Is there a good estimate based on the books of how long the Basic training at Camp Currie lasted?
In the book when Juan Rico is on his way to OCS he runs into his father at the spaceport. His father states that his boot camp was two months shorter because they had not had Sundays off. That would mean that Juan's boot camp was 62 weeks or 14 months long, and Emilio's was 12 months. For comparison - Royal Marine basic training is 32 weeks. USMC basic training is 13 weeks followed by School of Infantry (4 weeks for non infantry Marines 8 weeks for Infantry) total of 17 to 21 weeks
Let us consider the known quantities and their relationships - apologies for the length:
- Juan signed up "...for a term of not less than two years..." in Chapter 2.
- "Mr Weiss, the placement officer, sent for me a week after I was sworn in" followed by "...shipping out early in the morning..." at the end of Chapter 2
- Chapter 4 "Our company shrank to platoon size in the first six weeks". It is unclear but likely that the battalion parade into the wilderness without bedrolls followed by a fifty mile march back is at or near the end of this six week period as it appears to be a culminating exercise.
- The final paragraphs of Chapter 4 describes the timeframe of the final individual survival exercise as "...because twelve weeks later they dumped me down raw naked in a primitive area of the Canadian Rockies and I had to make my way forty miles through mountains." Assuming this "only" took a few days - travelling through mountains is not the same as marching on roads - "Then we all went back into the mountains and spent thirteen days finding them...". "They weren't the first to die in training; they weren't the last." This last sentence could be referring to military training in general, but reads as if it is talking about Juan's battalion in particular, meaning that there were more training fatalities after this exercise.
- So, the training plus subsequent search-and-recovery at the end of the individual survival exercise takes 6 weeks + 12 weeks + a few days + 13 days is approximately 20 weeks.
- It is unclear where the power suit and drop training fits into this- "We started practice drops as soon as we moved to Camp Spooky" - given that the individual survival exercise was in the Canadian Rockies and Camp Sergeant Spooky Smith is in that area it would make sense for the course to have relocated to this camp some time in the 12 weeks between the overnight camp and the survival exercise. How long the training went for is unclear, with an unspecified number of normal drops followed by "...over mountains, into the arctic ice, into the Australian desert, and, before we graduated, onto the face of the Moon..." If there were four and only four "hard" drops run once each week after the individual survival exercise and subsequent search then the entire course would be 24 weeks.
While these are the only direct references to the length of training, the rest of the book actually provides more context to allow guessing its length:
- "...the historians date the beginning of "war" after the time I joined my first outfit and ship." Juan's first action was the First Battle of Klendathu, after Buenos Aires was destroyed. Juan was not with Willie's Wildcats for long before that battle (his first and last with that outfit), and his ship was already "a couple of parsecs away" when they received the news. Prior to this, there would definitely have been a period of at least two weeks of leave after graduation but before Juan was posted.
- "The loss of Buenos Aires did mean a great deal...but this I did not know until many months later."
- Soon after Juan learns that his mother died in Buenos Aires "many months" ago, the Roughnecks leave on their latest set of hit and run missions and the Lieutenant dies. The next mission is on Sheol and in chapter 12 Juan learns that his father participated in the same battle as a corporal having already completed his training and done several drops with McSlattery's Volunteers.
- On the same series of missions, Juan sorts out his differences with Ace. Then the Roughnecks get a 10 day R&R on Sanctuary, during which Ace puts it to Juan that he should go career and apply for OCS. Juan says that "I just meant to serve my term" and Ace points out that in wartime no one is finishing their term, as it will be extended indefinitely in wartime.
The point is that Juan has not even been thinking about getting close to serving out his two year term in a period that has included the following events in sequence:
- Juan's 48 hour leave and placement testing (1 week)
- Juan's complete training (n weeks)
- the period between Juan completing training and the destruction of Buenos Aires
- Juan's father's complete enlistment and (abbreviated) training (n-8 weeks)
- Juan's father completing enough drops to be promoted to corporal
- Completion of the Roughneck's current mission after Sheol and return to Sanctuary
I propose the following vaguely plausible durations for the above timeline:
- Juan's 48 hour leave and placement testing (1 week)
- Juan's complete training (28 weeks)
- the period between Juan completing training and the destruction of Buenos Aires (4 weeks)
- Juan's father's complete enlistment and (abbreviated) training (20 weeks)
- Juan's father completing enough drops to be promoted to corporal (12 weeks)
- Completion of the Roughneck's current mission after Sheol and return to Sanctuary (3 weeks)
This puts Juan 16 weeks into his second year of enlistment when he has his discussion with Ace. Much later than this and it would be implausible that he would not be thinking about the imminent end of his (minimum) term of service.
In the book, we see that the bug war continues with one of the other races changing from bug ally to neutral to human ally so it appears that Officer Candidate School is several years in length. The analogy to west point also seems to imply that it is several years long. Basic training also seems to be longer as the bug war itself changes from threats into full scale war. The implication seems to be that it is longer than the normal type of basic that would be occurring nowadays.
The fact of his father entering the war and becoming a senior NCO after the attack on Earth would imply a longer period of time. That is, the basic training would be close to a significant fraction of the time taken up by OCS.