How and why military basic training brainwashes recruits


Note 1: I served in the U.S. Air Force from 2000-2007. My AFSC was 3C0X1 (Communications computer systems operator). My highest rank was E-5 (Staff Sergeant), and I received an honorable discharge.

Note 2: The following essay is based on my experiences going through the United States Air Force’s enlisted troops’ basic training program in the year 2000, which might have changed slightly since then, but probably not by much. The details here will also differ slightly from other branch’s basic training programs, but from all the conversations I’ve had with people who went through those, I can say that they’re much worse.

Note 3: I try to keep my essays short, but this one is pretty long, and it takes a few detours in order to cover every aspect of the sweeping nature of the topic. However, if you don’t have the time or interest to read the entire thing I made a relatively short comic strip that summarizes it:

You can also watch this short video on cults and think about how many aspects are directly incorporated into the military way of life:

The premise of my argument is that the United States military’s rules, customs, “courtesies,” and overall culture did not evolve organically. They were consciously and systematically designed using modern psychological research on mind control and are based on professional knowledge of how cults indoctrinate and control their followers’ minds. I can’t prove this argument by sourcing internal documents or training manuals, but if you compare how the United States military operates to how cults operate you’ll see that the similarities aren’t vague or coincidental; the United States military is the perfection of the cult model. If you want to start a cult you’ll have the best chance of success by copying the United States military’s rules, customs, courtesies and overall culture as closely as possible.

It all starts with the recruiting process. All cults use deceptive recruiting methods. When they approach you on the street or draw you into their recruiting stations they promise you everything glorious in life and death you could ever want while dodging and skimming over the negative aspects of what your life will be like in their organization. They never explain in detail all the rules you’ll be subjected to or how they’ll manipulate you into basing your identity on your role in their organization. The United States military is no different. If you go into any recruiter station they’ll promise you money, benefits, travel and glory, but they’ll never mention the U.C.M.J, and if you point out any negative aspects of the military they’ll make any excuse they can think of to dismiss your concern or glaze over it.

You’ll never get a military recruiter to admit that the United States military is a cult, because they probably don’t realize it is. Cults don’t advertise themselves as cults. They don’t tell their recruits they’re joining a cult. They indoctrinate their recruits to believe that they’re joining the most noble organization in the world. Then they send their brainwashed followers out to recruit more recruits. So even if all the original, malicious leaders at the top of the cult’s pyramid shaped authority structure die and there’s no one left alive who knows that the organization was systematically designed around manipulation techniques, the cult will still continue to function. Its brainwashed followers will run on autopilot brainwashing new recruits like a virus. There may still be leaders at the top level of the United States military who understand that their rules, customs, courtesies and overall culture are precisely cultish, but there doesn’t need to be. It is a cult, and it will continue to operate on autopilot in the absence of wilful manipulation.

As a result military recruiters willingly volunteer to act like used car salesmen and wrangle poor people into joining by promising them that all their dreams will come true if they just sign a legally binding contract (something every other cult must wish they could do). What those recruiters won’t tell you is that they have a quota that they have to meet, and they get rewards for exceeding it, which is another reason the cult is able to continue to run on auto pilot. Its recruiters must bring in new recruits whether they want to or not, because if they don’t they’ll get in trouble, but if they do they’ll be rewarded with treasures of this world regardless of whether or not they’re true believers.

Once the military convinces the recruit to sign all their civil liberties away the recruit is taken to a hotel where they’ll be watched and kept from running away the day before they begin their indoctrination process. The recruits will be told that on the next day they’ll be taken to a training facility where they’ll learn how to be an adult and an efficient worker. But in reality they won’t learn anything about being an adult, and they’ll learn very little about their job, because that’s not the point of basic training. The point of basic training is to break down the recruits’ sense of identity and indoctrinate them to base their identity on their membership within the cult.

If the United States military has done its job right then any prior service or active duty military member reading this will be screaming, “That’s not what basic training is about! It prepares you to follow orders because when the shit hits the fan on the battle field you have to act without thinking in order to keep yourself and your fellow soldiers alive!”

That’s what the military tells its recruits to believe, and that argument sounds good on paper, but if you scratch the surface you’ll find flaws in that argument. Firstly, the majority of the humans who go through the military’s indoctrination process will never see the battle field. Millions of them will never even leave the continental United States. But they go through the same indoctrination process because the purpose of basic training isn’t to prepare you for the battlefield. Its purpose is to ensure that every recruit will always blindly serve the interests of their leaders, and the leadership hierarchy stacks up like this: Enlisted troops take orders from officers. Officers take orders from politicians, and politicians take orders from the individuals and special interest groups who fund their campaigns, give them bribes and employ them after they leave public service. Thus, military members are unwitting mercenaries for (and blind supporters of) the ultra-rich. The United States military serves the interests of the wealthy. Every major military campaign the United States military has been involved in has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And the gears of war and profit will keep turning as long as nobody in the military ever dissents or asks questions. That’s why it’s imperative that every recruit be systematically brainwashed to associate their identity primarily with their membership in the military.

The process of reprogramming civilians begins the second they step off the bus and set foot on their basic training base. The moment they leave the bus they’re descended upon by multiple drill sergeants or training instructors. Different branches call their basic instructors by different names. Each branch also has different names for their ranks, career fields and facilities. The reason for this is because it causes members of each branch to base their identity on their respective branch. This makes it less likely for military personnel to form a coup against their corrupt political leaders.

Differentiating the branches from each other serves another purpose as well. It’s standard procedure for cults to indoctrinate their members to believe that anyone who isn’t a member of the cult is inferior. Every military member is taught that civilians are untried, unproven and take their livelihood for granted while the glorious military sacrifices everything and is better than everyone else (regardless of the fact that many military members will spend their career sitting at a desk stateside for 20 years living rent-free, receiving free  medical care and driving a Ford Mustang that they paid for with their reenlistment bonus). Pitting military members against civilians is a powerful mind control technique that the military reuses by pitting military members against each other.

Airmen (aka “Zoomies”) are taught they’re smarter than Marines (aka “Jar Heads”). Marines are taught they’re tougher than soldiers (aka “Grunts”). And everyone thinks the Navy is gay. Pitting each branch against each other doesn’t cause them to go to war with each other though. It causes each branch to be even more loyal to its own chain of command, and since the entire military falls under the command of the Department of Defense, whoever controls the D.O.D benefits from this manufactured infighting.

