The effect of an 18.5-week infantry training program on health status was studied in 23 male military personnel (aged 22.0 +/- 0.5 years, mean +/- SE). Aerobic power, body composition, and immune function (including natural killer cell activity, mitogen-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation, in vivo cell-mediated immunity, and secretory immunoglobulin A levels) were measured in subjects at the beginning and end of the course. Subjects self-reported their symptoms of sickness in health logs using a precoded checklist. Data from this study indicate that subjects became leaner and maintained, but did not increase, their aerobic fitness by the end of the course. Cell function was enhanced significantly; however, in vivo cell-mediated immunity remained the same, and levels of secretory immunoglobulin A were lower by the end of the course. The incidence of infection remained stable throughout the course. These results indicate that the current pattern of infantry training does not have an adverse effect on the health status of recruits.