Air Force boot camp is 71/2 grueling weeks of military training and a complete lifestyle makeover. From their hair to their clothing, these enlistees are re-made into defenders of the United States. Finally, after weeks of being pushed to the limit and beyond, the trainees are ready for graduation.
BMT graduation is held at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, parents and family members are encouraged to attend these emotionally moving ceremonies and to see their child or loved one once again before they are off to tech school to continue their training. Families have 3 days of visitation time, possibly four if the trainee achieved honor status.
The first day is filled with anticipation, standing and waiting, then sitting and waiting, and finally the first touch in 8 weeks. That one touch on the cheek makes all the waiting worthwhile.
Briefing and Airmen’s RunThe first day of events starts with a briefing which all family members are required to attend. There are 4 such briefings, 2 on the first day and 2 on the second. Only one is necessary. This briefing explains to the families what has been happening with their child and the do’s and don’ts while visiting them.
After the briefing, which is about an hour, families move to the roadside outside the building to watch the trainees sing Jodie’s as they run their morning route. Keep in mind this is the first glimpse of the trainee in many weeks. Emotions run high and tears are likely to be seen on most faces.
Seeing some 500+ young men chanting as they run in formation grips at the heartstrings and stirs emotions in everyone; they have been giving their all for many weeks and now they are at the finish line, close to becoming Airmen.
There is a break between the Airmen’s Run and the Coin Ceremony. However, for families who did not attend the first Briefing, there is another one held during this time.
The Coin Ceremony is the next event. This event is the presentation of the Airmen’s Coin to the trainees. This coin symbolizes their transition from trainees to Airmen and is a very solemn and proud time. Families are seated in bleachers and chairs around the pad area during the ceremony.
For this ceremony the trainees are in dress blues. As they march in to the grounds area with their flight, the entire scene is a sea of blue. After speeches and instructions to the training instructors to present the coins, the trainees are given their coins. During this part, the trainees’ names are not called out individually; however, the location of each flight is listed on a map.
At the end of the presentation, the trainees are released to their families for on-base liberty. Many parents and families might not know to ‘tap’ their family member out of formation; however, it is a part of the process. The trainee will remain in formation until touched by a family member. This first touch or hug is another emotional moment. At this point families and their trainees can visit different places on the base and have lunch together.
The exception to this is for the honor graduates. Those trainees who are in the top 10% of their graduating class, the top female PT, the top male PT, and the top overall graduate are honored at a special ceremony immediately following the coin ceremony. Here, they are recognized for their achievements and presented with another coin or plaque.
After a few hours spent having lunch or just sitting around talking and catching up, it will be time for trainees to report back to their barracks. Graduation day is just around the corner.