What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day

 

What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day

 

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!

Attire

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.

On-Post Access

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.

Location

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.

Seating

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.

Photos

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 Ceremony

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!

Also in this series:

What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day 

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Army Basic Training: Phone Call Rules

 

Phone Calls during Army Basic Training + Cell Phones at Army Basic Training

 

I remember as a kid riding past one of the Basic training areas on Ft. Knox (back when there was a bootcamp there) and seeing lines of soldiers standing at a series of pay phones.  It was a moving image of just how much the soldiers wanted to check in with home.  They would stand and stand and stand until they got the chance to say hello–to hear a loved one’s voice.  I’ll always remember that picture of love.

Fast-forward 10 years later and my husband became one of those soldiers in need of a chance to use the phone.  But in the world of cell phones, long lines of pay phones aren’t really necessary at Basic Training.  (Fun fact: I do see phone stations on post still…But they’re always empty).

A quick disclaimer: policies stated in this post can vary depending upon the platoon, as cell phone usage is completely dependent upon the Drill Sergents’ discretion in each platoon.  So anything you see here regarding the frequency of calls is DEFINITELY subject to change.

Cell Phones At Drop-off

First off– when you drop your future soldier off with the recruiter, leave his phone with him.  You might have heard “he can’t have his phone at Basic” or he can’t have it when he processes.  True, he can’t use it.  But he can bring it with him.  So definitely encourage him to take it.  His phone will not get confiscated and thrown away.  It will definitely get taken, but it will be held safe and secure until he is allowed to use it.  SEND IT WITH HIM.

When he lands in the airport (if he flew), he might be allowed to call you.  This is the infamous 30-second phone call you might have heard about.  It’s just a chance for him to tell you he is okay and just landed.  It’s a nice call to get.

Cell Phones At In-Processesing

Almost nobody talks about in-procesesing.  In fact, I feel like I need to write a whole post on it.  But basically, before your soldier begins his 10 or 14 or 16 weeks of boot camp, he has to process into the Army.  For OSUT guys, for instance, this takes 7-10 days.  This is the point that his cell phone will be turned in and stored away.  He won’t get to use it here, but they will give it back to him when he leaves for his official Basic Training area.

Cell Phones At Basic Training

The first day of Basic Training, he will once again turn his phone in.  The phones are kept locked up with the Drill Sergeants.  They aren’t stored in a huge mass pile in a warehouse where your soldier will never see it again (thank goodness).  It’s definitely not like having an item confiscated in an airport, never to be seen again.  The Drill Sergeants keep a labeled crate of each platoon’s phones and chargers, and they bring them out at the same time when soldiers are given the chance to use them.  Don’t worry about the safety of his phone–it won’t get stolen or lost.

Phone Call Frequency

The first three weeks of Basic Training (Red Phase) are the most strict.  While it is extremely unlikely that your soldier will be allowed to call during this time, it is still possible.  And onward from Red Phase, the likelihood of your soldier being able to call is increased.  It is all according to the discretion of the Drill Sergeants.  They feel under no obligation to let the soldiers call (unlike mail call, which is a regular occurrence), but they might use it as a morale booster or reward for excellent training.

During training, platoons will sometimes earn a perk for finishing the best, and often that reward is a phone call.  Sometimes too, the Drill Sergeants are feeling nice and will give the soldiers their phones for a bit on Sunday, to make calls.  This is why its KEY for your soldier to have brought his phone.  If he doesn’t have it, he will have to ask one of his buddies to share their phone.  And while a good battle buddy might do that, both soldiers will get significantly less time to talk on the phone!

Again, phone call frequency varies IMMENSELY depending on the Drill Sergeants, and even the Company’s SOP.  While one platoon might get to have their cell phones 4 times during Basic Training, another platoon might only win 1 phone call, and never be given another opportunity to call besides that.  It is all completely dependent upon a variety of facts that change throughout the training year (and with each Drill Sergeant).   I have heard of spouses getting as many as 8 calls, while others received as little as 2.

Phone Call Length

You probably already have guessed this, but phone call length varies enormously as well (especially if your soldier is sharing a phone!)  My shortest call was the 30-second one, and my longest was 3 hours.  It just depends one when/why your soldier gets to call you.

Sometimes the soldiers are given their phones to make calls at the end of the night, and they don’t have to be turned back in until training the next morning.  This is rare, but it is really, really nice when it does happen.  Nothing is better than an all-night phone call!  But if this never happens to you, don’t feel bad.   Any call and every call is amazing.  Length doesn’t matter once you hear their voice on the phone!!