But I digress. When recruits get off the bus their first day of basic training they’re immediately set upon by a flock of “training instructors” who throw hell at them. The instructors yell at them, insult them, tear them down, threaten them and tell them they don’t deserve to be there. The purpose of this initial assault is to shock and awe the new recruits. It makes them doubt themselves as well as accept the authority of anyone wearing the cult’s symbols of rank on their shoulders. All of this primes them to be receptive to the message they’ll be inundated with over the next few weeks.

Every year billions of people around the world enter employment in jobs that are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than what the average American military recruit signs up for, but they aren’t subjected to the mental abuse American troops are subjected to on their first day, yet they still follow orders and go above and beyond the call of duty often putting themselves at unnecessary personal risk. You don’t need to assault a human’s mind to convince them to do what’s necessary. But you do need to assault their mind if you want to reprogram their identity.

The next form of mental assault that the American government submits its military recruits to is less obvious but just as important to the indoctrination process. The recruits are filed into dormitories or barracks where they’ll live in communal spaces with up to 60 other people. They’ll have absolutely no privacy or control over their environment. Everything they own will be identical to everyone else there. Everyone will dress the same and looks the same. Everyone will sleep in identical beds and keep what few possessions they’re allowed to have in identical lockers.  They’ll even have to shower naked in communal showers with dozens of other recruits. All of these factors dehumanize the new recruits and help break down their sense of identity and self-worth.

The lack of privacy breaks down the recruit’s defenses. You can’t hold up your guard when you’re naked in a shower with 15 other people and sleeping in a room with 30 other people. Under those circumstances you’re like a vulnerable child who has no home, no identity, no safe haven, no escape, no choices and no power over your own destiny. You’re nobody. And the only source of validation you can possibly experience comes from the cult, which makes the cult your mother, your father, your boss and your god.

If this doesn’t seem sinister yet, consider that the new recruits will be held captive within the confines of their dormitory. A sentinel will stand guard at the entrance preventing anyone from leaving, and if an escapee can manage to get out of the building they’ll still be trapped on base behind tall fences lined with razor wire as well as gate guards armed with semi-automatic assault rifles. The military holds a gun to its recruits’ heads and forces them to endure the indoctrination process, which is so mentally brutal that many recruits will attempt suicide.

The military goes through such dire lengths to keep its recruits locked away from the outside world because it’s much harder to break down and reprogram someone’s identity when they have access to their old support structures and/or the freedom to live life by their own accord. So you have to isolate them from everything they’ve ever known and inundate them completely with the rules, customs and culture of cult. When the cult is all they know… then the cult is all they know. Once the recruits spend a few weeks eating, sleeping and breathing nothing but the cult’s way of life they’ll accept that that’s how life is. And why wouldn’t they? The reality of their day to day life is whatever the cult makes it. So they go about their day to day life experiencing reality according to how the cult defines it, and in no time at all they take the cult’s way of life for granted.

Isolating new recruits from the outside world also insulates them from dissent and freedom of thought. If the recruits go out on the town every night or even worse, go home, they might tell someone about all the new things they’ve been learning. Then someone with a free mind might point out how crazy they sound and convince them to leave the cult.

Another reason cult members are forced to live in communal quarters is because humans take cues from other people’s behaviour and mimic it. You’d have a very hard time taking a lone individual to an empty camp and convincing them to change their behaviour. However, if you take 60 people and force them to all behave the same way they’ll assume that since everyone else is going along with it then it must be okay. Plus, once you break the minds of the weakest members they’ll take it upon themselves to enforce the rules of the group.

With the stage set the instructors can begin actively reprogramming the minds of their recruits. The daily indoctrination process begins as soon as the recruits wake up each morning. Loud speakers in the ceilings of the dormitories blast a trumpet tune called reveille often times accompanied by training instructors banging trash can lids and shouting at the recruits telling them to get up and quit being lazy. The recruits will have a few minutes to get dressed, make up their bed and line up in formation outside.

The brain-rattling trumpet, combined with the frantic morning chores and the instructor’s insults throws the recruits off centre from the moment they wake ensuring that they won’t have the mental focus to resist the indoctrination process. The chores and routines also ensures that the recruits are following orders from the moment they wake up even if the instructor isn’t even present to tell them to get dressed, make up their beds and file outside for formation. Thus the military controls every aspect of their lives and leaves no room for individual freedom of thought or action. The more the recruits accept that as the norm the less likely they are to question it and the more likely they are to embrace it.

There are very specific rules for falling into formation. Following those rules first thing in the morning continues to reinforce blind obedience to the group without questioning the purpose of orders. Standing in the group formation where everyone looks and acts identically also helps minimize the individuality of the group members. In case the recruits don’t pick up on this idea on their own the training instructors will tell them bluntly that they’re no longer an individual. They’re a member of the group, and their own identity and desires are worth less than the identity and desires of the group. Training instructors will tell the recruits to be proud of this fact and to look down on civilians who value their individuality and selfishly desire to fulfil their own destiny.

Any active duty or prior service members reading this will likely be screaming, “But you should value being a member of the group! That creates a stronger team and keeps the group together when the shit hits the fan! Anyway, we’re proud to put our own egos aside to help protect the freedom of civilians!”

Those criticisms aren’t wrong, but there’s more going on than just that. First, there’s the fact that the military isn’t upfront about the invasive methods of mind control it submits its troops to, and that’s unethical. Also, reprogramming recruits sense of identity eliminates their freedom to determine their own destiny. It makes mental slaves out of recruits who are so zealous that they’ll defend their own manipulation. This reprogramming controls all aspects of the brainwashed victim’s life, not just how they perform their job. Plus, reprogramming individuals essentially kills the person they once were and creates a new person. Once the old person is dead they can never come back to life as the person they once were. Doing that to another human being is no small matter, and no human has the authority and right to kidnap another person’s soul. Finally, it’s worth noting that everyone in the world will participate as a functional member of a team on an almost daily basis without being brainwashed. Sports teams are high functioning teams that coordinate plays selflessly without going through a brutal indoctrination process. Even civilian contractors in the military play by the rules and make sacrifices in war zones without going through basic training.

