So, you've enlisted and your ship date is quickly approaching. It's time to pack! I find it interesting that some trainees got a list of things to bring and others had nothing. My reserve recruiter gave me a nice packet (dated December 2008) that gave me explicit info on what to bring. I'm going to reproduce that list for you now, and give you my commentary on what is essential, what is not needed, and what is really up to you. Italicized items are on their list, and grouped into categories based on my opinion/experience.
Yes, bring these items!
Twenty copies of orders - It sounds totally crazy, but bring twenty copies. There's a slim chance that your orders might be amended, but for most they won't. If you're a reservist or a guardsman and you already have a slot at school, go ahead and bring twenty. You'll need one in your pocket in all times, and it can't look trashed. When you get to tech school, you'll need a ton of copies as well. I don't think I ever had to worry about not having another copy, which was an issue that some had. Bring these copies in an accordian file, which you'll want by the end of BMT for storing your items.
Unit Personnel Records - Your recruiter will hand you a sealed envelope of paperwork to bring down to the Reception Center. Don't lose this, and always have it on your person, in your carry-on luggage. I kept mine with my copies of my orders.
Social Security Card - Yes, bring this and another form of ID, such as a driver's license. Most reservists and guardsmen will have their military IDs already, whereas active duty trainees won't. If you've got your military ID, bring it.
Glasses - If you wear glasses, bring them. Make sure they have your current prescription in them. They'll use them to make your new BCGs and frame of choice. Don't bother bringing your contacts, which really aren't authorized for wear at BMT. They post really graphic pictures in the latrine of contact lens abuse. You'll get to wear them at tech, so have your family bring them down for graduation.
Clothing for Three Days - Keep it simple, folks. Plain, neutral, sold-colored shirts. I grabbed a polo shirt or two. Jeans and khakis are fine. I wore my running shoes with these outfits. Ladies, if you wear a regular bra one of these days then you'll have it when you wear your blues in 7WOT and 8WOT. Otherwise, wear your sports bras. Depending on the weather, bring a light jacket. I brought a jean jacket for my 31 May ship date. I didn't really need it at Lackland, but it was handy when I went to tech school. If you wear bright colors, crazy prints, etc., expect to be called out by your MTIs.
Ballpoint Pens (Blue or Black) - Bring both colors, but primarily black. Black is the standard color for filling out and signing anything, but you may want blue for taking notes or writing letters. You'll be "given" some stick pens when you arrive, but if you have a preference, bring some. I also brought my own Sharpies and a laundry Sharpie. Never hurts to have another Sharpie!
Shampoo - Don't bring a full-sized item. You just need a travel-sized one to get you through until you do your first mini-mall run. Ladies, bring a 2-in-1. Don't dispense your shampoo into an unmarked travel bottle of your own, they'll throw it away.
Deodorant (non-aerosol) - You may want to bring a clear deodorant, as you'll have to wipe the thing off every day before displaying it in your security drawer. I chose to bring a clinical product and was careful to wipe it off regularly.
Toothbrush - Make sure it's a standard style toothbrush that will fit into a full-length toothbrush container. Don't bother with your electric toothbrush, and pass on the travel toothbrush. You'll need a full-sized toothbrush.
Shaving Equipment (males) - I'm not a man, but you're shaving every day. I'd bring a razor with replaceable blades.
Shaving Cream (males) - Again, I'm not 100% sure. When in doubt, bring a small one to get you through until your first mini-mall run. You can always share with wingmen.
Toothpaste - Either bring a travel-sized one or one in the small, hard plastic container, versus the tube. Get a straight, white paste over anything colored or with flecks. Don't bring a full-sized, regular tube. You won't use it.
Shower shoes - Buy the cheap, $1 black flip-flops at the BX or at clothing sales. That's what everyone will buy at the mini-mall. They need to be solid black and these ones fit the bill.
Soap - Bring a travel-sized liquid body wash. Don't bring bar soap, don't bring a full-sized soap. You'll buy a full-sized body wash at the mini-mall.
Tampons/pads - If you have a preferred product, bring it. The smaller the item, the better. You're going to have to shove these items in the back of your security drawer in a small space. Put them in a Ziploc or something that will keep it contained and small in size.
Six Bras/Sports Bras - You may want to bring one "real" bra, to wear with your blues. You can get away with not bringing the full six, but you'll want to have enough to last between loads at tech school. You'll do PT six days a week in BMT, but you'll do laundry enough that you could probably get away with four of them. Keep in mind that it's better to have more than you need and stash them in your civilian luggage than to be in need of more and not be able to get ones that meet your needs at the mini-mall. Try to find ones in a technical fabric that folds flat, as you'll have to keep the edges flush.
Hair bands, bobby pins, etc. - Bring full, new packages of items that match your hair color. See my hair post for more details.
Six Pairs Underwear - Purchase/bring these items in colors of white, black, or grey. I highly recommend Under Armour, which can be found at the BX. The fabric folds like a dream and helped me achieve demerit-free clothing drawers.
