Graduation from Basic Military Training (BMT) is a huge accomplishment and is a moment that everyone attending will remember for the rest of their life. Graduation will give you an overwhelming sense of pride seeing your loved standing tall in uniform and becoming one of America’s newest Airman.
With over 50 years of military experience, Sandboxx has compiled some great graduation FAQs and tips to make your trip to graduation very rewarding and memorable. Let us help you take the worry out of your travel, and allow you to focus more on supporting your trainee. Before you know it your loved one will be a United States Airman and begin their journey in the world’s greatest Air Force.
Below you will find all that you need to know for Air Force graduation weekend at Lackland AFB as well as a full graduation schedule. If your Recruit is about to start their basic training journey, read how they can prepare for Air Force basic training.
- How to get to Lackland Air Force Base?
- Where to stay near Lackland Air Force Base?
- What do I need to do attend Air Force Basic Training Graduation?
- How do I get on to base?
- What to wear to Air Force Basic Training Graduation?
- How many can attend Air Force Basic Training Graduation?
- Lackland Air Force Basic Training Graduation Schedule
- What happens after Air Force Basic Training Graduation?
- Want to save a life while at Lackland?
Lackland Air Force Base is located in Bexar County, Texas which is an enclave of the city of San Antonio. San Antonio International Airport (SAT) a quick 20-minute drive to the base, is the easiest airport to fly into when traveling to Lackland for Air Force basic training graduation.
If you are driving the GPS for the base are:
- Valley Hi gate is located at 1033 Truemper St, Lackland AFB.
- Luke East Gate is located at 2196 Luke Blvd, Lackland AFB.
We have 2 favorite hotels in the locality of Lackland but if they don’t meet your requirements, we have plenty more to choose from over on Sandboxx Travel.
First up is Best Western Plus Lackland Hotel & Suites. You can enjoy a complimentary breakfast (who doesn’t enjoy a complimentary breakfast), free Wi-Fi through out the property as well as a pool. Crucially, it is also only a mile away from Lackland AFB.
We also love Springhill Suites San Antonio SeaWorld/Lackland. It also offers free breakfast, Wi-Fi as well as pool and fitness center and is 10 minute drive from Lackland AFB.
Get in touch with the Sandboxx Travel team so we can assist you in choosing the hotel that’s right for you.
This is the important stuff. Not super exciting, but it’s important to take note of to ensure that you have a stress-free trip.
Each trainee must complete a Visitor Access Request Letter (VARL) for all anticipated guests. 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 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.
Each person that plans on entering Lackland Air Force Base will need the following:
- Government-issued form of identification (driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate)
- Car insurance
- Vehicle registration
- Motorcycle Safety Foundation card (if arriving by motorbike)
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 eventualities when packing. All graduation ceremonies take place outside so you will have to endure the elements. Only in extreme weather conditions will, graduation take place indoors, so bring an umbrella and some suncream, you can never be too prepared!
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.
If you cannot attend Air Force basic training graduation or there’s more than 10, Lackland provides a livestream of graduation day.
Lackland AFB Graduation Schedule
*Grad dates and times are subject to change. All times should be checked with your Airman.*
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 opportunity to get pictures and videos.
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 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 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 seven 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 payed 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. 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 Airman will be released right after the ceremony for base liberty.
13:00 – 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.
The rest of the day is free to spend on base which has multiple food outlets as well as museums and other attractions so don’t be worried about finding something to do.
20:00 – End of Liberty
Airmen are due back in 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.
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
Buses will depart from the Reception Center for Parade Grounds so you must be at the Reception Center no later than 8:20am. Remember that getting on to the base can take time so factor that into your morning routine. There is little to no parking available at the Parade Ground so it is recommended to take the advised transport.
09:00 – Graduation Parade
The 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 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. Airman will sing the Air Force Song. The reviewing officer will address families and Airman. The Airman will reaffirm their Oath of Enlistment and recite the Airman’s Creed. Flights are dismissed and Airman 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 is a perfect time to see where your Airman has been living for the past 7 weeks. It can help give you a better understanding of their basic training journey as well as how neat the Air Force really are!
11:15 – Town Pass
Immediately following the squadron open house, Airman must remain in the San Antonio metropolitan area, but can 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 in terms of food, attractions and relaxation so you’ll be spoiled for choice of how to spend your day.
20:00 – End of Liberty
Airman due back in 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.
09:00 to 20:00 – Town Pass
The entire day is a Town Pass. Your Airman will be at the Pfingston Reception Center for collection and the day is yours to spend it your new Airman as you please.
06:30 to 16:00 – Religious Services
Meet your Airman at the Chapel for your designated Religious Service time. You cannot meet your Airman at their Squadron so keep it in mind. Attending religious service is not mandatory but it’s a beautiful building and for those who are religious, it can be a really spiritual event to be their with your new Airman.
09:00 to 18:00 – Special Town Pass / Base Liberty
A special Town Pass is awarded to top physically fit Airman, members of Honor Flights, and Honor Graduates only, these Airman are permitted into the San Antonio metropolitan area for the day. Those who do not receive this special pass are granted Base Liberty for the day. It is important if your Airman doesn’t receive the special pass, that you don’t go off base. They are still amazing but they’ll get in trouble for leaving base without the pass.
Usually, Airman proceed straight from Basic Training onto their technical school training. Leave is not granted until they graduate from technical school or Christmas, depending on which occurs first. There are rare cases where Airman do not go straight into technical school, such as state budgets and Air Force needs but your Airman will know this in advance and let you know. As result, it is rare that they will need tickets home after graduation or that you need to stay beyond the official ceremonies.
Blood drives are held at the Reception Center;
- Thursday from 8:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.
- Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Donors with O+ and O- blood types are in high demand, and anyone who donates blood will receive a free military coin.
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!