These Are the Toughest and Most Intense US Army Training Programs
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the US Army is boot camp with soldiers trudging through the mud on challenging obstacle courses. Not only is that image totally correct, there is also so much more to the army than just basic training. US military schools and programs include advanced and intensive courses which push soldiers to their physical, mental, and emotional limits. If you want to get a taste of what its like to train alongside troops of the Delta Force, Navy SEALS, Green Berets, and many other elite units, then you won’t want to miss this. Prepare yourself because these are the toughest and most intense US Army training programs. Could you pass them?
1. Army Sniper School
If you have 20/20 vision and precision is your second name, then the U.S. Army Sniper School might be for you. The training program lasts seven weeks and is open to active duty soldiers and National Guard members, as well as those in the Reserves if they meet the criteria.
The program trains the sniper to master long range marksmanship against enemy targets with the M107 rifle and M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System. The sniper-in-training is also taught how to stalk and camouflage targets in order to gain battlefield intelligence. It’s safe to say that this program sets the top soldiers apart from the rest!
2. Delta Force Training
To be part of the most elite mission unit in the U.S. Army, one has to be nothing short of a world class athlete selected from either the Ranger Regiment or other Special Forces units. Delta Force along with its maritime counterpart, the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six, perform the most dangerous and classified missions in the U.S. military.
The training lasts around six months in order for the trainees to master a selection of skills. Tasked with counter-terrorism, special reconnaissance, and hostage rescue missions, the course simulates real-life aircraft and building hijackings so soldiers can practice the art of espionage, marksmanship, as well as creating and diffusing explosives. It’s best not to mess with these guys!
3. Force RECON Program
The Force RECON is an elite unit of the Marines, and the training for the course consists of three phases over nine weeks to hone in on different military skills and nautical missions. The course isn’t for the fainthearted, that’s for sure.
Phase one is completed over four weeks, focusing on obstacle courses, running, repetitive training, ocean swims while wearing fins, and helicopter rope suspension tasks, among other skills. Phase two then follows for another three weeks and trains the participants on mission planning and small unit tactics. Finally, the third phase takes place in Coronado, Calif., where the trainees conduct boat operations, amphibious reconnaissance, and nautical navigation for two weeks.
4. Basic Underwater Demolitions Course
The Navy SEALS are the guys who inspire Hollywood movies. While water operations may be their forte, they operate where needed whether it be on land, sea, or air. One of the first courses the SEALS have to complete is an intense 24-week Basic Underwater Demolitions course.
The course is divided into three phases to test physical and mental fortitude and develop leadership and teamwork characteristics. The first phase focuses on physical missions and ends with Hell Week, when up to 80% of candidates fail or drop out. Those who pass move onto Phase 2 to learn diving techniques and then onto the third phase which teaches land warfare training.
5. Pathfinder School
The mission of U.S. Army pathfinder is to ensure that airborne assault troops reach the correct landing and drop zones. This requires a high level of skill because the pathfinders have to arrive before the main assault to survey and secure the area.
Training consists of a three-week course for soldiers with a score of 110 or higher on the General Technical section of the US military’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Over the duration of the course, the trainees learn every element needed to carry out a successful air assault at a marked point. The course might not be as physically demanding as others, but the students really need to have their thinking caps on because the mental demands are intense.
6. Sapper Leader Course
The U.S. military Sappers have fought in every single war in American history using their combat engineering skills to support the front-line infantry. Their tasks range from clearing or laying minefields, bridge building, demolitions, as well as road, building, and airfield construction and repair.
The Sapper Leader Course takes place over 28 days. The first 14 days make up phase one and include land navigation, medical, demolition, landmine, weapon, mountaineering, and air and water operation training. The remaining 14 days consist of basic drills and covers patrolling techniques with a three-day situation training exercise and five-day field training operation. In order to graduate, soldiers need to score 700 out of 1000 points.
7. Navy SEAL Training Hell Week Program (BUDS)
Welcome to Hell Week – the grueling five-and-a-half day challenge of Navy SEAL training phase one. This course pushes the soldiers beyond the limit, leaving them cold, wet, and hungry. By the time the program comes to an end, the trainees are covered with mud and have chaffed, raw skin.
