Adventure to Lackland: What did I get myself into?

By Senior Airman Soo C. Kim
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Editor’s note: This is part one of a series detailing this author’s experiences at Air Force Basic Military Training and beyond.

“What the heck did I get myself into?”

Those were the only words running through my mind in that dark room.

I looked to my left and right and saw unfamiliar sleeping faces. The cold metal bed frame squeaked with the slightest movement, the mattress was hard as a rock, and the comforter was scruffy and uncomfortable. There was a stranger above my bed who couldn’t stop rolling in his slumber, and there I was, unable to sleep because of the same words echoing in my head, “What the HECK did I get myself into?”

That was my very first night of Basic Military Training in the United States Air Force – I was nervous and deathly afraid of what was to come.

I wasn’t as petrified when I first stepped into my local recruiter’s office. I could remember the friendly, smiling face of my recruiter. However, that image slowly faded away as I laid in bed feeling a little betrayed.

To be honest, the morning before as I was being driven to the Military Entrance Processing Station, I was motivated and confident about my decision to join the Air Force. I made my first Air Force friends there, and some of them were even in the same flight as me. We were so sure that basic training wouldn’t be any harder than just nodding our heads and saying, “Yes sir” and “no ma’am” with a lot of push-ups.

During our final hours of freedom, each of us came up with our own version of what basic training would be like. We were imagining a land full of sprinkles and chocolate fountains compared to what was really in the store for us.

A basic trainee low crawls through an obstacle course during the creating leaders, airman and warriors (CLAW) course, July 27, 2011, Medina Annex, San Antonio, Texas. CLAW is a three-hour, mission-oriented exercise designed to test teamwork, leadership skills and the ability to perform under pressure while combined with BMT trainees from other flights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marleah Miller)(Released)
A basic trainee low crawls through an obstacle course during the creating leaders, airman and warriors (CLAW) course, July 27, 2011, Medina Annex, San Antonio, Texas. CLAW is a three-hour, mission-oriented exercise designed to test teamwork, leadership skills and the ability to perform under pressure while combined with BMT trainees from other flights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marleah Miller)(Released)

As soon as we arrived at the airport, we were greeted by Airmen with no expressions on their faces. They gave us a brief explanation of the in-processing procedures, and split us up to go to our respective buses that would take us to the base. I thought to myself, “They must be trying to jump-start our training with their serious faces. I’m onto your games senior airmen.”

Of course, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t getting nervous, but I still had that some of that initial confidence left.

The little white school bus we rode from the airport stopped in front of a brick building with an awkward design that almost reminded me of an old prison. That’s when I saw a black campaign hat moving outside the window. The Airman under the hat was a slender man of average height. If I saw him in the daylight at a grocery store, I would’ve thought he was a nice guy. But, that wasn’t the case. He looked intimidating and extremely upset over something we didn’t even do… yet. Perhaps it was because of the shadow cast on his face from his wide-brimmed hat?

Campaign hats still scares me.
Tech. Sgt. James Woods stares trainees into their eyes as they go through their fourth week of basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Sergeant Woods is military training instructor for the 737th Training Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Our small bus was dead silent and reeked of fear as the campaign hat stepped inside. He took a quick scan of the undisciplined lot who thought they were brave enough to go through the trials of becoming an Airman.

The campaign hat spoke with a rather quiet, but stern tone.

“You have exactly ten seconds to jet your butts out of this bus with your bags.”

After scrambling off the bus, I found myself in a line with my fellow trainees surrounded by two other campaign hats. I thought to myself, “This must be what gazelles feel like when a pack of lions are hunting them.”

“Bags up, bags down. Up, down.”

Tech. Sgt. Raul Lopez corrects a new Air Force Reserve recruit Feb. 6, 2010, at Duke Field, Florida. Sergeant Lopez and his wife, Master. Sgt. Tiffany Lopez (pictured) both former active-duty military training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas, volunteered their time to help new reserve recruits prepare for basic training during the drill weekend here. The husband and wife team spent four years instructing new trainees at Lackland graduating 25 flights from Basic Military Training. Sergeant Tiffany Lopez is assigned to the 96th Force Support Squadron. Sergeant Raul Lopez is assigned to the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)
Tech. Sgt. Raul Lopez corrects a new Air Force Reserve recruit Feb. 6, 2010, at Duke Field, Florida. Sergeant Lopez and his wife, Master. Sgt. Tiffany Lopez (pictured) both former active-duty military training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas, volunteered their time to help new reserve recruits prepare for basic training during the drill weekend here. The husband and wife team spent four years instructing new trainees at Lackland graduating 25 flights from Basic Military Training. Sergeant Tiffany Lopez is assigned to the 96th Force Support Squadron. Sergeant Raul Lopez is assigned to the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

With these simple instructions, and plenty of incoherent screaming, we found ourselves under the complete control of the campaign hats.

To this day, I still don’t recall how our flight ended up in the dayroom listening to our Military Training Instructor giving us the rules and tips for surviving the eight-week training course.

Then, there I was, in the bottom bunk of a hard bed, covering myself with a scruffy and uncomfortable comforter while the same words were repeating in my head – “What the heck did I get myself into?”

Did this bring any memories to mind? What was your first day of Air Force BMT like?