Many aspiring soldiers ask themselves one big question before they start: can you fail basic training in the army? In short, yes, but you probably want to know how this can happen. After all, nobody wants to be the guy or gal who shipped off with high hopes and came back with a head hung low. Surely, you want to avoid this outcome, so let’s go through the most common ways that recruits fail basic training, how the process works, and the consequences of failure.

How Can You Fail Basic Training in the Army?

Lack of Physical Fitness

It’s no secret that recruits need to be healthy and fit to make it in the US Army. When you try to imagine the type of person who fails their physical fitness tests, you probably imagine someone overweight, unfit, or obviously out-of-shape. Surprisingly, many of the recruits who fail are muscular, at a healthy weight, and appear in shape! Many aspiring soldiers think that hitting the gym, benching, and upping that deadlift will prepare them for basic training, but that’s simply not the case. If you think you have what it takes, you should try taking the test before you ship out!

In order to ensure quality and battle-readiness, every branch of the military requires recruits to pass rigorous callisthenic and cardio benchmarks. Soldiers have to be strong, but just as important, they have to have endurance. They have to be able to perform a number of highly physical tasks at a moment’s notice. Repeated inability to pass fitness tests will lead to recruits eventually being let go. In order to prepare for the Army PT Test, it’s a good idea to look at a comprehensive guide in advance.

Before heading off to basic training, you should give yourself time to test and train against the Army APFT Standards?


The Army has no room for “individuals.” You are part of a team. The military is a well-oiled machine, and each part needs to perform its role without hesitation. Recruits who don’t follow instructions, talk back, or act against the values of the US Army simply are not fit for the military framework. Operational success hinges on the cooperation and obedience of each and every soldier. If one soldier refuses to follow orders, it can derail the entire operation, potentially costing lives! The US Army puts a lot of time, effort, and money into training its recruits, so they absolutely cannot put their troops in jeopardy. A non-compliant, disorderly soldier is a massive liability, and if your officers believe that you can’t be molded into a soldier who can effectively follow orders, then there is no place for you in such a cohesive organization.

Criminal Activity

The US Army is a proud organization, and they dedicate themselves to the protection of the United States and innocent people everywhere. The Army is not a band of marauders, raiders, and miscreants, and they do not want criminals in their organization. Recruits who steal, commit violent crimes, or use drugs can expect to be booted pretty quickly, and they can certainly expect to be punished. Most of the time, punishment will come in the form of civilian proceedings, but court-martials for recruits are not unheard of.

At boot camp, you’re always being watched. No matter how sneaky or slick you think you are, anything you do will eventually be uncovered. Leave basic training with pride and accomplishment. Don’t leave basic training with a record and nothing good to show for it. Work hard. Do right. You’ll have no regrets.

Chronic Illness

Sometimes, fate deals you a bad hand. If a physically prohibitive condition presents itself at some point during basic training, then it may lead to the ill recruit being let go. Doctors will do their best to diagnose, determine the severity, and see if it can be overcome, but it’s highly dependent on the details of the specific medical situation. When the condition is severe enough to prevent a recruit from functioning as an effective soldier in the long term, they cannot enter into the ranks of the US Army. Certain conditions can present themselves in adverse ways, and that can negatively affect military operations.

Inability to Learn

There is a lot to remember when you join the US Army. You’ll need to know marching formations, technical details, jargon, routines, and so much else in your day-to-day military life. Failure to demonstrate proficiency and competence in these areas will eventually lead to failure. Everyone needs to know their place and fulfill their role in any military, and a lack of skill or basic operational knowledge cannot be tolerated.

What Happens to Underperforming Recruits?

The US Army will try its best to hold onto recruits, so getting kicked out of basic training isn’t easy. After all, they need the manpower, and they don’t want to give up on you. If you’re having difficulty with a specific aspect of basic training, you will be “recycled.” This means that you will be put into training with another unit that’s in an earlier part of the basic training cycle. As a result, this will extend the amount of time that you will have to spend at basic training. Nobody wants this, but it’s arguably better than failing outright.

If a recruit has been recycled and still cannot pass the assessment, then they will be given an Entry-Level Separation (ELS). An ELS is given at the leadership’s discretion. Processing an ELS can take weeks or months, and those awaiting processing are usually given some form of manual labor to pass the time.

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