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A Family's Guide to Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, SC

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It's been almost two years since my husband went to Ft. Jackson for BCT (Basic Combat Training). But I remain obsessed with the Ft. Jackson page on Facebook, haunting it in hopes that I can be helpful to other new Army families who are as dazed & bewildered as I was in those early weeks.

I'm no kind of expert. Mostly, what I do is simply direct traffic--pointing new folks to the Facebook link for their loved one's specific BCT battalion and/or company (if they have one). Once I get 'em there, they are in far better hands than mine! But those pages aren't always easy to find, and a lot of questions end up asked on the main Ft. Jackson page--where they may or may not get an answer.

Since the same questions get asked over and over every cycle (heck, every week!), I am collecting my BCT Basics here for easy linking convenience.

It's behind a cut due to length...

PLEASE NOTE: As of November 2013, I will no longer be updating this post. My husband is out of the active-duty Army now, and as a result my information about Army matters will rapidly become out-of-date. I'll leave it up in the hopes that some of the links will remain evergreen and useful, but don't take any of this info as definitive anymore.

My loved one has just arrived at Ft. Jackson for BCT. What happens next??

Your soldier-in-training (SIT) arrives first at what's called Reception, or Reception Battalion. That's where the new SITs do all their in-processing: paperwork, medical/dental screenings, shots, haircuts, being issued uniforms and dogtags, etc. They also begin their orientation in Army procedures & values.

Reception typically lasts a few days, but it can last as much as a week or more. During this time, your SIT may be able to call or text you occasionally...but that's not for certain, and you should not be concerned if you don't get any such contact after an initial "Hey I arrived!" phone call. They are very busy and very tired, and there's no guarantee they will have a phone signal or anyplace to recharge their phones. It does not mean anything is wrong if you hear only silence from your SIT during Reception.

At the conclusion of their time in Reception, your SIT will get picked up by his or her assigned BCT unit to begin training. That pickup marks the beginning of their 10 weeks of BCT (time in Reception does not count).

When will I get phone calls from my loved one?

SITs are supposed to get a brief phone call at these points:

  1. Soon after arrival, just to inform you that they've arrived safely. Sometimes this call comes while they're still at the Columbia SC airport, sometimes later when they are actually in Reception.

  2. Within 72 hours of being picked up from Reception by their assigned BCT unit, to let you know their unit info.

That's it, folks! Lots of of you will get more calls during those 10 weeks. A lucky few may get a call almost every week. But other than the above occasions, SITs are never promised or guaranteed any phone calls. Calls are a privilege awarded at the discretion of their unit's chain of command, and that privilege can be lost if anybody in their unit screws up.

The most common time to get additional calls is at the end of a phase (about every 3 weeks) or if your SIT's unit wins a competition. But it's really unpredictable. Every unit is different. Some believe phone calls are a distraction and award the privilege very rarely. Others are more liberal. There's really no predicting it from afar. So a good motto is, "Hope for calls but count on the mail!"

Other info about calling:

  • Their personal cell phones get taken away when they are picked up from Reception to begin BCT with their assigned unit.

  • When they do get phone privileges, some units will hand back the trainees' own cell phones...while others will require the SITs to use pay phones with a phone card. So it's good to be prepared for both possibilities. This means making sure your SIT has important phone #s written down, not just stored in their cell phone, and that he or she has a prepaid phone card to use.

What address do I write to?

You won't know that until your SIT leaves Reception and gets assigned to his or her regular BCT unit to begin training. Addresses are specific to the unit. Typically you will get that info from your SIT, either in that brief phone call mentioned above, or in a letter that will arrive somewhere around the 10-14 day point.

Here is a helpful link for more info about mail:
Soldier Mail
This page explains how to find out where your loved one is assigned, and how to address your letters once you do. NOTE: Do *not* call the phone # provided on that page unless it's been 7-10 days since your SIT's arrival at Ft. Jackson, and you are immediate family (parent, spouse, sibling) who can provide the SIT's full name and SS#.

Please note that there is often a time lag in their mail at first. Do not panic if you get sad letters from your SIT saying that he's not getting your mail! The time lag is temporary and it gets better soon.

What can I send?

Letters, cards, and family-friendly photos are the best things to send. You can also send phone cards, stamps, and writing materials in your letters.

Although packages are allowed, there are very strict rules about what you can send. No food or candy of any kind, no reading material, no games or other amusements. Most units even restrict what kind of cough drops you can send! Basically, if it's tasty, fun, or entertaining...it's probably forbidden. It's safest to just wait and see if your SIT requests that you send something specific that he/she knows is allowed by his unit.

The sort of things that are typically allowed in care packages are the very basics, like plain unscented toiletry products, foot powder, blister bandaids, cotton swabs, wipes, etc. Bear in mind that your SIT will have multiple occasions to go to the PX to buy essentials like these.

I heard they have to do push-ups for their mail. Is that true?

Maybe, maybe not. Some units make them do exercises for each letter, some don't. It all depends on the Drill Sergeants (DSes). But don't worry...most SITs consider it well worth the price of collecting their mail from home! It's not a punishment, it's an incentive to keep in shape for that PT test they have to pass in order to graduate from BCT.

How do I find out what my SIT is doing?

Well, they will be writing you letters, and if you are lucky you will get some calls, too. You can also follow their unit's progress through the unit's Facebook page, if they have one (not every unit does).

Here are some links that will help.

