As I am sitting down to write this, it occurred to me that I probably should have written it as soon as I came home from each graduation rather than waiting more than a year. Of course, I can only give you insight into the graduations I have attended. If your ceremonies are different, please email me so I can include the information.
Basic/AIT (OSUT) for Infantry
My husband attended OSUT, which is basic and AIT all rolled into one for infantry soldiers at Ft. Benning. The day before graduation, they have a “turning blue” ceremony. This is when the soldiers are presented with their blue cord that signifies that they are infantry. For me, it meant I was able to see my husband for the first time in months.
First, we were all brought inside and were treated to a speech by their commander and shown a short video. He also taught everyone how to say “hooah” and when it was appropriate to say it – and we were tested on it.
During my husband’s ceremony, it was raining, so it was moved inside and broken down to companies. There was a short speech given and Army wives, families and other attendees were invited to come up on stage and attach our soldier’s cord. I was very proud that my husband asked me to do the honor and THRILLED to be face to face with him again.
If your soldier does not have anyone at this ceremony, the DS will put the cord on for him. The ceremony as a whole was very short and he was then released for the afternoon. Of course, the first thing he wanted was food from a real restaurant so we promptly headed out to eat. He was in uniform and I enjoyed watching people come up to him to say thanks.
The next day was graduation. If your soldier is graduating from Ft Benning, be prepared for any type of weather. I was born and raised in Georgia and still live here and the weather is unpredictable at best. As I am writing this, it is in the 20s. Just last week it was 80 degrees. In Georgia, you just never know. If it is cold, they will have blankets that will be passed out before the ceremony starts but only about 10% of the people there will actually end up with one. Keep in mind you will be sitting on metal bleachers. Hot or cold, the bleachers will reflect that so be prepared with something to sit on during the graduation.
I’ll have to admit that I was expecting graduation to be kind of “boring” like it was the day before at the turning blue ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I was very proud of my husband but there just wasn’t a lot of hoopla involved. But this ceremony was completely different. There were demonstrations on the field and the commander was speaking over the loud speaker about what each soldier was doing. Then they have an “attack” and they throw “grenades” etc. – lots of smoke on the field. Then “Bad to the Bone” starts to play over the loud speaker and the tanks come rolling onto the field and the good guys prevail. I thought it was awesome but then I’m a sucker for stuff like that!
Perhaps the most exciting part was when off in the distance on the opposite side of the field, you could see the soldiers – our soldiers – walking in formation toward the field. It took what seemed like forever for them to get there. They then went through some ceremonial things – saluting, about face, saying the creed, etc. – before they officially graduated.
There will be hundreds of soldiers on the field who all look the same with shaved heads in their Class A uniforms. I recommend either taking binoculars or a camera with a great zoom so you can locate your soldier. After the ceremony ended, we were invited to the field where they were allowed about fifteen minutes to take pictures, etc. The soldiers had another formation and then were released for the weekend.
My husband, however, was going to Airborne School. So rather than be released, he had to report to Airborne. Just FYI for all of you (it took us a while to figure this out), the airborne barracks are not on Sand Hill. They are on the main post – look for the jump towers. Also, inprocessing takes the better part of a day so don’t wait on your soldier to eat (as we did). He was finally released around 7:30 – 8:00 that night for the weekend.
I receive many emails asking how many people are allowed to attend graduation. The answer is however many you would like to bring with you to attend. This is a huge day in the life of your soldier and your family should be there to celebrate his achievement.
PLEASE NOTE: In August of 2006, I received an email from someone who attended graduation at Ft. Benning. The letter that was sent to families said graduation started at 10am but it actually started at 9am. Do yourself a favor and ARRIVE EARLY. Many families missed the ceremony.
Some are lucky enough to get to see a jump for graduation. This happens if for some reason the soldiers were not able to get all of their jumps in during the week. Airborne graduation is considerably smaller and shorter that Basic/AIT grad. Again, there is a speaker and the guys recite a few things (including some cadences, which I’m also a sucker for!). Then the soldiers who have someone else who is airborne qualified in their family are asked to step forward. These soldiers have their airborne wings pinned on first. Just a note: the black hat (airborne instructor) does come by and ask what class you graduated from. Several anxious parents went up to pin their soldiers who were not airborne and were asked to sit back down. After this is complete, everyone is invited to pin their soldier. Technically, “blood wings” where they pierce the skin when you’re pinned are not allowed, but I can guarantee you some soldiers were given this honor anyway. They were released for the weekend after graduation.
My Experience Only…
Please know that this is only my experience at graduations. You may find ceremonies to be different and your soldier may have more or less free time after the ceremony. If at all possible, do what you can to attend their graduations. There is no way to describe the enormous sense of pride you will feel as they complete their first step in Army life.