Pretty good food
A lot of people ask about the food at BMT, and I must say in my experience, it is not that bad! This could of course be due to the fact that it is your only option and you are doing physical exercise all day and it’s the only time you really have to sit down and eat something, but even considering that I thought the food was good.
There is hot food served every meal, plus a sandwich bar, fruit, salad, gatorade/juice, etc. The hot bar food is anything from grilled cheese to chicken cordon bleu, veal, vegetables, pizza, etc. I grabbed a couple pieces of bread to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at every meal, as the peanut butter will stick with you and give you some good energy for the rest of the day. It’s also a good idea to have rice (which is available at almost every meal) as it is a good energy food as well. You will have to get three glasses of fluid at every meal and will be required to drink all three before you get up from the table, regardless of whether you finish your meal or not. There is dessert available as well, but your MTI will not allow you to eat it, so it’ll just sit there in the glass case and tempt you. You also won’t be allowed to drink any soda. Juice/gatorade/water only, and some MTIs won’t even let you have the gatorade.
Unfortunately meal time can also be a stressful time. The protocol for entering and exiting the dining facility is extremely precise and very easy to screw up during the first couple weeks of basic training. The MTIs are still with you in the dining facility and are watching your every move. You may even be called up to the snake pit, which is the table where all of the MTIs sit to eat. This is a very bad place to be, as the MTIs are even more brutal to trainees here than normal. Here is a short preview of what you can expect to hear in the dining facility:
MTIs take particular notice of your uniform while in the dining facility, so make sure you look good before you go in.
The process of eating a meal at BMT is extremely complicated. Assuming it hasn’t changed since I went through, it goes something like this.
Your flight will stand outside on the drill pad and the chow runner will run inside to report to the snake pit and let them know that your flight has arrived and is ready to eat. The MTIs will tell the chow runner when the flight can come in and when it is the flight’s turn, the chow runner will go back outside and call in the flight one element (row of the formation) at a time. As the flight enters they will use facing movements (left and right face, as if marching) to line up against the wall and will stand heel to toe, meaning you are so close to the guy in front of you that your toes touch his heels.
You will say your reporting statement or answer a memory-work question to the MTI or dorm chief and then wash your hands with hand sanitizer. Grab your tray and silverware, then put the tray on the rails in front of the food and face straight ahead with your hands flat on either side of the tray. You’ll sidestep along the rails and tell the servers what you want to eat. Continue sidestepping as you get your food and beverages, then walk towards the tables. You don’t do any facing movements while holding your tray, as it would throw your food all over the room. The chow runner will be in place and will use hand signals to tell you which row to go down to sit in the tables. You’ll come to an empty table and will have to wait for three other trainees to arrive at the table before you can sit down. Once all four seats are ready to be filled you can all sit down and will put your portfolio (leather portfolio full of papers) under your chair along with your canteen and web belt and weapon if you are carrying it.
You aren’t allowed to talk to anyone during this entire process, including during your meal. You will be required to drink all three glasses of fluid before you get up, but you don’t have to eat all of your food. Just eat as fast as you can without choking, as during the beginning of training you will only have a couple of minutes to eat. It’s a good idea to just mash your food together and shovel it in as fast as you can, ignoring the taste. Mashed potatoes are a good glue to hold everything together, and also easy to eat and very filling.
Each table has to get up in the order it sat down, and all trainees have to get up at the same time, so be aware of what the trainees call “table fucking”. For example if tables are filled in the order of one, two, three, and table number two gets up before table number one, then it’s quickly obvious that table one is taking longer than it should, because table two, which sat down before them, is already getting up. The trainees at table one really don’t like this, because it takes away from their time to eat. It’s a rule of thumb to not get up before the table ahead of you does, or it takes away their time to eat. The MTIs will yell at you if they think it’s time for you to be done, so just wait until they tell you to get up.
After getting up, you’ll put your gear back on and carry your tray to the dishwashing area and put your silverware in a metal container and put your tray on the shelf for the dishwasher to take. You’ll then do facing movements on the way out of the dining facility, including a change-step at one point. In some squadrons there is a mirror on the wall where you will practice your salute before doing another facing movement to exit the building. Remember to put your hat back on, as many trainees will forget and go outside without their hat on and get yelled at.
Congratulations, you’ve survived another meal at basic training.