Phone Call Privacy

Contrary to popular belief, the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and listen to their phone calls.  All calls are conducted in the bay (barracks) where the soldiers sleep.  So while there isn’t total privacy, since your soldier will be surrounded by his entire platoon, he will at least have privacy from his Drill Sergeants.  And to be honest, the other soldiers won’t be sitting there listening to each other’s calls–they will be too busy making there own!

The same goes for texting–the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and read all their texts.  If your soldier gets the chance to text or call you, rest assured that both of you will be able to carry on a normal conversation.  Talking in a busy bay might not be the best setting for a phone call, but it beats sitting in a phone booth with a line of 20 people behind you!

Final Takeaways

  • Phone calls from Basic Training are completely inconsistent, unpredictable, and amazing.
  • Soldiers–TAKE YOUR PHONE to Basic Training.  You’ll want it.
  • Loved Ones–ANSWER EVERY CALL YOU GET.  Answering unknown numbers is scary.  But missing a call from your soldier is worse.

Hopefully you found some answers here regarding phone calls and cell phones at Army Basic Training.  If you’re wondering about something I might have missed, please ask in the comment section below!  As always, thank you for stopping by.  Come back soon!

 

~Read next:~Army Basic Training: Letter Writing Myths~

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An Open Letter to the Girl that Just Said Goodbye to her Future Soldier

It was the hardest hug we ever had.

I know we hugged, I’m sure we kissed, but the entire goodbye was so shaking that it was an instantaneous blur.  The moment his arms slid off me, my heart crumbled into a million pieces.  I got back in the car and watched him walk away for Basic Training Camp.  I burst into tears and sobbed harder than I have ever cried.  We had only been married for three weeks.

I don’t feel the need to share this with you because I think I’m the only one and somehow my story might make a dramatic impression on your mind.  I feel like I need to share this because I know that I’m not the only one.  I’m one of the thousands of girls every year that had a goodbye.  A really, really hard one.  One that American girls have been doing since 1775.  Your man is going off to be a soldier.  And though you want to be that proud Army-strong girl– in that goodbye moment–you are simply just his girl.  And it hurts to let go of that hug.  Because it hurts to let go of him.

Some of you have asked me if it gets better.  I can honestly say yes and no.  Missing him never goes away.  Loving him never changes.  Feeling like your world isn’t right when he’s not there will continue on, throughout this separation and into the next one.  But what does change is you.

It’s hard to believe that, because he’s gone and you’re still the same person that he left behind.  Or are you?  I bet that you didn’t know that it would feel quite like this.  And in examining that, you’re learning more about yourself.  About your emotions–maybe even an emotional side of you that you’ve never discovered before.  And learning to face them is definitely an exercise in change. You might have tried to distract yourself with something–and that’s developing a new skill or interest in you.  It doesn’t have to be a new crazy activity like skydiving.  Even just picking up extra hours on your shift to pass the time by is you doing something different.  It’s YOU changing.

The thing is, we all know that we can’t change our soldier’s situation.  He can’t accelerate through Basic and come home early.  He can’t stop training and come home for our birthday.  And no matter how much we wish he could, he can’t just pick up the phone for a goodnight check-in.  But we can change our situation.  And like I said above, a lot of times we change our situation (or ourselves) without realizing it.

The first night home alone, I cried myself to sleep.  And I’m not going to pretend it was the only time I cried while he was gone.  But I will say, I didn’t cry myself to sleep every night.  And it’s not because I stopped missing him.  It’s because my heart started learning how to cope.  It’s almost as if my heart got stretched, all the way from Virginia (where I was) to Georgia (where he was).  At first, it hurt terribly.  My heart was so, so sore from the stretching.  But over time, it became limber.  I began to feel how flexible my heart was.  How I could indeed be sad, but how I could also spend many days happy.

The easy days didn’t come automatically, and they didn’t come early on after he left.  But eventually, a few weeks in, I was able to begin making my peace with our situation.  I could either fight within myself for all 16 weeks and feel gutted, lonely, and crushed.  Or I could begin to become the Army-strong girl I always pictured myself being.  I had to do this, because I knew that he would walk out of Basic Training camp with 16 weeks of change in his heart and on his shoulders.  I didn’t want him to be the only one that grew.  I wanted to change with him.

