What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training


What to Expect at a Basic Training Family Day


I remember the day like it was yesterday.

My husband and I had been married for less than a month when the day came for him to leave for Basic Training.  It was heartbreaking.  I was pining away for Family Day–we both were.  Those 9 weeks of training were the longest we had ever been apart (we lived 8 miles apart before we were married).  When our Basic Training Family Day rolled around, I flew across four states just for the occasion.  And it was TOTALLY worth it!  (Side note: 4 modes of transportation was a lot though–I recommend simplifying if you can. haha)

Let me start out with a quick disclaimer about Family Day: most Basic Training camps dub the day before graduation as “Family Day.”  But if your soldier is attending Ft. Benning, GA for OSUT (meaning he is at Basic to be an infantry or armor soldier), then Family Day is a separate weekend from graduation weekend.  It occurs in the middle of your soldier’s training cycle to give them a much-deserved break.  (They roll straight from Basic into their AIT).  Other Basic camps unfortunately don’t get this mid-way break because they have a natural weekend break between their Basic Graduation and their AIT Graduation.  So in this post, I will be talking about the infantry/armor OSUT Family Day that takes place in Fort Benning, GA.

One more quick note: each battalion may vary in their Family Day procedures a little bit.  The following information is all based on my personal experience.  While it might not be identical to the Family Day of your soldier’s battalion, you can expect something similar!


What Basic Training Family Day Is:

Basic Training Family Day is essentially a weekend break for your soldier.  (See above paragraph for explanation on why they get this!)  It is designed for family (and friends) to get the opportunity to spend time with their soldier-in-training.  It’s gives your soldier a breath of fresh air and some quality time outside of the platoon.


What Basic Training Family Day is Not:

It is not a two-day pass of freedom for your soldier.  (Unfortunately!)  He will have many, many, many rules to follow while he is spending time away from his training area.  While he won’t have to physically train at all during the Family Day weekend, he will absolutely have to adhere to a (large) set of rules.  It’s also not an overnight pass.  That was a hard one to swallow.


When Basic Training Family Day Occurs:

It occurs over a weekend– meaning Saturday and Sunday.  Usually it takes place about half-way through the training cycle.  But not always.  The Basic Training Family Day for my husband’s company was in the ninth week of his fourteen weeks of training.  If you are your soldier’s first point of contact, then you will receive a letter from the commander (that all-important letter I have referenced before) stating when Family Day occurs.  If you are a girlfriend or friend and aren’t receiving communications from your soldier’s commander, you might be able to access the information via your soldier’s Company Facebook page.


Who can Attend Basic Training Family Day:

Basic Training Family Day is completely open to all family, fiancees, significant others, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, frenemies, and neighbors of the soldiers in training.  There are no tickets or reservations required.  And if no one comes to spend time with a soldier, he or she can still enjoy some time away from the training area.

While there is no limit to the number of people who can visit their soldier, each driver will need a Visitor’s Pass to drive into the military installation to pick up their soldier.  You can attain an access pass by driving up to the military access points (gates) and asking about access requirements.  The gate guard will direct you to the Visitor Center and they will assist you in obtaining a pass.  I recommend doing this the night/day before Family Day, since the Visitor Center can get busy.  You don’t want to be late to pick up your soldier for the day!  Note: if you are a veteran or spouse then just use your military ID and skip the passes.


The Basic Training Family Day Schedule:

This is a brief synopsis of what mine was like:

  • 7:30am arrive at the Basic Training area
  • 8:00am an “introduction to the Army” briefing
  • 9:00am soldiers and families reunite
  • free time all day off-post and on-post
  • 7:00pm drop-off time

There are no activities planned for the family and soldier to participate in together.  The solider will have a special formation beforehand (early on the first morning of the Family Day weekend).  During his formation, the Drill Sergeants will go over the Family Day rules.

