I’ve been meaning to do a post about this for a while. And since today is the 3-year anniversary of my husband’s “Turning Blue” ceremony, I thought it was fitting to do that post now! This might have quite a few cross-overs from my What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training, but that’s just because visiting your training soldier has similar boundaries, no matter what the occasion is. It’s still a very different event, and one I will always remember fondly!
What Turning Blue Is:
It’s the day that your infantry soldier-in-training receives the blue cord that all infantrymen wear on their dress uniform. Without getting into the history behind it, the blue cord is a significant military decoration that designates them as infantrymen. It’s the proud symbol your soldier earns for serving in the Army as an infantryman. It’s a really special occasion when they earn it! The Turning Blue Ceremony celebrates that moment. You can read a bit more about why they wear the blue cord here.
What Turning Blue is Not:
It’s technically not a graduation. Your soldier has completed his AIT and is now ready to graduate. This is his award ceremony, but his actual Graduation Day is usually the day after the Turning Blue Day. It’s also not a full “day-off” for your soldier. He will get to see you at his ceremony, and will most likely spend the entire day with you. But just like for his Family Day pass, he won’t be able to spend the night with you. The soldiers aren’t officially released from their Basic Training Camp until after they graduate.
When the Turning Blue Ceremony Occurs:
This usually occurs the day before Graduation Day, in the morning. It’s such a pivotal part to your soldier’s career and graduation, that they set aside a day dedicated to celebrating it. The ceremony itself isn’t long, but you are given the entire day to spend with your soldier, commemorating his induction into the “Brotherhood” of the Infantry.
The Turning Blue Day Schedule:
Each company may run their ceremonies a little differently. But you can expect some kind of schedule like this:
- 7:30 am – Doors open for the families to receive a quick briefing of the day
- 8:00 am – Seating begins for the Turning Blue Ceremony
- 8:15 am – Turning Blue Ceremony begins (the soldiers march in)
- 9:00 am – Soldiers are released from the ceremony and get to spend the day with you!!
- 7:45 pm – Drop off your soldier back at his training camp
- 8:00 pm – Soldiers must be IN formation or else they might not be allowed to graduate the next day
Who can Attend the Turning Blue Ceremony:
Anyone. Family, fiancees, significant others, friends, etc. When I attended, they did give a bit of priority seating to the wives/fiancees. There were no name tags on the chairs, but it was announced that the closest seating was intended for the wives attending that morning.
While there is no limit to the number of people who can visit attend, each driver will need a Visitor’s Pass to drive onto the military installation. 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 Turning Blue 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.
Who can Participate in the Turning Blue Ceremony:
Again, any one particular person (chosen by the soldier) can participate. It can be a spouse, significant other, parent, child, friend, etc. Your soldier will probably have talked to you ahead of time (not that morning, but on the phone previously or over a letter) about who he wants to participate in the ceremony.
I have heard some say that there are a few soldiers there who have no one visiting them to place the cord on their uniform. If you see someone putting the cord on himself, and want to offer to help, it’s entirely up to you! Some might really like receiving the award from another pair of hands, and others are more than happy to do the honor themselves. It’s certainly okay to at least offer!
How to Participate in the Turning Blue Ceremony:
If your soldier selects you, it will be your honor to place the blue cord on his sleeve! He will have been given the blue cord ahead of time by the drill sergeants (YOU don’t have to purchase the blue cord or bring one with you). The master of ceremonies will announce the time during the ceremony during which the blue cords are to be placed on the soldiers. This is the moment you get to walk up to your soldier! And don’t worry, they don’t do it one-at-a-time. It’s a big mob of family members stepping forward to place the blue cords at the same time. You don’t have to do it in unison with the other family members, or anything like that. It’s a relaxed but very special moment during the ceremony where you and your soldier get to interact.
You will step forward from your seating and approach your soldier (who will have been in a tight formation up until this point, but it will now relax). He will take the blue cord out of his pocket and give it to you. You will slide it up his right arm, and fasten the stay-loop on the button on his uniform (he will point out both the loop and the button to you). It’s easy–there is no need to have practiced ahead of time (plus you won’t have seen each other before the ceremony). After you have placed the blue cord on him, he is an infantryman! At that point, you can shake hands, embrace, kiss, or take a quick selfie with your newly-minted infantryman. Then you must return to your seat as the ceremony concludes.
