This is it! Retreat, sometimes known as the “coin ceremony,” is when you’ll officially become an Airman.
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. The 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 retreats 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 sidestep 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.
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 the 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 the 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.]