Today, I want to discuss five life lessons I learned during Army Boot Camp. I went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in January 1996. Prior to that, I grew up in small town Maine. I graduated high school in June 1995 and then went to the University of Southern Maine for one semester, prior to shipping out to Boot Camp.
I had loving parents and a wonderful childhood. I knew that if I stayed in Maine I wouldn’t have many opportunities. I decided to join the Army during my senior year of high school. To this day, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Basic Training was an eye opening experience, to say the least. It was my first time being so far away from home and completely on my own. I was good kid, but I had a lot of growing up to do.
I learned a lot of things in Basic Training such as drill and ceremony, marksmanship, physical fitness, first aid, and tons of other individual and Warrior Tasks. For the purpose of today’s blog post, I want to talk about some of the more “significant” life lessons I learned in Boot Camp. They are listed in no particular order.
# 1 Discipline
Discipline is defined as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.”
People who know me now will tell you I am one of the most disciplined people you will ever meet. I wasn’t always that way though. Prior to going to Basic Training I didn’t have a lot of discipline. I was a well behaved kid and never really got in any type of trouble growing up. I never really tested my parents much or challenged their authority. In high school, I spent a few years on the wrestling team, and all three of my coaches were either veterans or police officers. They helped build a good foundation of discipline in me.
When I got to Basic Training, it really opened my eyes. We were expected to do as we were told and not question it. We followed orders. We had responsibilities. We were accountable to each other. We had to face consequences if we messed up or disobeyed orders.
Looking back, the discipline I learned at Basic Training really prepared me for success later on in life. Even though I have always had an independent spirit, I believe doing the right thing, getting the job done, holding myself to a high standard, and doing what I say I will do.
# 2 Focus
Focus is defined as “the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.”
As a young man, I wasn’t very focused. If anything, I was distracted! The Army taught me how to keep the main thing the main thing. I learned a lot about priorities, getting the job done, and focusing on the task at hand. My Drill Sergeants taught me that there were always lots of things to get done, but not all tasks or missions were equal. They taught me that if I tried to do too much at once, I wouldn’t accomplish much. They taught me to finish what I started.
# 3 Respect
In Boot Camp I learned to respect my cadre, my peers, and most importantly, myself. A lot of trainees at boot camp really had attitude problems. They had a chip on their shoulder and for some reason they thought they could talk back to their Drill Sergeants and get away with it. That seldom happened (LOL).
I really looked up to my Drill Sergeants and the rest of the cadre. To some degree, I feared them. But, I knew they were just doing their job and molding me into a Soldier. I knew they were highly trained professionals who had my best interest at heart.
I learned to respect my peers because we were all part of one team. I learned to respect my unit, my superiors, my peers and my subordinates. I learned to “respect the rank” and I also learned that real respect had to be earned.
# 4 Teamwork
I learned really early on in Boot Camp about the importance of teamwork. Almost everything we did in the Army, and in life, is a team effort. Up to that time, I really worried more about myself and my own needs, than anyone else. I realized that the team is only as strong as the weakest person. I learned that the “team” or the “group” was more important than me. I realized that my buddies were counting on me and I had to carry my own weight.
# 5 Patriotism
Beginning in Boot Camp, I really fell in love with my country. I know that might sound a bit weird to some of you, but it’s the truth. Prior to joining the Army, I never really thought a lot about my “country.” Most of my thoughts were revolved around my own little world: myself, my family and home town.
In Basic Training, I realized how great our country is. I was proud to wear the uniform and be part of something greater than myself. I was really proud to be an American and Soldier. I was proud to continue the tradition my ancestors started, by serving my great country.
In summary, I learned some really important life lessons in Basic Training, and throughout my Army career. These life lessons helped build up my core values and made me the person I am today. I am eternally grateful for my experience in the military.
How about you? What life lessons did you learn in Basic Training? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.