Meanwhile, the families will gather in a classroom and receive a brief “introduction to the Army Family” as well as learn the rules that the soldiers will be under during Family Day.  You will learn a little bit about what your soldier has been doing the past few weeks, and then A LOT about the rules.  During the introduction, you might get addressed by one or two of your soldier’s Drill Sergeants, but most likely the Company Commander.   At my Basic Training Family Day, we were also given a chance to ask questions that are related to Family Day.  It wasn’t a question-and-answer session about how to deal with the Army or ask about your soldier’s future assignments– but if we were confused about the rules, that was the time to ask.

After the families are released from their briefing, the soldiers will be finished with theirs.  At the Family Day I attended, the soldiers were all outside finishing up their briefing when we walked out of the classroom.  We reunited right there outdoors once they were dismissed.  Some Family Day procedures may include having the soldiers come to meet their families indoors in the classroom.  I think it just depends on which briefing is finished first.

Once you pick your soldier up, HE IS YOURS UNTIL drop-off time.  Yes, there is a drop-off time.  And since it will vary from Family Day to Family Day, I won’t state an exact time here.  But just know, that time means EVERYTHING.  If you drop your soldier off even two minutes late, it is highly probable he will be recycled and have to begin training all over again.  Do not, under any circumstances, drop him off late.  Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for you to “take the blame” for him.  Even if you are 100% at fault for why he is late.  That is the Army life.  It’s the soldier’s responsibility, completely, to be back at the appropriate time.  He cannot be shielded by wives or parents or even his children’s excuses.  So, no matter what you do on Family Day, DROP HIM OFF ON TIME.

The second day, Sunday, is similar to the first day of Family Day.  The only difference is that there is no family briefing.  Your solider will have to report to his morning formation, just like the day before.  Though he probably won’t be told all the rules again, he will definitely be told what time he needs to return by.  Once he is released from formation, you may pick him up and take him off just like yesterday.  His drop-off time MIGHT be earlier, since it is the day before training.  ASK your soldier.  Do not drive off until you know what time he needs to return by.  Once you know, drive away and enjoy your day together!

**Special note to those whose Basic Training Family Day falls on a Federal Holiday weekend:  You lucky duck!  It is extremely likely that your soldier will get a 3-day weekend with you!  Obviously, you need to double-check the commander’s memo (the invitation either mailed to you or posted on Facebook).  It will confirm or deny this phenomenon.


Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Family:

The Army can’t really issue out rules to the family or friends of the soldier, but there are still a few that exist:

  1. Do not go anywhere on the training grounds except where the signs and aides tell you to go.  You are NOT allowed to go into your soldier’s barracks.  There will be a sign or two directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the gathering area (our gathering area was a classroom).  Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
  2.  You can’t let (or make) your soldier drive.  Anyone except the soldier is allowed to be the driver, because they aren’t permitted to get behind the wheel.
  3. You can’t go very far away with your soldier.  He will have mile restrictions that, as his visiting family, you must stay within.  The mileage restriction is usually a 25-mile radius, but you will be given the exact rule during the briefing.  Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty to do within the restriction!  Your soldier will just be thrilled to be leaving the training area footprint with you.  This rule obviously only applies when you are with your soldier.  There is no restriction on the visiting family outside of Family Day hours.  It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.


Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Soldier:

There are many.  So many.  🙁  Unfortunately, this is not a complete list.  Don’t worry, because you will be told (and possibly be given a pamphlet on) all the rules.  It might vary from battalion to battalion, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind:

  • The soldier cannot drink, nor can he smoke.
  • He can not wear anything besides his uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes).
  • As stated above, he is not allowed to drive AT ALL.  Nor is he allowed to travel outside a certain mile radius.  Though it’s a strange rule, he may not sit on the ground (don’t ask…).
  • He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
  • Until he is dismissed from formation (in the morning), he cannot leave the training area.
  •  He can’t return late (missing the return formation).

There are more, but those are the basics.  <–haha see what we did there?


