An Interview with The Ultimate Interactive Basic Training Workbook Author Sergeant Michael Volkin

The companion to the best-selling The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook is now available! Michael Volkin recently discussed his new book, The Ultimate Interactive Basic Training Workbook: What You Must Know to Survive and Thrive in Boot Camp, with Sarah Keeney of Savas Beatie LLC.

: Your basic training guidebook has been very successful since its publication in 2005. It’s in its seventh printing, was chosen for the Military Book Club, and is also frequently featured on Why do you think it has done so well?

MV: Basic training is tough and recruits often want answers to questions that are hard to find. The Guidebook puts all the questions a recruit has and the answers they need to know in one handy, easy to read location.

: What made you realize that a companion book was in order?

MV: The Workbook is a natural supplement to the Guidebook. There are many things that a recruit needs to learn before meeting a drill sergeant that lend themselves to hands-on exercises, videos, and audio clips. In order to address all these items, I decided to make the Workbook interactive. It allows the reader to not only read text on pages the old fashioned way, but also view other media on the Internet—audio, more text, photos, and so on. This gives recruits a more detailed look into basic training that no other book can provide.

: That’s a really unique approach and one that Savas Beatie has been increasingly using for its own customers with several books. How would someone reading your book know when to hop online for more info?

MV: I’ve included a number of exercises in the book, such as multiple choice questions, true and false statements, and memory games. Some of the entries in these exercises contain icons indicating that there is additional information in relation to that question on my website at As I noted, this content includes anything from video and audio clips to additional research text and research links. If a reader wants to learn more about a particular topic in the Workbook, s/he logs into a designated section of my website [which can only be done after purchasing the book] and views the additional information.

: Can you give an example?

MV: Sure. Let’s say a guy is reading a statement regarding MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and spots a video icon next to that statement. He simply logs into the interactive section of the website and types in the question number. That takes him to a video pertaining to MREs. It’s a great way to incorporate additional information that a paperback book can’t possibly display in another form.

: How do you think the interactive material will better help prepare recruits for boot camp?

MV: Well the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” still rings true. If the reader can take information from a paperback and learn from videos, pictures, and audio files, material becomes easier to learn, and the learning process becomes more entertaining as well.

: And this new Workbook is for all branches of the service?

MV: Yes. There is a lot of crossover between the branches, but each has certain unique aspects about it. All the core material is here, and the charts and tables in the back are also branch-specific. So no matter what branch you want to enlist in, this book will be extremely beneficial.

: Did you incorporate into the Workbook suggestions from Guidebook readers who have contacted you?

MV: Yes, and that feedback has been really helpful. I still receive an enormous amount of feedback from the Guidebook, and a lot of this has been incorporated into the Workbook.

: Beside the interactive approach, how does the Workbook differ from the Guidebook?

MV: The Guidebook is the natural first stepping stone a recruit needs to read to understand the core concepts of basic training, while the Workbook is the most hands-on learning material available for basic training. It provides a recruit with everything from a customizable fitness routine to actual basic training videos to audio clips giving detailed advice on boot camp survival. Simply stated, the Workbook is the most advanced study tool for basic training available anywhere.

: You mentioned customized fitness plans. Can you tell our readers more about the fitness section of the Workbook?

MV: The first thing a potential recruit needs to understand when it comes to fitness is that there is a big difference between being “civilian fit” and “military fit.” You can’t get fit according to military standards by just going to the gym. Many exercises a recruit will find in basic training are military specific. Therefore, many recruits have never seen most of the exercises they will have to perform at basic training until they arrive at boot camp.

: Why is it so important to learn this new approach to exercise beforehand?

MV: You can go to the gym all day, every day before you leave for boot camp, but you’ll be incredibly sore once you begin basic training because your muscles aren’t prepared properly. The fitness routine in the Workbook is geared specifically toward what you will be doing in boot camp. Even if readers have never worked out before, after eight weeks of following my fitness routine, they will be ready for boot camp.

: So learning this beforehand will also relieve some of the stress.

MV: Very much so. Basic training is a very stressful time for recruits. For many, it is a life-defining period. How would you feel if you failed at something so important? According to national statistics, ten percent of recruits—that is one out of every ten!— outright fail basic training and many more than that consider the experience unenjoyable in the extreme. My easy-to-read Guidebook and interactive Workbook can turn that non-enjoyable experience around and allow you to rise above the other recruits and actually enjoy much of the experience. It is tough, but knowing what you are going to face and preparing beforehand makes it a whole lot easier. This book will get you noticed more (in a good way) by your military superiors and promoted faster. In my opinion, these books will pay for themselves over and over throughout your career.

: Thanks for this information, Sergeant Volkin. I think your Workbook will be a wonderful resource for anyone thinking about joining the military.

MV: You’re welcome, and I think and hope so as well.

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