Brushes or combs - Try to bring/purchase one that isn't super huge - again, it'll be shoved in the back of your security drawer.
Nail Trimming Equipment - Yes, bring 'em! You may use the nail trimmers for clipping threads, although I preferred my sewing scissors.
Shaving Items (females) - By the time you finally shave, you're going to want a nicer razor, not a cheap throw-away. I brought a Venus razor and had a couple blades available. You'll need to display a razor in your security drawer, so it will sit there, untouched, until your MTI authorizes its use. Don't bother with shaving cream, as aerosol cans are a no-no. I opted for the kind of razor blade that had the shaving cream built in.
Stamps - As mentioned in the mail call post, you can buy these on the first mini-mall run, although I think it was worthwhile to have them early, especially since you'll need stamps to send your "This Is My Address" postcard to family.
Watch - If you don't bring your own watch, you'll buy one there. Doesn't have to be fancy, just a plain black sports-style watch that tells time. Your puntuality is critical in the AF. They follow the saying, "If you're fifteen minutes early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late." You don't want to be late to anything, as it'll mean disciplinary action of some sort. I would recommend bringing something that is water resistant, but that isn't too expensive. You wouldn't want to ruin your fancy sports watch on the obstacle course, or have it come up missing.
Nope, save your cash!
Laundry Soap - You'll be provided approximately six jugs of laundry detergent for the laundry crew to use, as I mentioned before, and when you run out you'll buy some at the mini-mall. Don't bother bringing your own.
Toothbrush Tray - Maybe bring your toothbrush in a plastic bag or with a small cover. You'll end up buying a full-sized toothbrush tray during the first mini-mall run. It's a very specific one that is branded "Lackland AFB." You'll be required to keep it cracked open 1/4" when it's displayed in your security drawer.
Notebook and paper - Don't bother. You can buy a steno notebook on your first mini-mall run. You don't need a notebook or loose leaf paper. If you bring anything of this nature, bring an accordian file to store your important documents, when can be used when you go to tech.
Black shoe polish - Skip. I preferred the clear Kiwi quick polish sponge, which you won't need to buy until 5WOT.
Shine brush/cloth - Skip. Again, you won't need anything of this nature until 5WOT.
Soap tray - Nope, because you shouldn't bring bar soap.
Two Towels - Nope, don't bring 'em. You'll get your issued ones that you'll be required to use. The only reason my towels came in handy later is because I didn't have to buy new towels when I got to tech school. You can use your BMT brown ones there, but you may want something a little larger/fluffier.
Cotton Balls - Nope, waste of cash.
Spray Starch/Fabric Finish, Iron - Your MTI will have these items available for you when the time comes. You'll rarely use them, even then.
Foot Powder - I'd hold off until you get down there and determine how much space you have in your security drawer or if you even need the stuff. A few of us ended up buying some eventually, and it's readily available at the mini-mall.
Batteries (D Size) - These are for your flashlight. Pass on this, you can buy them and replacement bulbs at the mini-mall. You won't need them for a while.
Calling Card - Bring your cell phone and be done.
Your Call - "Maybe" Items
Six pairs of nylons/panty hose - You definitely don't need six pairs, if any at all. You'll have the option to buy these at the mini-mall, and the only time you'll wear them is graduation weekend. During 7WOT, they'll typically have you in pants, since it's easier. If you think your size may be more difficult to find, or if you just want to be safe, buy a pair of navy (found at the BX) and a pair of nude before you go.
Envelopes and Stationery Supplies - If you don't want to use the AF-branded stationery items from the mini-mall, then bring your own items. I didn't use the stationery items that I brought down with me. They stayed in my civilian luggage.
Sewing Kit - I felt it was beneficial to purchase mine before going down. I bought one in Clothing Sales, one at the BX. One was AF-specific and had supplies for your blues, which I didn't see when I was at the mini-mall. A wingman had to borrow it at one point to make a repair. The other was a small, D-shaped case in sage green fabric. This one contains the scissors you'll use to clip threads. If you don't buy them before BMT, you'll buy them at the mini-mall.
Three Pairs White Socks - I brought crew length socks, as well as wore some short socks down there. I packed more socks than necessary, and I kept them in my civilian luggage. It turned out to be a smart move, as you're able to wear a white sock of your choice, including ankle socks, when at tech school. You really only need socks for those first three days when you're in civilian clothes.
Three Pairs Spandex Shorts (females) - I chose to purchase three pairs of Under Armour Heat Gear compression shorts prior to BMT. They weren't the cheapest, but I was glad to have them and their magical fabric. If you don't buy them at home, you'll be told to buy them at the mini-mall, where they ran about $10-15 a pop. I liked having options at home, where I could buy the inseam that I wanted. I ended up coloring the UA logos with a Sharpie, as they were in the process of deciding that any visible brands weren't allowed. They can't force you to buy them, but they will blast you if you're not wearing them. The AF PT shorts are billowy, so it's easy to look up your shorts during strength exercises if you're not wearing them.
Happy packing! Maybe I'll do a "Things NOT to Bring to BMT," if need dictates!