Basic military training graduation at JBSA-Lackland: When a trainee becomes an airman

Graduation is when they re-assert their oath of enlistment

Jonathan Cotto walks us through the greatly anticipated graduation ceremony.

SAN ANTONIO – It’s an early morning start at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Hundreds of families and friends gather from across the country to see their loved ones graduate from the United States Air Force basic military training.

But a few things have to take place before all the pomp and circumstance.

“They’ll get through breakfast chow; they’ll get the dorm set up and then they go straight in the airman’s run,” said Autumn Foster, a military training instructor.

In formation, flights of trainees take to the retreat pad for the two-and-a-half-mile airman’s run — the sounds of Air Force “Jodie’s” or cadence calls echoing loud and proud for all to hear.

The physical transformation will make many unrecognizable, but this is where family and friends will see them for the very first time since they left for basic military training.

“Once their run is over, they’ll go back to the dorm, shower, (and) go ahead and get ready into whatever the uniform of the day is for graduation ceremony,” Foster said.

And to the beat of drums, flight by flight, they march tall in review.

Graduation is the moment these young men and women re-assert their oath of enlistment. Now, they’ve officially gone from trainees to airmen in the United States Air Force.

And without further ado, families and friends take to the retreat pad for the highly anticipated tapping out; they anxiously look for their airman to eagerly tap on the shoulder and re-unite.

These men and women have accomplished something most Americans will never do.

“It feels great. We went through a lot. But to be able to do it together, be able to graduate with everyone was a good experience for us,” one graduate said.

“I wanted to play basketball, but somehow, I prayed and God, led me here,” another graduate said.


About the Author:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.