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Lessons I (Kind Of) Learned at Air Force Basic Training

I went through Air Force Basic Training almost fifteen years ago. It's technically called BMT (Basic Military Training), and we had TIs (Training Instructors) instead of Drill Sergeants. I'll pause here so anyone who's gone through Army or Marine Boot Camp can take the time to mock me a little.

Yes, my training was shorter and easier.

Yes, we skipped the water components of the obstacle course because "it's too cold outside."

Yes, we once got bussed back to our dorms because the hot water was out at the location where we were supposed to do some field exercises.

And yes, we had bathrooms and showers adjacent to our field exercises.

But you know what? Water's cold and field exercises are lame. Now that I think about it, you Army and Marine guys can mock me a lot instead of just a little. Don't worry, I can take it. The flight line gave me thick skin.

As (comparatively) easy as it was, I still (kind of) learned some (maybe) valuable lessons that I'd like to share.

Lesson 1: It (Probably) Doesn't Matter

We worried about so much nonsense at basic training. We got yelled at if our clothes weren't folded or rolled up right, or if our beds' corners weren't made nice and tight. We got threatened with being "recycled" almost daily, which meant we'd be forced to repeat entire weeks of training.

It was all nonsense.

Sure, if we messed up badly enough, we'd get sent back in training and forced to do it over again. But guess what? No one did. And the little things we were so focused on? They got figured out.


Packed suitcase

And yes, I still roll my clothes up when I travel. You can fit so many pairs of undies in your suitcase that way. Who doesn't need more undies on vacation? Look at all that wasted space!

The point is this: whatever you're worrying about most likely doesn't matter. Sure, sometimes it does, like when a loved one is sick, or the money doesn't quite make it to the end of the month. But I'd wager that 85% of what you're worrying about right now isn't at that level.

Lesson 2: Don't Poop Your Pants. Just Don't.

Okay, this lesson might seem obvious, and maybe I shouldn't have had to learn it from the Air Force, but I've only ever seen a grown man poop his pants twice in my life, and both were at basic training. Just don't do it. Go poop in the bathroom like a regular person. Also, don't challenge someone to punch you in the stomach because you're bored (especially when you have diarrhea). You'll probably poop your pants.

On that note, click here if you want a good laugh. Shayne Smith is the best.

Lesson 3: Basic Training Dust Downs!

Ever dusted a dorm room with a flip-flop? Quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I've ever done. Every morning, our entire training class would be down on our hands and knees, pushing the dirt and dust from the ground into the center aisle between our bunks. Then, one of us would crawl down that center aisle, pushing all the accumulated dirt and dust out of the dorm. We'd end up with an enormous pile of dust.

Every day!

Where did it come from? No idea. I still think the instructors planted it there when we slept. It probably didn't help that our blankets were essentially made of dust. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure what lesson I learned from dust downs...

Lesson 4: To Make or To Not Make Your Bed, That is the Question

Okay, so this one is up in the air. This guy says don't make your bed, and this guy says make it. We didn't get a choice in basic training. We made that sucker, and we tucked those corners in so tight you could bounce a quarter on it.

Sort of.

You know what most of us actually did? We pop-tarted it. I'll wait another minute for those who went through basic training to have a good laugh.

What's pop-tarting your bed? That's when you don't unmake it at night. You just wiggle into your nicely made bed and sleep at attention so you don't mess up those tight corners. In the morning, you wiggle out and give it a little courtesy tuck.

So, do I make my bed now?

No. I refuse. Also, my wife's still asleep when I get up at 5. She might take offense if I wake her up to make the bed.

Don't make your bed

Then what did I learn? What's the lesson?

Do something as soon as you wake up. If making your bed is that something, go for it. If it's stretching, go for it. If it's a quick walk or a workout, go for it. If it's prayer, go for it (though you should probably do that every morning regardless). Doing something right away is good for you.

Get out of bed and go do something.

Lesson 5: Don't Send Cookies to Your Loved at Basic Training (Or Do, If You Want a Good Laugh)

Yes, this happened. Someone's parents mailed them a box of cookies. Our instructors got a good laugh out of it and then ate the cookies in front of us. If your kid ends up joining the military, don't send them cookies.

Or do. Just put a laxative in them or something.

Lesson 6: It Ends

Yep, here's the big one. It might not shock you, but it shocked me: Basic Training ended. Can you believe it? Eight-and-a-half weeks blew by like a long weekend. Each day felt like a week, but each week felt like a day. Does that make sense? The moments dragged, but looking back at the moments makes you feel like they happened so fast.

Whatever crap you're going through will end. I promise.

But it goes both ways. My kids are teenagers, but I still remember wiping their little heinies. I've been married for almost nineteen years. When my mother turned forty, I bought her a magnet that said, "I'm not 40; I'm 39.99."

Guess how old I'll be in December? Yep. 40.


Time flies. Whatever you're going through is going to end.

Enjoy it.

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