Sometimes Also Asked As

Is Coast Guard Boot Camp The Hardest?

Sometimes Also

Asked As

Is Coast Guard

Boot Camp

The Hardest?

The Amazing Service Person That Doesn't Exist

Many people who are interesting in joining the USCG ask whether or not Coast Guard Boot Camp is the hardest. It's an understandable question and it's fun to debate. Unfortunately, the only person who would have the most relevant answer to this, based on first-hand experience, does not exist.

Well, not to my knowledge anyway.

I'm open to being corrected and would love to hear the story of the absolute bad-@$$ that completed basic training for all of the branches of the U.S. military. That individual would be the only person able to answer if Coast Guard Boot Camp is the hardest, since they'd be able to personally compare it to the other basic training programs.

Anyone else writing about the topic is going off of their own personal experience, combined with what they know about the basic training experiences of the other branches. In other words, everyone who's answered this question has an experience and / or knowledge gap to some degree.

Even if there existed 10 hypothetical people who completed every branch's basic training program, you would still likely have some disagreement over which boot camp is the hardest.

This is because an individual's natural strengths, weaknesses, personality, and what they find personally challenging, would influence which basic training program they would consider to be the hardest.

It doesn't mean we aren't going to answer the question or that it can't be answered at all, but we have to reframe how we think about it first.

Rethinking The Question So It Can Be Answered Better

As we can discern from the above, the problem with the original question of "does Coast Guard have the hardest boot camp?", is that it is too broad to be answered on its own. It requires a little bit of reverse engineering.

What we need to ask, before we ask that question, is "hardest in terms of what?".

If we can narrow the difficulty down to specific elements within boot camp, then we can ask more focused questions and provide more objective answers. We can then summarize those answers and provide a better response to whether or not Coast Guard Boot Camp is the hardest.

For example, all of the branches of the military have physical fitness requirements that recruits must pass in order to complete basic training. These requirements are hard numbers and we can compare them to each other. Therefore, we can (and should) include these in our overall assessment.

Let's take a look at an example below.

A Tale Of Two Physical Fitness Tests

If we look at what it takes to get a perfect score on the Marine Corps PFT versus what it takes to get a perfect score on the Air Force PFT, it's very easy to see which one is objectively harder.

The Air Force requirements to graduate with a coveted “Warhawk” designation, signifying a recruit has achieved the highest PFT standards possible, include the following for male recruits:

65 pushups

70 situps

10 pullups

1.5 mile run in 8:55

Now let's compare that to male Marines using the legacy Marine Corps PFT standards. The reason we'll use the legacy standards instead of the current standards is because the Marine Corps has recently been implementing changes that would require a more complicated explanation than is needed. All things considered, the current standards would make the Marine Corps PFT look even more disproportionately difficult than the Air Force PFT, but the legacy standards are sufficient for our purposes here.

So, going by the legacy Marine Corps PFT standards for males, a male recruit would need to perform the following to achieve a perfect score on his PFT:

20 pullups

105 crunches

3 mile run in 18:00

Glancing at the above numbers, it is very easy to be able to answer the question "Is the Marine Corps PFT harder than the Air Force PFT?" or alternatively, the broader question "Is Marine Corps Boot Camp physically harder than Air Force Boot Camp?".

The answer, based on fact, is "yes". Male Marines have to be able to complete double the amount of pullups and run twice the distance at almost the exact same pace (roughly 6 minutes per mile). As mentioned before, there are additional factors that could be included that would add even more strength to the answer. However, this is enough for you to understand that the question is a lot more answerable when it's reframed to ask about a specific element of boot camp.

Having established the above, we can now decide which elements we want to consider in our overall response to the question "Does Coast Guard have the hardest boot camp?".

Bringing It Back To The Original Question

Given what we just discussed, instead of asking if Coast Guard Boot Camp is the hardest or the easiest, we should first ask more specific questions that we can actually answer with some objective truths to back it up.

Examples include the following:

Does the Coast Guard have the most difficult PFT standards?

No. From the regular (non-special forces) branches, the Marine Corps has the toughest PFT standards. This article provides a great overview of the various PFT requirements as required by the various branches of the military.

Many of the services have been making tweaks to their PFT requirements in the past couple of years so even if you are familiar with some of the legacy requirements, it's worth checking out to see what the PFT landscape looks like in 2022.