Dress Code for the Turning Blue Ceremony:
There isn’t an official dress code for you. But your soldier will be in his “dress blues.” It is the equivalent of the civilian suit, so you can dress professionally and that will not be considered overdressing. However, the ceremony often takes place outside. So dressing casually isn’t inappropriate either for Georgia weather 98% of the time. 🙂 The Turning Blue ceremony I attended was in an outdoor pavilion in November, so there was shade and seating, and it was a bit cold. A final note: your soldier will be required to wear his dress blues the rest of the day (when he is in public). So you’ll be going places with him in his dress uniform all day. That’s just something to keep in mind as you’re planning your own attire!
Rules for Families on the Turning Blue Day:
There aren’t really any extraordinary rules for the ceremony itself. You can take pictures, applaud at appropriate times, and participate during the actual blue cord placement. It’s pretty much the couresty rules you expect at anyone’s ceremony: dress appropriately, be silent, don’t bring pets, and enjoy yourself!
But the rest of the day does have some boundaries. They are pretty much the same rules as the Family Day rules. So if you attended that, then you know what to expect! I’ll list them again here (this is not an exhaustive list, but its the basics):
- 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 signs directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the briefing area. After the briefing in the classroom, you will be directed to the site of the ceremony. Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
- After the ceremony, you have to be the driver. The soldiers aren’t permitted to drive for safety reasons. They haven’t driven in 14 weeks (nor have they explored the Army post or surrounding town) and the drill sergeants don’t want them to drive in unknown territory for fear of injury or getting lost.
- You can’t go very far away with your soldier. He will have mile restrictions (usually a 25-mile radius). 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 to celebrate with you. It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.
Rules for the Soldiers on the Turning Blue Day:
The rules during the ceremony are things your soldier will have already been briefed on. When he is standing in formation during the ceremony, he will not be able to look around and spot you, wave, or talk. It’s tough because you haven’t gotten to see each other before the ceremony, or the day before! He won’t have been able to see you until the actual ceremony when he marches in. But again, don’t worry about the rules he has for the ceremony, because he will already know them through and through.
The rules for AFTER the ceremony are unfortunately many. They are pretty much identical to the ones from Family Day. Note: this isn’t a complete list (and they can vary from battalion to battalion) but you and your soldier will definitely be told these rules ahead of time!
- The soldier cannot drink alcohol AT ALL, nor can he smoke.
- He can not wear anything besides his dress uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes). That includes his head gear (the black beret) if he is outdoors.
- 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 is not allowed to sit on the ground (don’t ask… I think it has something to do with soldierly bearing while wearing a dress uniform. Not to mention he has to wear it to graduation the next day).
- He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
- Until he is dismissed from the ceremony, he cannot leave the training area.
- He can’t return late (missing the return formation). Big BIG punishments could await him (like not graduating).
Final Thoughts on the Turning Blue Day:
This is a very special day, both for your soldier and for you! Don’t over-stress about how the actual ceremony will go. It’s a really nice one, and the master of ceremonies will keep it all on beat. When it’s time for you to place the blue cord on your soldier, everyone will be paying attention to their own soldier–so don’t worry about having an audience or making a mistake. Your soldier will know exactly how to place the blue cord on, and will instruct you as you go. Just enjoy the moment because you will both remember it forever.
And once the ceremony is over, your infantryman is yours for the day!! Spend the time celebrating his accomplishments, and get excited because the next day is his actual graduation. That is again a really big and important day in the life of your soldier. And if you only remember one thing from this post, remember this: the blue cord means your soldier is now an infantryman! That in itself is a great accomplishment, and one that will shape his entire service time. He really deserves the Turning Blue ceremony, so enjoy it together!
Thank you so much for stopping by! If you have any Turning Blue stories to share, or questions to ask, please leave a comment below. Your feedback is always valued. I hope you’ll come back soon!
Also in this series: