The Army Recruit Training Experience

Moving through the Tabs (The stages of training), toward the March Out Parade.


“Welcome to the 1st Recruit Training Battalion. Today marks the commencement of your careers in the Australian Army. Since 1951, soldiers have successfully completed recruit training here at Kapooka and they, like you, were kapooka_recruit_trainingfeeling nervous, excited, and perhaps even wondering if they had made the correct decision to join the Army.”

This excerpt is part of the welcoming address all recruits receive upon arriving at the 1st Recruit Training Battalion and signifies the beginning of a routine, built on discipline and teamwork.

A typical day within barracks begins at 6:00 am and continues through to 10:00 pm. In rapid succession, new recruits are introduced to physical training, lectures, drill and weapon training under the constant guidance and mentoring of their platoon staff.

Each week has a theme. These theme weeks introduce the concepts of loyalty, honour, mateship and teamwork to the recruits, who are then given the opportunity to employ them, thanks to activities such as the High Wire Confidence Course and the Flying Fox. These activities push even the most daring recruits outside of their comfort zone and assists in the building of their resilience and the continued development of their teamwork.

The recruits then commence their suite of weapons range practices, with an introduction to firing at the indoor electronic Weapons Training Simulation System (WTSS), this is followed up and confirmed by firing live rounds during the application of their marksmanship principles confirmed by consequent range practices. All range practices consist of one-on-one marksmanship coaching by platoon staff in all weather conditions.

The last Sunday of Week 3 marks the transition from red tabs to blue tabs, which means the recruits have additional privileges and responsibilities.


Life as a blue tab recruit represents their transition from ‘I’ and ‘me’ to ‘us’ and ‘we’, the first step towards the team.recruit_experience_kapooka By Week 4, recruits understand that their collective strength lies in teamwork and loyalty. Theme weeks in blue tabs further expose the recruits to the concepts of physical and moral courage, compassion and honesty and dedication to duty.

Weeks 4 to 7 build upon the skills and drills learnt during the ‘red tab’ phase, with the inclusion of more advanced physical training, training on the F89 Light Support Weapon (LSW) and the conclusion of the F88 Austeyr range practices. The intensity of training changes as the recruits undertake a week of robust medical training, as well as learning how to navigate by day and night, through difficult and trackless terrain.

The visit to the Australian War Memorial is very often a moving experience for the recruits, as they realise they will soon be the custodians of the traditions of the ANZACs. A notable change is observed in the recruits at the conclusion of their visit to the Australian War Memorial, which more often than not, provides a resounding confirmation of their choice to become an Australian Soldier.

Blue tabs is culminated with the renowned ‘Bayo Day’ (Bayonet Assault Training), where recruits engage in controlled, yet aggressive manoeuvres against static and falling targets amongst a background of battle field simulation effects.

‘Bayo Day’ marks the transition from blue tabs to gold tabs, which means the recruits have advanced to the final stage of training.


Week 8 of ‘gold tabs’ commences with the Basic Fitness Assessment (Diagnostic), comprising of push ups, sit ups and a timed 2.4km run in which the recruits must achieve their best possible standard.

Next is the ‘Exercise First Try’, which is the initial field phase which provides the recruits with an introduction to operating in the field environment. Lessons ranging from camouflage and concealment to communicating with field signals provide the recruits with the basic skills to attempt offensive and defensive tasks as part of a section sized force.

The recruits also participate in a grenade range practice, which introduces them to the throwing techniques required to effectively neutralise threats. A run through on the Obstacle Course for confirmation purposes prior to ‘The Challenge’ is also made available to the recruits. At this stage they’re able to discuss strategy and techniques with their Section Commander, in the hope of gaining an edge over their fellow sections in the platoon. Rounding out the week prior to their second and third field phases is their formative and summative navigation assessments.

The last fitness assessment the recruits are required to pass in order to move onto the following field phases is the All Corps Physical Employment Standard Assessment (AC PESA). The extensive lead up training provides the recruits with the endurance required to complete a 5km weight loaded walk, a 150m water jerry carry, 6 bounds utilising the fire and movement technique to a cadence, followed by a 25kg box lift onto a 1.5m platform. This assessment is completed in ‘fighting order’, which consists of a combat helmet, body armour, webbing and rifle.

The recruits then depart on the ‘Exercise Second Try’ field phase, which consolidates and builds on skills taught during the previous field phase before they move onto ‘Exercise Binh Bah’. ‘Exercise Binh Bah’ provides the recruits with the experience of operating as part of a section sized force in the field environment, with role-players enhancing the activity by acting as the enemy. The madness of their first few weeks on ‘red tabs’, screaming out their drill movements with the full power of their voice is finally understood, as they yell out target indications and repeat fire control orders to their section members over the loud burst of machine gun fire. The recruits have no time to rest as they move between ambushes, fighting patrols, building defensive obstacles and section attacks, and despite their fatigue, their camaraderie is plain to see.

The culminating activity of their field phase is ‘The Challenge’, which is designed to be an arduous progression through multiple stands which include; a pack march, section attack, providing medical care to a wounded enemy, movement through the Obstacle Course, stretcher carry, an observation lane, a falling plate shoot and it concludes with the Bayonet Assault Course.

Last but not least, is ‘march out week’ where the recruits discover the finer details of forms and advancing in review order, as they perfect their drill on the Battalion Parade Ground. The week is often frenzied, as their equipment, rooms and lines require constant cleaning and inspections in anticipation for the Commanding Officer of the Battalion’s final inspection. As ‘march out day’ arrives, the recruits put forward a stirring demonstration of their dress, bearing and drill, as their families watch on during the parade. To the surprise of all families once reunited with their new Australian Soldier, is the individual that departed for recruit training 84 days ago, now walks taller, looks fitter and perhaps the most rewarding of all; has proved themself a worthy recipient of the treasured ceremonial “slouch hat” bearing the Rising Sun, a soldier’s badge of honour.recruit_experience_australia