Air Force Lackland Military Travel

Air Force Basic Training Graduation

Air Force Basic Training Graduation is an Airman’s first step into their career, a huge accomplishment and an unforgettable moment for both them and their family and friends. To take the stress out of your trip here’s all you need to know for Air Force Basic Training graduation.

Air Force Basic Training Graduation Dates 2019

Air Force Basic Training Start DateAir Force Basic Training Graduation Date
May-8-2019July-3-2019 (July 4th is Town Pass, July 5th is Graduation Parade)
Air Force Basic Training Graduation Dates 2019

Where is Air Force Basic Training Graduation?

Air Force Basic Training Graduation is held at Lackland Air Force Base in the city of San Antonio. When traveling to graduation San Antonio International Airport (SAT), quick 20-minute drive to the base, is the easiest airport to fly into.

If you are driving, the GPS for Lackland Air Force base are:

What do I need to get on to Lackland Air Force base?

Each trainee must complete a Visitor Access Request Letter (VARL) for all anticipated guests to receive passes. Guests must have their Visitor Access Pass and a picture ID in order to enter Lackland Air Force Base. 

Each trainee must complete a Visitor Access Request Letter (VARL) for all anticipated guests to receive passes. Once completed, the trainee will mail these passes home.

Most VARL forms are obtained from the recruiting service and are completed by the trainee prior to departing for Basic Military Training. However, in some unique situations, your trainee may contact you stating to complete a VARL form, or ask for information so they can complete this form.

Trainees are responsible for mailing out passes during the 3rd week of training. You should receive your Visitor Access Pass (VAP) by the 5th week of training.

If you do not receive your VAP, reach out to your trainee through a Sandboxx Letter or during an authorized telephone call. If you do not have a VAP, or a valid Department of Defense ID, you will not be allowed access to the base. Due to Lackland Air Force Base security procedures, you may experience delays getting onto base.

Each visitor must have a pass issued in their name and a picture ID card (government issued) in their possession while at Lackland.

If you did not receive a Visitor Access Pass prior to arriving at Lackland, you are required to visit the Luke East Visitor Center upon arrival, which is open 24 hours daily. The BMT Reception Center cannot verify guest lists or visitor pass issuance. You may check with your trainee during an authorized telephone call on the status of your pass or passes.

Also, note that vehicle insurance and registration will be asked for if you arrive by car.

Air Force Basic Training Graduation Dress Code

Air Force Basic Training Graduation Dress Code

The Airman in Training will be dressed in their dress uniforms. You can dress casually, or in your Sunday’s best, there’s no official dress code.

We recommend checking the weather a day in advance. Lackland is in Texas so it tends to be on the warmer side but that can also mean rain showers so be prepared for all weather scenarios when packing.

All Air Force graduation ceremonies take place outside so you will have to endure the elements. Only in extreme weather conditions will, graduation takes place indoors, so bring an umbrella and some sunscreen, you can never be too prepared!

How Many Can Attend Air Force Graduation

Each trainee is allowed to bring up to 10 loved ones to Graduation day. Children or those with military affiliation are not included in this number so this should allow most of your future Airman’s loved ones to attend.


Air Force Basic Training Graduation Schedule

Thursday – Coin and Retreat Ceremony

07:00 and 09:00 – Orientation Briefings

Orientation briefings take place at Pfingston Reception Center, where loved ones of new Airman given all the information they need to know about graduation weekend. Briefings will take place before and after the Airman’s run, you need only attend one.

08:00 – Airman’s Run

The Airman’s run will be the first time you see your new Airman since they left for Basic training and is a proud and cherished moment for families and friends. Don’t be surprised if your Airman is unrecognizable at first, they have undergone a huge transformation not only mentally but physically as well.

The Airman’s run is a 2.5 mile run across the Retreat Pad where you can cheer your Airman as they run by singing “Joedies” in flight formation. Joedies are military cadences the trainees run to during BMT.

On this day they will be singing loud and proud for all of the families to hear as they cross the Retreat Pad twice, giving you plenty of opportunities to get pictures and videos.

09:45 – Airman, Spouse, and Parent Orientation

At Pfingston Reception Center, attendees will learn about tech training, pay, entitlements, benefits, and available services now that their Trainee has officially become an Airman and is useful to attend.

10:30 – Honor Grad Reception

The Commander of BMT invites honor graduates and their families to a special ceremony in their honor prior to the start of the Airman’s Coin Ceremony which begins at 10:45.

