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Preparation

Coast Guard Recruits

Recruit basic training is rigorous and demanding. To succeed, you must commit to preparing yourself now. Prior to your arrival for recruit basic training, you need to prepare yourself physically, mentally, financially, and bring the permitted personal items listed in this section of The Helmsman.

Physical Fitness

You MUST arrive physically fit and ready to comfortably EXCEED the minimum standards. If you're taking the first steps toward fitness, ensure that you consult with your doctor before starting any fitness training program. 

The Four Elements of Fitness 

Fitness training balances four elements of good health. Make sure your routine includes aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, and flexibility and stretching. 

Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic activity, also known as cardio or endurance activity, is the cornerstone of most fitness training programs. Aerobic activity or exercise causes you to breathe faster and more deeply, which maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart will beat faster, increasing blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs. 

The better your aerobic fitness, the more efficiently your heart, lungs, and blood vessels transport oxygen throughout your body, and the easier it is to complete routine physical tasks and rise to unexpected challenges. 

Aerobic activity includes any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate. Try walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and water aerobics.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity (around 30 seconds) with subsequent recovery periods (around three to four minutes) of lighter activity. For example, you could include bursts of running in your brisk jogs. 

Strength Training

Muscular fitness is another key component of a fitness training program. Strength training can help you increase bone strength and muscular fitness, and it can help you manage or lose weight. It can also improve your ability to do everyday activities. Aim to include strength training of all the major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least twice a week. 

Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines, free weights, and other tools for strength training. Resistance bands are an inexpensive option. Your own body weight counts, too. Try push-ups, pull-ups, bent-knee sit-ups and leg squats. 

Core Exercises

The muscles in your abdomen, lower back, and pelvis (known as your core muscles) help protect your back and connect upper and lower body movements. Core strength is a key element of a well-rounded fitness training program. 

Core exercises help train your muscles to brace the spine and enable you to use your upper and lower body muscles more effectively. A core exercise is any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without support, such as bridges, planks, bent-knee sit-ups, and fitness ball exercises.

Flexibility/Stretching

Flexibility is an important aspect of physical fitness and it's a good idea to include stretching and flexibility activities in a fitness program. Stretching exercises can help increase flexibility, which can make it easier for you to do many everyday activities. 

Stretching can also improve the range of motion of your joints and may promote better posture. Regular stretching can even help relieve stress and tension. 

Consider stretching after you exercise—when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching. If you want to stretch before a workout, warm up first by walking or exercising for 540 minutes before stretching. 

Ideally, you'll stretch whenever you exercise. If you don't exercise regularly, you might want to stretch at least two to three times a week after warming up to maintain flexibility. Activities such as yoga promote flexibility, too. 

Cover All the Bases 

Aim to incorporate aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, and flexibility/stretching into your exercise plan. It isn't necessary to fit each of these elements into every fitness session but factoring them into your regular routine can help you promote fitness for life and help prepare you for basic training. 

Special Note

  • To maintain weight and health, do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
  • To lose weight, do 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
  • Stop using any tobacco or e-cigarette products immediately.
  • If 21 or older, moderate your alcohol use and/or stop consumption of alcohol. 
  • Follow a low-fat nutrition plan.
  • Dress accordingly for the elements.
  • Invest in footwear that aligns with your fitness training program to reduce the chance of injury.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated. 

Train now. Come ready!

Minimum Physical Fitness Standards

Bent-Knee Sit Ups

Minimum Qualification for Graduation

  • Male: 38 in one minute
  • Female: 32 in one minute 

This exercise measures abdominal muscular endurance. 

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the deck, hands cupped behind your ears, and if necessary, have someone hold your feet for stability. Keep your lower back on the deck and raise your upper body approximately 90 degrees, touching your elbows to your knees before beginning a controlled descent back to the deck. Once your lower back touches the deck, you can raise your upper body again. Do not tuck your chin into your chest as this causes strain on your neck. 

Push-Ups

Minimum Qualification for Graduation

  • Male: 29 in one minute
  • Female: 15 in one minute 

This exercise measures the muscular endurance of the upper body. 

Place your hands shoulder-width apart, your feet together, and your body forming a straight line from the shoulders to the ankles. Keep your body straight throughout the exercise. Lower your body until your chest touches the pad, then push up to the initial position by completely straightening the arms. Your goal is to exceed the physical fitness qualifications for graduation. 

1.5 Mile Run 

Minimum Qualification for Graduation

  • Male: 12:51
  • Female: 15:26 

This exercise measures your full body endurance. 

