This is one of the most defining moments in your soldier’s career. Even years down the road, when the freshness of his blues uniform has faded and the creases are gone, the effects of the day won’t have changed a bit. Becoming a US soldier is an enormous accomplishment, mentally and physically. This is the day where your soldier is acknowledged for his willingness to serve. It’s the day he or she is able to begin what they have set out to do. It’s Graduation Day at Army Basic Training! Here’s what you can expect:
The Guest List
ANYONE can attend. There is no limit to how many family members, loved ones, or friends you can invite. Remember that your soldier might not have had the opportunity to contact them all himself, so you can help him out by doing that for him. It is definitely a kid-friendly event. There are not tickets either, so feel free to bring an additional guest at the last minute. Note: only one invitation/announcement letter is mailed to the soldier’s “closest of kin” (an address he provides at the beginning of camp), so if you haven’t been the one to receive that information, head over to your soldier’s unit Facebook page to see a copy of the event details!
Before all else, consider weather. If it’s winter or summer, if it’s indoors or outdoors, etc. There is not one specific dress code, which is why I say give priority to weather. For instance, if it’s in the middle of summer in Fort Jackson, SC, you will want to wear the lightest possible sundress. But if the graduation is indoors in the middle of winter, no one expects you to wear a dress. A nice sweater and pants is totally sufficient. I have seen everything from completely casual to dressy-Sunday wear. Semi-formal or formal is unnecessary.
While there is no limit to the number of guests who can attend, just remember that each driver will need to be able to get through the military access points (the gates). So if you take multiple cars, make sure each driver has a Visitor’s pass. You can attain a pass by driving up to the gate 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 you need to get on post, since the Visitor Center can get busy. You don’t want to be late for the graduation ceremony! Note: if you are a veteran or spouse then just use your military ID and skip the passes.
Exception: The Ft. Benning Army Basic Training Graduations (OSUT Graduations) almost always take place off-post. Technically, that means you won’t need any Visitor passes to attend the ceremony. But if you want to drive on post at all (which you almost always will, to drop your soldier off or to see where he trained) then you’ll still need Visitor Passes for that.
It will be at whatever military installation his Basic Training Camp is located. If that’s Fort Leonard Wood, then his graduation will be at Fort Leonard Wood. The graduations are usually in the morning. It is the Army after all. ha! The graduation locations vary by installation, and can be either indoors or outdoors. Wherever it is, expect it to be a very large venue. Either a big auditorium, or, most likely a parade field.
There is no assigned seating for families, but there will be plenty of it. With the exception of a few designated spots for honored military guests, you are free to take whatever seats you would like! Families don’t have to sit according to their soldier’s platoons. 🙂 Also, feel free to bring any baby carriers, strollers, or wheel chairs as needed. There will be aides directing seating and door flow if you need help with anything.
You can photograph and record the entire event. Obviously don’t keep your cellphone volume on, but there are no rules against cellphones or cameras at the graduation. If you aren’t in a good seat or don’t feel like you got satisfactory pictures, there is almost always a professional photographer who records and photographs the entire event. You can purchase pictures and recordings from them after the ceremony (they will usually have a trailer and advertising at the ceremony site).
The graduation ceremony will be much more “military” than any other graduation you may have attended. And the format will just depend on the venue. If the event is outdoors, expect there to be a lot of marching in formation and a big army band. If the event is indoors, the soldiers will most likely cross the stage one by one (instead of in formation) and there will be a video about their achievements. Any graduation will comprise of a chaplain’s invocation, commander’s speeches, recitation of the soldier’s creed, songs, awards for honor students, and of course, the national anthem. Make sure to pick up a program on your way to your seat, so you know the lyrics to the Army Song and just as a keepsake of this special day.
Gift-Giving and Congratulations
There isn’t a specific portion of the graduation for exchanging gifts or congratulating your soldier. Nor is there a receiving line or a formal process of dismissal. Basically, the ceremony will conclude and he will be dismissed from formation and you’ll stand up from your seat and the two of you will find each other on the ceremony site. At this time, you can take personal pictures or give him a graduation gift.
What Happens to Your Soldier Afterwards
This one is SO entirely dependent on his personal career. I can’t fit all the information here, and will be making a separate post about this. But I had to at least include something about it here since everyone wonders after the ceremony concludes…what’s next? You’ll see some soldiers go home with their families that day. Others will have 15 minutes to hug and talk before they board a bus for Airborne school. Some have a 12-24 hour pass before they leave for their AIT training. It’s a little chaotic. The best news is, your soldier will know EXACTLY where he or she needs to be after the ceremony, if anywhere, so don’t worry. Follow your soldier’s lead and enjoy any part of the day that you get to spend together!
Concluding Thoughts on Army Basic Training Graduation Day
While your soldier will experience many other meaningful moments in his or her career, none are quite like graduation day from Basic Training. This is a really big day and marks an enormous change in your soldier’s life. So remember to celebrate their accomplishments! You may have “burning” questions about where they are heading next, and how hard bootcamp really was and if they feel like the same or different person. You may even notice changes in them yourself. But give them an extra ounce of understanding and expect the entire day to be a whirlwind for them. Remember that the day is about them. There will be plenty of time to catch up or get serious details like future assignments, next trainings, etc. But keep those questions to a minimum and just try to have fun! They will have a lot to tell you, and this is the perfect opportunity to stop and listen and get to know the US Army soldier they have become.
I’m so glad you took the time to stop by! Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions about your soldier’s Army Basic Training Graduation Day. I’m so happy for you during this exciting time. It’s truly moving to see a loved one transform into a soldier, and attending their graduation ceremony is one way to celebrate that change. I hope you get the opportunity to participate in this special occasion. Thank you for reading, and please come again!
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