So you want to join the U.S. military and become a flat-bellied, steely-eyed killer of men (or mover of supplies, or photo-taker of soldiers, whatever). That means some trips to the recruiter and boot camp might be in your future. Here are six things to help prepare you for basic training:

1. Work on your physical fitness

Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first. You should exercise. A lot. Recruiters can tell you what exercises are most important for your branch and job school since they do differ. In general, future Marines and soldiers should concentrate on overall muscular strength and endurance. Soldiers can be lax about pull-ups but Marines should hit them hard.

Everyone, including sailors and airmen, should build up their endurance by running, biking, and strenuously hiking.

2. Read books from the professional reading list

Every branch has a professional reading list for their service members. Some are extensive, like the Marine Corps’, which includes a list of required reading for all Marines as well as lists assigned to each pay grade.

Others are shorter with just a few books that focus on future fights, tradition, and military history such as the Coast Guard’s 2015 list, which contained just nine books selected by the commandant and one nominated by Guardians. The Army, Air Force and Navy lists are available as well. The Air Force one even includes must watch Ted Talks and other videos. Get the books from a library if you don’t want to buy them.

3. Actually read those books of information the recruiter gives you

A little more on the topic of reading: Recruiters give new recruits pamphlets, booklets and little primers on military customs and courtesies, rank structure, the phonetic alphabet and other easy to learn and vital bits of knowledge.

Read these. Really read them. Some of them, like ranks and the phonetic alphabet, should be turned into flash cards for studying. The training cadre at basic training units will expect you to know these things. That’s why the recruiter gave you the pamphlets.


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