For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Air Force plans to allow family members and other guests to attend basic military training, or BMT, graduation ceremonies.
The first graduation ceremony allowing guests will take place at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, on July 22, the Air Force said in a podcast posted Wednesday.
The service abruptly halted audience attendance at graduations and other mass gatherings in March 2020 as the coronavirus spread across the country and the nation rushed to lock down.
Rules for attendance will be strict. The Air Force said Wednesday that each graduate will be allowed to invite only two guests, including infants and children.
All visitors must be fully vaccinated in accordance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines: They must have received all shots, and at least 14 days must have passed for the vaccinations to take effect. Visitors will be required to show their original vaccination card as proof; photos or copies will not be accepted.
The Air Force also will require all guests to be placed on a visitors list in advance; no exceptions will be made, the service said.
The release did not say whether masks will be required; updates will be posted online.
"While we can't wait to see family and friends fill the stands of our Pfingston Reception Center again, we have to do this in a methodical, safe manner in order to secure the safety of our training pipeline," Col. Jeffrey Pixley, commander of the 737th Training Group, said in the podcast.
The Air Force holds BMT graduations every Thursday morning. Each class graduates after attending the seven-and-a-half week course at Lackland; the training was shortened by one week during the COVID pandemic.
Last year during the height of the pandemic, the Air Force used Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, as an alternative so that there would be multiple basic training locations. That program ended in November.