Monday, April 16, 2012

BMT: Retreat

This is it!  Retreat, sometimes known as the "coin ceremony," is when you'll officially become an Airman and receive your Airman's Coin.

Retreat occurs on Thursday morning, after the Airman's Run.  The morning is pretty fast paced.  You'll return to the dorm immediately after completing the Airman's Run.  On this morning, you won't be served a normal breakfast, but you'll get a quick snack.  We had a Gatorade juice box and a granola bar or two.  It's not a lot, but you'll be so amped up at that point that it won't matter.  You're just a few hours away from becoming an Airman and seeing your family!  

After pounding our snack, we went up stairs and immediately ran through the showers and began dressing.  We had previously set out our blues in the day room for easy access and we raced through the entire process, checking each other for perfection.  Hair had been done the night prior, as we had no time that morning.  I often get asked what you'll wear on those days, skirts or pants.  Your MTI makes that decision on Thursday and Friday.  Some MTIs think Parade is (visually) better done in pants, so our original plan was skirts on Thursday, pants on Friday.  We ended up wearing pants both days because the newest member of our flight had lost her skirt when she moved from her previous squadron to ours.  Our MTI did not allow us to wear makeup until Friday, since we weren't technically Airmen at that time.  We really didn't have time for it anyway.

Around the time that we were already going crazy running around the dorm, our MTI was pounding on the dorm.  All of the Honor Graduates had to be downstairs to be inspected by a blue rope MTI, our supervisor of drill and ceremony [I'm not entirely sure of his title].  We were heading off to the retreat pad prior to the rest of the flight, to prepare for the HG recognition ceremony that would occur just before retreat.  He examined our uniforms and had us make corrections if necessary.  After that, we marched off to the retreat pad in our small group (there was approximately 10 of us).

Honor grads are lined up and instructed on how to receive the award for the Top Honor Graduate.  This ceremony is held right before Retreat, so all of those present for Retreat will get to view it as well. When the time comes, the HGs march onto the pad in a straight line.  As the names of each HG are read, they take one step forward to be recognized.  The name of the Top HG is read and that individual will march forward to accept their award from the 737th Training Group commander and superintendent.  The HGs file off the pad in the same direction they came in on, and rejoin their flights.

[Source: C. Christeson]
The flights are lined up in numerical order along the street, prepared to march onto the retreat pad, moving forward as flights file in.  A blue rope in charge of drill and ceremony will call each flight in.  Retreat is both a graduation ceremony of sorts, but your flight and your MTI are still being evaluated for how you execute all of the drill movements.  As you approach the turn into the retreat pad, your MTI will request permission from the blue rope to enter the retreat pad.  Each flight files in and immediately begins the ceremony.  Regardless of how many flights are on the pad, you will all conduct retreat individually - it is not done as a huge group.

The Dorm Chief plays an integral role in Retreat, commanding the flight in the beginning, as the MTI picks up the coin tray from the front of the ceremony.  The DC will receive this tray from the MTI and follow him/her throughout the flight as he presents a coin to each trainee.  The guidon bearer is the first to receive a coin and the DC is the last.  The MTI will take a coin from the tray and say a few words to the trainee.  You'll shake with the right hand and take your coin with the left hand.  The MTI will side step down the line, speaking with everyone.  When s/he reaches the end of the element, the element leader will command the element to take one step forward.  This allows the MTI to walk down the next element and repeat the process.  S/he will snake down the elements until everyone receives their coin.  The DC is the last person to receive their coin, after which they hand the tray off to a blue rope waiting nearby, and fall back into the flight.  The flight will either remain standing at attention or be commanding to parade rest, depending on the weather.

[Source: C. Christeson]
After everyone has received their coin, the commander will say some brief words.  You won't even remember them, at least I don't, because you're so pumped at that point.  Finally, the ceremony will come to a close and the families will be invited to come onto the pad and find their new Airman.  This is what many families (especially those active on AF WingMoms) refer to time for the tap out.  You'll stand at attention until your family comes to you and greets/hugs/jumps on you (briefly).  You're not dismissed until someone dismisses you.  [Read more about PDA rules in my post about Reuniting at Graduation.]

Retreat happens really quickly, much faster than I assumed it would.  Blink and it's over!  That being said, if you're at Lackland during the summer it gets hot really quickly out there.  I remember my feet burning in my shoes standing on the concrete for that long.  I had lovely sweat stains for the occasion, since at BMT females don't wear undershirts or camisoles under their blues shirts.  The MTIs are very contentious that this ceremony is notorious for bringing Airmen to their knees - literally.  Trainees faint during Retreat quite frequently, and the blue ropes are prepared to catch people.  We were instructed to take a knee if we thought we felt faint.  So many trainees are so determined to tough it out and look sharp that they lock their knees and pass out.  Definitely not what anyone wants to do as they become an Airman in front of their entire cheering section of friends and family!  You're also instructed to maintain strict military bearing, despite the fact that your loved ones may be steps away from you.  No crying when you spot your family, not even your kids.  You can't react to them, and your MTI will hammer that into you.

Once it's all said and done, you'll be released to your family for base liberty for the duration of the day, up until curfew at 8:00 PM.  You can go [almost] anywhere on base that you'd like, including to base lodging if your family is staying there and you've informed your MTI in advance.

Congratulations and Welcome to the World's Greatest Air Force!

[Yes, that's yours truly in the second and third photos, as well as in the YT video, doing my Dorm Chiefly duties.]


Mrs. Duh said...

Awesome post! I've never been to a coin ceremony... Can you believe it? Honestly, I'm hoping Mr. Duh gets to have one more flight before we leave so I can see one!

Erin said...

You MUST go to one, Mrs. Duh, even if it's to an acquaintance's. Bring Mr. Duh and have him narrate! ;)

Teddy said...

One change since you went through, they no longer wear the blue's during the coin/ceremony retreat, at least they haven't since i started attending in January. Everything else is as you described. Even the speech's given are the same every week.

Erin said...

@Teddy - I knew they wore ABUs if the weather was bad. Has it been off down there? I think time will tell if this is a policy change - if they're wearing ABUs for Retreat during the summer than you're definitely right!

Bryan Yates said...

We wore ABU's when I graduated in February. Also we stood at Parade Rest while awaiting the tap-out.

I remember them making it sound like the ceremony would take a long time, especially during the folding of the flag, but once the actual ceremony began it didn't seem long.

Erin said...

@Bryan - Yeah, I remember it being over fairly quickly as well, but it's definitely different when you're in the heat! We may have been at parade rest - looking back, I honestly can't remember!

Aunie said...

Gave me chills! The only thing I can't understand is the little shuffle to adjust the lines. It's so funny! We've been learning it at Student Flight and I feel so silly doing it ;)