On April 22, Fort Jackson reopened Basic Combat Training (BCT) graduations to a small group of families as a part of a pilot program aiming to ensure a safe return to normal operations.
Some 500 family members were invited to attend the graduation for Companies A, C, D, and E of the 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. Each attending family member was required to register online and had to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, with the exception of children under the age of 16.
“It is imperative we get this right,” Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, said three days before the ceremony.
“We are setting the stage for all training installations in the Army. We are starting small and if we can do a couple of limited capacity graduations safely, then we will look at increasing the number of attendees.”
In keeping with the General’s aim to ensure the safety of both troops and guests, attendees were required to provide all of the usual documentation required for entry onto a U.S. military installation; like government-issued identification, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Graduation attendees were further required to provide a printed copy of their electronic event registration, as well as their COVID vaccination card.
All graduation attendees were then screened for high temperatures prior to entering the seating areas. Face coverings were required, as was social distancing between groups.
Because receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has not been made mandatory for service members thus far and availability can be limited, these strict precautions aimed to ensure the safety of not just the Soldiers and trainees aboard the installation, but also the ceremony’s attendees themselves. Don’t let all that safety protocol fool you, though. Basic training graduation is a momentous occasion for every new service member, and being able to share that with those you love makes the day all the more special.
It’s clear in photos taken during this first graduation ceremony with family in attendance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that it was a rousing success for the Soldiers and families. Masked or not, the pride and joy evident on the faces of these families reuniting with their loved ones is a significant step on the path back to normalcy.
Fort Jackson will continue to live-stream graduation ceremonies on the installation’s Facebook page as the pilot program continues.