Basic Military Qualification
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Basic Military Qualification is the recruit training that is undergone to produce non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces (CF). It is designed to introduce ordinary citizens of Canada to the CF way of life by indoctrination of CF values, weapons training, first aid, fieldcraft, etc.
BMQ is common to all non-commissioned recruits of the Army, Air Force and Navy - regardless of trade. For regular force members, it is 13 weeks in length and is usually conducted at Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean. For reservists, it is condensed to two months, and can be conducted on any base or military installation that has the necessary resources.
It is a highly difficult course, designed to put recruits through great physical and mental strain. Its goal is to instill teamwork and cohesion, good working habits, physical and mental tenacity, confidence, military skills, and most obviously, discipline in recruits. The course is designed to teach recruits the core skills and necessary knowledge to succeed in a military environment. Apart from physical demands, the adjustment to the military discipline and lifestyle is often the most difficult aspect of recruit training and may be the most demanding experience recruits have ever faced.
Courses are normally a platoon's size (60 candidates), under command of a Warrant Officer (usually that rank), and carried out by section commanders (ICs, usually a Sergeant or a Master Corporal). BMQ is often staffed by combat arms soldiers, but can be taught by NCOs of any trade and element.
The typical day in BMQ is as follows:
5:00 am – Wake up 5:15 am – 8:10 am Physical fitness training, breakfast and morning inspections
8:20 am – noon Instruction
Noon – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm – 4:30 pm Instruction
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm Dinner
6:00 pm – 11:00pm Homework, prepare for morning inspection, personal time, extra instruction. Staff will discuss any matter that they believe needs attention.
11:00 pm – Lights out
Recruits begin with a crash-course in military bearing. From the first day onward, recruits are expected to display a high standard of hygiene, dress, deportment, conduct, effort etc. This encompasses everything including the proper means of wearing a uniform, marching/drill, exerting maximum effort in PT sessions, and the correct addressing of superiors. The recruit is immersed in the stereotypical "boot camp" atmosphere, complete with pushups, sleep deprivation, shouting instructors, and other means to simulate the stress and fatigue that can be expected in a military environment. Apart from developing a recruit's ability to function under stress, the training aims to instill discipline in Canada's future troops. It is not uncommon for recruits to be confined to barracks for misbehaviour or even unsatisfactory performance.
Physical fitness is stressed throughout the course. Every other morning begins with runs up to 5 kilometres in length, as well as various other PT activities. Although the minimum fitness standard is 2.4K under 12 minutes (with varying lengths for different ages and genders), recruits can expect to be pushed far beyond that threshold. Instructors often lead recruits to perform 25+ pushups at a time. There is often an obstacle course which will be completed 2-3 times throughout the course to show improvement, and a swim test. Course staff can (and often do) use physical exercise to correct recruits' deficient behaviour, by ordering them to do pushups, run up and down sandhills, and other means such as marking time (stationary marching in a rigid fashion) or the dreaded "thinking position".
A large emphasis is placed on safety, especially the correct handling of weapons. Recruits are taught how to conduct a safe workplace, which includes Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, fire safety, first aid, and principles that guide the use of workplace equipment. When on the range firing a live weapon, recruits will wear their helmet and earplugs, as well as eye protection if readily available and instructed to do so. Wherever a recruit goes (aside from eating and PT), the rifle goes as well, from the instant it is issued to the instant it is returned. Recruits will always check the state of the rifle to ensure that is safe to use.
The course concludes with fieldcraft, which encompasses survival, map reading, target indication, camouflage techniques, and other field skills. After the course is complete, recruits carry on to environmental training or occupation-specific training. Many recruits remember their BMQ as a challenging, yet rewarding, experience, and often make lifelong bonds with other coursemates in the process.