Visitors May Need Proof of COVID Vaccination to Attend Air Force Basic Training Graduations

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U.S. Air Force basic military graduation.
U.S. Air Force basic military graduation is held Apr. 16, 2020, on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force/ Johnny Saldivar)

It's been more than a year since the U.S. Air Force suspended family attendance at Basic Military Training graduation events at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Now, plans are in the works to allow visitors to return to the base. But when they do, the service will likely require proof of vaccination, according to Air Education and Training Command.

"We are currently developing options for the return of visitors to Air Force Basic Military Training graduations," the command said in an email Thursday. "We are assessing COVID impacts and risk factors related to vetting guests for installation passes, as well as family and graduate interactions, in order to protect and manage the health of our training pipeline."

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The command could not provide a timeframe for when in-person graduation ceremonies will resume, but said visitors likely will be required to present vaccination documentation before they are permitted at the facilities. There will also be a cap on the number of guests each graduate may invite, the command said.

Future announcements will be posted on the Basic Training Facebook page, where the service has live-streamed ceremonies over the past year for family and friends to watch virtually.

BMT graduations occur weekly. Each class graduates the program following a seven-and-a-half week course; the command reduced the curriculum last year from eight-and-a-half weeks due to COVID.

The Air Force temporarily used Keesler Air Force Base as an alternative location for BMT last year. The final class graduated from that location in November 2020.

The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, announced last month that eight guests per cadet will be allowed at its May 26 graduation ceremony. That is up from the original plan of three guests per cadet, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The academy will require all guests to stay together in assigned, non-socially distanced seating, according to its website.

It was not immediately clear whether the academy will require visitors to be vaccinated; its website does not specify. The academy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most indoor locations.

The CDC guidelines do not overrule state or local mask mandates; the public is still advised to wear masks in crowded settings, such as public transportation and hospitals.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Coronavirus Has Changed the Way Airmen Go Through Training, Leaders Say

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