Stretch thoroughly before you begin running. Wear running shoes that fit properly. Pick a good running surface. If a track is not available, choose a level street to run on. Relax and breathe properly. Keep your elbows close to your sides to conserve energy. Practice lengthening your stride to reduce stress on your joints. When you get tired, slow to a brisk walk and continue pumping your arms to maintain aerobic heart rate. If you haven't run for a long time, or have never run, you should start out with a walk/run program. 

Swimming

Minimum Qualification for Graduation

  • Jump off a six-foot platform into the pool, swim 100 meters, and tread water for five minutes. Swimming on your back is not permitted 

This exercise measures your ability to swim. 

It is strongly recommended that you show up already knowing the basics of how to swim and be comfortable In the water. There are seven essential components to a good swimming training program: stretching, warm-up, kick pull or drill sets, major set, timed swim, sprints, and cool-down. 

Personal Financial Management

The best way to achieve financial success is to have a solid, well thought out, and flexible plan. Good financial planning principles include determining where you are now and where you want to go financially. Once you know that, you can ask yourself how you are going to get there and use a budget or spending plan as a map to guide you to your financial destination. Recruit training is eight weeks long, but time may be extended due to medical, academic, disciplinary, or physical setbacks. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you make financial arrangements with your creditors to either delay payments for three months or pay in advance to cover the time you'll be away at recruit basic training.

When you arrive at basic training, at a minimum you must have a checking account and an ATM card. Your pay will be direct-deposited into this account. The only way you'll be able to access it will be to withdraw it from your personal account with your ATM card, so be sure you try your ATM card at least once before you arrive. ATMs are located at the Coast Guard Exchange.

Mental Preparation

Know by Week 1

The road to becoming a Coast Guardsman is filled with mental obstacles. You'll not only battle external forces; you'll battle forces within yourself that will test your mental limits. Those who prepare for this adversity will rise above and overcome the stressors of recruit basic training. Memorize your required knowledge and develop a daily routine now to be as prepared as possible for this challenging experience. 

Required Knowledge

You'll be required to quote any one, or all, of the Eleven General Orders of a Sentry, the Phonetic Alphabet, and/ or Military Time from memory anytime, anywhere, and to anyone by the first Saturday of training. It is imperative that you learn this required knowledge prior to arriving for recruit basic training. 

Develop a Daily Routine

The following is an example of a daily routine that you could implement now to prepare for recruit basic training. Remember, only you know what your unique attributes and habits are, what your unique attributes and habits are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what influences they have over your current daily lifestyle.

  • Wake up every morning at a set time.
  • Do a morning workout of push-ups and bent-knee sit-ups.
  • Eat breakfast and drink two glasses of water.
  • Do an afternoon workout of push-ups and bent-knee sit-ups.
  • Eat lunch and drink two glasses of water.
  • Fitness training plan.
  • Run every other evening.
  • Eat dinner and drink two glasses of water
  • Go to bed every night at 2200

Behavioral Changes Actions to Consider

  • Limit caffeine and energy drinks.
  • Quit all tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
  • Quit the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Limit personal phone usage (phone calls, text, social media, gaming, etc.).
  • Limit online usage (gaming, social media, etc.).
  • Practice ironing. 

Adjust now. Come Ready!

What to Bring, What will be Issued & What Not to Bring

Personal Items

There are three categories of personal items: 

  • Permitted: items allowed.
  • Issued: items issued to you upon arrival.
  • Contraband: items strictly forbidden. 

Permitted Items for Men & Women 

Travel in comfortable, appropriate clothes and sneaker-type shoes. The clothes you wear will be the clothes you sleep in your first night of training. 

