Several years ago, a family friend enlisted in the Air Force. Later, I found out that she was discharged because it turned out she had a disease. When we met for lunch, she recalled how, in boot camp, there were girls there who really broke under the pressure. Some of those girls, she said, were pouring water on their beds to make it look like they were bedwetters and would be discharged. I recalled this story while reading BASIC – Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training by Colonel Jack Jacobs. Apparently, what those girls had been doing at boot camp was not new; other recruits who have tried to get out of basic training or boot camp have done that and quite a few other things, according to this book. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and sailors (which I'll refer to as "soldiers" in this review for the sake of brevity) share stories in BASIC of how they survived it all: KP duty, strenuous physical fitness routines, harsh weather conditions, lack of sleep and learning how to march. It was surprising to learn that some recruits had trouble figuring out their left from right when marching! (According to this book, this prompted the creation of a “cadence call” to help troops march in step.)
I really enjoyed reading BASIC. I selected this book to review because both my husband and I have family members who were in the military (both of our fathers were in the military), and so I wanted to see what basic training was all about. If it had not been for both of us becoming deaf, we both had had plans to enlist, and I got an idea of what would have been in store had I been able to do so (in the Air Force). Basic training, also called “boot camp,” is definitely grueling and not for everyone. But getting though basic will transform the average recruit into the soldier that the military wants this person to be. The average person and soldier are two very different people, and it takes getting through basic training, getting through the military, to create such a difference. Indeed, some of the former recruits who shared their experiences in this book related how, after they returned home, their own mothers did not recognize them. To be sure, they went through some of the most harshest experiences, but in the end they came out of it grateful for the new person they were, even thanking their Drill Sergeants for being so hard on them and pushing them to be better.
BASIC covers topics related to training such as working detail, learning how to march, formation, what happens when arriving, how the recruits get along with each other (and what happens when they don’t) and training under the most stressful and uncomfortable conditions. There are also bits of history scattered in this book (such as how something started or the history behind certain locations or people), and the quotes from movies, books and documentaries about training and the military complemented the chapters nicely. All of the stories shared were interesting, sometimes funny, even shocking, and it was definitely a book I had trouble putting down.
BASIC is a helpful introduction to anyone considering enlisting in the military. Through anecdotes and information, the reader who picks up a book like BASIC will walk away with a better idea of what to expect from basic training, and of the kind of person they have the potential of turning out to be.
Becoming a soldier is one thing, but before anybody can earn the right to wear the uniform, one crucial goal must be met: Surviving basic training. Colonel Jack Jacobs made it through basic training and has written a book with David Fisher on what it’s all about, what one can expect, and what kinds of experiences former recruits have had when they, too, lived to talk about it all.
Every American fighting man and woman share one thing in common: they have all survived basic military training. Basic tells the story of that training. Medal of Honor recipient Col. Jack Jacobs and David Fisher recount the funny, sad, dramatic, poignant, and sometimes crazy history of how America has trained its military, told through the personal accounts of those who remember the experiences as if they happened yesterday.
If you’ve been through basic or boot camp, these memories of drill instructors, marching chants, combat training (and the “gas chamber”), hospital corners, and the shared feeling of triumph are guaranteed to make you smile. And those who haven’t done it will understand and appreciate this life-changing experience that turns a civilian into a soldier—and in just eight weeks.