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From MEPS to Lackland
Depending on where you live and which MEPS you leave from, you will probably take a bus from the MEPS after swearing the oath of enlistment to the airport where you’ll get on a plane to San Antonio.
The MEPS personnel will give you a manila envelope with all of the medical records for your group inside it and will designate one person as the group leader. That leader will be responsible for getting everyone to the gate on time to depart, and keeping track of everyone when you land in San Antonio and getting them to the area where you’ll meet your first MTI. The group leader is also responsible for keeping track of the envelope of records and making sure it doesn’t get lost or stolen.
When you arrive in San Antonio you’ll follow signs to the area where you will meet an MTI for the first time and will start getting on buses to go to Lackland AFB. On the way to this area you’ll walk down a long empty corridor and will probably start to hear the MTIs yelling before you see them. This is your last moment as a civilian, so enjoy it!
Next you’ll round a corner and see other trainees sitting on benches looking terrified and most likely being perfectly quiet. If you haven’t shaved already, the MTIs will probably make you go into the bathroom and shave (guys only, of course). The MTIs in this area aren’t really screaming a lot and are really just there for supervision. But still, you won’t want to talk to them unnecessarily or draw attention to yourself.
They’ll tell you when to board the bus and then you’ll sit on a 13 mile bus ride to Lackland.
Arriving at Lackland
When you enter the gates to Lackland it may be dark, and the bus will wind around all over the base leaving you completely disoriented. You’ll eventually pull up outside of a building where you will start your in-processing and will be greeted by a group of MTIs who are more than happy to make your first moments of BMT memorable ones. They will jump on the bus and start yelling at you, telling you that you have 15 seconds to get everyone off the bus and yelling all manner of ridiculous things at you in order to intimidate you.
Once you’re off the bus you’ll line up in your first sort-of military formation and the MTIs may have some fun with you by making you pickup and put down your bags or hold them out to your sides, but they didn’t happen to do that to my group.
While in this first formation you may be asked if you play any musical instruments. This isn’t a trick question they are asking you to embarrass you, they are just trying to find potential candidates for the band flight. The band flight is the marching band that plays during each BMT graduation. I was not in it, but from what I hear it may not be advisable to be in it because they not only have to do everything the normal BMT flights do, but they also have to perform in every graduation ceremony every Friday and practice the music and extra marching for their band duties. So unless you really want to be in the band flight, I would keep it to yourself that you played the trumpet or drums in high school.
As you finally file inside the building you’ll be given instructions on where to sit, when to sit, when to get up, etc. You’ll give the personnel there the manila packets you were given at MEPS and will be given a cold frozen meal tray to eat. Don’t worry, this will probably be the worst meal you’ll have during basic training. Most of them consisted of a frozen sandwich of some kind with some chips and other snacks put in there and maybe a juice box.
You’ll continue to process through various areas giving out info or filling out paperwork. When I went through they were still issuing BDUs and I was issued my BDU field jacket during the first night, but that is probably different now.
Your dormitory & home for the next two months
Eventually you’ll be put on another bus and will be taken to your squadron building and then to your dormitory. Each training squadron at BMT is basically a building with multiple dormitories inside it and a cafeteria and MTI offices in the bottom. This will be your home for the next eight weeks and you’ll only leave it to go to various appointments around the base.
The MTI that takes you from the processing building to your dormitory may not be your actual MTI, you may not meet him or her until the following morning.
When you arrive at your squadron you’ll probably form up under the overhang and will be briefed by the MTI on various rules and things you need to know for the first night. You’ll eventually go upstairs to your dormitory and will be told to line up around the room. Where you end up standing at this point will probably be where you will bunk for the next eight weeks, so if you have any preference of being away from the MTI’s office (inside each dormitory) then try to situate yourself in the back of the room at this time. The MTI that took me to the dormitory the first night made us stand in front of our lockers, put our finger on our locker numbers and repeat the number a few dozen times so that we would remember what our number was.
You’ll also shower the first night, with an MTI yelling at you the whole time getting you to hurry up, etc. You’ll likely have only three or four minutes to shower at any time in BMT, so there is no time to be modest or relax and soak in the hot water. You’ll enter a large tiled shower with shower heads all along the wall. You’ll get wet under the shower head really quick, then step out and soap up while someone else stands under the water. Then you’ll switch back and rinse while they lather up, then get out and dry off. I recommend using gel body wash rather than bar soap, it’s much faster and cleaner and you don’t have to worry about dropping it as much and it getting hair stuck in it, etc. Also, just use the body wash as shampoo too. You don’t want to deal with another bottle in the shower or another step in the process. The guys aren’t going to have any hair to wash anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
Finally you’ll put away your civilian luggage in your locker and go to sleep, or try to anyway. You’ll most likely lay there for at least a few minutes thinking “What have I gotten myself into, how can I get out of here?” But don’t worry, it hasn’t even started yet!
You may have some other trainees come into your dormitory the first few nights. These are trainees just like you that are in the later weeks of training and they are sent to stay with the new guys the first few nights to help them get settled in, give them advice, etc. Unfortunately some of these trainees are on a power trip since they are the “experienced” guys and you are the newbies. They may try to pull some pranks or scare you, but you may also get really nice guys that will help you out and give you a lot of advice, etc. It’s important to know that these guys are just other trainees though, and not MTIs. If you don’t see any rank on their sleeves then they are probably just trainees and have no authority over you. Though, they can report bad behavior back to your MTI, so it’s not a good idea to piss them off either.
You’ll likely get to sleep in a little bit the first day, so you can expect to get up around 5 or 6 in the morning, at least that’s when I was woken up the next day when I arrived. Each situation will be different.
Welcome to Air Force Basic Training!