I think I want to share a post about all ways I learned to change, and things I did to help my heart cope with the cure. But for now I at least want to say that, to the girl who just said goodbye to your future soldier: thank you.  Because people will stop your soldier throughout his service and thank him.  And they should.  But almost nobody will thank you, and you’re the loving force behind his service. I’m not making that up either.  Your soldier will tell you that he couldn’t have done this without your support.  And he really means it.  His leadership will also tell you that.  They always do, and they always mean it.

I’ve always felt this about us Army-girls: “Behind every great man is a great woman.” And I think any soldier would tell you that’s true. So let’s be gentle with ourselves, right now, while we’re hurting.  But let us take comfort in the fact that one day, our hearts will learn to stretch.  We will grow and change and somehow learn to cope along the way.  Because this is only the beginning of our journey in supporting a great man, for our great country.  And we can really, truly do this.

~~ Now go get your pens and start writing him a letter! ~~

 

Read next: The 5 Secretes I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

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What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day

 

What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day

 

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: 

What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day

 

 

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10 Things I Learned During Our First “Real” PCS

10 Things I Learned During Our First Real PCS

After moving 10 times (Army brat life), I thought I pretty much had the whole PCSing thing down pat. (For non-military fam readers, PCS means Permanent Change of Station, and it’s the military term for moving from place to place). Then I made my first official move as an Army wife and learned that I didn’t actually have it all down pat. Big surprise. <–not really.

One important note: this is actually our second “move” but it’s still our first real PCS. It’s the first time that we were being sent somewhere, by the Army, during which they fully helped us with the move (giving us time, resources, etc). Our first move deserves a blog post of it’s own, but to put it simply: it was one of those scrappy throw-your-goods-in-a-Uhaul-and-drive kind of deals that happened in a 48-hour period. We had just gotten married and were moving in together, at our new assignment. This time around, we were given a whole month’s notice to move *gasp!* So this PCS was basically great. Kind of.

Anyway, despite the big “notice” we had ahead of the PCS, and the fact that it was to be my 11th move, I learned a lot.  Quite a bit more than I thought I would, and I plan to keep these things in mind for our next move. Which is scheduled to be in the next 6 months. We shall see if that actually happens or not!

1. Things happened fast.

I wasn’t anticipating such a great (read: TIMELY) moving team. They packed AND moved us in 1 day. That rarely happens. Ever. And their drop-off day was 3 business days after pick-up. That’s also a little (read: VERY) unusual. We literally sat in our apartment and within the same day, it was completely boxed up and emptied out. When we got to our next station, everything was unloaded and in our new house within a week of when it was taken from our apartment. I was utterly impressed. And grateful because I had horrible morning sickness. #9weekspregnant

2. Everything goes.

I knew the packers would pack everything besides perishables and liquids. But on our end of the process, I wasn’t expecting to take everything. We donated one trunkful of items, and threw away quite a bit of open food, but that was it. (Note: sorting through food is NOT a first-trimester-morning-sickness-friendly activity. I do not recommend it). I had totally planned to do a grand and rigorous pack-n-purge before the move. But it turns out I was in the early stages of my second pregnancy when we moved and morning sickness was way too much of an obstacle. We just ended up taking everything, and that was okay in the end. It was nobody’s fault but my own, but I realized that for next move, things aren’t going to throw themselves out! haha

3. Not everyone wants pizza 3 meals a day.

Crazy, right?  Jk.  I didn’t think about how often the packers/movers are offered pizza. It was too hard not to feed the crew because there they were, working in my house all day. But I wish I would have REALLY asked them what they wanted, because no family of three needs $40 worth of pizza. haha They were gracious but pretty much hardly partook of the meal. I learned from this, especially since some crews are understaffed (on purpose) and like to plow through the workday as fast as they can. In that case, maybe having grazable snacks and drinks on hand is more flexible for them, and for us.

4. The truth doesn’t always come out on the paperwork.

I learned this one the hard way.  The head packer told me straight to my face that he wouldn’t notate on paperwork that any of my furniture or belongings were damaged, unless they really were. He schmoozed us reassuringly, saying he didn’t want to just “cover” for his company and that they would accurately describe my items’ conditions. It was all talk. When I got my paperwork and all my belongings on the other side of the move, the paperwork was not accurate for many items. Almost every item that had even the slightest bit of value was marked as damaged and some items were severely misrepresented. To the point that I was like… “Wait, are we even talking about the same item? If my electric keyboard was this horrendously mangled, it wouldn’t even turn on.” It was frustrating to say the least.