The physical trials of the program are not what’s difficult, but rather the fact that the soldiers have to perform physical tasks like running, swimming, paddling boats, rolling in the sand, and more, for 132 hours with hardly any sleep. They eat 7,000 calories daily, but still manage to lose weight. The majority of soldiers who make it through Hell Week go on to graduate as SEALs.
8. Basic Reconnaissance Course
Everyone knows it takes a special kind of soldier to be a Marine, but it takes a special kind of special one to be a Recon Marine. They are the eyes and ears of the larger Marine units because of their special operation skills and capabilities. Recon Marines start off a two-day selection process with a 25-meter underwater swim to practice rifle retrieval, a tower drop, and half an hour of treading water. The soldiers also have to complete a 10-mile run and obstacle course.
If they pass this stage, the soldiers are sent to a Marines Awaiting Recon Training platoon where they spend from a few weeks to a couple of month training, depending on an individual’s fitness level. When spaces open up, the candidates advance to the Basic Reconnaissance Course for a 65-day course consisting of 16-hour day training schedules. All in all, it takes about one or two years to become a fully-certified reconnaissance Marine. That’s what you call dedication!
9. Marine Scout Sniper School
It’s safe to say that the U.S. Army’s Marines are elite in their own rite, but imagine what a Marine sniper is capable of! They are unique in that they have to handle both sniper and reconnaissance duties.
In order to become a Marine Corps Scout Sniper, a Marine must be a Lance Corporal or higher, hold an infantry military occupation, have first-class physical and swimming fitness, and be a qualified rifle expert. Training takes 12 and a half weeks with a focus on long-range marksmanship. The school is so tough that 60% or more drop out.
10. Aviation Survival Technician/Rescue Swimmer School
The Coast Guard’s Rescue Swimmers are some of the bravest men and women around, and people often overlook the work and training they undergo to perform their duties at the highest level possible. Rescue Swimmers make up the elite soldiers of the Coast Guard’s search-and-rescue efforts.
For 18 weeks, the trainees attend the Coast Guard’s AST School situated in North Carolina and then a four-week training course to become emergency medical technicians. However, before any of this takes place, the rescue swimmers must attend a grueling pre-course for six weeks to prepare them for what’s in store. All in all, they spend a year learning several rescue techniques and how to deploy from helicopters and aircraft.
11. Special Forces Training
When a soldier completes the U.S. Army’s Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training course with certain qualifications, the military will select the candidate to train for a Special Forces division, which consists of several courses and phases that take up to 95 weeks to complete. If the soldier passes all phases, he will graduate and be assigned to an A Team (a 12-man Operational Detachment “A”).
The first step to be called a Green Beret takes place at Airborne school, a training course on parachuting in combat zones. After this, the soldier enrolls in an intense 19-day physical training program at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. If all goes well, the candidate completes a qualification course and specialty training to master guerrilla tactics, foreign languages, and unconventional warfare.
12. Ranger School
Ranger School is open to soldiers who are hardcore and interested in completing a 61-day combat leadership course that focuses on small-unit tactics. The U.S. military training course consist of three phases: Benning, Mountain, and Swamp. Between the ’80s and ’90s, there also used to be a desert phase.
The Benning Phase tests the soldier’s physical and mental abilities with several survival tests and obstacle courses at Fort Benning, Georgia, while the Mountain phase consists of operations in a mountainous terrain at Camp Merrill in Georgia. The Swamp phase completes the training program with waterborne missions at Camp James E. Rudder in Florida.
13. Pararescue School
The mission of these airmen is to save any soldier or pilot who has gone down, especially behind enemy lines. In fact, these soldiers, referred to as PJs, make up the only operational U.S. Army Air Force unit tasked with rescue operations in hostile situations. Soldiers in the U.S. military call the training for PJs “Superman School” because not just anyone can become an Air Force Pararescue Jumper.
In order for a soldier to call himself a fully-certified PJ, he has to complete two years of very intense physical training to acquire a range of military skills. The first phase is called the indoctrination course where soldiers conduct running, weight lifting and swimming, and diving drills. They also receive weaponry and medical treatment training. Once they graduate from this course, the candidates go one to other special training schools like Airborne School, Basic Survival School, and Underwater training, among others, to earn that coveted PJ beret.
14. ANGLICO Training
The Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Companies, aka. ANGLICO, is an an elite airborne fire unit of the United States Marine Corps, providing operational and logistical support. The unit cross-trains with other U.S. and international military special forces, so that the marines are well-versed in a variety of military skills.
