Book Review: The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook

One of the scariest things about leaving for basic military training is venturing into the unknown - and anything that can give you a heads-up about what's to come can help you get in the right mindset to get the most out of basic training. Written by Senior Airman Nicholas Van Wormer - who graduated from Air Force Basic Military Training in 2007 - The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook is designed to help answer many of the most common questions asked by those who are thinking about enlisting or getting ready to ship out!

This book is divided into three parts - The US Air Force, Joining Made Easy, and Basic Training - and they correspond pretty well to the three stages many people go through when they are thinking about enlisting:

  1. What job(s) can I do in the Air Force?
  2. Okay, now how do I enlist?
  3. What is basic training going to be like, and how should I prepare?

Let's dive into each one of these three sections and see how well it would answer the questions of someone about to enlist!

Part I - The US Air Force

This first section gives a lot of information that the vast majority of people who buy this book will already know. It covers (briefly) the history and mission of the Air Force, a list of job categories available for enlisted airmen, and the differences between the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. It also has a couple of pages answering common misconceptions that citizens might have about the Air Force ("Air Force basic training is easier" or "You must be smarter to join the Air Force").

Although this section of the book will likely only be useful to those who use "eeny-meeny-miney-moe" to pick a military branch to join, it is quite brief - under 15 pages.

Part II - Joining Made Easy

This is where the book starts to get more useful for the average enlistee! The first chapter of this section covers how to talk to a recruiter, and what you should expect them to do (and what they can't do!). This first chapter alone is full of some good tips, and questions that the recruiter can (can I get a specific job?) and can't answer (can I get a specific duty station?). First impressions are very important, and making a good one with your recruiter can pay dividends.

Other chapters in this section cover paperwork/personal matters to take care of before leaving for BMT, what to expect at MEPS, the importance of the ASVAB, a very nice 20-page section on how to start getting in shape for the physical challenges of USAF BMT, a list of what to bring (and what NOT to bring!) to BMT, and finally some ways to manage the mental game of basic training.

This middle section of the book has some excellent content. The section on dealing with a recruiter and how to prepare before leaving for basic training can save a lot of headache on down the line. If you're not in tip-top shape, the section on fitness prep is also incredibly useful!

Part III - Basic Training

Here is the meat of the book, not only in terms of content, but also length. This section covers nearly 75 pages - almost half of the book! This section starts describing BMT from the very beginning - your plane's touchdown in San Antonio. Here is a breakdown of the rest of this section.

The first chapter covers Zero Week - so named because it is not counted in the 8 weeks of Basic Training. Your dorm room, the dining experience, uniforms, and your first fitness test are all covered in enough detail to give you an idea of what to expect. The second chapter offers some helpful hints on how to eat during basic training. You read that correctly - during BMT, your time to eat is limited, and so this book can help keep you from going to bed hungry night after night.

The next chapter covers many of the experiences that you will have during your first week of training. Detail assignments such as Dorm Chief, Element Leaders, Entry Control Monitors, Flight Office Technician, and many others are covered. Also covered are ways to stay awake during class, how to deal with your issued M-16, the first phone call home, and what it means (and what it takes) to get recycled. A brief explanation of the various ranks and the chain of command, the 24-hour clock, and some study tips for passing the various written exams make up the next chapter.

The following two chapters cover weeks 2-4, with special emphasis on the "Excellence/Discrepancy Report" and NBC training (more commonly known as the gas chamber). Week 5 is where you first fire your M-16, and begin classroom training for the BEAST (Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training) that happens in week 6. Other topics covered in the week 5 chapter include getting pay (hooray!) and pugil stick fighting (fun!).

Getting dressed is one activity that will have to be done every morning, and so the next chapter consists of some tips on how to quickly and efficiently get dressed when you only have 15 minutes to get up, dressed, shaved, teeth brushed, and bunk made before Physical Readiness Training.

The BEAST gets it's own chapter, with a few paragraphs about what to expect during the entire week that you are "deployed", and some tips to help conquer it. After that chapter comes one with 15 of the most common problems that trainees have - if you can avoid doing all of these things, your time in BMT just got a lot easier!

A description and some hints for giving your best effort in the Physical Fitness Evaluation gets a large portion of the Week 7 chapter, with some additional advice for your M9 qualifications.

The next chapter is very useful, although most of these tips will become important long before week 7. It gives some general advice on things that you should know before heading off to basic:

  • How to Stand at Attention
  • How to Stand at Parade Rest
  • How and Who to Salute
  • How to Wear a Cover
  • How to Make Your Bunk
  • How to Prepare and Eat an MRE

The chapter on Week 8 describes the various activities that will take place during your final week of BMT. Topics include the Airman's Run, The Coin Ceremony, what it takes to be an Honor Graduate, and what happens during that last night.

The final chapters include a list of advice and general hints, an interview with an MTI, and a list of acronyms and other important terms. A lot of the hints have been mentioned before (although some are new) but having them all consolidated does serve as a good reminder. The MTI interview does offer some useful insight into how a trainee can be successful during BMT. The list of acronyms is just incredibly useful, since the military does love "alphabet soup". There is also an appendix full of workout logs, to help you track your progress during your fitness prep.


Although not everything in this book is applicable to most people who are enlisting in the US Air Force, the section about what to expect during each week of Basic Military Training is more than worth the price of the book.

Other useful sections of the book include the well though out physical fitness preparation section, hints on how to eat and dress in a "strategic" way, and how to make a good first impression with the recruiter.

If you are getting ready to enlist or ship out for BMT, you should highly consider purchasing and reading this book!

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