What was the hardest part of boot camp/basic training for you?
Illness. Lack of sleep. Asshats.
Illness. Everyone gets sick, because you are shoved into tight quarters with 40–60 people from all over the country, so you immediately share some virus you didn't have the day before. It's a bad cold maybe but it will be with you for weeks. And for a few it will turn into walking pneumonia or even something more serious.
I was constipated for the first week, but the TI told us if that happened (it's common) to buy some laxatives at the exchange when we did our first visit.
Shin splints, sprains, etc. You were expected to just keep on, you could go to sick call but unless you were seriously sick you didn't get much help. We did everything in boots, no trainers back then. One guy I recall had bad ankle pain from tendonitis that wouldn't heal up but it didn't affect him too much until he did pushups. When he failed his final PT in pushups they sent him to retest and the TI asked him why he failed he told him about the ankles, So the TI had him brace his feet against the baseboard of a wall and he did the pushups just fine. (It's a lot easier).
Lack of sleep. Lack of sleep is the program, it's built in. Lights out at 2100 (9 pm) and Reveille at 0500 (5 am) and that's 8 hours except you'll be doing dorm guard or area guard or fire guard or some other duty once or twice or more times a week, and you'll be woken up in the middle of the night sometimes for a fire drill or to apologize to the TI for being fuck ups and show him you can do better, or whatever because this about stressing you on purpose. And your cold won't go away very fast when you are short on sleep.
They run you pretty ragged to test you to push you to give more than you think you can handle and yes, you can do more. They want you cold and tired and miserable especially early on.
I was astonished my first day there. We got in about 2100 and were showered and shaved in our racks by midnight; but another bunch of guys arrived around 0200 - we didn't even wake enough to realize they'd come into the barracks. Our TI let us sleep until 1000 which even I knew was crazy... he was a good man. But that was the last solid night of sleep I got until tech school.
Asshats. We has a couple asshats as squad leaders and the barracks chief who were chosen simply because of their physical size. They were just bullies and when the TI was not around they would pick on the weakest people.
If you didn't lock your locker that was a security violation and you'd get serious demerits and shit from the TI. These shits made guys sleep in their footlocker so they wouldn't tell the TI. That's an unlawful order; it's total bullshit. They don't have the authority. (I still remember you after 48 years Paavo Tuaaminen you turd!)
One day I was stupid and was reading my orders (just got them) and we got called to formation, so instead of putting them in my locker I stuffed them in my shoe under my rack. The asshats decided that was a security violation (it wasn't) and demanded I sleep in my locker. I could get a demerit for doing that, sure but it's not a security violation since orders are not "valuables". I didn't get picked cuz I was weak btw but because I had told other guys to stand up to them.
After I refused for three days, they said they'd turn them over to the TI. They did. He said "Your orders are on my desk," that's it. Not even a demerit. Heck it was the last week of basic.
The bullies held me to my rack and shaved my lower leg the next night. I laughed at them.
Had they been reported they'd have been court-martialed for that little stunt.
I wish I'd reported them to the TI the first time they did that crap to somebody else. Nobody wants to be a narc but you're responsible if you don't report.
Watch out for the asshats.
Other stuff that bothers some:
On the other hand all the yelling and pushups and trying to rattle you - none of that was a problem for me. Mentally I knew what to expect from my experiences with CAP and my brothers having served. I was always surprised at how many guys they could get to, under their skin.
Best advice: if they are yelling at you keep your eyes focused on the distance straight forward, and if you can answer a question do it; if you can't memorize: "Yes sir; no sir; no excuse sir." You might be able to get away with "I don't know, sir" The point is, if they want a real answer you'll know; be sure you've learned what you are supposed to know, if you don't know it, no excuse. If they don't they will be asking you impossible questions. Like I said this was easy for me. But I know it's the hardest thing for some guys.
Lack of privacy takes getting used to. Running into a shower with 15 other guys, sharing ten toilets, some are OK with it some aren't. Expect it and it's less a problem.
For me the worst day as our 3rd when we went to get uniforms. That was the only time I felt like cattle. Getting naked in a huge room with 100 guys even for a few minutes was really impersonal and felt degrading. But it passes and you end up dressed and do silly things like feel proud to have a uniform.
Boredom? Strange I never thought much of that and I'm easily bored. OK no reading material no news. The classes were incredibly simple for me. Yeah we got almost no liberty, our TI was a former marine. But it was not that long or that bad and we really didn't have enough time to get bored. If I had time to get bored I had time to sleep. I do recall the week before we finished we did the obstacle course and everybody thought that was the most fun we'd had the whole time we were there.
As soon as it was over and I was at tech school it was amazing how rich the world was...
On the plus side sometimes things were easier for me because I was a squared away basic. I knew what I needed to know, most of it before I enlisted. I wasn't in great shape but I did pass all the tests and could drill before I got there. I knew how to wear the uniform, how to salute, what the rank insignia were, on and on...
I had the luck in my third week to be assigned dorm guard on a flight of rainbows (brand new basics still in civvies) and I didn't know the TI so I wouldn't admit him to the dorm until he showed me his ID. My brother had clued me to this trick, and he screamed and hollered and threatened me like anything but I waited for that damn ID card. "I'm sorry sir I cannot admit you until I see your ID" I said it easily ten times.
He didn't say anything to me, but that was the example he wanted his flight to see, so he told my TI (to my surprise he mentioned it to me which is unusual in itself "Sgt Jones said you did a good job over there") and he got in his head that I was solid, so when I did make a mistake I didn't get shit for it.