What is infantry school like for the U.S. Army?

​US Army Infantry school is a 16 week training course that takes place on Sand Hill in Fort Benning, GA. There are only 13 weeks of actual training, one week of field ops and two weeks of recovery (recovery is not for you, it’s for your equipment and paperwork).

Your first 13 weeks are seperated into three phases: Red, white & blue. In red phase you aren’t a person and you won’t be treated like one. Just get ready for some fun and games and don’t take it personally. As you progress through the phases you get treated a little better, but don’t expect much. They like to hold you in red phase for a while to fuck with you. It’s all about building false hope, taking it away and seeing how you deal with it.

Expect lots of sand, expect it to be all over your bay and all over your body. Expect punishment for things that you didn’t do or that wasn’t your fault. Just take it in stride, if you complain it’s going to suck more.

You train six days a week and have Sundays “off” to go to church and clean, clean, clean. It’s really not that hard: Formation, PT, chow, change cloths, load busses, spend the day at the range, go home and do punitive calisthenics, go to bed and do it again the next day.

Training consists of obstacle courses, rappelling, various marksmanship training and live fire exercises, ruck marches, thrown and underslung grenade training and so on. Usually you will do one training event a day and it will take the entire day to run the whole company through the lanes and you may only get 30-60 minutes of actual training that day. Be prepared to wait for long periods of time without falling asleep – don’t be that guy.

If you can manage that, then you get to go spend a week in the field, different companies do different exercises but the one we did was sort of a platoon versus platoon scenario. The rules were each platoon finds a spot in the woods to set up their patrol base. If you are attacked by an enemy platoon you have to pack up your base and find a new spot. This sucks because that’s time and energy you are wasting on movement and digging; time you could be resting. The goal is to exhaust the other platoons because at the end of the exercise you have a 12-15 mile ruck up and down hills carrying 50-80lbs of gear. If you fall out you don’t graduate.

It’s really not that bad, we had about a 25% attrition rate in our class but most of those were either in the beginning or due to various medical issues throughout the cycle. If you’re the type that takes things to heart and and doesn’t have thick skin you won’t last. As you learn good ways to cope with stress along the way it will be fine.

The real training starts once you get to your unit, this is just basic stuff to make sure you’re not completely clueless.

I’m going to distinguish between the Infantry School – which is an institution – and Infantry training – which is what the Infantry School provides.  I’m also going to assume that you really are asking about Infantry training that one receives at the Infantry School.  With that behind us – here’s what I can tell you.

The Infantry School is at Fort Benning, Georgia and provides the facilities, instructors, methodology, and courses of instruction for Infantry soldiers from the basic private recruit right on up to lieutenants and captains.  Occasionally, more senior soldiers – such as lieutenant colonels come to the school for pre-command refresher courses.  I’m going to focus on the training that the junior enlisted and junior officers receive – because there are more of them going through the training at any given time than captains and senior sergeants.

The soldiers’ day starts at the crack of dawn (maybe 5:15) with First Call.  You roll out of bed – put on your PT (physical training) uniform, take care of your immediate personal business – then fall in formation on the parade ground for PT.  This is done in unison and lasts about 30 to 45 minutes – normally it concludes with a run in formation that lasts for 2 to 3 miles.  So, first thing in the morning – you’re breaking a sweat.

Following PT – the troops head back to clean up, square the barracks away, dress, and head for the chow hall to get breakfast.  You will be expected to check the training schedule for that day posted on the bulletin board – it will designate the uniform and equipment needed at each formation.  After chow – you will grab your required gear and go to Morning Work formation where the First Sergeant will put out detailed information before turning you loose to the Platoon Sergeants.

For most of the rest of the day – you belong to the Platoon Sergeant who will have  maybe a Staff Sergeant and a Buck Sergeant or Corporal assisting him.  They will march you to transportation – to be trucked out to the training area – or march you in formation to a local, nearby training site for instruction.   When you get to the training site – perhaps the rifle range – their will usually be instructors from the Infantry School there to organize and present your training – let’s say on rifle marksmanship.  They will put you in bleachers – make a very concise, cut & dried presentation on marksmanship, take some questions, then have the soldiers fall out to conduct some dry-fire drills before the range goes “wet”.  They’ll issue you a target and ammo – then pair you up with a buddy and put you on a lane where your targets will be directly down range.  From there – it’s a matter of following their instructions so that you handle the weapon safely and put some lead through the target silhouette.  You’ll enjoy yourself!  After awhile you clean up the firing line, account for ammo expended, and get ready for chow time.

Mid-day chow will be brought to the training area and you’ll break for a feed.  After completing clean up and personal hygiene – there will be a Noon Work formation to account for everyone – and then the afternoon training will commence or you’ll be transported to the next training area for something new to learn – say, camouflage.  More presentations followed by some drills followed by some practical application – maybe to camouflage a bunker or a crew served weapon position.  Mid afternoon break – coffee usually served.  Another couple of hours of instruction – then back to the battalion area to clean weapons and put gear away.

