Be Prepared for Military Basic Training

The Top 3 Reasons You Could Fail Basic Training

basic trainingYes, it is possible to fail basic training. You could go through the trouble of leaving your home, job, family and friends and come back a failure. In fact, this happens to about 15 percent of recruits who join the military every year. Too many recruits I speak to think that it is impossible to fail basic training.  From someone who has spoken to thousands of recruits over the years, let me tell you the top 3 reasons you could return home without graduating basic training.

1)     You’re an egotistical maniac

I get an email like this almost every week. Here is an email I got a week ago:

“SGT Volkin, I work out every day and I get straight A’s in school.  My fear about basic training isn’t about my capabilities to fail; my fear is that I will get booted for being too tough. If the drill sergeants try bossing me around, I fear my subconscious fighting skills in karate (I’m a black belt) will take over and I will strike and injure a drill sergeant. How can I control the fighting force that has been instilled in me? Since I have straight A’s and am already a fighting force, can I get a waiver from my recruiter so I don’t have to attend basic training? ”


No, this is not a joke, this is an actual email that I had to read and respond to. My response is below (name withheld to preserve anonymity):

“Dear X, you can’t get a waiver for being such an awesome person.  The fact that you would ask that question shows you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.  You will get yelled at by your Drill sergeants, and judging by your personality, probably many times a day.   Not only will you not strike them, you will probably pee in your pants the first time you get yelled at.  My advice to you is to not be over confident; your ego might be your worst enemy.  Best of luck”.


2)     You’re not joining for the right reasons

Someone might have told you that joining the military is a great source for repaying college loans (which is true). Someone might have also told you to join the military will provide some direction and structure in your life (which is also true).  However, if you aren’t joining the military because you genuinely want to be there and serve your country, your chances of failure skyrocket.  Mentally, you will have a very difficult time understanding why you are truly there, why you should continue being there, and why you shouldn’t just get up and walk away (i.e. go AWOL).  It is perfectly fine to join the military for the aforementioned reasons, however, the underlying reason must be for the love of your country and the true belief that you live in the greatest country in the world.


3)     You refuse to be helped

No one, and I mean no one, makes it through basic training without being helped by another recruit.  You must be the type of person to offer and accept help when needed. I have seen countless recruits try to act too tough to admit they need help, or are too afraid to ask other recruits when they need help. Either way, you must be a team player to graduate boot camp.

Sergeant Michael Volkin is a U.S. Army veteran and expert on basic training issues.  Check out his website at and buy his best-selling Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook.


  1. Jeff Ousley /

    SGT Volkin,

    Just wanted to commend you on another great advice article. The first section really made me laugh, mostly because I remember being in basic with a couple guys like that. Those guys drew the instructors’ attention early and often, and provided some much needed entertainment to the flight throughout our training. I can’t tell you how much I relate to the second and third points. I joined the Air Force for what I thought was going to be an easy way to get money for college, and I thought I was going to have to make it through on my own. Thankfully, although I was very wrong on both counts (though I’m currently about to wrap up my degree at the University of Missouri), it was the people I met and the friends I made that got me through. More than anything else, that’s probably the most important thing, is that you can do so much more together than you can as an individual. Anyway, not to go on about my own experiences, but your piece really resonated with me and others would do well to take heed. Keep up all the great work, sir!

    -Jeff O

  2. Brenda Bravo /

    I see this is a very old article you wrote haha. I saw it on another website, and I decided to click because it just so happens to go along with my big decision right now. I want to enlist in the Air Force, and I fear that number 2 is a BIG obstacle in my life. I do want the AF to pay for college, I do want it to structure my life, and I do love my country. But there are many around me that just DON’T SEE me as the military type. They think I’ll chicken out, and I’ve heard it so many times before that now I’m starting to believe I’ll chicken out too. My question is am I really cut out for the military?

  3. Brenda
    No one can answer that but you, but don’t listen to others. The Air Force has a very low drop out rate though.

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