Once the recruits are lined up in their morning formation they sing their branch’s official song and chant an oath of allegiance to the military and the United States. This is cut and dry, unambiguous brainwashing 101.

After having sworn their daily oath of allegiance the troops eat breakfast, and even then they don’t get a moment to themselves. They have to file through the cafeteria silently standing heel to toe, staring straight ahead while instructors hover over them to punish anyone who breaks these arbitrary rules. When the recruits finally get their food they’ll be given as little time as possible to eat to ensure they can’t relax and mentally collect themselves.

After the meal they’ll take part in physical exercises and marching drills. They’ll perform their exercises and marching drills as a group, everyone acting in unison further conditioning them to base their identity on the group. Every member of the group will be punished whenever any individual fails to follow the arbitrary rules perfectly. This encourages the recruits to police each other. The more the recruits enforce the military’s rules on each other the more they take the military’s rules and authority for granted.

The military doesn’t leave this powerful mind control technique to chance. The instructors will assign recruits as element leaders. The element leaders will receive an arbitrary symbol of authority (a colored rope that attaches to the lapel of their uniform), and they’ll be tasked with policing their group. When the military leadership bestows authority on individuals it teaches every member of the group that the military has the authority to bestow authority on individuals and raise their value as a human being. Once the recruits take this for granted they will always respect higher ranking military members as if God Himself touched their leaders with His grace. Finally, it dangles a carrot in front of the recruits. They’re taught in basic training that their life is worthless outside of the military hierarchy and that elevation within the cult is the true path to elevation as a person. The use of “ropes” or element leaders sets this precedent from day one.

This is also why recruits are called “trainees” instead of Airmen, soldiers, seamen or Marines. They have to prove themselves worthy first before being granted a title in the illustrious group. Every cult in the world does this. The military just hides this brainwashing technique in plain sight.

At some point during the day, between eating, exercising and marching the recruits will be taken to classrooms where they’ll receive hundreds of hours of lectures on military history, rules and customs. The point of teaching military history is to train the recruits to accept the military’s history as their own history. Once they come to base their identity on hundreds of years of history they’ve just learned they’ll always view themselves as a member of that distinct group.

If any troop ever complains about life in the military they’ll be told, “You knew what you were getting into before you signed up.” But the hundreds of hours of class time they’ll spend in basic training betray this lie. You won’t learn all the details of what you signed up for until you take these classes.

Those classes teach all the unique symbols, language, rules, customs and beliefs that make up the overall military culture. On the surface most of them are innocuous, but it’s standard operating procedure for cults to manufacture their own internal culture based on shared symbols, terminology, rules and customs, because you need to give the recruits a culture to latch onto and derive their new identity from. The whole point of giving recruits a new culture and a new identity is to tie it all into the group’s pyramid shaped leadership hierarchy. All the other details are red herrings, but once you accept them you’ll accept your place in the leadership hierarchy that comes along with it. From then on you’ll always respect and obey any human being who wears the arbitrary symbols that represent authority within the cult.

After class (and maybe a few more marching drills) the recruits are filed back into their dormitories where they’ll spend the rest of their night cleaning their rooms, organizing their lockers, folding their cloths and arranging their belongings to precise requirements. The purpose of these chores is to simply get the recruits used to obeying arbitrary rules. If you can get them to perform mundane tasks without question you can get them to perform any task without question.

It also gives the instructors more reasons to berate the recruits and tear down their sense of self-worth (and just as importantly) to reward the recruits for demonstrating obedience. In a stressful, totalitarian environment a simple bar of candy or a phone call home is worth a million dollars. Recruits will love their captors when given these small token rewards.

Throughout the whole indoctrination process the instructors will find any reason in the world to make the recruits doubt their worth as a person and as a member of the group. As they tear down the recruits they’ll slowly build them back up with praise and rewards. Then, just as the recruits are beginning to feel good about themselves the instructor will find any excuse to tear them back down again. If the recruits are doing everything right the instructor will simply lie and tell them they’re all failing at their duties. This emotional roller coaster keeps the recruits doubting their worth, makes them yearn to win the approval of their captors and makes them feel more proud when they receive any sign of affection or validation. It’s a way to systematically induce Stockholm Syndrome.

By the end of basic training the effects of the reprogramming techniques will have taken root in the trainee’s minds. They’ll sing their branch song with pride, gush when they see an officer and perform every task asked of them with gusto. In the end they’ll take part in a lavish ceremony where they’ll receive the mark of the in-group and will be congratulated on their elevation to true worth as a member of the group cementing the effects of the indoctrination process.

After reading all this you may still hold firm that military basic training teaches discipline and trains recruits to act without hesitation as a member of a goal-oriented team. As true as that may be, and as useful as that may be, it’s still not the whole truth. The fact of the matter remains that the training methods used in basic training are the exact same methods used by cults, and they have the exact same results. They rob recruits of their identity and replace it with a willing mental slave drunk on loyalty to the in-group. The training methods used on military recruits are considered unethical and even illegal to do anyone else, and they’re so invasive and brutal that they cause the recruits extreme mental anguish in the process to the point that many even attempt to commit suicide.

I have never seen evidence to support the claim that is absolutely necessary to submit human beings to this form of unethical treatment in order to create a smoothly functioning organization. Even if it were, we still have to ask ourselves if the cost is worth it, especially since it contradicts the entire reason the military supposedly exists: to protect the freedom and dignity of the citizens of the United States.

If you liked or hated this blog you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

44 responses to “How and why military basic training brainwashes recruits

  • oscarwildbill

    excellent article. I served in the Royal Australian Navy and the process we went through sounds almost identical to that which you describe. I have always wondered if I was brainwashed during my training period. Sleep deprivation is another brainwashing technique used when you undertake military training – on average i got 5 hours sleep per night. After I left the Australian Defence Force I noticed that my tribe rejected me – i tried to maintain friendships with them but it became clear after a while that once you are out, you are OUT! I’d definitely describe the ADF as a cult, and there is a very serious suicide problem in Australia too! About four times as many veterans take their own life than die in wars – what does that say about the organisation who trained them?


  • Marcusio

    Biggest load of crap I ever read. And it is the gospel. I am a US army veteran and a lot of what you said brought back memories. My son’s girlfriend’s brother is going to the Marines when he graduates. He brainwashed already. Now that I have been on the internet, I wonder if me and my fellow soldiers were given MK Ultra.


  • dyncymraeg01

    This is an interesting post. It strikes me that in military training things are designed to catch you out and used as a reason to berate recruits if they don’t get things right. This explains why things have to be done to precise requirements. An example is organization of kit which has to be done to precise requirements which is easy for recruits to get wrong. If the recruits get it wrong, the instructors have a reason to belittle the recruits. Another example is marching which has to be done precisely and if recruits get it wrong, instructors have a reason to attack recruits. I saw a documentary about basic training in the Royal Navy. The recruits were given tests on their marching skills with a pass/fail grade. The recruits passed but were still berated by the instructor because they only achieved a narrow pass. Having to do things to precise instructions destroys individuality. If kit has to be arranged according to precise requirements, it destroys individuality because everyone’s kit looks exactly the same. If marching has to be done to precise requirements, everyone acts the same.


  • John Orozco

    I was drafted the week Woodstock took place. My woodstock was an M14. Prior to conscription, I was a hippy. To me, the military was an evil institution created to support the corporate state. The brainwashing that took place throughout my brief career never changed the way I saw the world. However, my world vision did change over the years. My training helped me focus on my tasks and I became a productive citizen. I owe that to my drill sergeant who made my life a living hell for eight weeks. But I must say that I was one of the lucky draftees who did not go to Vietnam. I used the GI bill to earn a master of arts degree. The draft pulled me out of dead end existence and set me on a better path. I am grateful for that. But no matter what, war is simply wrong. The bankers, the defense contractors, and the flag wavers love it. The problem begins with a culture of fear and hate. Few people will ever development the insight to see how they are manipulated by TV, movies, and music. I still believe that love is the answer and peace be with you brother.


  • Joeatm142

    I’m not military, almost was at one point but backed out after MEPs. I come from a poor family in a poor little Midwestern town and I do sincerely have the utmost respect for men and women but for reasons that are not status quo.

    My dad was a marine, great uncle died at pearl harbor, another uncle earned a silver or bronze star with the Iron men of Metz. He was a pretty big deal at the vfw.

    That said every single one of my friends joined the military after high school and the only reason they did was for the economic benefits and I know this because we often discussed the pros and cons before hand.

    I’m glad I didn’t join after seeing the change that came over my friends as a result. Each went in on the left political spectrum or moderate and each came out on the scary right. Before I get yelled at there is a scary left too.

    I watched as my best friend went from running a community garden and fighting for equal civil rights to his current favorite past time; judging whether or not the different people in his life are good enough to live military lifestyle and making himself feel superior to them. Also despite his clear motivation prior being to improve himself financially and have a more stable career he now swears it was to defend his country against enemies abroad and protect American values.

    This is only only one of several friends who joined the military to escape poverty.

    When I was asked to honor our soldiers as a kid I first thought about the brave men and women who earned medals and sacrificed their lives but as an adult when I’m asked to honor our soldiers you bet I stand up quick and you will see tears in my eyes.

    But those tears are not for the sacrifices of blood and glory they are for the sacrifice of individuality, self determination and most importantly empathy for their fellow man, things that every one must apparently sacrifice to become a good soldier.

    A couple of these guys were the most mentally rough guys I’ve ever met in my life so if it can happen to them it can happen to anyone. So if you are considering joining the military you’re not just being asked to possibly sacrifice your life you’re being asked to sacrifice the very essence that makes you, you. I’ve lived in poverty so I know how hard that decision is but is a little extra financial stability really worth it?

    For you, maybe it is but for me I know I’d be willing to give anything to have my friends and family back.


  • Michelle

    I was in tears yesterday, as I shared with my Christian sister how I have been feeling for many years and could not understand why I felt that way. I explained how I was treating my family and how I knew it was wrong, but I could not change it, not matter how hard I tried. I was running my home like the military. She told me that I had been indoctrinated by the military. This article has me in tears as I read the truth about what happened to me. I was only in the Army for 7 years, and have been out for over 20 years. Thank you for writing this article. Now, I believe the healing process can begin now that I know the truth.

    John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.


  • Mary Donnelly

    Important article. I believe it to be true with the model so perfect as evidenced by the hostile responses which simply mimic what was so well indoctrinated. It explains a lot about what happens to those when they are no longer a member of the forces. Unfortunately, the value of this well written piece is merely individual. “Don’t let this happen to you” And it will not.

    I’m watching the elitist brand of this brain washing happening to my nephew at this time at USMA. Even the families are brain washed to send motivational letters and identify strongly with personal pride and rival academy jokes. Auntie has to keep her mouth shut.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Daniel R Pons, SFC (RET) USA

    This is so interesting to me because the author seems to have a deep unsettling anger to the military services. If he thinks he was mistreated and broken down in the Air Force, I am VERY glad he didn’t come to the Army because he would REALLY be mad. Perhaps the author needs to step off his soap box and realize these key thing:
    1. The Regular Conventional military IS not for everyone. It is exactly what it says it is…Regular Army, Air Force, Navy Marines. The training is supposed to make civilians into Warriors who can stand and fight in CLOSE COMBAT with either an insurgent or a uniformed enemy person. The days of a linear battlefield ARE OVER! Everyone needs to be able to fight because doctrine and tactics have changed!

    BMT, Boot Camp, BCT or OSUT are designed to make the average person who has average abilities into someone who can integrate into their first unit with a BASIC knowledge of tactics, techniques, and procedures. It is not tech school, AIT, MCT or Phase II. When you have filled enough body bags and been in enough firefights to appreciate UNWAVERING discipline in the face of enemy fire, it becomes apparent that it pays off.
    The SPECIAL OPERATIONS community is the shadow on the wall and the silent professional that MUST be strong, fast, lethal and independent. THEY are trained MUCH differently than Big Army or Chair Force. They are treated as brothers and equals by their team chiefs, sergeants and peers. 75th Ranger Regiment, 160th SOAR and US Special Forces Groups are the BEST OF THE BEST and do not need weak links to be a part of the sword. The weak links become liabilities and in a community of elite warriors, they do not belong.
    If the author had served in a Special Operations unit or Infantry/Armor or Cavalry unit, he might understand the need for some of these “harsh” tactics. The indoctrinations, training and discipline are essential to create hard charging, lethal and assertive warriors who can take the fight to ANY enemy or use their intellect and better judgement to defuse the enemy by winning hearts and minds on the battlefield. You can’t take civilians from all types of backgrounds with varying values and ethics into a team without creating a baseline for EVERYONE.

