1. Your name (as you would like it to appear on the website):
2. Where did your soldier attend basic training?
Fort Sill, Oklahoma (E BTRY 1-40 FA 4th PLT)
3. When did he attend basic training?
January 7-March 12, 2010
4. How often did you hear from him? (Phone and letters)
I got letters once or twice a week, and phone calls once a week if I was lucky. His DS was very old school and didn’t like them to have phones, so the calls were usually about 4 or 5 minutes long. The longest call was only 15 minutes.
5. How long was it before you heard from him the first time?
I got a few phone calls right away while he was still in reception, and then I didn’t hear anything from him for almost 3 weeks– I was ecstatic when the first letter arrived!
6. How long did it take to receive a mailing address for him? About 3 weeks.
7. Were there any restrictions on what you could send him?
Yes, all listed on the battery website (which you can find at http://sill-www.army.mil – look for the link that says “Training Units” and follow from there). I never sent him anything but letters/cards because I didn’t want to get him in trouble.
8. Were you sent information about family day and graduation?
Not directly (I’m only the girlfriend ^_^). His mom received information, but forgot to give it to me before my trip. This is where the website is incredibly useful– everything you need to know about graduation will be posted online a week or two before the event.
9. Did he have a family day? If so, please describe.
Family Day took place on post the day before his graduation, and while it was fun it was also kind of a waste of time. The families were told to arrive by 8:45 am, but when we got there his commanders told us that the event didn’t start until 11! They claimed to have “changed” the time, but my boyfriend told us later that while we were waiting, they were cleaning the barracks one last time >_<. There were several ceremonies inside the Gunner’s Inn, including recognition of superior performance and promotions. We also watched a slideshow of some of the highlights of training.
Afterwards they had us move to bleachers that had been set up out on the field. Our soldiers marched in, and performed some demonstrations for us. It was actually kind of funny– sort of a before/after look at their training. Of course, I was mostly looking for my boyfriend… it took almost the whole demonstration to locate him in his platoon! We also witnessed a naturalization ceremony for 4 soldiers, which was pretty inspiring. After the demo they sent the soldiers back to the barracks to change into their Class A’s (which took FOREVER), and then sent them out in two groups and released them on pass. All told it was a little after noontime when we finally got to leave with him. We went to lunch, visited some museums, shopped at the PX, and then he and I went off on our own to have a date. He had to be back at the barracks by 8:00 pm, but be sure to get them there by 7:45 for final formation.
10. Please describe the graduation ceremony.
The graduation was fantastic! We arrived at the McMahon auditorium a little after 9 am so that we would be able to get good seats, and we could see all the soldiers inside walking around (the building has huge glass doors/windows in the front, so it was easy to spot him as he walked by). We waved and made faces and generally embarrassed him ^_^.
They let us in a little after 9:30, and the soldiers were all seated in the auditorium, completely silent and looking forward. We spotted my boyfriend right away and took seats in the aisle across from him, so we could take pictures. We got him to wave once or twice, but mostly he behaved himself. All during the ceremonies you are welcome to walk around and take as many pictures as you like, and the soldiers can’t do anything but sit there! A brass band played some music, there were the usual comments from cadre, and they whipped through the actual graduation (say your name, get handshakes, sit down). I have to admit, though, I almost cried when they recited the Soldier’s Creed, all together. Very powerful. Then they showed us a video with footage from training– I got to see my boyfriend throwing a grenade! It was funny because they told all the new soldiers to say “Hooah” every time a new activity was shown. You’ve never heard “Hooah” until you’ve heard it from 150 people all at once! At the end they dismissed the soldiers from the auditorium, while they were marching in cadence (something about “Drill Sergeant why don’t you leave me alone/why don’t you let me go home ^_^). They made them form up by platoon outside, wait about 2 minutes, and then they were released to us on pass again. They were done by 11 am, but like Family Day that had to be back on the Drill Pad for final formation by 7:45 pm.
11. Is there a website for his basic training unit? Is there a place to see pictures of his training online?
The website can be found from the Fort Sill website, but it was only marginally useful. His commanding officers were kind of disorganized, so there were no newsletters until he was almost finished (and even then they posted them all at once), and they never posted photos of the training.
12. Any other tips or information?
Take money with you on Family Day/Graduation if you want a platoon or battalion t-shirt, DVD of the training exercises, or a copy of the slideshow. Be sure to check with your Soldier first, though– my boyfriend already had copies of his formal portrait, the DVD slideshow, and 2 platoon t-shirts. His parents bought a yearbook ($15) and a copy of the platoon photo ($?); I bought a battalion t-shirt ($15).
Be sure to leave earlier than you think you need to for both events– parking lots fill up fast on post, and also the signage is confusing (I got lost on my way to the Gunner’s Inn– follow the map they send you!). Most of all, just enjoy every second that you get to spend with your soldier. Those two days go by so fast, and then they’re off to AIT!