All families attending Air Force graduation should be in their seats by no later than 10:30 as there is little to no interlude between the ceremonies. This will give you a chance to set yourself up for all those pictures you’re going to want to take.

After the Honor Grad Reception, any graduating non-U.S. Citizen trainees will recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and be naturalized.

11:00 – Airman’s Coin Ceremony

The Coin Ceremony is the official point when a trainee becomes an Airman, this is the moment your trainee has worked tirelessly for over the past eight weeks.

The Coin Ceremony starts immediately after the Honor Grad Ceremony. Flights will march on the Retreat Pad and receive their coin. The Retreat portion of the ceremony follows next.

During Retreat, the U. S. Flag is paid tribute to, brought down, folded and safeguarded. After this, Airmen will sing the Air Force Song and be dismissed for Base Liberty.

At this point, families are invited onto the Retreat Pad to “tap out” their Airman. Tapping out is a long-standing tradition where a family member or friend simply taps their Airman on the shoulder which releases them from the Ceremony.

An airman with no loved ones present can be asked if they would like to be tapped out or they can choose to wait, it is not a requirement but a nice tradition to uphold. Most Airmen will be released right after the ceremony for base liberty. 

20:00 – End of Liberty

Airmen are due back in the dormitory by 8 pm. It is a strict deadline and should be followed. As you will be on base for the day, it isn’t a major concern but should be kept in mind, you don’t want to be the cause of your Airman being late.


Friday – Graduation Day

07:15 – Orientation Briefing

At Pfingston Reception Center, this is only for families that missed Thursday’s Orientation Briefing. You don’t need to attend twice.

07:15 to 08:30 – Transportation to the Parade Ground

There will be transportation to and from the Pfingston Reception Center to the parade grounds for handicapped +1 only, starting at 7:15am until 8:20am. Remember that getting on to the base can take time so factor that into your morning routine. There is plenty of parking at the parade grounds if you arrive at 7am. If you arrive later there’s overflow parking within walking distance to the parade field.

09:00 – Graduation Parade

The Air Force basic training Graduation parade is the final official ceremony associated with graduating from basic training. It usually takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.

The ceremony begins with the playing of the National Anthem, the invocation, and recognition of distinguished visitors. Next, the honor flight is recognized and awarded the Honor Flight Streamer.

The flights will then pass in review. Airmen will sing the Air Force Song. The reviewing officer will address families and Airmen. Airmen will reaffirm their Oath of Enlistment and recite the Airman’s Creed.

Flights are dismissed and Airmen are released to their visitors. There are great photo opportunities by historical aircraft positioned around the parade field.

10:15 to 11:15 – Squadron Open House

The Squadron Open house gives you the opportunity to see where your Airman has been living for the past 8 weeks. You’ll be able to see a bit of what their experience was like during training.

11:15 – Town Pass

Immediately following the squadron open house, Airmen must remain in the San Antonio metropolitan area. Airman should be able to visit Sea World, Fiesta Texas and family or friends near local military installations, including Randolph AFB.

There are certain establishments that are off limits but your Airman will know in advance. San Antonio has plenty to offer; food, attractions, and relaxation so you’ll be spoiled for choice of how to spend your day.

20:00 – End of Liberty

Airmen due back in the dormitory and similarly to Thursday, it is a strict deadline. If you are traveling to the San Antonio area, keep in mind the time it will take to travel back to Lackland and get onto base.

What Happens After Air Force Basic Training Graduation

After Air Force basic training graduation, Active Duy Airmen will leave for Tech School. Tech School will begin the following Monday, so Airmen will not receive leave before their next school. Some Tech School’s require Airman to check in on Sunday evening. Your Airman will know where and when they need to report before graduation.

If an Airman is in the Guard or Reserve then they will go to Tech School when an opening is available.

Air Force Basic Training Graduation Gifts

Air Force Basic Training Graduation Gifts

It is not required to get your Airman a graduation gift. If you choose to get your Airman a gift, we encourage you to look at our basic training gift guide. Our gift guide is filled with ideas from current service members who shared the best/most practical Basic Training Graduation Gifts.

The feeling you will get when you see your New Airman for the first time, will be more than you could ever imagine. It is truly a special day and time to enjoy and celebrate with your Airman and family. 

There are many other questions you probably have, so please reach out to our Sandboxx Travel Team and ask away.

Happy travels, and congrats to you and your soon-to-be new Airman!



  1. My family just received notice that our airman’s graduation will actually be Wed, May 22 2018 through Sunday, May 27, 2018. Do you have an updated schedule of events?