Besides for the primary marine training course, ANGLICO training consists of artillery fire support courses, direct air support training, naval gunfire spotting, and field and radio operations. Soldiers in the unit also receive advanced training in field-craft tactics and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) courses. If you think you’ve heard it all until now, read on to discover some more intense U.S. military training programs.
15. Airborne School
For those that want to earn their wings in the U.S. military and become part of the elite family as paratroopers, they have to get through the vigorous training at Airborne School first. Upon entering the program, soldiers have to undergo the three-week Basic Airborne course which challenges their physical and mental abilities.
The first week, called Ground Week, begins with the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test to examine whether the soldiers are fit enough to perform a parachute jump and land safely. Then comes Tower Week, when the trainees have to master exiting the 34-foot tower and then learn how to manipulate a parachute from a 250-foot tower. If the soldiers make it past both weeks, they finally complete Jump Week which requires them to execute a total of five jumps from aircraft.
16. The Night Stalkers Course
The U.S. Army’s SOAR (160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment) forms the special operations unit for the military’s helicopter troops. They are referred to as the Night Stalkers, and only the top soldiers in the U.S. Army’s ranks are recruited to perform the challenging tasks of this unit.
The Night Stalkers have to apply for a one-week assessment program when they are interviewed by members from the Special Forces units and perform two flights. If they pass this stage, the soldiers move on to the first phase of ground-based combat training and then the intensive three-month pilot training program. The course culminates in “Black Day,” a day-long course which evaluates all their skills from the course.
17. Air Force Pilot Training
With the motto to “recruit, train, and educate Airmen to deliver air power for America,” you know the U.S. Air Force means business. In order to become a U.S fighter pilot, one needs to work and study hard, achieving a GPA of at least 3.4 or above for a Bachelor’s Degree in a scientific field.
To make it into the Air Force Academy, a soldier needs to attend the Officer Training School for a 12-week leadership program and pass all the exams as well as physical assessments. Passing the program guarantees the candidates a ticket into flight school where training takes place for one year. The trainees need to be prepared for 12-hour days of flying, classroom instruction, and simulators.
18. Drill Sergeant School
If a soldier earns a spot in Drill Sergeant School, then he or she can seriously deserves a pat on the back. It is one of the highest honors in the U.S. military ranks to attend this program because only the most qualified non-commissioned officers are chosen to become drill sergeants. Some call it the “military dream,” as it means the soldier has proved his or her worth time and time again.
A drill sergeant will eventually train all the best soldiers in the world, so it means they have to have their Basic Combat Training mastered like none other. They are called Drill Sergeant Candidates during training, when they have to endure strenuous hours of preparation and instruction to become total experts.
19. Army Basic Training
The U.S. Army Basic Training is the standard program that most soldiers need to undergo as it physically and mentally prepares them for service in the rest of the U.S. military, including the Army, Army Reserves, and the National Guard.
Recognize those buzz cuts? Yep, that’s when the men will have their heads shaved and endure the one-week indoctrination phase, followed by nine weeks of basic training, marksmanship practice, and field exercises. Only after Army Basic Training do the trainees start the Advanced Individual Training to specialize in a particular skill and field.
20. Field Medical Service School
The making of a Field Medical Force corpsman is one tough process. After seven weeks of boot camp, the Navy and Marine Corps join forces at the Field Medical Service School where Navy-issue corpsmen are shaped into Sailors, tough enough to be part of the Fleet Marine Force.
The top-performing candidates earn the title “Doc” and earn the utmost respect from the Marines. The Docs are soldiers the rest of the Marine platoon can count on when something happens. They need to know their tactics because their top priority is to save Marine Corps’ lives. No pressure!
21. Air Force Combat Controller Program
U.S. Army Air Force combat controllers turn a mission impossible into a mission possible with their advanced skills and training. They set up air traffic control and are there to provide close air support in the remotest of locations.
It takes over two years to groom combat controllers from basic training to advanced special operation programs, including army airborne, combat, survival, and air traffic control schools, to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional durability. After all, if they mess up then they have a whole lot of responsibility on their hands. It’s definitely not child’s play for these guys.
22. Army Warrant Officer Flight Program
Flying aircraft is one of the most coveted and competitive positions in the U.S. armed services and most candidates need to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree. However, the Army mainly consists of helicopters rather than fixed-wing aircraft, so becoming a helicopter pilot does not require higher education. This doesn’t mean the training isn’t intense.