    For the record, I am a retired Army Sergeant First Class who served from 1994 to 2015. I was a 91B( Combat Medic) and then a 68W(new name for combat medic). I served in the Kuwaiti, Saudi, Iraqi and CENTCOM theater of operation in direct action roles and in support roles. Please feel free to contact me and we can chat offline. I would be honored to speak to a fellow veteran.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous

      I am a victim of military sexual harassment and assualts through out my career. It is cult. I even convinced myself that I was a great soldier. After my assualts I married an Infantryman who would protect me. I even went on to receive awards. I have written plays for the army in Iraq. I have spoken up for the army. I have sung the National Anthem proudly. But now I feel broken and wounded, and like I have lived a lie. The army has tried to take my soul. My battle now is to speak up about the torture I have endured. My mission in Iraq was Memorials, religious services, and to not be raped again. It’s very sad.


      • Erich Neumann

        And you have no doubt heard about the sexual assaults that have taken place on recruits at Lackland AFB by Military Training Instructors. Several of them have been dishonourably discharged and several have received sentences at Leavenworth.

        When I was at Lackland I did not witness any sexual assaults, but even though MTI’s were not SUPPOSED to hit you OR THREATEN TO, it was regularly done, at least in my flight. My MTI threw a hinged metal clipboard at me and had I not had quick reflexes it would have hit me in my kidney area…he then proceeded to berate me for “breaking military bearing.”

        He didn’t pull this shit when there were officers or senior NCO’s around…but I rarely saw any officers. Back then the Air Force gave almost unlimited autonomy to junior ranked MTI’s. Now they have changed the rules so that MTI’s must be at least E-5 and have gone through Airman Leadership School. They have also increased officer oversight.

        However, a bit of a case of closing the barn door after the horse has got out, I’m afraid.



    • Erich Neumann

      SFC Pons:

      I don’t think the author has a “deep unsettling anger” toward the military services. I think he’s just trying to show the ways that “a little (bad) yeast leavens the whole lump.”

      By the way, you forgot the Coast Guard. They are at all times a military service, subject to the UCMJ. They have had sexual assault cases recently at TRACEN Cape May by Company Commanders on recruits.

      I come from a military family. My dad was Army (Active – 4th Armored Division and two years Indiana National Guard). Most of my maternal uncles served (Navy, Army, Air Force and Army Guard). I was taught to respect the armed forces. I still do.

      However, when you get asshats like my MTI and other stories on here, these stories need to be told.


  • Nami

    They come hone and employ the same tactics on thier spouses. That’s a huge reason for the number of military divorces. Psychological abuse. I got on anti depressants so I could think clearly with all his gaslighting and abusive tactics. At that point I knew full well what was going on but I knew I needed help to escape the hold. As I became stronger he stopped the majority of his games because I am in control of myself now. I was too scared to go anywhere alone, I was basically useless in everyday tasks. I was dissociative, angry, hopeless.

    We got married when I was in senior year of high school, and he was not a marine when we started dating. I really didn’t know what I was getting into.

    I want to see an article on that please.


    • Erich Neumann

      Military basic training instructors have some of the highest divorce rates of anyone in the military. Why? You alluded to some of them yourself. Far too many are unable to “take the hat off” when they come home to their families. They try to run their families like they run their platoons, flights, squadrons, etc.

      Of course, that’s not limited to instructors.

      I suggest you watch a very good movie about just this subject called “The Great Santini,” starring Robert DuVall. It is about a Marine Corps fighter pilot who tries to run his family the way he runs his squadron…and fails horribly all around.


  • Nami

    This is probably also why so many of them become masons.


  • Anonymous

    Eh no difference than anything really. Granted most jobs don’t beat you, but everywhere is a pyramid structure. Whether it’s a MIT program or internship every business wants you to buy in. The ones that do are the ones thatove up. The ones who don’t do something else. Its life.


  • t

    The second to last day of my crucible a recruit put his hand on a d.i.s arm trying to get away after being snatched up shaken and thrown around. Touching them is instant assault and all the d.i.s jumped the kid. We heard him screaming in pain lying in the fetal position being kicked stomped and punched for several minutes. Then we never seen him again. Guessing he was dropped out of boot camp for assaulting a sgt.


    • Erich Neumann

      Or he was taken to the base hospital and HOPEFULLY cared for by Navy doctors and psychiatrists. Mercifully this recruit would have got an Entry-Level Separation. I hope.

      I really hope those asshat DI’s were called on the carpet…has the Marine Corps forgot about Ribbon Creek or Jerrold Glass?

      When I got sent to the Air Force hospital in BMT, everyone, from my doctors to the Chaplain, said that my MTI “crossed the line,” and this was in 1995. Of course, my MTI (for anyone who cares to note: SENIOR AIRMAN MICHAEL E. DAUBACK) bragged to me about how many Airmen he was sending to the psych ward.

      Some of these fools view it as some sort of badge of honour.

      Dauback never laid a hand on me (which is probably a good thing FOR HIM!) but he was always threatening to…stuff like “Neumann, if you ever address me without using your reporting statement again I’m gonna RIP YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF!!!”

      Unless the five Armed Services look hard at the way their “instructors” are chosen, and MONITOR their behaviour, there are going to be more and more cases like mine and the one you posted about.

      Unfortunately, given the right-wing conservative dominance of the U.S. military, I don’t have much hope of that happening.


  • Pete

    Went through Lackland in April, 2015… at almost 30 years old and having an education in psychology, friends in politics along street knowledge, it was truly a pita going through ‘training’. Having children shouting orders, knowing full well how brainwashed they were. Having adults believe their weak mind games work on you, a grown man, was nearly unbearable. Oh, the things I endured for some college money. Defense means defense, and yet most military action is offensive. We work for AIPAC and that’s something very few realize.
    A bit of trivia here, Hubbard got his idea for the scientology cult from his experience in the Navy.


