18. What happens at graduation? Tell me about civilian clothes, make-up, cameras, visitors and graduation activities.
Graduation will truly be a day you will NEVER forget in your entire life! Believe me, you will be on some kind of "natural high" as you go about your activities (that is provided you have passed all the requirements and are not struggling to try to pass one event or another). Most people who are a failure on graduation day are those who have not passed their PT test or who have not qualified with their rifle or even those who have failed their End-of-Cycle Test (a hands-on test where you will be tested on many of the tasks in the "Smart Book"). It's also possible that you missed some critical training because you were sick or on profile and now have to be taken back to a certain range. We give you about two weeks to pass, and if there are no extenuating circumstances, you'll be unfortunately discharged from the Army.
Usually, the day before graduation, we will have a few briefings planned for your loved ones and friends. Encourage them to come see you graduate. It is a BIG milestone in your life! One briefing that I particularly like is the one for spouses (and even girlfriends can come) and parents where we tell them what kinds of programs and assistance are available to them through the Army. We also give them a briefing with slides on what you did this whole time in BT. Most visitors enjoy that. Then we would march up the soldiers in their Class A uniform..what a sight to see such proud soldiers looking really sharp. I can't tell you how many tears I have seen from family members, and even a few who could not even pick out their son or daughter because they had changed so much! We then dismiss the graduates, and lots of hugs and kisses and pats on the back are given out. Most BT companies will have either a buffet dinner or a picnic (soldiers buy the tickets beforehand). Since it is now usually late afternoon, the soldiers will now spend time with their family, show them around, etc until dinnertime. After dinner, and a chance for the parents to meet the drill sergeants and company cadre, who will also be at the dinner, soldiers with either a parent or husband/wife visiting, will be able to sign themselves out to stay in the hotel with their family. It is rare that we would allow someone to stay overnight with a girlfriend/boyfriend, other friends, etc. We want to minimize the risk of the soldier getting in trouble before they ship, and this is why it is done this way, sorry. All other soldiers must be back in the barracks that night, usually at 11pm.
The morning starts out very early and hectic! This is another reason drill sergeants don't like to see soldiers staying overnight in the hotel. Inevitably, their uniform will be screwed up or they'll be late or whatever. Once the barracks are in order and all their duffel bags and luggage are ready to go, they will be marched either to a parade field (warmer weather) or to an auditorium where family/friends will be waiting. There will be a nice ceremony. You may have more than one company graduating that day. It's always nice to see a paradefield full of soldiers marching in step (you'll be practicing the ceremony many, many days over and over again). If it's in the auditorium, you'll have motivating music and possibly a slideshow..it all depends on the company and how creative the commander is:-))
After graduation, things really start to fly! Most BT posts have a lunch in the dining facility for family and parents, so they can see where you ate. Most dining facility managers will budget so they can serve something nice on this day, such as steak and shrimp. Of course, your parents will think you ate like this all the time! Around the company and the barracks, there is a flurry of activity. Drill sergeants are keeping order by separating soldiers into groups. If your AIT is on the same post, then you will ship to your AIT company immediately following the lunch (you'll most likely be marched over there with your bags following on a truck). Most of the AIT companies will give you a weekend pass (most graduations are on Friday) if you have family here, but don't expect it! All others will be able to spend time with their family and visitors at their BT company until they have to be back to ship (again curfew depends on when you ship). Depending on which post you are going to for AIT, you'll ship either later in the afternoon, the evening, middle of the night or even the next morning. A few recruits with obscure MOSs may even spend a day or two waiting to go. I personally did not like them mixing with those being discharged from the Army, so I would keep them busy in my company orderly room until they left.
As far as cameras, make-up and civilian clothing, here are some pointers. Usually, you will have access to your civilian bag the day before graduation. Dig out your camera and start taking pictures. As far as make-up, some companies will allow it (for females of course) and some will not. You just have to wait and see. Again, nothing outrageous or anything that stands out if it is allowed. You will still not wear any civilian clothes. I don't know what the rules are in AIT, so you may expect something different there when you are on pass. Lastly, this is how I did things at Ft Leonard Wood in MY company. Things may have been slightly different in other companies and things may be very different on the other training posts. Please only use this as a guide.
For more insight, read what a former recruit had to say about graduation at Ft Jackson in 2002:
No they won't be permitted to stay overnight...
You'll be allowed to get on base at about 9:00am and then you'll go to this big family center (huge building) where all the soldiers will sort of give you examples of what they did during basic. They'll sing cadances and show you drills. You'll probably see your boyfriend there, but you won't be allowed to talk to him yet.
After that all of the soldiers will march back to their Company areas (where they've stayed for the last 9 weeks). From there you can walk there or if it's too far... you can drive. You should be able to walk. After you get there, all the soldiers will stand outside in their company areas yelling (I wouldn't call it singing... cadances ) cadances. After that's over your BF will be allowed to see you.
Don't hug or kiss him much outside... I made the mistake of running up to her and hugging her and she told me not too.
You'll be allowed to hug/kiss inside your vehicle. That's what my fiance's DS's told her.
Anyways, the rest of Family Day will be for you and your BF and his family etc. to just stay on base and visit with family. He can go wherever on base for that day. But, he'll have to be back at 8:00pm that night.
The Graduation day will start around 9:00am as well and the ceremony will be VERY crowded, so if you want a good seat, get there 30 minutes early... I'm not joking! The Graduation ceremony will last about an hour and then after it's over all of the soldiers will march down to the far right side of the field (your right... not his) so if you want to see him immediately after graduation get a seat on the right side of the bleachers. Make sure you know where your BF is during the graduation. The only way to know where he'll be is to listen when they announce the company's and try to find him when all the soldiers march by the families (you'll know what I'm talking about when you're there), because there will probably be around 800 or so soldiers graduating and all of their family walking around trying to find each other.
Then at this point he'll be able to stay with you all day again... and if he has family coming, he can get a vehicle pass. My fiance's DS didn't care that she rode around with me without a pass. He even let her go off base with me. At this point, we just hung out at the hotel etc.
But, make sure that he is back once again at 8:00 for his formation.
The next day he'll go to his AIT school... unless he's a "split-op".
I hope that's enough good information! I just went what you went through a couple of months ago, so I know what it feels like...