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Army Graduation Ceremonies

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 differ, 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 could 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.

It was raining during my husband’s ceremony, so it was moved inside and broken down into companies. There was a short speech 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 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 expected 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 spoke on the loudspeaker 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 loudspeaker, 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 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 officially graduating.

Hundreds of soldiers on the field will all look the same with shaved heads in their Class A uniforms. I recommend either taking binoculars or a camera with great zoom so that 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 your soldier’s life, and your family should be there to celebrate his achievement.

PLEASE NOTE: 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.

Airborne Graduation

Some are lucky enough to get to see a jump for graduation. This happens if, for some reason, the soldiers could not get all their jumps in during the week.

Airborne graduation is considerably smaller and shorter than 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 with 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) comes by and asks 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 graduation. 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.

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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37 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for the info !! We will be attending my nephews graduation this weekend and I seen it’s giving rain. That’s how I come up on your post. My family was there about 8 years ago for my other nephew and you are absolutely right the day of graduation is awesome! The feeling you get when you see them coming especially with the loud booming music is Undescribable!!!!! So thank you an thank your husband for me !
    A very proud army aunt
    Laura Stidham

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