Also, note that I use the generic acronym PFT to mean Physical Fitness Test, but in practice the real names vary from Physical Readiness Test to Army Combat Fitness Test to others. I chose PFT as a nod to the Marine Corps, since theirs is the most challenging.

Is Coast Guard Boot Camp the longest in duration?

No. Marine Corps Boot Camp, coming it at 12 weeks, is the longest in duration. This is in comparison to the Coast Guard's 8 weeks of basic training, which is on the shorter end when compared to most of the other branches.

For comparison, Army Boot Camp is 10 weeks long, Air Force Boot Camp is 8.5 weeks long, and Navy Boot Camp is between 7 and 9 weeks long. The Space Force, still in its infancy, offers 7.5 weeks of basic training for its recruits, and it's partially integrated with the Air Force's basic training classes.

Is Coast Guard Boot Camp the most academically challenging?

While not as cut-and-dry of an answer as the previous two questions, an argument can be made for "yes".

This is because the Coast Guard has the highest minimum ASVAB score requirement of any of the branches. The ASVAB is something like the SAT for college entrance, but instead it's used for military entrance. The higher you score, the more options for job types will be available to you. You also need to achieve certain minimum scores to be eligible for entry and the Coast Guard sets the highest bar with a minimum ASVAB score of 40 out of 99.

In addition to the highest minimum ASVAB, the Coast Guard is also generally way more selective with who they let in due to the fact that, except for the Space Force, they are the smallest branch in the military. In practice, this means the number of applicants to available job openings is slim. Only really high-quality people are let in. Without looking at any data, it wouldn't be surprising if the actual minimum ASVAB score of Coast Guard recruits that make it to USCG Boot Camp is well above the published requirement.

Because of all this, the Coast Guard knows that the people shipping out to their boot camp are generally fairly smart. They can be academically challenged to a greater difficulty than the average Army recruit who, in most cases, went through a much less selective process to get into basic training.

Are Coast Guard recruits the most sleep deprived?

This comes down to two main factors – the design of basic training itself and how well prepared the individual recruit is. Since the second component is ultimately in someone else's control, we can only take into consideration the first one. This is because it's the same for everyone going through any given basic training program.

Going by that, the answer would be "no".

While all of the basic training programs deprive you of sleep to one degree or another, the Marine Corps Boot Camp is the only non-special forces training that includes a series of back-to-back days with intentionally close-to-no-sleep. It's called "the crucible", and recruits are forced to stay awake for 54 hours while enduring all sorts of physical and mental hardships. The final stretch of this training exercise includes a 9 mile hike. None of the other basic training schools, including Coast Guard Boot Camp, have anything as brutally challenging as the crucible as part of their training.

Final Answer To

"Does Coast Guard Have The Hardest Boot Camp?"

By asking the 4 more specific questions above, we were able to determine that Coast Guard Boot Camp does not have the hardest physical fitness test, is not the longest in duration, and does not subject its recruits to the most amount of sleep deprivation.

The only question that we were able to determine that the Coast Guard might be the most challenging on was the academic aspect of boot camp. However, of the 4 questions, this one also had the weakest objective evidence to back it up. This is because although the Coast Guard does have the highest minimum ASVAB score in order to be accepted, that doesn't automatically mean that the academic curriculum is more challenging than the other branches. It's more of an implication, rather than a hard, objective truth like comparing the PFT numbers.

So at best, Coast Guard Boot Camp is the hardest on that one element, but overall, it is not the hardest of the basic training programs within the overall U.S. military.

You could also ask additional, specific questions in addition to the four that were asked above. This might provide an even more comprehensive answer, but if you do that, the key is to choose questions that you can get objective answers to or at least draw conclusions from. Otherwise, you are just stating your opinion.

Ultimately, I believe that no matter how many questions you add to the list, the answer to "which boot camp is the hardest?" is going to be the Marine Corps. Without any disrespect to the other branches , the Marines really do seem to have the toughest basic training when taking objective facts into account.

For a detailed comparison of how the Coast Guard stacks up against the Army, please read my post on "Is Coast Guard Boot Camp harder than Army?".

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Please note that although I've done my best to provide the most accurate answer possible to this question, I cannot fully guarantee its accuracy because at any given moment, some aspect of Coast Guard Boot Camp or the Coast Guard in general could change. For this reason, please remember that the most up-to-date, accurate information will come from a Coast Guard recruiter and / or other official USCG personnel. Always listen to what they have to say over what you find on any website, including this one.

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