Swearing in to the Air Force is a huge step for an Airman: It’s when they’ve officially sworn in to the military. For those who are active duty, this also means they ship out that same day for basic military training (BMT). What is this process like? Furthermore, what is it like for the Airman’s spouse? Here I share our experience from when my husband swore in.
It’s been almost three weeks since my husband, Cristian, swore in and left for BMT. We miss him so much! But we know he is paving the way for a better future for our family and we are so proud of him for being willing to make such a sacrifice to serve our country.
Swearing in to the Air Force: The Beginning
It is normal for someone who is joining the Air Force to first swear in to the delayed entry program (DEP) first, once they have a BMT ship out date. For my husband, this was two months before he left. This means they’ve signed an enlistment agreement, but that they aren’t members of the armed forces until they officially enlist in their branch on their ship out date.
Cristian attended DEP meetings twice a month with other recruits at his recruiter’s office and had regular briefings with his recruiter during those two months. It was fun for him and kept him connected to this new life he (and we!) were about to begin.
The Day Before
The night before your significant other swears in, they will be put up in a hotel. They will then be transported to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) VERY EARLY in the morning with all other recruits either swearing in to the Air Force or getting a physical. This is the last time for you to spend quality time with them, as you are not allowed to stay in the hotel with them and there is a curfew. (For Cristian it was 9:45 and then lights out at 10 pm.)
Cristian shipped out of Salt Lake City, and was in a hotel downtown the night before. We spent that last day together eating at a favorite restaurant, exploring City Creek Mall, and walking around Temple Square. It was perfect!
Swearing in to the Air Force: The Day Of
The day your spouse does their swearing in to the Air Force can be a very emotional one! This is your last chance to say goodbye before you see them again in 8 1/2 weeks (the length of BMT). You Airman won’t have access to their phone besides scheduled phone calls during arrival and WOT (week of training) 3, 6, and 7. Their time to write letters will be limited (I have yet to receive one). I suggest spending A LOT of quality time together the day BEFORE they stay at the hotel overnight, and then to say your real goodbye before dropping them off, since their time to say goodbye (at least alone) on the morning of swearing in to the Air Force might be very little.
Arriving at MEPS
You will have to go through security when arriving at MEPs for your spouse’s swear in. So just be prepared for that — it’s pretty much like Airport security. For example, my brother forgot he had a knife in his backpack and was told to keep it out in the car. My husband told me and everyone else coming that we needed to bring our IDs (drivers license) but I was never asked for it. You just go through the security and are given a little name tag type sticker that says “Visitor” on it. Be aware that your MEPS might be different, so make sure you are prepared.
No cell phones
At our MEPS, we were only allowed to use our cell phones in the visitor waiting area and in the swear-in conference room. Be aware that They WILL get on you for it — a few of us forgot a couple of times and were kindly reminded we weren’t allowed to use them in the main area.
Waiting with your recruit
When we got there, Cristian was busy signing some things (like his official contract), so we didn’t get to see him right away. But once he was done, we got to wait with him in the main area. Cristian didn’t swear in until about 10:30 am, and we got there at probably 9:20 am. So we had a lot of time to wait with him, even though he was busy at first.
The Swear In
I was so nervous for the actual swear in! I was expecting to have just a few minutes with him afterwards for some pictures and then have to say goodbye. The swear in itself took about 10 minutes, and there was probably 4 other recruits swearing in to the Air Force with him.
The ceremony is pretty simple — a commissioned officer (they don’t have to be in the same branch…Cristian’s was Army) will give a little speech and/or some small talk. Cristian’s asked each recruit their name and what job they’re going in for. Then he took the Oath of Enlistment and that was it! He officially became a member of the Armed Forces.
Then we had time for the pictures. Take as many as you can, and don’t stop until you have to! You will never regret having those pictures.
After Swearing in to the Air Force
I’m not sure if we had a unique experience, but we were allowed to stay with my husband while he ate his boxed lunch MEPS gave him and then until he left to get on the bus for the airport. I was lucky and even got to see him leave. The last image I have of him is waving to me as he stepped onto the bus while I was driving away in the parking lot.
Your spouse might be able to call you from the airport. I got to talk to Cristian before he boarded his plane and we sent each other a few videos back and forth (which I have cherished these last few weeks). He also called me for a 1 minute phone call before he left the San Antonio Airport for Lackland AFB, where Air Force basic training is held.
Once your spouse leaves, you officially start the 8 1/2 weeks of being apart with no communication besides scheduled phone calls (an arrival phone call and during week of training 3, 6, and 7) and letters. They will not have access to their phone, and if you have an emergency, you will need to contact the Red Cross who will then pass it on to your trainee.
I’m still in the thick of it, but I can tell you that it’s hard, but also a good opportunity to better yourself. Of course I miss him every day, but I’ve been able to keep my emotions in check this past week better than the first two. They still sneak up on me, though. So be prepared for that 😉