SAN ANTONIO — Call it a monumental graduation: friends and family were able to witness their loved ones graduate at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in person. It's the first time in 16 months because of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a day that "a long time coming," Major General William Spangenthal said during the ceremony.
A variety of measures were put into place when COVID-19 hit last spring. One of those is moving graduation to Thursdays; the most emotionally severe was loved ones not being here to see trainees graduate from trainee to airman in person.
Since Marsh 2020, roughly 60 graduations were held with no one watching in the stands. Thursday, that changed in a big way.
More than 1200 visitors came to witness 652 airmen celebrate the completion of seven and a half weeks of basic military training.
"The men and women who have come before you have airlifted troops and supplies into the jungles of Vietnam," Chief Master Sargent Erik Thompson said. "Executed precision airstrikes in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan delivered humanitarian aid to villages in Africa and South America. They have launched missiles and flown satellites, defended airstrips and strengthen partnerships. They have stood on every continent on the globe."
Some airmen wore masks; others did not. Vaccinations are not required for trainees. At graduations, it is mandatory for those who are not vaccinated to wear a mask.