  • Erich Neumann

    I was an Air National Guardsman. I was too old to join the active AF at that time. I came from a military family, and had served as a volunteer in the Civil Air Patrol (noncombat Auxiliary of the USAF) and my friends and family were pushing me to “take the next step.”

    So I joined my local Air Guard unit. I shipped for Lackland in late August, 1995. Some of the MTI’s were mature, “teacher” types. Others were just arseholes. Mine was a young Senior Airman (E-4) who could not complete a sentence without saying “fuck” and threatening to kick the living shit out of you. If he had tried that with me…I’d probably be dead now because I grew up a street kid in an alcoholic family and had the MTI actually hit me, he would probably have been swallowing his dental work and I’d have been off to Leavenworth.

    However, he DID call me into his office to berate me for something. He then went into the “good cop” routine of saying “think of your career…you’re Guard, six weeks and you go back to your life (not mentioning tech school).” When I started thinking “maybe he’s human after all,” he switched gears and said “now get your sorry ass out of my fucking sight before I throw this clipboard at you.” I did a near-perfect about face…and he threw the clipboard anyway. If I hadn’t instinctually jumped out of the way he would have hit me in the kidneys with the metal, hinged clipboard…and then he berated me for “breaking military bearing.”

    A lot of the abuse from my childhood started to kick in (I had told the ANG recruiter about it so I wasn’t hiding anything). I collapsed during PT though I don’t remember it much…the doctors fed me Gatorade and said I needed to see a chaplain. I did, and he was great despite the fact that I am Christian and he was Jewish. He wrote up an order for me to go to Behavioural Analysis Services (BAS) and he said “you are probably going to get sent home with an Entry-Level Separation.”

    I showed the order to my MTI and he went ballistic, but there was nothing he could do (the chaplain was an officer). He called me into his office while typing up the form to take to BAS. He told me “they’re not gonna do anything but send you back to me and then your ass is mine.” He looked at me and said, “you’re not suicidal are you?” I told him, “Sir, Airman (this was back before they were called “Trainees”) Neumann reports as ordered. I am unsure how to answer that.” He said “that’s all I need.” He ripped the form out of the typewriter and said “You’re going to the hospital. I’ve been sending a lot of Airmen there. You make me sick.” I said “I’m sorry I failed you, sir,” and he said, “You failed YOURSELF!”

    While the ambulance came he went around the CQ shouting “SUICIDE CASE! WE GOT A SUICIDE CASE!” He then told me “They’re gonna do medical experiments on you and you won’t even know your name by the time they’re done.”

    I got to the hospital and spent nine days there. No “medical experiments,” and very compassionate treatment. The psychiatrists and chaplain said “your Air Guard unit never should have passed you through” and said that my MTI WAY overstepped his bounds.

    I was released with an Entry-Level Separation, but told that my Guard unit would have to do the final discharge. They were great about it…very compassionate and professional.

    However, virtually all my friends and some of my family turned their back on me for “failing.”

    20 years later, I still live with that and think of “what might have been.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • julie

      I didn’t give birth to my child so the military can murder him.


      • Erich Neumann

        Julie: When I was in the Air Force hospital, the Chaplain told me that the MTI’s have “little games” that they play with recruits, but he told me “yours definitely crossed the line.” I could have filed charges against him, but I just wanted to go home and get the hell out of there.

        The military, as I found out, is NOT for everyone, and if, as a mother, you don’t want your child in the military, I can say nothing about that to you as it is not my business.

        Even my dad, who was in the Army 1957-59, said that the Drill Sergeants weren’t allowed to pull the kind of shit my MTI did. My MTI was an E-4 Senior Airman…the equivalent of a Corporal, not even a noncommissioned officer. Basically, as my dad said, “he was a snot-nosed little punk who probably would have gotten sent to the stockade back when I was in.”

        There is absolutely no reason for the brutality some drill instructors, sergeants, MTIs, etc., show. It does not make a recruit a better or “tougher” soldier/sailor/airman/Marine/Coastie.


    • _V_

      Sounds like you and I had the same type of childhood. I experienced BMT during the summer of 2001. Many of my friends and most of my so-called family turned their back on me after I separated. Funny thing is when they were down and out, they came crawling to me seeking help. I refused since they turned their back and started talking all kinds of shit about me. I remember ill deeds and never forget or forgive.

      The mind games they play in BMT had caused a ton of inner-conflict. Being strong willed, independent, never one to blindly follow the herd, and a loner, there were constant issues I had with their indoctrination tactics. I was always questioning things and eventually outright stopped doing what I was supposed to be doing. I am my own person. Nobody gets to dictate my personal convictions or anything. I became insubordinate. Threats of Leavenworth were a daily thing, 341’s pulled almost hourly also became the norm, and I got sent to BAS on an every other day basis. It was a joke! The instant they began using fear tactics to try getting me “back in line” was the instant I realized I have nothing to fear but fear itself. I wasn’t the one who was/is broken. It’s their methods that are all kinds of fucked up.

      I was definitely ostracized on a regular basis, called all kinds of names, treated like shit by everybody, and their final hurrah to prove a point was having me arrested in front of the entire fucking squadron. They told everybody a pack of lies, said all kinds of shit about me, said I’d be getting court martialed, and sent to Leavenworth. The fact is I was never court martialed. I was sent to a detainment cell for 5 or so hours with a floodlight pointed right at me. Each time I tried to take a small nap, I was woken up. Each time I had to pee, I had to have some SF peon hover over me like I was up to no good. What ended up happening was I had been sent to the 319th TRS, went back to the 331st for a day for a formal reprimand, an Article 15, a fine of $331, and an ELS in the following two weeks.

      I was back home in early October. It took an awful long time to become comfortable enough to talk about the experience. In the end, though, I don’t think I failed myself at all. The military and recruiters are the ones failing people with illusions of grandeur and favorable employment opportunities once they’re out.

      As far as finding gainful employment, everything that happened there has had no effect on me whatsoever in the civilian world. With that said, I still have shitty dreams about being in BMT and occasionally have to wake myself up to reset everything.


  • James Sharp

    Great article! Well done! It has nothing to do with being a “pussy” in fact it’s the exact opposite. It takes great courage to stand up against those in power. I applaud all those standing up against the mental abuse and brainwashing that occurs in basic training and continues through tech school and active duty. The whole time I was in basic I kept thinking, “is this the way you treat your soldiers, is this the way you treat those prepared to sacrifice their life for their country?” I was an honor graduate in basic training. I had just left college football as an outside linebacker before enlisting. I was as mean and tough as they come. The mental abuse that occurs in basic is a bad deal and needs to end.