Basic Training Family Day Warnings:

During our family briefing, we were given some heavily suggested “guidelines” that technically weren’t rules, but were basically warnings.  While the soldier is allowed to make purchases, and often families like to go shopping during this time, we were warned to be wary of making big purchases.  Unfortunately there are quite a few shops surrounding Army posts that target brand new soldiers.  They sell boots (an expensive item) and other pieces of equipment that your soldier might want.  After so many weeks of training, he be tempted to buy because “he needs a better or newer thing that he has worn out during training.”  It’s totally a reasonable thought from your soldier-in-training.  But BE VERY CAREFUL.

The Army only allows certain items to be used.  There are regulations on any piece of clothing or piece of equipment.  Many surplus stores sell dupes and “similar” items that are not Army standard.  If he buys an expensive pair of boots but they don’t qualify according to Army standards, he won’t be allowed to wear them.  To be on the safe side, don’t shop for anything Army-related off-post.  He has already been issued the amount of equipment and uniforms that he will need to complete Basic Training.  (And there is a mini store [the PX] nearby bootcamp where he is occasionally allowed to restock on small items: soap, pens, paper, etc.)

There are also a lot of “deals” that air on Family Day weekends.  Car dealerships will prey on new soldiers who have a pile of cash and haven’t been able to spend it.  Just be careful and remember your soldier can’t have much at all in his barracks.  Even if he makes many, many purchases, it is likely he won’t be able to bring most of it back with him to the barracks.  (Especially not a car!)  You don’t want the Drill Sergeants to confiscate his new purchases!


Basic Training Family Day Suggestions:

Your soldier will probably have a lot to tell you!  Try to go somewhere you can talk and catch up.  Drive around town and find a place to walk.  It has been a while since he has enjoyed a leisure meal, so you could treat him to one.  Often this will be your soldier’s first chance to receive military discounts at restaurants and stores!  The day will go by quickly, so don’t try to do too many activities at once.  Just focus on being in the present moment, and giving your soldier a well-deserved break from his daily training.

If there is something he has been running low on, like letter-writing supplies or calling-cards, it is a good time to go shopping for some! (But don’t stress–the PX remains a good backup resource for his needs, if you don’t have time to go shopping together).  Whatever you do, don’t worry about trying to meet his Drill Sergeants or “see your soldier in action.”  You will see his leadership at the graduation ceremony, and there may be a ceremonial display of training during the graduation weekend.  Family Day is all about spending the day away from the training grounds with your soldier!  I also recommend that you spend the final half-hour of the day just chatting in the parking lot.  That way you can squeeze out every last minute of the day without risking him missing formation.


Purchasing Souvenirs of the Day:

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll want to purchase a little token to remember the trip by.  It is very likely that there will be a table of gift items available for purchase before and after the “introduction to the Army” briefing at the start of the Basic Training Family Day.  Many military units sell gift items on days such as Family Day, as fundraisers for future unit events.  However, if those aren’t being sold, you can also purchase military-themed gifts at the local Post Exchange located on post.  Another option is to visit one of the local military museums.  They always have a gift shop with plenty of merchandise.


Final Thoughts about Basic Training Family Day:

Our Basic Training Family Day was two of the best days we had during our first year of Army life.  It’s such a welcome break from being apart, and really helps alleviate the burdens of separation.  Even though it’s not an overnight pass, consider visiting your soldier for Family Day!  While travel is expensive, and it makes sense to place a priority on Graduation Day, Family Day is still a great opportunity for families to reconnect.  If you can make it work, I would definitely recommend visiting for Family Day.

If you have any further questions about the Basic Training Family Day that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you want any further information on dealing with having a soldier in Basic Training, consider reading my posts about writing Basic Training letters, favorite supplies for doing so, and how to address them.


Also in this series:

 What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day

What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day





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  1. My boyfriend family day/graduation day is around April 20th. He just left the 6th of this month to ft.benning GA and it’s sucks so bad! When should I be receiving his letters? Also do they do shuttles for people who cant drive? Will ge nit be able to spend the night off base for either nights? Can he go off base?