Once accepted into the flight program, candidates have to complete nine weeks of basic combat training and then six weeks at warrant officer candidate school. A warrant officer specializes in a specific battlefield skill like flying choppers. After the school, the technical experts advance to the flight training program at Fort Rucker for class instruction and then to Warrior Hall for simulator helicopter flying courses.
23. Navy Basic Training
The U.S. Navy has many demanding training courses, but no one can advance without passing the Navy Basic Training course, which isn’t any less intense. The basic training is eight weeks long with each week dedicated to a particular goal.
The soldiers have to complete all subjects ranging from indoctrination week, confidence-building missions, physical fitness assignments, live fire exercises, simulated battles, fire safety, and career counseling. After they have all those subjects down, only then can the soldiers move on to Intermediate and Advanced Training programs for their chosen fields.
24. Air Force Basic Training
Much like the Navy, the Air Force employs the same eight-week physical and mental boot camp program to prepare the soldiers to become true Airman. The training takes place at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
By the third week, trainees receive extensive training with M16s and have selected a few jobs they are interested in with the job counselor. By the end of the tough and tiring Basic Training program, the candidates are ready to advance to the appropriate technical training school for their specific role in the Air Force, which can last from one month up to two years.
25. Coast Guard Basic Training
The Coast Guard also has a location for their enlisted boot camp, and you’ll find it at Camp May in New Jersey. Male and female recruits train side by side for a total of 563 days. The first four weeks of training are quite standard, but things become much tougher when the soldiers pass the midterm exam.
Coast Guard soldiers are drilled on their physical fitness, line handing, seamanship, marksmanship, and first aid training. They need to become experts on all the skills required to save people from the sea. The highest rank that an enlisted member of the Coast Guard can attain is Master Chief Petty Officer.
26. U.S. Army National Guard Boot Camp
U.S. National Guard soldiers have to participate in basically the same 10-week training program that the regular army requires. Training kicks off with the Basic Combat Training sprints and drills to attain the skills to become a soldier.
National Guard soldiers are expected to master the skills needed to use M16 rifles and hand grenades. After the basic training, they have to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and then the Advanced Individual Training courses, which teach the candidates the skills for their specific roles.
27. Air Force Special Operations Weatherman
The Special Operations Weather Team is made up of tactical forecasters tasked with deploying and interpreting meteorological data and intelligence for ground and air force commanders. This data helps determine the best means available into combative environments.
In order to qualify for the training program, applicants need to be able to swim 500 meters in 11:42 seconds, perform 48 push ups in two minutes, and do 10 pull ups in 10 seconds, among other rigorous tasks. They then have to train for three years to achieve weather weapon system qualifications, as well as other advanced special tactics skills.
28. Defense Language Institute
U.S. Army training is just as mentally challenging as it is physical seeing that many of the missions require soldiers to carry out difficult tasks. One skill required for success in key missions abroad is the ability to master foreign languages and cultures.
Many soldiers attend the Defense Language Institute to learn how to speak, read, and write in a foreign language so they can listen in on communications or translate in the field. Soldiers are expected to master the target language and are rewarded for their efforts. If they are top of the class, they get to attend what’s called an isolation immersion event and travel for 30 days in countries like China, Korea, and Egypt.
29. Jumpmaster School
Ever wonder where paratroopers learn to jump so effortlessly out of aircraft. Well, Jumpmaster School is where it all begins. Jumpmasters are the Airborne unit’s expert paratroopers who teach and train the other soldiers the techniques for combat-equipped jumps.
Jumpmasters ensure that by the end of the course, every paratrooper has mastered all the Airborne operational skills with a score of at least 70%. This means they have to excel at controlling and deploying parachutes while sticking to the airplane and parachute safety procedures. They are also tested for their proficiency in the day and night combat equipment jump, the Static-Line jump, and their landing techniques.
30. Air Force Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program
This program is for ambitious enlisted military candidates who want to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and become a commissioned officer simultaneously. Members of this program attend college full time while remaining on active duty.
Applicants attend college for 24 consecutive calendar months. It’s an extremely intense program as it demands perfect mental and physical health. There are many areas of specialization open to nurses in the U.S. Army’s Air Force from the battlefield to the operating room and delivery room.
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