Upon enlistment, your son or daughter will be taken to United States Military Entrance Processing Command by the recruiter. It’s at “MEPS,” as it’s often called, that recruits go through a standard series of processing steps before moving to basic combat training or BCT.
Here are some things to expect:
Your soldier will bring important documents such as a Social Security card, birth certificate and marriage or divorce certificate if applicable. It’s good practice to keep at least one additional certified copy of documents at home. A physical exam, drug tests and interviews are all part of MEPS processing. This is also where recruits declare their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS), such as infantry, military police, intelligence and other options.
MEPS is also where the new military member is sworn in. A Blue Star parent may attend the swearing in, but you will not able to drive your soldier to or from the MEPS station.
After MEPS your son or daughter will be given a ship out date. On occasion this may change, but for our family it stayed the same for all three of my soldiers.
When your soldier ships out you will take him or her to the recruiter’s station. You can stay with your soldier until he or she is ready to leave. Your soldier will go to MEPS again. You are not allowed to drive your soldier to MEPS. The next step after this last stop at MEPS is what’s known as in-processing.
When your soldier gets to his station he will not step off the bus and directly into BCT. He or she will first go through Reception Battalion or in-processing. Reception Battalion will have restrictions already in place on new recruits. Although it is usually less restrictive than BCT, Reception Battalion doesn’t always afford an opportunity for phone calls. That first phone call usually lasts less than two minutes.
Below is a great synopsis of the phases of BCT and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) from the Army War College:
BCT and AIT is comprised of five phases. They are the Red Phase, White Phase, Blue Phase, Black Phase and the Gold Phase. The Red, White and Blue phases are part of the Basic Training program of instruction, the Black and Gold Phases are part of the Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
In an OSUT or One Station Unit Training, a training cycle is about 13 to 14 weeks long and encompasses all five phases of training. OSUT is MOS specific, i.e., Infantry, Armor, Artillery and Military Police, and once a solider has successfully completed an entire training cycle he/she is awarded his/her MOS and is ready for duty in any of our war fighting divisions.
These phases vary in instructional content and intensity of training. With the passage of each phase will come increased privileges for new soldiers. The Red Phase is also known as “Total Control” – during this phase there is always a drill sergeant with the soldiers from wake up until lights out. This control gradually lessens with each successive phase. In Basic Training, graduation takes place at the end of the Blue Phase. In OSUT and AIT, graduation occurs at the end of the Gold Phase. Generally, each phase change is marked with some type of ceremony or ritual to recognize the successful progression of the soldiers.
Once your soldier leaves for BCT be prepared for very limited contact for the first several weeks. This is a tough time for everyone because parents worry, but rest assured that although your soldier will be stretched beyond anything he or she has done before, it’s for his or her own good!
Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker