What to Expect When You Are Expecting a New Soldier: Ft. Benning Graduation (Ask Molly)
A Reader Asks:
Hi, I saw your blog you posted a while ago about being an army wife. I was looking on google to find information on family day and graduation. My fiance is in Ft Benning right now at basic. When do you first get to see them? While you are sitting in the stands or before that? And then after they are dismissed on family day, how long do we get to spend with them. Also, do they get to spend the night with us, or do they have to go back that night? Then after graduation the next day, do we get to spend the day with them? Or even a couple days? I hope you can answer my questions. I would really appreciate it. Feel free to say anything else also. Thank youLike everything else with the military, your mileage may vary (YMMV). A lot depends on the AIT your husband is attending, when it starts, and the specific command.
I would not expect any overnight passes. However, I have heard tell of some soldiers receiving 36 hour passes following graduation when their AIT was not set to begin right away. Do not count on it though, most likely he will be in transit to AIT the day after graduation.
Soldiers with visiting adult family members will get day passes (meaning they have to be back that night) following both family day and graduation--please note, however, that to the Army you do not yet qualify as a "family member." So, a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian would have to sign your soldier out.
You may want to read my experience of family day and graduation. I describe when I first saw him and how much time we had together and where we spent our family time. Keep in mind this was about five years ago and my husband was going on to an OCS class that did not start for a while. My guess, though, is that your family day and graduation ceremony experience will be very similar.
Visit military family forums, like the forums hosted by Military.com, and you may find someone with a more recent experience to relate.
In terms of advice, I would recommend getting a hotel room for at least both nights because you'll probably want a private place to sit and relax and your soldier may even want a short nap. Ft. Benning has good, inexpensive lodging, (Ft. Benning Lodging) but sometimes it is difficult to reserve a room. They were in the process of renovating and the rooms they had already fixed up were quite nice--one time I got a room with a sitting room and efficiency kitchen. They do keep some rooms available for "day of" walk-ins, but you'll want to make sure you have a back-up plan.
The key is to avoid staying on Victory Drive. Victory Drive is that unsavory main road that seems to be located near almost every military post. Don't choose a hotel on Victory Drive and you should be fine.
I found the La Quinta in Columbus, GA, to be very adequate and one of the closer, decent but inexpensive choices. There are plenty of decent options off the highway a few exits north of the central Columbus area.
There is also a very nice Marriot, that does sometimes offer military rates, right in the small, historic center of Columbus, GA, and some bed and breakfast places if you are looking for something more luxe. However, keep in mind that there is a good chance your soldier will not be able to stay overnight with you.
Your soldier will probably be most interested in you, a nap, caffeine, and a good meal. Let him take the lead about how he'd like to spend his little bit of free time.
I'll leave you with the official word from one of the Basic Training commands at Ft. Benning (I bolded some of the text):
The day before graduation, normally Wednesday, the battalion commander meets with friends and family members at their unit to discuss your soldier's recent experiences and answer your questions. You will also meet the drill sergeants that trained your soldier and observe some demonstrations of soldier skills. Most importantly, you will meet with your soldier.
That afternoon graduating soldiers with visiting adult family members (spouse, parents, grandparents or legal guardians) may receive an on-post pass on Family Day and following graduation until a time determined by the chain of command. While on pass soldiers must remain in uniform and are not allowed to drive vehicles, drink any form of alcoholic beverages or use any tobacco products.
Graduation is the following day, usually on Thursday at Pomeroy Field. The ceremony is at 10:00 a.m. from October through March and 09:00 a.m. from April through September. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place at the Regimental Chapel and the time schedule may change to accommodate more than one ceremony.
Day After Graduation
The day after graduation soldiers will usually not be allowed to go on pass. This day is designated as a travel day for their follow on Advance Individual Training (AIT).
Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) manages class schedules.
* FY 2008
* FY 2009
Note: Graduation dates shown here are subject to change. Soldiers are afforded the opportunity to contact families with actual graduation dates/times for travel planning purposes.