  • B Richer

    I wondered what the hell that phenomenon was! I began working at a military base (as a civilian) late in life, about 8 years ago. At the time of my hire, I was married (briefly) to a Canadian (Navy) military member, and I strongly suspect that was the primary consideration for my hire. I have witnessed, firsthand, the effects of this indoctrination and conditioning of military members. It’s as though the basic personality itself has been hijacked, operating much like an automaton when confronted with opposition of any kind, including opinions and personal philosophies which do not align with the military “think.”


  • Anonymous

    All of you people who washed out of basic training are proof that basic training is necessary in the first place. The author of this article and anyone who would fail something as easy and soft as basic training is a total pussy. But that’s ok, because being in the military isn’t for everyone. Just don’t try to search for some round about excuse as to why you couldn’t handle the (minimal) stress of a basic training environment. You simply weren’t cut out for it, because you are a pussy. You thought joining the military would be cool and when the reality slapped you in the face you folded under the pressure, because you just weren’t made that way. If you thought basic training was invasive and offensive to your delicate sensibilities, try living in an environment where most of the people want to kill you and all of your friends. Fucking pussies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous

      The amount of intellectual credibility you rob yourself of just by using the word “pussy” is tragic, but hilarious.


    • Erich Neumann

      It is easy to call someone vulgarities from the safety of your computer when you do not know what you are talking about, isn’t it?

      You do not know the life circumstances of the people who have posted here…or really of ANYONE but YOURSELF.

      FYI…I ended up on a message board with a former Air Force MTI a few years ago. I described my former MTI’s behaviour without referring to him by name. This other MTI GUESSED WHO I WAS TALKING ABOUT! He told me that even HE did not want to be around my former MTI “when he was in one of his rages…he got in some trouble later too.”

      A lot of these jerks do it because they know they can get by with it, especially when they are not overseen by officers or senior NCO’s. Mine didn’t pull his little shenanigans when there were senior sergeants around – only when we were alone with him.

      It is different in other countries. In Australia, Military Skills Instructors in the Royal Australian Air Force (usually corporals and sergeants) are regularly overseen by flight commanders (Flight Lieutenant – equivalent to Captain) and the Station Warrant Officer (very senior NCO with power of discipline) to make sure they stay within their bounds. And RAAF airmen and airwomen are among the best in the world.

      “Training” and “abuse” are not synonymous!


  • Rick Kock

    Basic training has 2 main purposes.

    To make sure you are physically fit, and to make sure you are mentally and emotionally though, so you are capable of doing the job.

    Second purpose of basic is to teach every one the basics of being a soldier. Because no matter what your trade or job in the military is you are always a soldier first.

    If you can’t handle a drill Sargent yelling at you, how can they expect you to stand sentry some where with people yelling and screaming at you and doing stupider stuff.

    What good is a medic who isn’t capable of working on some one out side of a hospital.

    What good is it of first responders who arrive at the scene of a incident and start freaking out because of all the stuff going on around them and fail to do their job.

    The rest of your training is OJT (on job training) and you learn every thing related to your trade, and more advanced skills/training

    You failed and washed out so instead of getting over it and moving on. You are angry and resentful.

    And in attempt to lash out in your anger(which is probably more at your) You decided to write a long winded full of BS and lies article to make yourself feel better and justify why you couldn’t handle it.

    And I see by the comments you got a bunch of jump on the band wagon followers. Who have the same problem/issue.

    If you can’t handle a drill Sargent yelling at you (who is doing it on purpose to stress you out).. No soldier would want you at their back during a natural disaster, riot or battle.


    9/11 – The first responders and military ran towards ground zero while every one else ran away.
    The military like police and firefighters train and teach you to move forward when every one else runs away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rick Kock

      Mentally and emotionally tough (yes I make mistakes)

      Liked by 1 person

    • kr

      “What good is it of first responders who arrive at the scene of a incident and start freaking out because of all the stuff going on around them and fail to do their job.”

      This is a line of shit! Military doesn’t teach or make a person capable of focusing in stressful situations.

      Training at the job on hand does. Being educated enough so you can draw on what you need to do from memory with confidence is what makes a person react properly and provide first responder/medical care in a chaotic scene.

      It isn’t yelling and pushups and sleep deprivation that makes the man, It’s focused education.

      Firefighters and Police to my knowledge are not running towards the 9/11 buildings out of fear of reprisal from their Sergeants and officers.

      Military you have no choice, it’s do as I say or go to jail. Firemen can quit. Military you can’t. Charging in head first is out of fear in the miltary, Firemen charging in head first is from courage. They have the option of saying no.


  • Steven Rekdahl

    Emotionally and psychologically the Army broke me down, and basically in this manner:

    Induced fear followed by induced confusion, followed by more induced fear, followed by induced humiliation, followed by more induced fear, followed by induced intimidation, followed by more induced fear. Over and over again this process of fear, confusion, humiliation and intimidation was repeated until I could neither think for myself, nor disobey their orders.

    This is criminal behavior and should be outlawed. It took me a long time to recover…and even today, certain ‘triggers’ from authority figures, or even loved ones who emit one or more attributes of shouting, humiliation, confusion, or intimidation will unknowingly elicit rage, or extreme anger from myself. This has been detrimental for employment and relationships.


  • amy

    Wow…this is mind blowing. I was hazed and physically abused by my flight at Lackland BMT. My element leaders were given full authority to do anything to get us in line and they took their power to their heads. Because I struggled with marching and moving quickly, was quiet, pretty much kept to myself, I was immediately marked as being a weak link, and thinking that I was better than the group. After I filed a complaint about the hazing and assaults, My instructor took it upon himself to identify me as not being military material and “break” me. more than anyone. He recommended that I stay in BMT longer so that I could get better accustomed to military rules and procedures. I finally just got so sick of the mind games and harassment that I asked to separate. They tried to scare me into not quitting basic but I wouldn’t budge. They also tried to label me as mentally ill. I stayed there an extra three Weeks and fought my case. I got failure to adapt and came home.