You’re not done yet.  Although you are off the range and out of the training area – the Platoon Sergeant still has charge of you and he will, undoubtedly, have some topics to instruct the whole platoon on regarding all types of things – general & special orders, military courtesy, barracks maintenance, military law, unit history, the list is endless.  When he is done with you – he will most likely assign groups to perform some work detail under the Staff Sergeant or Corporal’s supervision.  When they are satisfied that the job has been completed – you will be released to go to evening chow – time – approximately 6pm. 

After the evening meal – unless you screwed up and earned the ire of your Platoon Sergeant in which case you will be attending remedial training – you will be expected to work on cleaning up your gear, getting your uniform ready for the next day, and reading up on any required lesson for the next day’s training – this might take an hour to an hour and a half.  Then you have an hour or two to relax, go grab an ice cream or a Coke (Ft. Benning is hot as Hell in summer!) watch a few innings of Monday Night Baseball, write a letter or postcard home, then hit the rack when Tatoo sounds at 10:00.  That’s a typical day of Infantry training – with subjects changing from day to day and week to week.

Infantry School

To summarize, your time is not yours.  You will be hustling all the time – even though there may be periods of unplanned “downtime” – it will feel like hurry-up and wait – which is the usual complaint about Army time management.  Get over it and learn to pay attention to what the Sergeants and the instructors are telling you.  You will think some of the career soldiers there are nothing but ignorant knuckleheads – word of advice – don’t even think about betraying that thought or you will find yourself on Corporal Dokes’ shit list. 

Like Devin alluded to. The school is there to give you a rough idea of what you’ll be trained on when you get to your unit. It’s why attrition rates on replacement soldiers were appallingly high in previous wars and they still would be if we ever found ourselves in another high intensity war as opposed to low intensity insurgency wars we have fought for the last 15 years.

Tossing out the basic training which is pretty much the same regardless of where you go to school at. Advanced Infantry Training isn’t even a walk through, it isnt even a ride with training wheels.  Its more like being taped to a baby stroller so you can’t fall out and pushed around the park a few times so you can see the trees.  I suppose I learned how to camo up relatively well there and learned how to sit in a foxhole in a defensive perimeter I dug, something I never did again the rest of new career until I retired.  Other than that I think I’d have been better suited skipping it and just going to my 1st unit. It’s as far as I know the only MOS that is one station training, meaning you don’t fly off to another fort to go to school for months to learn your job. Which says a lot in my opinion Instead it’s 3 weeks of sitting around in the heat wishing there was an opfor out there to at least probe your defense or give you a reason to do a patrol. It culminates with a 15 mile hike back and then a week of taking your gear to the laundromat and spray painting everything like new. Hurrah!

Then you get to your unit and it becomes very clear why your drill sergeant kept saying “don’t pay any attention to this. We are simply checking off boxes that the army says we have to.  Forget everything you learn here because when you get to your unit they will do things their own specific way and it won’t be anything like this. You’ll learn everything at your unit”.  And it’s COMPLETELY true.  I could not imagine how guys in WWII, Korea or ‘nam must’ve felt like one day they’re on Sand Hill being told don’t pay attention to any of your “advanced training” and within a week or so they’re getting shot at without the luxury of that I initial 6 months to a year to really get a grasp on the majority of the tasks of your job. They never had time to learn and ended up coming back to the world in pieces or on a meat flight.  

I know I was terrified because I had just enough intelligence to realize the drill sergeants weren’t joking. We weren’t at war at the time so it was okay to think it was funny that so many dudes thought they were REAL grunts now when they got their cords and were already planning their takeover of their next squad because they had been assigned as a platoon guide or squad leader for a time in basic. Personally I knew I knew absolutely nothing and if not for having a former Regiment guy who jumped into Panama in ’89 as my father in the army I’d have been juat an other fuck up. There’s so many things that you have to know, learn, and execute and since so much of our tactics are small unit driven a light infantry squad leader has as much or more autonomy in combat than the field grade officers who are trying to direct the fight. So contrary to popular belief it’s not a job that any idiot can do because him and his guys won’t live long enough. It may be a myth but I’m pretty sure I saw in a legitimate paper (Army times maybe but that’s stretching the word legitimate) that the infantry has the 2nd highest average GT score for the ASFAB test narrowly behind Intelligence. Someone hopefully can confirm that.

The problem with our system is that since the army did away with Spec 5 and up it means dudes who have no business being in a leadership position now get stripes just as long as they stick around long enough. I’m not talking about complete fuck ups (they got tossed from the units I was in pretty quick, I had two chaptered out myself) but rather the guy who is a good soldier, tough, hardworking good at following orders but not capable of giving them. I got very lucky with my 1st leaders and laughed and seriously pitied friends who had the guy who should have been a specialist 6 as theirs. Those guys either get themselves into another squad pretty quick because they realize what’s going on, they realize they can sham and run loops around their guy mentally and become a lazy POS, or they get put with him and left there for their first 6-12 months and grow up not knowing better and one day become that same guy simply because they were raised by him.  A good case for the nature/nurture argument. 