    1. Congrats on his service!! It totally stinks missing your guy though. 🙁 It’s nice to have the date circled on your calendar though!
      If he left on the 6th, then he could still be in Reception Battalion. That’s the soldier’s first stop, where he is issued equipment, receives a haircut, fills out paperwork, etc. It can last 7-10 days, and during that time, the soldiers don’t have permanent mailing addresses. So if he writes you, he won’t be able to give you a return address. But after that, they move on to “bootcamp” at their actual Basic Training site. At that point, your soldier will be able to write you and tell you his address, roster number, and unit information!
      When my husband went to Basic at Ft. Benning GA, the first letter he sent me with his actual mailing address was about 14 days after his report date. I think 2 weeks is pretty normal for when to expect his address, though it can vary a little bit depending on when your soldier gets the chance to write you.
      When your boyfriend was filling out all his paperwork, he was required to put down a first point of contact/nearest kin information. The Commander will use whichever address he provided (whether it was a friend’s address or parent’s or your address) and send information about your soldier to it: address information and later, graduation information. I received a letter from the Commander 2.5 weeks after my soldier reported.
      Once you know his unit information (whether your boyfriend sends it to you, or you get a letter from the commander) then you can find your soldier’s basic training Facebook page and join that. The Commander’s letters will also be posted there, sometimes pictures, and graduation information as it is released. It’s nice to connect with other people who are anxiously awaiting the graduation of their solider too!
      About travel: it definitely depends on how you get here. When I flew from VA, I arrived at the airport in Atlanta. I HATE driving, so I took the shuttle (I highly recommend them–Groome Transportation) and the shuttle takes you to your hotel, rent-a-car facility, or simply on-post. But after that, there is not a shuttle on the military post that will take you around. You would need to rent a car. 🙁
      There are a few hotels on post, but most of them are sprinkled around Columbus. You will be able to pick your solider up and go places during the day together (off-post included!!!) But at night he will have to go back to the barracks and stay there.
      If you want any more info on that travel stuff, let me know!! Or any other questions. My husband went to Basic in Ft Benning not too long ago so I’d be more than happy to share what worked for me (and what didn’t hahaha). Thanks for stopping by!

  2. My boyfriend is currently in OSUT 14 week infantry training at Ft Benning! I received a letter from him with dates for “family weekend” in March after having already been told that his graduation is April 13 and 14. My question is, what is the routine on the graduation days? Why is it 2 days?

    Also, how log into basic training did you receive commander letters and info for their Facebook pages? He’s been gone almost a month and we haven’t gotten anything…

    Thank you in advance for any info you can provide!

    1. Congratulations on your boyfriend’s service!!
      I’m happy for you that you’ve already gotten mail from him! That must be nice. I hope you can make it to Family Day. That’s a very enjoyable weekend! (I wrote about my experience here.)
      The reason that graduation is broken up into 2 days is because your boyfriend is training to be an infantry soldier. The infantry has a special ceremony the day before their graduation day, called “Turning Blue Day.” I wrote a post about it here. Basically, there will be a ceremony the first morning during which your soldier will receive his blue cord and become an infantryman. Then the next day there will be an official graduation ceremony. Both are very neat events!
      I received the commander’s initial letter 2 1/2 weeks into Basic Training. He sent out more than one during the course of the training. One specifies the soldier’s address, etc, and another is an invitation (with details) about the graduation. I think there might have been a third letter about Family Day. The only problem with the commander’s letter is that he only sends it to one address–and it’s the “next to kin” address that your soldier provided during his in-processing. So if that address was a roommate’s address or a parent’s address, the commander will only send letters to that one address.
      You can, however, access those same letters on the Facebook page! If you know your boyfriend’s Unit, you can look up the Facebook page for it here. That link will take you to the 198th Infantry Training Brigade. On March 25, 2017 they posted the links to all the units. It may take a little while for the unit page to post the commander’s letter, but they almost always will. And if you follow them for a while and still don’t see it, you can leave a comment asking when they will post information about the graduation/family day. But they usually do that on their own anyway!
      Thank you for stopping by and reaching out. If you have any more questions, please feel free to come back!