  • Social Security card (REQUIRED)
  • 1 form of government issued photo ID (driver's license, state identification, passport, etc.) (REQUIRED)
  • 1 small suitcase or duffel bag with your name printed clearly on it. IT MUST MEET CARRY-ON MEASUREMENTS. (To calculate, measure the size of your bag by adding the total outside dimensions (length + width + height). The sum should be no greater than 62 inches). The bag will be used to store the clothes you arrive in until after graduation, and any other personal items or electronics that you travel with
  • 2 extra sets of civilian outfits for after graduation (kept in personal bag for the duration of training)
  • $50.00 cash in small bills to cover the cost of additional items (company photo, coins, etc.)
  • Sneakers (black, navy blue, gray, or white or a mix of these colors) are recommended, but not required. Bring lightweight, comfortable sneakers designed for running and shaped to fit around the full foot below the ankle with cotton or synthetic laces. All recruits will be issued a pair of athletic sneakers, but having a pair of sneakers that has been broken in for a 3-week period could help reduce injury. Prohibited examples include, but not limited to: five finger or basketball sneakers, neon or colorful designs, sneakers showing significant wear, and velcro or mechanical laces. 
  • 6-10 pairs of underwear (briefs for females and briefs or boxer briefs for males) in white, black, gray, or navy blue
  • Navy blue long underwear (Oct.—April)
  • Wallet or small purse
  • Cell phone (kept in personal bag for the duration of training)
  • Wedding band
  • Non-electric disposable razor and 8 week supply of cartridges
  • 2 religious reference books
  • Religious medallion worn on a chain long enough that it cannot be seen under a v-neck t-shirt 
  • Address book
  • Stationery, envelopes, and stamps.
  • Shampoo and/or conditioner*
  • Face wash*
  • Face, hand, or body lotion* (unscented)
  • Toothpaste* and non-electric toothbrush 
  • Dental floss
  • Body powder* 
  • Unframed family photos
  • Water-resistant battery-powered watch (black, brown, navy blue, silver, or gold). Prohibited examples include, but not limited to: diamond covered, neon, bright colors, white, internet capable, and bands that exceed 1-inch width. (Watches that requires charge will be kept in personal bag for the duration of training).
  • Invisalign and/or retainer (may only use the appliance you arrive with)
  • Plain black compression shorts with inseam no greater than 4"
  • Prescription glasses 
  • Copy of vaccination records (if available) 
  • Brush and/or comb 
  • Optional hair covering for sleeping in flesh/neutral colors 

Permitted Items for Women Only

  • Birth control pills (if already using to maintain cycle)
  • Hairpins (bobby pins), small barrettes, elastic bands, and/or small plain scrunchies (elastic bands covered with material not to exceed one inch in width). Only brown, black, navy blue, or hair color are authorized.
  • One set of ball earrings worn in lowest hole of ear and no larger than a quarter-inch in diameter; gold, silver, pearl, or diamond. Earrings may only be worn for graduation, pictures, and off-base liberty.
  • Makeup* (only worn for graduation, pictures, and off-base liberty)
  • 6 high or medium impact sports bras (white, skin-tone, black, gray, or navy blue) and 1 regular bra
  • Hair gel*
  • Tampons, pads, underwear liner, menstrual cup, or menstrual underwear
  • Copy of civilian Pap results (if available) 

* Note: As per TSA regulations, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 oz. (100mL.) or less per item.

Note: If you do not bring any of these items, they are available for purchase shortly after arrival, but supplies may be limited.

Issued Items 

The following items will be issued to you upon arrival at training. 

  • 1 rucksack 
  • 3 bars of soap, 1 soap dish, and 1 antibacterial soap
  • 1 deodorant and 1 shampoo
  • 1 shower kit
  • 1 pair of shower shoes
  • 1 washcloth
  • 1 lip balm
  • 1 dental floss
  • 1 toothpaste, 1 toothbrush, and 1 holder
  • 1 package of adhesive bandages
  • 1 set of nail clippers 
  • 1 package of razors and shaving cream
  • 1 blister kit
  • 1 package of cotton balls and swabs
  • 2 locks
  • 3 laundry pins and 3 laundry bags
  • 1 notebook and 1 three-ring binder
  • 1 ruler
  • 12 pens and 1 highlighter
  • 1 stencil kit
  • 1 black marker and 1 silver marker
  • 1 sewing kit
  • 1 shoeshine kit
  • 2 ditty bags
  • 1 canteen
  • 1 penlight
  • 2 masking tape rolls
  • 2 pairs of compression shorts
  • 1 swim shirt
  • Insect repellent (May—Sept.)
  • Sunscreen (May—Sept.)
  • Women only: Small mesh laundry bag with laundry pin for delicates 

Not included in the ditty bag, but included in the sea bag: 6 pairs of white socks, 3 pairs of black dress socks, 6 pairs of wool boot socks, 4 towels, 1 pair of running shoes, and all official uniform items. 

Contraband Items

The following items are considered contraband and will be disposed of, and possession of some of these items may result in immediate removal from training: 

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Pornographic photos or materials
  • Outside food or beverages
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Tobacco, nicotine products, and associated items
  • Narcotics or drug paraphernalia
  • Weapons