Two Pandemic Years Later, Air Force Basic Training Credentials Return to Normal in Lackland

Two years after the coronavirus transformed the way basic military training recruits were educated — and halted graduations — the Air Force has removed its final hurdles to post-pandemic normalcy. Thursday morning.

Family and friends attending the graduation ceremony on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland no longer had to prove they had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Since last month, wearing a mask has become optional.

Pandemic precautions were put in place when graduations reopened to visitors more than 10 months ago, and lifting them is expected to boost the number of well-wishers attending the weekly event.

The 37th Training Wing said the entry requirements for the ceremony follow Joint Base San Antonio’s recent decision to change its health protection status to “Alpha,” the least restrictive status, because local transmission rates of the virus remained low.

“All BMT graduates have always been happy to graduate, but they are so much more excited knowing their families will be here with them and seeing them reach this milestone,” said Colonel Jeff Pixley, Commanding Officer of the 737th Training Group, said in a statement.

Interested in attending a graduation?

For more information on the official ceremony and entry requirements for recruit graduation at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, visit the 37th Training Wing Facebook page,

SOURCE: United States Air Force

Things could change. If new variants of coronavirus make more people sick, the old rules — or something like them — could be back.

“The COVID crisis has forced us to take drastic measures to protect our staff and preserve the training pipeline, but the things we’ve done and the lessons we’ve learned are not things we’re going to give up on our way. back to normal,” Pixley said. “The lack of vaccine checkpoints doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about COVID.”

The Air Force is still following guidelines issued by the service and Joint Base San Antonio regarding occupancy limits, he said. He also encourages customers to practice good hygiene and continues to encourage all eligible people to get vaccinated.

The Air Force was very careful. Before mid-July last year, graduating recruits didn’t even get to see their families. The best friends and relatives could do was watch the graduation ceremonies via its Facebook page. It’s always available.

A host of other pandemic-related precautions were implemented as the Air Education and Training Command, 59th Medical Wing and 37th Training Wing worked to ensure the coronavirus n did not dismiss more recruits and training instructors, or even close the boot camp – as happened briefly with other armed forces.

In the 13 months since March 17, 2020, when the new mode of training began, around 2,100 recruits tested positive for the virus while 35,382 graduated, compared to 37,000 during the 2019 pre-pandemic exercise.

Graduates were allowed two guests for graduations at Lackland beginning July 22, which increased to four guests in November. They could fly to San Antonio immediately after Thursday’s ceremony – if the newly minted Airmen had been vaccinated. Today, all airman recruits get vaccinated either before coming to basic training or shortly after arrival.

The Air Force said 723 recruits, including 42 Space Force members, graduated Thursday. They took part in an Airman’s Run that began at 7:30 a.m., jogging 1½ miles from their sleeping quarters to the Airman’s Arena, an outdoor drill at the Pfingston Visitor Center with seating that can accommodate up to 3,300 spectators.

Christa D’Angela, a spokeswoman for the 37th Training Wing, said about 3,100 people were expected, a higher than normal number in part because more Airmen are graduating this week.

“I would say we’ve averaged since November… between 2,000 and 3,000 guests,” she said. “We will have more because anyone with a DoD ID card can also attend.”

Pixley, the training group commander, said the 37th can adapt quickly if another coronavirus variant threatens recruits.

“We will do exactly what we did before,” he said. “Our flexibility, agility and ingenuity have gotten us through the past two years. And with those two years under our belt, we have the advantage of experience. Whether it’s a new variant, an entirely new disease, or another pipeline threat, I’m confident we can adapt…because we have to.

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