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USAA employees experience first day of basic training at SA campus

‘Zero Day' gives participants a look into the lives of USAA military members

SAN ANTONIO – Hours before the break of dawn, drill sergeants were at work pushing nearly 400 USAA employees on what it’s like to endure the first day of basic training.

USAA created the training program named Zero Day in 2008 to give their employees a better understanding of what their members went through on one particular day in their lives when they entered the military. 

“We are providing an authentic experience of what it’s like to arrive at basic training,” said Brian Parks, an information technology director at USAA who also served as a sergeant first class with the Army.

Upon arrival, it’s no typical Friday for the USAA employees as they arrive in pitch-black darkness at 4 a.m. and just twenty minutes later, they are experiencing what’s called the “shark attack.”

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Employees are immediately welcomed to a chaos of screaming drill sergeants with combat sounds and fog machines going all in pure darkness.

“It’s a whole lot of shock and awe, a whole lot of confusion, a whole lot of mayhem, a whole lot of sweat, a whole lot of mistakes but ultimately, a whole lot of pride when it’s all said and done,” Parks said.

The 400 or so participants are put into a series of mental and physical challenges such as the shark attack and the “misery log,” and to conclude the three-hour event, the group endures a 1.5-mile run.

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To highlight the ultimate basic training experience, Parks gave one of the participants a haircut in the middle of the physical training field, or PT field, for the first time in the event’s history.

“We actually planted a (USAA) trainee who’s a Marine Corps veteran, and he agreed to get his hair cut. So, we had everyone thinking they were about to get a complete on-the-floor haircut,” Parks said.

“We actually had another trainee who thought he was next, and I easily could’ve cut 10 extra heads if I wanted, but we did not. We only did the one,” Parks said.

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The 20th Zero Day PT event included active duty and former military service members, along with USAA employees. 

USAA is an insurance and financial services company that caters to military service members and veterans.

agarcia@ksat.com 

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