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.

With 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 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.

Keep all this information and some extra bonus information on hand with our Air Force Graduation Guide, which is free to download.

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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.

  1. Where is Air Force Basic Training Graduation?

  2. Where to stay near Lackland Air Force Base?

  3. How do I get on to base?

  4. What to wear to Air Force Basic Training Graduation?

  5. How many can attend Air Force Basic Training Graduation?

  6. Lackland Air Force Basic Training Graduation Schedule

  7. What happens after Air Force Basic Training Graduation?

  8. Want to save a life while at Lackland?


Air Force Basic Training Graduation is held at Lackland Air Force Base, Bexar County, Texas which is an enclave of the city of San Antonio. When traveling to graduation,  San Antonio International Airport (SAT) a 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:

Lackland Air Force Base

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 throughout the property as well as a pool. Crucially, it is also only a mile away from Lackland AFB.

Best Western Plus Lackland Hotel & Suites offer spacious, modern rooms.

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.

Springhill Suites is also located close to Seaworld, making it a great stay for your Air Force graduation trip.

Get in touch with the Sandboxx Travel team so we can assist you in choosing the hotel that’s right for you.

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 baseDue 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.

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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 takes 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.

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 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 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 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 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. 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. 

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.



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 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. 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 8 weeks. It can help give you a better understanding of their basic training journey as well as how neat the Air Force really is!

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 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.


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 real spiritual event to be there 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 and you can spend the day with them on base but they’ll get in trouble for leaving base without the pass, so please don’t try too.

The Air Force are currently revising the Basic Training Schedule and the positioning of Airman’s week. We will update the blog with the relevant information once we have the new confirmed schedule.

Airman’s week is your Airman’s final week before leaving for technical school. At this stage, their final training becomes more classroom-based and they are given more liberty time. During this week, the focus is on the individual Airmen and their character development in regards morals and ethics and reinforce commitment to the Air Force values. You cannot visit this week nor will your Airmen have access to their cell phones unfortunately but they may get a chance to call.

There is also a reflection on the basic training journey and where they see their Air Force career going. They ship out for technical school the Monday following this week.

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!


35 thoughts

  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!

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