5. The paperwork was more detailed than I thought.

While the “conditions” section of the paperwork was heavily inaccurate, I was shocked at how descriptive the paperwork was (in a good way). Any item not in a box, was listed (strollers, chairs, baskets, guitars, table legs, etc.) by name.  And the boxes were all vaguely described as well. I thought we would just have 45 identical boxes with “bedroom” or “living room” marked on them. But no! Each (numbered) box was also given a brief/vague description on paperwork. This made hunting for lost items infinitely easier during the unpacking phase!

6. Things I packed got repacked.

I had plastic storage tubs of winter clothes, college papers, Army equipment, etc. And some bins they left as-is. But others they dumped out and filled with other items that they wanted in tubs. They repacked some of my Christmas decor that we had already packed in cardboard boxes. (<–they didn’t want to be liable for any poor packing on my part).

I also heard a common moving trick is to cling wrap dressers and drawer units, with everything in them. It’s supposed to cut down on time and boxes. That Pinterest hack didn’t quite reach my moving team. But I suppose moving companies can’t take that kind of contents damage risk and so every. single. drawer. was emptied into a box (or 5 boxes). Basically, moral of the story is don’t spend a lot of time packing things yourself, because they will get repacked. And don’t bother organizing your drawers before the move because everything will be taken out of them.

7. It’s hard to lose a box.

I’m not trying to sound like a newbie. I know TONS of people have horror stories of losing important or special items during a move. One day, I will probably join their hallowed ranks. But I pictured our belongings being shoved on a big truck that had other people’s belongings on them.  I figured we would just have to keep our fingers crossed that, when they arrived at our new house, the majority of our boxes would still be on the truck. Our apartment was so small though that we had our own moving truck (not shared) and it was never opened once the packers closed the door for good. It stayed locked up and arrived at our new destination, untouched.

And at our new destination, I was given a sheet (the infamous aforementioned paperwork) and crossed off EVERY SINGLE ITEM (box or loose item) as they were carried into the new house. It was impossible to be missing something, because I literally approved of every item being brought inside, and had total awareness if something hadn’t been brought in yet.  Again, years (and moves) later I will probably be laughing at this after losing a good couple of boxes and items during a PCS.  But for now, I’m riding on the coattails of our previous success and am feeling really great that it was so easy to keep track of our goods.

8. Our hotel bills were reimbursed.

I didn’t quite realize this would happen.  After our first move, we got quite a bit of money reimbursement for “moving ourselves.” We were given a surplus of money that way covered our actual expenses. I thought that since this move was completely paid for by the military, that we wouldn’t get any compensation besides the requisite DLA (Dislocation Allowance Pay–it’s basically consolation money for having to pick up and move houses, which gets expensive because the little things add up). Turns out, the Army paid for our hotels AND our pet fees in retrospect. (Note: they reimburse you for up to 10 days, but we didn’t need all 10).  And that hotel money had nothing to do with the DLA, which we also got.  Yay!

9. I hate boxes.

I didn’t quite comprehend just how much of a pain it would be to get all those boxes broken down and out of our house. Remember my “to-do” list entry from last month? Yeah, that’s because we ended up storing all the empty boxes (full of packing paper) in our unused basement storage room, since bulk trash is on an every-two-weeks schedule. We needed somewhere to put them, but once they were out of sight, out of mind…they just lived there in our basement. Turns out we are just finally clearing the boxes out now. We moved in April. *sigh*

10. The movers rebuild your life and your house for you.

Kind of.  Basically, besides carrying everything back inside, the movers will also rebuild any furniture that was taken apart.  Maybe that’s not surprising to some, but I was in happy shock.  I knew they would put all the boxes and everything in the appropriate rooms. But our movers went above and beyond that.  They actually reassembled furniture.  I have a mini crib that is IMPOSSIBLE to build. I was dreading anything happening to it. But the packers/movers on one end took it apart, and the movers on the other end put it back together. A total relief!  Especially because I’m going to be needing that crib soon! <3

If you’ve already PCS’d quite a few times, maybe you already knew all these things. Or maybe you’re laughing because you know they will never, EVER happen again to me. I’m okay with that–I fully expect every move to be wildly different. And I know moving companies themselves have totally different procedures and policies. Hence why after 10 moves, I still was surprised by some things this time around. But if you haven’t PCS’d a million times, maybe some of these sound surprising to you too.  I’d love to know what experiences you’ve had with PCSing.  Please leave a comment below!  And thanks for stopping by!

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