A Parents' Guide to Surviving Air Force Basic Training (BMTS)
My husband Chris and I are veterans of the United States Air Force. We both went through six weeks of basic military training during the mid 1980s at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Having gone through the experience myself I thought I would be prepared when my 19 year old son Rhett left for BMT after joining the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Boy was I wrong. Though I knew exactly what he was in for, the 8.5 weeks he was gone were the longest and most stressful of my life. If it weren't for the different support services that are available to military families I think I would have gone crazy.
I am so grateful for the information that I received I decided to write this hub to pay it forward. If you have a loved one leaving for San Antonio there are avenues available to you to help you get through the long weeks without your special Airman.
Day One - Zero Week
Your loved ones ship date has arrived. You take him/her to the airport, kiss him/her goodbye, shed buckets of tears, then go home to begin your long wait for their first phone call. Our son had his cell phone with him and called us several times before he boarded the military bus for his trip to Lackland, but it was a day before we heard from him again. His initial Air Force call came late the next evening and the stress he was feeling was apparent as he hurriedly attempted to give his sleepy father his new address. After three unsuccessful attempts to relay the address he finally hung up on his dad and called his girlfriend.It was 2 weeks before we heard from him again. (I cried the entire two weeks-then when I heard his voice I tried to be brave and not cry-but didn't make it. I cried during every subsequent call too.)
When your airman gets to their dorm at Lackland he/she has to surrender his/her cell phone. He/She may get it on Sunday afternoons to call home if his/her MTI, military training instructor, gives them the privilege. If your airman doesn't have a cell phone their MTI will allow him to call you using a pay phone and phone card. The calls during the first few weeks are usually short, 20 minutes or less, but normally the call time gets extended as the weeks progress.
Don't be surprised if you don't receive a phone call every week. The MTI's know how important the calls are to the men and women in training so they use them to their advantage. If your airman's flight isn't progressing as quickly as they should, or if the flight gets into trouble their TI may take away their phone privileges. My son's sister flight had their phone privileges suspended several times during their stay at Lackland. On the flip side don't be surprised if you hear from your airman unexpectedly-the MTI's like to use the calls as a reward when the flight does well.
It's important to remember that you can't call your airman while he or she is gone. If your airman had their own cell phone it gets locked up during the week so it is useless to try to call them on it. And don't even think about calling the base! You could get your airman in trouble. If there is an emergency such as a death in the family, contact your local Red Cross. They will be able to relay the message through the proper military chain of command and your airman will call YOU.
Writing Your Airman
Don't ever underestimate the effect your letters have on your airman. Most of them are away from home for the very first time and cherish the mail they receive. During mail call the MTI usually gathers the entire flight into the day room and distributes any mail the flight receives (my TI loved to throw our mail at us so she could watch us excitedly scramble to scoop it up).
All trainees are provided with a mailing address when they reach the base and families and loved ones normally receive a postcard containing that information within the first week of training.
Your airman's address will be in the following format:
AB Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial
# # TRS / FLT # # # (Dorm "Letter"-#)
1320 Truemper Street Unit 36 # # # #
Lackland AFB, TX 78236-# # # # (zip extension)
Your Airmans Activities-Week By Week
Your airman is going through rigorous training in his attempt to become a member of the United States Air Force. His weekly training breaks down like this:
- 0 Week-Your airman receives his first military haircut and uniforms, is a assigned a flight and training instructor, and tries to settle into his new temporary home. He also begins a vigorous exercise program.
- Week 1-During his first full week at basic training your airman learns what's expected of him in the upcoming weeks. He learns how to make his bed properly, how to fold his clothes properly, the proper way to clean the bay, how to march properly, and how to behave at all times. It's a stressful week. To top it off he will receive a battery of shots that may possibly make him sick. My son said the majority of his flight was sick this week.
- Week 2-During week 2 your airman receives his m-16. He is expected to keep his weapon with him and keep it clean at all times. He is required to learn how to break the weapon down and reassemble it in a certain time period. His PT, (physical training) intensifies and he will be running several miles a day.
- Week 3-During week 3 your airman learns basic first aid during buddy care training.
- Week 4- Week 4 is an exciting week. Your airman gets to experience the confidence course and enter the bases "gas chamber". The confidence course is filled with obstacles that your airmen is expected to overcome. It's an action packed, fun day. My son's flight was unable to complete the course due to bad weather and he was very disappointed because there was no way to make it up.
- During this week your airman also receives training in chemical warfare and enters the gas chamber. It's an experience he will never forget.
- Week 5-During week 5 your airman learns self defense and gets to beat the tar out of one of his fellow trainees with a pugil stick. He also learns CPR and participates in "live fire" exercises with an M-16.
- Week 6-Week 6 is "Beast Week". During beast week your airman will be living in the field. He will live in his "battle rattle" and practice all of the skills he learned during the previous weeks. He will also receive his dog tags.
- Week 7- During week 7 your airman takes his end of training exam and begins preparing to graduate and leave the base.
- Week 8- Week 8 is graduation week. Families and loved ones are invited onto the base to witness several exciting ceremonies. The Airman's Run and Coin Ceremony are held on Thursday. During the run your airman runs with his entire flight singing cadences-it's exciting and I was so proud to see my son. They go back to their dorms to change then proceed to the field for the coin ceremony. A word to the wise-if you want to be able to see the ceremony, get a seat in the stands early-they go very quickly. At the end of the coin ceremony you are able to "tap out" your airman and spend the rest of the day with him on base. I was given the privilege of tapping out my son. I was able to go onto the parade field after the ceremony and tap my son on the shoulder. He had to be tapped before he was allowed to leave the field. His first words to me where, "What took you so long I've been standing here forever!" We spent the rest of the day eating pizza at the "GodFathers" on base, visiting the base bx and watching a movie at the movie theater. Your airman officially graduates on Friday and after the ceremony he gets his first town pass. We spent the afternoon at our hotel. Rhett just wanted to relax and sit by the pool. He also wanted a steak so we went to Logans for dinner. Airmen normally receive town passes on Saturday as well and many of them visit the Riverwalk and Sea World. (Graduating airmen and their families get free admission to Sea World). We spent Saturday afternoon at the Riverwalk and the evening at the San Antonio Spurs basketball game. Another word to the wise-if you go during basketball season someone from the Spurs comes to the base and sell you "special" military tickets. Don't spend too much money-THE SEATS SUCK! My husband spent way too much on the tickets thinking we would have good seats and they were awful-nose bleed section. We were really disappointed (but happy to be with our son).
Facebook has groups that are specifically designed to help new Air Force families get through the long weeks of basic training. The two that I found were most helpful were Air Force Wing Moms and Air Force Basic Military Training.
Air Force Wing Moms is a totally awesome group of individuals who are more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding BMTS. Their wall provides a ton of information regarding everything and anything you may want to know about basic training and traveling to San Antonio during graduation week. Air Force Wing Moms also sets up flight specific pages where you can communicate with the families of the members of your son's or daughter's flight.
The Air Force Basic Military Training wall is another great way to get information about your airman and your airman's flight. They post pictures of your airman during BMTS-usually by their 4th or 5th week of training. I was so thankful for the pictures they posted of my son when he was gone. It eased my mind to see that he was happy and well taken care of.
Air Force Basic Training is a stressful time for the loved ones of the individuals who have made the honorable choice to serve their country. If you have a loved one who has just left or is leaving for Lackland Air Force Base it may seem like the 8.5 weeks of BMT drags on and on and last forever. If I've just described you keep your chin up, graduation week will be here before you know it and the pride you will feel when you see your Airman in his/her dress blues for the first time will erase all of the anxiety you felt during the previous 8.5 weeks.
I hope you find this hub helpful. Don't hesitate to leave a comment or ask a question. Oh-if you are planning to go to San Antonio I highly recommend you stay at the Microtel Inn and Suites. It is located between Lackland AFB and Sea World in a really nice part of town. The rooms and service are great-and you can't beat the price.