How Long Is Basic Training?Updated: March 26, 2021
How long is Basic Training? That’s the question all new recruits want to answer regardless of their choice of military service. And unfortunately there is no single answer to this question since a number of variables–including the trainee’s performance in boot camp–that inform the answer.
How many variables are there? Each branch of service has its own training program with variations depending on the nature of the service:
- Air Force / Space Force
- Marine Corps
- Coast Guard
- Air Force Reserve
- Army Reserve
- Coast Guard Reserve
- Navy Reserve
- Marine Corps Reserve
- Air National Guard
- Army Guard
Boot Camp Basics You Should Know: Some Don’t Go
All branches of service have some form of boot camp or basic training. All new recruits are required to go to basic training, but not all recruits are new.
Some may be prior-service recruits who are reentering the military after a break in service. Others may be active duty troops who decided to transition to a Guard or Reserve unit. Still others may be currently serving troops who are transferring out of Guard/Reserve status into full-time active duty.
And then there are those who transfer from one branch of service to another with no break in service.
In some cases, boot camp is waived for those who have already graduated from a basic training program. In others, full boot camp or a partial version of it may be required. That is true for prior service military members who want to join the Marines–in most cases full boot camp is required. The Army has a program that requires most (except Marines) to attend a four-week “transition course” for prior-service military members.
Bottom line? There are many variables for prior service military members coming back on duty, but much will depend on your selected branch of service, how long you have had a break in service for where applicable, and other issues. Prior service troops may have no basic training commitment or may be required to attend a full-blown boot camp the way the Marine Corps does.
Boot Camp Basics: Getting “Recycled”
When you attend Basic Training, you will have multiple phases of training–the initial in-processing upon arrival gives way to lectures, study, hands-on work, discussion, etc. Each phase of the training is arrived at as a group rather than as an individual trainee or test-taker.
But if one or more people fail to progress, they may be sent back to an earlier part of the training cycle to learn and pass the required testing or evaluations to move forward.
Being recycled usually means being placed in the group behind yours or to a group in the appropriate phase of training. And as the name implies, this can add days or weeks to an individual recruit’s basic training experience. Ask a recruiter about the recycling process and how you can avoid it to minimize the duration of your training time in boot camp. Getting recycled is the biggest variable when discussing how long it takes to graduate.
How Long Is Army Basic Training?
Army Basic Combat Training is approximately 10 weeks and is broken into three phases:
- The Red Phase which includes in-processing, uniform issue, the dreaded first Army haircut, UCMJ briefings, learning military customs and courtesies, chemical warfare protection measures, road marching, and more.
- The White Phase, which is essentially warrior training including learning weapons and weapons range procedures, hand-to-hand combat, and how to prioritize targets. This phase also places a high value on physical fitness training including an obstacle course.
- The Blue Phase, which is the final portion of basic combat training. This section provides more advanced marksmanship training, plus combat training including live grenades, a multiple-day navigation challenge, and how to disarm IEDs.
Army Reserve Basic Training
All soldiers must attend the same Basic Combat Training, so Army Reserve boot camp is also approximately 10 weeks long.
Army National Guard Basic Training
Those joining the Army National Guard, like their Reserve counterparts, also have the same boot camp requirements as their active counterparts.
Army basic combat training may be held at:
- Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia
- Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina
- Fort Leonard Wood, Waynesville, Missouri
- Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma
How Long is Air Force Basic Training?
Air Force Basic Training is approximately eight and a half weeks at Joint-Base San Antonio Lackland and begins with an in-processing week called Week Zero. Each week is broken down into specific activities with the successive weeks building on what was taught in the prior weeks.
Those who attended Air Force Basic in the 20th century will remember that in times past, AF basic was only six weeks long. But the addition of a warrior-week type Week Seven makes the 7th week of training one of the most physically challenging of the service’s training schedule–Airmen must complete field training exercises and combat training challenges to pass week seven and make it to Graduation Week (week 8) which features final drill and ceremony practices for graduation, an open house for graduates and their families, plus an Air Force coin ceremony.
Air Force Reserve Basic Training
There is an identical requirement for Air Force Reservists to train for eight and a half weeks before starting career field training and/or Reserve duty.
Air National Guard Basic Training
Air National Guard training requirements are similar to AF Reserve requirements. Expect to spend approximately 8.5 weeks in Air Guard boot camp.
How Long Is Navy Basic Training?
Navy literature describes Navy boot camp, held at Great Lakes Recruit Training Command in Illinois, as being “approximately seven weeks long”, but you may be subject to what are called “P days” which are not part of the training program and basically involve in-processing, screening (including a drug screen), and other admin functions. Recruits on P days may stand watch and receive some training before the official boot camp starts.
The Navy recruiting official site breaks down the technical training into subject matter groups. During the seven weeks recruits can expect:
- Basic Seamanship
- Water Survival
- Weapons Training
All sailors are expected to learn all areas including firefighting, swimming, etc. Passing these sections is a requirement for graduation.
Navy Reserve Basic Training
The Navy Reserve recruiting site describes its basic training program as being seven to nine weeks long.
How Long Is Marine Corps Basic Training?
The longest and most challenging of all military boot camps, Marine Corps basic training is 13 weeks long and is broken into four phases. Training happens at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in South Carolina and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. The four phases feature:
Phase One–in-processing, strength testing, initial issue and initial training.
Phase Two–Combat water survival, martial arts, combat conditioning, classroom work.
Phase Three–Marksmanship, more combat training, field training, etc.
Phase Four-Final physical and academic testing, graduation prep, etc.
Marine Corps Reserve Basic Training
Marine Reservists must pass the same basic training program as active duty recruits.
How Long Is Coast Guard Basic Training?
Coast Guard basic training information isn’t as plentiful from CG official sources as some other branches of the military but in general recruits can expect to spend eight weeks in basic training at the Cape May Training Center in New Jersey with both academic and practical training which includes weapons training, firefighting, damage control, seamanship, and more.
Coast Guard Reserve Basic Training
Coast Guard Reservists can expect the same duration and intensity of the full-time CG boot camp.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News