  3. My husband has just enlisted and is leaving February 28th we know that we will have a family day halfway through his 16-week basic training but we also have a little girl who will be two January 20th I was just wondering if you knew anything about me being allowed to bring her stroller with us to use on base so she doesn’t run away and cause havoc as children do.

    1. Congrats on your husband’s enlistment, and welcome to the Army family! Almost every Army event your whole life will be family friendly! 🙂 (Literally evening functions and military balls are like the only times kids aren’t invited). Definitely every single event you will attend for Basic Training is kid-friendly. When I went to my husband’s at Ft. Benning before we had kids, I remember little kids sitting in the back of the briefings on their parent’s laps. Strollers are totally allowed too, both indoors and out for events. When my husband had another graduation last year, I actually brought my carseat inside and left it in the back of the auditorium until the talks were over. Definitely bring anything you need for your daughter. There is always an aide or two by the doors who will direct and assist you if you need help with anything (they carried my carseat for me).
      The only time I have ever experienced a “don’t-bring-stroller” policy was at the museum where the Basic Training Graduation was held (on Ft. Benning). And that wasn’t because of the graduation, it was because that was the museum’s indoor policy. I’m almost positive they still let moms wheel the strollers on the outside of the museum (where the graduations as actually held). Just for indoor touring afterwards, they wanted strollers to go back into the car.
      Sorry to have gone on so long, haha: basically strollers are allowed everywhere on post and I wished I would have brought one when I visited my husband!

    2. My son just went down range January 12 th . I haven’t gotten an address or information regarding family day or graduation. I am anxious for this , when can I expect this ?

      1. Congrats on your son’s service!! It’s okay that you haven’t gotten his address yet, as he is still likely in the Reception Battalion. That’s the soldier’s first stop, where he is issued equipment, receives a haircut, fills out paperwork, etc. It can last 7-10 days, and during that time, the soldiers don’t have permanent mailing addresses. After that, they move on to “bootcamp” at their actual Basic Training site. At that point, your soldier will be able to write you and tell you his address, roster number, and unit information.
        When my husband went to Basic at Ft. Benning GA, the first letter he sent me with his actual mailing address was about 14 days after his report date. I think 2 weeks is pretty normal for when to expect his address, though it can vary a little bit depending on when your soldier writes you.
        When your son was filling out all his paperwork, he was required to put down a first point of contact/nearest kin information. The Commander will use whichever address he provided (whether it was a friend’s address or your address) and send information about your soldier to it: address information and later, graduation information. I received a letter from the Commander 2.5 weeks after my soldier reported.
        Don’t worry if they don’t give you information right away about graduation! They definitely will. And once you find out your son’s unit information (from the Commander’s letter) you can go on Facebook and find the group which supports your son’s unit. The Commander’s letters will also be posted there, as will graduation information as it is released. It’s nice to connect with other people who are anxiously awaiting the graduation of their solider!
        If you have any other concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Again, congratulations on your son and good luck! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hey! My husband and I have talked to Army recruiters. He is planning on enlisting soon. But when I asked about this family day you mentioned, they said the Army doesn’t do anything like that during basic. They looked at me like I was crazy! They said the only family day was during graduation week. I couldn’t find anything about it on their website either. How long ago was your husband in basic?

    1. Congrats on your upcoming life in the Army! I believe that certain Basic Training Units roll their “Family Day” into the Graduation weekend, usually giving the soldiers a day off before graduation with their families. I know Ft Sill and Ft Jackson do that. When my husband enlisted, he went to Ft Benning, GA for Basic Training and his follow-on AIT training (which they called OSUT and it lasted 14 weeks I believe). Because he never had a break between Basic and AIT, they gave us a visit weekend dubbed Family Day where we could spend time together. Other Basic Training camps may not do this, because families get the chance to see their soldiers following Basic graduation and then again following AIT graduation. But for Infantry and Armor soldiers, OSUT takes longer and so an opportunity to see their families mid-cycle is provided through Family Day.
      I’m glad you brought this up, I should clarify on my post! Thanks for commenting. And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the Army life as you embark on this together!

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