  • Anthony

    i joined the military last year with little to no thought as i were at risk of being homeless. idk, maybe cause i was about 5 to 6 years older than most recruits but i was fully aware of the brainwashing techniques. my firstly clue was not having access to what time it was for the first two weeks. oddly, i owed it to a bit of grafitti in some porto potties during beast week that said “do not assimilate” to not totally lose my sense of identity.


  • KR

    I went through the exact same thing in the Canadian Forces. I saw it for what it was. It took me a lot of work but I managed to get out after convincing a Army doctor to write me up as a forced release. My first 2-3 weeks in Basic training. Was very overwhelming. I had expected that and tried to just ride it out. But I had made some friendships in my first couple days there. I noticed after about 3 weeks. Is when the indoctrination starts to take hold of these youths minds.

    I knew things didn’t add up to as I had expected Basic training to be. I knew it would be rough and even abusive. It went a step beyond what I had fathomed. Then when I saw a complete spin around effect on the minds of my fellow recruits with the youngest and weakest being the first to break at about 3 weeks. Then by week 4 well over half the platoon if not the majority were broken into this cult mindset.

    I knew then I was dealing with a cult. I knew I had to get out. I signed my release papers. Sergeant declined it told me to rewrite it like a man and stop being a coward. Since I had signed my papers. I now had to meet with My warrant officer, my platoon officer, another officer who was a psychiatrist. and my Volunteer release was still declined.

    2 days later I went to the MIR. Jab my hand with a pen. (for show not self hurting) Told the doctor I’m not sure if I’m sleeping, said doing this act would bring my mind back into focus, sudden jolt of pain. Said a another recruit witnessed me shaking, spilling a drink at chow.

    Boom automatic honourable discharge. Unfit for service.

    Now that I have written this and read the article. It quite interesting to note. That for release I had to meet with a (officer who was a psychiatrist) Given the cult mentality of the military both USA and Canada; and the nature of what a doctor does. It would be interesting to put thought and research into the relationship.


  • Gennady Georgievich Fortuna

    What is the authors name. I am posting this on academia and I want to reference you. I have known about this but never put it into words.

    When I was going through the indoctrination processes I always kept something personal to myself to look different than everyone else. It was something as simple as a different pair of black gloves that I had my own to blend in at the same time but still have some what of my identity. As for the mental abuse I tried my best by putting myself in a happy mental state. This is spot on and needs further research. Millions of people are being indoctrinated for the benefit of something we are not even aware of who is behind it all.


    • wise sloth

      The author’s name is Travis Haan.


    • Catherine

      This is such an interesting discussion, because it wasn’t until retiring a few months ago that I realized that the military is a cult. It all makes sense. I never assimilated all those years…because I was SANE! As far as the topic of this post, I remember going to basic training at age 27 (turned 28 when I was there), and I told myself, “You know nothing about the military. Just treat this like you are watching a documentary,” so that I would not let it really penetrate inside me.
      So, when we would stand outside the chow hall at Lackland, I would look at those black crows with the long tails above our heads, and say, “You’re free, and I’m not.” And then when we’d march past the big jackrabbits on the base, I’d say, “You’re free, and I’m not.” But I would sort of find solace in the birds and the bunnies, knowing it would be over soon.
      They made me chow runner when my sister sent me chocolates for my birthday, but I got fired quickly, because I refused to get rattled. I marched before the “Snake Pit” as if I were a Shakespearean actress, lol.
      And like so many others…the TI was all sorts of inappropriate with the (I hate this term) “females.”
      Funniest thing was them teaching me how to write a check, knowing I had a mortgage on my home. I guess there’s a reason they like ’em young.
      I got a good tan that August. That was about it.


  • Ingrid Foster

    Very interesting viewpoint. I spent eleven years active duty Air Force and never felt I belonged. To this day, twenty-two years since moving from active duty to reservist status, I still have mixed emotions on the entire experience. Most of it is a blur with keys events more in focus.

    I appreciate your candor, courage and detail. I sat down this morning to write a fictional novel using my late-teen experiences of graduating from high school and entering the Air Force as background. To this day, this its painful to recall what happened to me… Again, I never belonged. Thank you for helping me to understand that it’s not just me.


  • CS

    Finally someone expresses the exact same sentiment I have been sharing with people for the last 10 years. I also went through USAF basic training. I joined in 2001 shortly before 9-11 and experienced 9-11 in basic and I will say everything you said is spot on! I’ve even done research on conversational hypnosis, NLP and other forms of covert influence and found there are tactics of these also being used in basic. It goes deep bro and entirely surprises me that NO ONE, virtually NO ONE is talking about it. Especially those who went through it. But then it hits me, of course they don’t talk about it, they were thoroughly brainwashed. Up to this point I was wondering why I was the only post military person talking about this.

    Would love to talk more with you. I’ve been ruminating in starting an online blog to address these issues as well as expose brainwash in many different institutions, and eventually would love to start a Non Profit org. I have lots of ideas and think someone with insight like yours would really be a great partner on the team. Let’s chat more. Best!


    • CS

      Oh also, myself and a veteran of the Marine Core wrote a song called “Brainwatch” which describes our experiences with brainwash in America. My verse (the second one) specifically deals with my experience in USAF boot camp. I cover some of the EXACT same points you did in this blog post. Let’s build man. We are stronger in the sum of our parts!


  • Don

    Amen man. Right on target. I spent 6 years of my life in the Army. First as an 11B and then a 19D. Anyways, I want to thank you for writing. I really enjoy reading your work. Please keep writing.


  • John

    I haven’t had the time to read all your stuff so I’m not sure where you are coming from. Since every organization could be looked on as a cult, where does the premise start? Is there a natural characteristic in man that makes him/her seek out to be a part of something greater than his own individualism? If so the cult would be just a natural progression in the evolution of man. Or is this characteristic a flaw that an entity has learned to use to manipulate man. If this is the case then who or what is this entity and to what purpose or end are we headed for?


    • Stephen Park

      “Finally, it’s worth noting that everyone in the world will participate as a functional member of a team on an almost daily basis without being brainwashed. Sports teams are high functioning teams that coordinate plays selflessly without going through a brutal indoctrination process. Even civilian contractors in the military play by the rules and make sacrifices in war zones without going through basic training.”


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