I’m sure there is some “making everyone feel better” reason for the army getting rid of all those specialist ranks and it’s a shame. It’s a disservice to the guy/woman who is a good soldier but not green tab material. It’s fine, the army really needs those people. Experienced, hard working and dedicated and it’s an injustice to them and especially to the soldiers they raise up to force them into something they aren’t equipped for and when you consider how many soldiers a single NCO can raise in 20 years it’s sobering to think that roughly 1/3 are people who wouldn’t be able to earn stripes under the old system.  The old system allowed a soldier to get raises due to time in service but prevented them from doing harm to other young soldiers and in turn the effectiveness of the entire unit.

If you’re a 11Bravo Infantryman, than you’re doing “ One Station Unit Training” at Ft. Benning , GA. It’s pretty much like what Mario Gonzalez said at the very bottom : “ Its pretty much 16 weeks of basic training.” To me the difference was that in Advanced Individual Training, we spent ALOT more time in the field. Other than that, it was pretty much the same. In the beginning, the Drill Sgt’s would mess with us by periodically sounding the alarm, yelling at us to go run downstairs and form up either at the normal formation area or on the field.

It was alot of hurry up and wait. Then they would come down, do roll call, tell us to go back up stairs and get back to sleep. Sometimes they would mess with us again, sometimes they would’t. Sometimes they would fuck with us even more by having us take our shit ( Issued gear, bunks, wall lockers) take all outside and arrange it to scale so that it resembled how it looked in the barracks. Eventually they stopped fucking with us in that way and they relegated themselves to random smokings, the favorite of DSG Fritz was “ visiting the zoo”. That entailed moving our bunks all the way to the walls, then having us toe the line, and then start doing animal oriented exercises.

Throughout all of that, we still did grunt training. We did basic rifle marksmanship using the m16A4 ( I believe), with the 3 point sling and Aimpoint. We had plenty of classroom training in regards to landnav, what the terrorists are doing at the time, and then GFT, ground fighting tactics, aka Gracie Jiujitsu. We did bayonet training, and then ran through the bayonet course ( that was pretty damn fun). Often times when we got back from shooting our rifles, DSG Frtiz would go through fire team and squad formations and drills, such as react to contact, react to ambush, etc while we cleaned our weapons. Sometimes he would give a class on how to clean our rifles.

There was a class on CQB, which was very rudimentary compared to what my PSG at Ft. Lewis taught me, but at the time it was really high speed. You actually have a field day where you go outside to the parade/track field and you go through these stations to get a go/no go. These stations would vary from how to take apart and put back together a rifle, basic medical care, how to fire a bazooka ( I forget the exact name), proper radio procedure.

Towards the end of it, we went through a 2 week field training exercises to put everything we learned together. After that , we rucked 12 miles to area where we would go through our ceremony ( it was not actual graduation). After that , it’s graduation, 2 week block leave, then it’s on to your duty station.

That’s how it was for me when I went to Benning in 2005. There was alot of bullshit, but there was alot of fun stuff too. Sadly, as far as I am aware, they have done away with the shark attacks and cattle cars.

The Army finds the Infantry School to be efficient, well run, and that it develops fine soldiers given the right raw material. It’s location is also acceptable for its assigned mission. Thank you for asking.

It is the unspoken belief of the Department of the Army that both the initial entry and expert infantry courses give experienced infantrymen the invaluable opportunity to pass on both institutional knowledge and professional skill to the next generation. That teaching experience prepares the instructors for future roles of progressive responsibility.

Now, if you meant to ask what Infantry School is like for an individual trainee is another thing entirely. I’ll let someone who attended answer that.

I was graduated OCS in 1969. There are two phases. One is being commissioned. You do that through ROTC, or the Academy.

Today, there is an OCS where you get commissioned.

Then you go to branch school, which would be Infantry, or Armor or whatever.

When I was in, the two were combined for six months. It was like a combination of pre-season football practice, hell week in a very tough fraternity, and finals week, every day.

So when our bunch got out, we were second lieutenants, newly commissioned, and branch qualified—Infantry.

Infantry School actually starts during basic towards the end of the first 9 weeks in basic. However, you get a “family” weekend at week 9 and you get a 48 hour pass to go off post and chill in Columbus, Georgia. When you show back up to basic, things change a bit as you’re technically no longer in basic combat training. You still wake up and do PT every morning, which to be honest never stops unless your deployed to a combat area where PT is impossible.

You go out every day and learn a different section of the 7-8 aka battle drills. The final week of basic is a field exercise where they make you do different tasks like carry fuel cans, a log, and also get attacked throughout the night by the Drill Sgts. The whole thing ends with a 15 mile road march up to Fort Fortuna and you’re welcomed into the Queen of Battle as a full fledged Infantry soldier. 24-48 hours later you graduate and go on leave for a few days and then it’s off to your first duty station.

That’s generally where your real training begins. Most units have their own SOPs starting from the division level and on down to the squad level.