  2. If my Airman went in on the 27th of August when should I expect her to graduate from basic training and what date should I plan on being there for the graduation

  3. son left on 09/25/2018 when will graduation week be. I’ve calculated the first day to be on 11/22/2018 which is Thanksgiving

    1. Hi Darryl: Here is the basic schedule: coin/retreat ceremony is wed 21st, thanksgiving is 22nd and graduation parade is friday 23rd…hope this helps

    2. Hi Darryl My son went the same day if you hear something let me know I have to know a definite answer so I can book me flight and if I hear anything from my son I will let you know; so far I have gotten 3 answers for the graduation dates I need facts. I would greatly appreciate it.


      1. Hi Sandy: Here is the basic schedule: coin/retreat ceremony is wed 21st, thanksgiving is 22nd and graduation parade is friday 23rd…hope this helps.

  4. My son left for basic on 09/25/2018 and arrived on base that same day when can I expect to be at the base for all festivities and also including graduation?

    1. Hi, Sandy. We believe your recruit should be graduating Friday, November 16th. However, you should get more detailed information from your recruit’s Command in the mail. We hope this helps.

      1. Thanks this would be nice I still have not heard from my son when should a parent here from their child from basic? Timing is crucial.


      2. Hopefully this will help a bit…..Here is the basic schedule: coin/retreat ceremony is wed 21st, thanksgiving is 22nd and graduation parade is friday 23rd.

    2. Here is the basic schedule: coin/retreat ceremony is wed 21st, thanksgiving is 22nd and graduation parade is friday 23rd…hope this helps

    1. Hi Claudia, thanks for reaching out!

      If your son is going to BMT on 30Oct, his expected graduation will be Friday, 28 Dec. However, please keep in mind the Coin/Retreat Ceremony on Thursday, 27 Dec as well! You will receive a Welcome Packet from JBSA Lackland the first week after he arrives at BMT with updated information.

  5. Due to way past criminal convictions it looks like some family will not be able to attend any ceramonies on base for our son..will they still be able to enjoy some of the experiences with the recruit after graduation?

    1. Hi Sam,

      Your Airman may be given Town Pass on Friday (after the Graduation Parade) and Saturday, where members can still spend time with your son. I hope this helps!

  6. My leaves for basic on 27 Nov. My question is, does the Air Force break for X-Mas Exodus or do they continue on with scheduled training for the holiday season. Second question when can I anticipate the graduation to be?

    1. Hi Michele,

      If your trainee is in BMT during the holidays, they will not be given a “break”, as their training schedule doesn’t allow for that. However, if an Airman is attending Tech School training, they would be given time for Christmas Exodus. I hope this helps?

  7. Our son leaves for basic on 27 Nov. Does the Air Force break for the holiday season? Do they do anything X-Mas Exodus? When can I anticipate the graduation to be? Thank you For your time

    1. Thanks for reaching out! A trainee starting BMT the week of 24 Mar 2019 can expect to graduate on 23 May 2019.

  8. Hello, my son leaves March 5, 2019. In order to plan for work schedules, flights, and lodging, can you please tell me the dates we need to be there for graduation activities? Thank you in advance!

  9. Hello, My name is Heaven I have someone close in the air force and he left here on Jan. 1 but probably got to Texas on Jan. 2 so when is the graduation exactly. And do you have the exact schedule of this date as well as have information on getting a notice from that person. Please do reply if you can.

    1. Hi, Brandon. We recommend waiting until your trainee is assigned their TRS/FLT numbers before we recommend a graduation date. We hope this helps.

  10. I believe the graduation parade day info needs adjusting…First it is questionable if there is transportation from reception center and 2nd there is plenty of parking at the parade grounds..3rd is the parade grounds is not very well marked especially for someone at 7am..other than those situations this information is extremely helpful…I also noticed at least one event time was 1/2 hour off..parade date for us was 3/15/2019..

    1. Hi Jerry,

      Thank you for your input. We have taken into account your suggestions and made updates to prevent any confusion. Have a wonderful day and thank you for using Sandboxx!

    1. Hi Aleida,

      Trainees who ship out on 2 Apr can expect to graduate on Thursday, 30May. Please keep in mind the Coin/Retreat Ceremony is held on Thursday, with the Graduation Parade held on Friday.

      Please coordinate with your trainee to confirm graduation dates prior to making travel plans.

      Have a wonderful day and thank you for using Sandboxx!

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