Coast Guard Basic Training Versus Army Basic Training

Coast Guard Basic Training


Army Basic Training

A Popular Debate

You'll often find members of the different military branches engaging in lighthearted comparisons between themselves. This happens both in person and online. It extends to not only the services themselves, but also the basic training programs that the respective service members go through. One such popular debate is between U.S. Army soldiers and Coast Guard men and women ("Coasties"). Members of both branches ask "Is Coast Guard Boot Camp harder than Army?" and vice versa.

Although it is ultimately a matter of opinion and few members of either side will concede that their basic training is easier, we can attempt to shed some objective light on it. The way we'll do it is by comparing various aspects of the two boot camps to each other. Then we'll decide which basic training program is tougher based on those aspects.

The ones we'll look at will be:

a) Physical Fitness Test Requirements

b) Duration of Basic Training

c) Reveille Time and Taps Time

d) Discipline Programs For Struggling Recruits

e) Company Commanders Versus Drill Sergeants

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U.S. Army Combat Fitness Test


USCG Physical Fitness Test

The U.S. military branches have been undergoing a lot of changes in regards to their physical fitness tests and standards the past couple of years. In the past, it was simply about hitting a certain number of reps on exercises and meeting a certain time threshold on some cardio activity (usually running).

The new tests that are coming out now have some of that, but they are adding a lot of practical "battlefield conditioning" components to them. The Army in particular has implemented what they are calling the "Army Combat Fitness Test" and it consists of the following:


In contrast, the Coast Guard has not begun experimenting with any new physical fitness tests and is still relying on the standard pushups, situps, 1.5 mile run, and swim test to assess recruits.

You are free to judge for yourself, but anyone who knows something about about fitness will tell you that the new Army Combat Fitness Test is more challenging than the Coast Guard Physical Fitness Test.

For that matter, the old Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) consisting of pushups, situps, and a 2 mile run are arguably harder as well. Looking at the run, it's clear that the Army's 2 miles is longer than the Coast Guard's 1.5 miles. For the pushups and situps, although they are the same exercises, the duration of time for the Army version is longer. It means that you are also expected to complete more reps. The scoring is a bit different, but overall, both the old and new Army physical assessments are more difficult than the Coast Guard's.

The only exception to this is for those individuals who don't know how to swim, but that's more of a technical / skill difficulty than an actual physical challenge difficulty. As someone who's completed the Coast Guard Boot Camp swim test, from a physical standpoint, it's pretty easy. Of course if you don't know how to swim, then it's not easy, but again, that's a skill thing, not a physical difficulty thing.


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Duration of

Army Basic Training Versus Coast Guard Basic Training

Army Boot Camp, officially known as Basic Combat Training, is roughly 10 weeks long.

Standard Coast Guard Basic Training is 8 weeks long and Coast Guard DEPOT is only 3 weeks long.


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Reveille and Taps

In Army Boot Camp, recruits wake up at 0500 (5:00am) and officially go to sleep at 2130 (9:30pm). The sleep time is just the technical lights out but if a recruit is tasked with being on "fire guard" duty or "charge of quarters" then they won't necessarily be sleeping the whole night. Also, the schedule is subject to change so it's not set in stone.

In Coast Guard Boot Camp, reveille, or the morning wake up call, is at 0530 (5:30am) and taps, or lights out, is at 1000 (10:00pm). The exception is on Sundays, when Coast Guard recruits get an extra half hour grace period in the morning, with wake up time being at 0600 (6:00am). Coast Guard recruits also have to perform their version of the Army's "fire guard" and it's called "standing watch duty".

So if we exclude the nighttime duties and only go by the raw, official wake-up and lights-out times, we get both Army recruits and Coast Guard recruits clocking in for a 14.5 hour day. Obviously this is going to vary somewhat, but in general, recruits from both branches are awake for about the same amount of time on any given day.


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Comparing the Discipline Programs

While the Army has various ways and means of disciplining struggling soldiers, there's no actual set-aside program like the Coast Guard's R.A.M.P. (Recruit Aptitude and Motivation Program). RAMP is a particularly brutal program inside of an already challenging basic training environment.

Coast Guard recruits who are separated from their companies and sent to RAMP undergo extra physical training, and scarlet letter style humiliation where they have to wear color-coded belts that publicly single them out as "struggling recruits" who are in the RAMP program. There is nothing comparable in the Army.

WINNER: Coast Guard

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Company Commanders Versus Drill Sergeants

Before discussing this segment, I do want to point out that this is the least objective of the five factors we're looking at when deciding if Coast Guard Boot Camp is harder than Army Boot Camp. It's being written from the perspective of someone who's gone through Coast Guard Basic Training, but has had zero direct experience dealing with Army Drill Sergeants.

In other words, this segment is going to contain a bit more bias than the other four. Now, because I have good self-awareness and I realize that there will be some inherent bias in what I'm going to write, I will do my best to approach the topic in as objective of a manner as possible.

Army Drill Sergeants, as all other basic training "coaches", are absolute bad-asses. There's no doubt about that. However, when we think about which basic training program (excluding special forces) is the most bad-ass, then that award goes to the Marine Corps. You may disagree with me, but I make a good case for why the Marines have the toughest basic training program in my article on answering the question "Does Coast Guard have the hardest boot camp?".

If you haven't read it already, then you already have the answer to the question posed in the title of the article, which is "no". The reason I bring it up is because if we accept that the Marines have the hardest boot camp, then it stands to reason that Marine Corps Drill Instructors are also the most intense to deal with out of the other branches.

At this point you might be asking yourself what that has to do with the Coast Guard's Company Commanders.

Well, a lot, actually.

The reason is because many of the Coast Guard's Company Commanders are actually former Marines, and Coast Guard Boot Camp itself has been modeled after Marine Corps Boot Camp. This isn't hearsay or rumors. It's a publicly known fact. You can read about it in this press release right on the official Marine Corps website. On that page you'll even see a photograph of Coast Guard Company Commanders walking alongside Marine Corps Drill Instructors soaking up their knowledge.

A quote from that press release is:

“The gold standard is here at Parris Island,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Charles Bowen, the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard. “That’s why we came here. The Marines do it right.”

When I was at Cape May, my lead Company Commander was a Marine for a decade before he transitioned over to the Coast Guard. I had two other Company Commanders. One of them was former Air Force and the other was former Navy.

I loved and respected all three of them but in terms of absolute intensity and pushing us to our limits – it wasn't even close. The "devil dog" was king in that regard.

So in the end, while I'm sure Army Drill Sergeants are intense, on the whole, the Coast Guard's Company Commanders, many of whom come from the Marine Corps, are probably a notch or two higher on the intensity scale.

WINNER: Coast Guard

Final Answer To

"Is Coast Guard Boot Camp Harder Than Army?"

When we tally up the winners of our 5 categories, we have a tie between the two. To reiterate though, there is no real right or wrong answer here. You could add different sub-categories to this assessment and come up with a different final answer.

What this really means is that for anyone asking if Coast Guard Boot Camp is harder than Army Boot Camp, what they really need to be asking is "harder in terms of what". The question itself is inherently impossible to answer without deep-diving into the various aspects of the two basic training programs as we did in this article. It's up to you to decide which aspects you want to look at.

This was simply one take on it. It's not the only take though.

At the end of the day, it's all in good fun anyway. There's nothing to prove. Everyone is ultimately on the same team regardless of which branch they serve in.

On that note, much respect to all those who have served in the past and those who are currently serving – whether that's the Coast Guard, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the National Guard, or the newly formed Space Force.

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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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