Steps To Start Your Military Career On The Right Foot


I still remember the day I arrived at Fort Benning, GA to begin the Infantry Officer Basic Course on a sweltering September day. The awesome 250 foot airborne towers, old armored halftracks from World War II, and thousands of soldiers running, marching, and shooting on the ranges.  No matter how long you were a soldier, you always remember the day you report in for your first school. 


There are some pieces of advice that can help make your first days easier and ensure that your training days get started on the right foot.


Tip #1 – Plan to Arrive 2-3 Days Early. Who doesn’t remember standing in the 1st formation or a new training class and watching other peers arrive hours or days late.  Trust me, no one wants to be that person.  Ever.  Car break downs, traffic accidents, flight delays, flight bumps, and flight cancellations are only a few of the events that cause travel plans to become rescheduled, sometimes rescheduled several times.  Don’t forget the inevitable weather delays, too.  Planning to arrive 2-3 days early gives yourself enough slack in your schedule to handle a delay with ease.


Tip #2 – Triple Check Your Packing List. There are some military schools that are so hard to get into because of limited space that even missing one item on the packing list will get you dropped from the course.  Always ensure that you have the most up to date packing list and you confirm that the item on the packing list is the item that you have.  Once you have triple checked your packing list, repack all your items, and lock the bag.  This ensures your packing list remains packed.


Tip #3 – Learn the Ins and Outs of The Base, Fort, or Post You Are On. Every military installation has its share of do’s and don’ts that are unique to that installation.  Find out when gates on and off base open and close, what gates are backed up with morning traffic, and what roads are closed for morning and / or afternoon physical training.  Finally, if you are going to a different service post, for example an Army soldier on a Navy Base, memorize and learn the rank structure so you can render the proper courtesy of the day to superiors you encounter.  Take the time to learn where the post resources like clothing sales, the BX / PX, post gym, and other resources are located and their hours of operation.  Finally, wear your seat belt always and drive the speed limit precisely.  Nearly all military bases have a stringent safety policy that must be followed – no exceptions.


Tip #4 – Extra Uniform Items in Your Car. Most new soldiers excel at wearing the uniform of the day following their Initial Entry Training (IET) or Basic Training.  However, in nearly all parts of the country, the weather can change rapidly.  Have a spare set of physical fitness clothes, boots, running shoes, wet weather gear, rank insignia, gloves, etc. in a large duffel bag in your car.  You may never need it, but you or one of your friends will inevitably forget something or something necessary will be lost.  Having backups in your car is an insurance policy of untold value.


Tip #5 – Easy on The Alcohol. Alcohol, staying out late, and pushing the limits of your physical endurance to do well at training and to have the most fun possible is a central part of military lore and the military experience.  That being said, DWI’s, DUI’s, and missing formation due to alcohol have killed more military careers that a love of alcohol created.  Have fun, choose moderation, and limit yourself to one or two drinks, at most on weekdays.  Always, always use a designated driver.


Tip #6 – Get the Most Out of Your Training. Take advantage of every chance that you can to learn.  If you are on the range, volunteer for the clean-up detail if that allows you to shoot more.  Talk to instructors who just returned from deployment on what they learned.  Always carry a book on military subjects to read during down times.  When you get to your new unit after just coming from training, your unit will expect that you are the Subject Matter Expert (SME).  Listening to outside speakers is another terrific way to expand your professional horizons and learning.


Start your military career on the right foot by being early, in the right uniform, with the right equipment, and at the right location. Your first military school following Initial Entry Training is where your career beings to shine.


Share Your Lessons & Advice How You Began Your Military Career on The Right Foot.


Additional Resources:

  1. Use Military Base Activities to Save on Weekly Expenses
  2. Understanding Military Rank Structure
  3. 6 Steps to Get the Most from Your First Duty Station


Author Bio:

Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published 230 articles in 105 publications on career, business, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and