1. Your name (as you would like it to appear on the website): Emily
2. Where did your soldier attend basic training?
Ft Jackson, SC
3. When did he attend basic training?
4. How often did you hear from him? (Phone and letters)
Letters: He’s not a fan of writing but he tried to write to me every few days. I averaged 2-3 letters per week
Phone: In reception he called every evening. Once they started red phase no calls until white phase and then we only got calls every few weeks. The entire BCT portion I received a total of 5 phone calls, mostly from the last few weeks.
5. How long was it before you heard from him the first time?
They had him call once he got to reception
6. How long did it take to receive a mailing address for him?
They had him call as he started red phase to give out their mailing address. It was a 60 second phone call and I couldn’t understand what he said so I took the information I got from him and looked at the Ft Jackson website to piece together his address. I received the first mail from him about 3 weeks after he left.
7. Were there any restrictions on what you could send him?
YES! They could not receive anything really except for letters, pictures and a few personal items such as band aids, cough drops, etc. I would suggest asking your soldier what you can send since even flavored cough drops were considered candy and NOT allowed. He had to do push ups for each piece of mail received, more push ups for bigger packages.
8. Were you sent information about family day and graduation?
I may have gotten a small information pamphlet in the mail but most of the information came from Facebook. His Battalion, 3-13, used Facebook to post graduation information.
9. Did he have a family day? If so, please describe.
Yes. It was wonderful to spend time with him. They had a short ceremony in the morning outside. At the end of the ceremony all the soldiers had to stay in formation until their family came down and found them. My husband was able to tell me where he was so I found him quickly. Other soldiers had to stand there for up to 20 minutes before their families found them. They are arranged by company A-F left to right as you’re looking at the field. Each company is arranged by platoon 1-4 left to right. I recommend taking binoculars to find them easier during the presentation. Luckily for us only half of the Battalion was graduating that week so only 3 companies were present. We had to stay on Post for all of family day but it wasn’t as crowded as usual although we saw the line for Burger King and it looked ridiculous. Someone last year recommended taking a picnic to Twin Lakes and we decided to do that. We had come from California so the night before we went to Super Walmart (about 1/2 mile outside gate 2) and picked up a tiny bbq grill, some hot dogs and other snacks (also a dollar tree store near walmart). Twin lake was beautiful. They have many picnic tables and some of the larger pavilion areas do have bbq grills though there aren’t very many of those. There are two entrances to the lake on the right side of the road. We took the second entrance and drove around to the back of the lake. Very beautiful, quiet and not crowded. We were there most of the day relaxing and picnicking. Not a whole lot to do so if you get bored easily take some books or games. We just enjoyed talking and took a nap on the grass. In the evening we went to the company dinner at the NCO club. They had a standard buffet for $7 or an upgraded buffet for around $10. We ended up doing the upgraded but all they had was some ribs, ham, rice and potato salad. No salad or anything fresh. Some of the Drill Sergeants were there meeting families so it was a great opportunity to meet them and some of my husbands buddies. He had to be back in formation at 9:30pm at the barracks. We watched them do push ups and then they asked the families to leave for the rest of the night.
10. Please describe the graduation ceremony.
There were a lot more people there for the graduation ceremony but getting in through the gates didn’t seem to take as long. I would still go early though. The graduation took longer and instead of meeting the soldiers on the field they had them march off to the far right of the field. After we were excused to go find them my husband was able to call and find me. I would definitely recommend setting up a meeting place since I never would have found him without him calling and he really wasn’t suppose to call. We went as fast as possible to his barracks to sign him out. There was already a bit of a line to sign him out when we got there and it takes awhile to get through. Basically the spouse or parent has to sign a paper with name, contact information, etc and then show driving registration or some other similar paperwork. We had a rental car so we just showed them the rental car agreement. We were switching rental cars so we were a little worried they would see our rental car agreement expired that day but they didn’t really look at it, just wanted to make sure you had something on the vehicle you were driving.
11. Is there a website for his basic training unit? Is there a place to see pictures of his training online?
Yes. Ft Jackson’s website is http://www.army.mil/info/organization/jackson/. The BCT unit pages can be found here http://www.jackson.army.mil/sites/bct/. Use the drop down menus near the top to find the unit pages. From there I was able to find his unit page. Most companies do not keep current information on their unit pages but ours updated it about every week or two. Facebook had the best information for his Battalion. I was able to find a Facebook link at the bottom of his unit page. His Battalion also used twitter, again I found it at the bottom of his unit page. Not really any pictures of his training, but the twitter updates were fantastic!
12. Any other tips or information?
The night before family day we went on post to get the lay out and find Hilton Field. We drove through the main gate and they gave us a pass for the car. They also said for graduation you could go through any gate although the official information will tell you to go through gate 4. We did go through gate 4 in the morning and it was already backed up by 7am. We got through in plenty of time but again only 3 out of 6 companies were graduating so it was half as crowded. Definitely get there early to make sure you won’t have any problems being delayed at the gates. Make sure you take a map of Ft Jackson with you. Here’s a link to a basic map http://www.jackson.army.mil/images/cant_grad1105.pdf . On this map twin lakes recreational area is across the road from Red # 4 Heise Pond. Also the soldiers’ cell phones were locked up most of the time and they did not permanently receive them back until the day before family day.