks that make no sense, or reprimand you severely for performing the same task he assigned the day before. Confusion over these contradictions can lead to frustration, and unchecked frustration can really hurt your sense of self-worth. The sooner you realize that this is a temporary situation that won't matter in a few weeks' time, the better you'll be emotionally. Keep a healthy sense of humor, and don't sweat the small stuff.
3. "What are you- stupid?" Drill instructors are trained to push their recruits to the breaking point both physically and mentally. While military rules prevent drill instructors from physically touching recruits, very little protection from verbal abuse exists. A minor mistake in executing a marching order may incur the wrath of two or three angry instructors. As a recruit, you have few options but to absorb their tirades and respond with 'yessirs' and 'nosirs'. Believe it or not, they are not singling you out for punishment most of the time. While the drill instructors were busy correcting you on that missed step, a dozen other recruits were silently correcting their own mistakes. You will be subjected to heated obscenities and other damaging words designed to guarantee that you did not miss their point. The worst thing you can do is allow these verbal taunts to escalate into a physical response. If you're lucky, the drill instructor may get a reprimand for excessive verbal 'counseling'. You may see serious prison time for lashing out at a superior. To survive a drill instructor's extended lecture on your lack of intelligence, pretend he is speaking a foreign language that you barely understand. Do not assign the normal meanings to words you wouldn't repeat in a hometown bar. Your ideal response in their eyes is no response at all. Keep that philosophy in mind at all times, and you should be better equipped to survive the mental stresses of basic training. It does get much easier in the long run, so it pays to develop a very thick emotional skin during those few months of extreme stress.