Basic Training at Ft. Jackson

This page gives a general overview of the training calendar, from week 0 (Reception) to week 10 (graduation), and each phase in between. It also gives you links to pages about the specific BCT units. You'll want those links once you know which unit your SIT belongs to.

Fort Jackson BCT Unit Links

This is my own compilation of links to Ft. Jackson BCT units, both on the Ft. Jackson website and on Facebook where available. I can't swear that I have found every page that's out there, but I've collected every one that I could verify.

Fort Jackson Facebook Page

If you can't find a Facebook page for your SIT's unit, ask on the main Ft. Jackson Facebook page. Some kindly volunteer will probably be able to direct you to the right place.

When will I know the graduation date?

As soon as you find out your SITs unit info, you can look up that unit's Family Day and Graduation Day on the Ft. Jackson Graduation Calendar. To find it, click on this page and look for the Downloads link in the left sidebar. You'll see a link called BCT Graduation Calendar. You should also get a graduation packet in the mail from your SIT's unit with more information about time, place, maps/directions, getting on post, etc.

How much time do we get to spend together at graduation? What happens after graduation?

There are two big days, Family Day and Graduation Day, usually a Wednesday-Thursday. Each day kicks off with a brief (about an hour) ceremony in the morning. At the conclusion of that ceremony, you get to spend the rest of the day with your SIT. On Family Day, your SIT must stay on post. On Graduation Day, you are allowed to take your SIT off post. Both days, your SIT will have to report back to his or her unit at a specified time. The exact time will be announced at the ceremony that morning, but 8:30 p.m. is pretty typical.

Most SITs are scheduled to ship to their AIT (Advanced Individual Training, i.e. the job-specific training that follows BCT) on the day after graduation. Don't be fooled by any dates in their original paperwork that suggest they'll have time off in between BCT and AIT--in most cases they do not! Dates in their original paperwork are only an estimate. They get their final updated orders at the end of BCT.

I heard we can drive our SIT to AIT. Is this true?

It depends. Typically, it is permitted for immediate family members (such as parent, sibling, or spouse) to drive their SIT to AIT if A) it's arranged ahead of time (your SIT will get asked about this as the time draws closer) and B) the AIT location is east of the Mississippi. If this is approved for your SIT, you will get to hit the road right after graduation.

Your SIT's orders will specify a time by which he or she must report at their AIT destination, and usually it's pretty darn prompt so you won't be able to count on a leisurely road trip enjoying each other's company. There is some chance that you will arrive at AIT and get told that your SIT can have a weekend pass to spend more time with you--but you can't count on that, and you won't know till you get there.

This is all really stressing me out, I'm going crazy waiting to hear something, help help HELP!

Hey, there's a reason that the unofficial Army motto is "Hurry up and wait." Keep taking those deep breaths, keep repeating that Serenity Prayer, and know that you will get word soon--and in the meantime, trust that your loved one is in good hands and doing the very important job of learning to be a soldier.

Yes, it's hard to wait and wonder, especially for those who are accustomed to being in touch by phone, text, IM, email, etc., practically every waking minute. But it is very important to learn patience and self-reliance when you are part of a military family. BCT is a long stretch to be out of touch with your loved one, but it won't be the longest and it won't be the last. In your soldier's future there will be field exercises where they disappear for 30 days or more and you don't hear a word. There will be 24-hour CQ shifts. There will be unexpected schedule changes that ruin your weekends and upset your vacation plans. There will be deployments. There will be times of total communication blackout. It will be hard. It will be scary. You will have to be a strong person.

But the more you practice patience and fortitude now...the more you build your support system...the more you learn to handle being alone with courage and grace...the more you learn to keep yourself busy and prevent your mind from straying into those scary places where all your worst fears and insecurities lurk...the better prepared you will be for those difficult times ahead.

Loving a soldier is not an easy road, and nobody will ever pin a medal on you for it, no matter how well you do. But your soldier will know and appreciate it, and your support will mean the world.

Welcome to the Army family. :)

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On January 31st, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC), hilarymoonmurph commented:
This is awesome stuff, Jaye.
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On February 1st, 2012 01:03 am (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Aww, thanks sweetie! I just remember how bewildering this all was, when Theo went. Hopefully I can help a few other families be less dazed & confused.
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On February 1st, 2012 01:11 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Heh...I knew you'd been in the Army, Jason, but didn't realize you did BCT at Ft. Jackson! Where were you stationed after?
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On February 7th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC), Lauren Chousa commented:
Thank you for this...it's good to know others are in the same 'worry-boat' as you.
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On February 9th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
You are welcome! I have been in that boat, which is why I wanted to put this together. :)
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On March 19th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC), Zinary Johnson commented:
Oh, I remember Ft.Jackson and Tank Hill. I was an only child and went there like pvt. Benjamin. I had curling irons, make up etc. The DI told me to carry all those bags by myself up that hill. Now, my son is at Ft. Jackson.
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On July 8th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC), Lance Newby commented:
Fort Jackson - BCT
Very informative post. It's pretty much 100% accurate in 2012 as it was when you first wrote it.

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On July 9th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: Fort Jackson - BCT
You are most welcome!
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On October 21st, 2012 12:24 am (UTC), Karen Barnett Cornelius commented:
Thank you ! It helps so much to have an idea of what is going on. The wait is tough but with prayer I will get thru this. Do all SIT graduate, if not what happens if they don't,do they start over or go back home ?
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On October 21st, 2012 01:11 am (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Most graduate, but not all. They have to pass all the requirements--if they don't, no graduation.

What happens then can vary. They can be "recycled" to start over with another unit, they can be discharged and sent home. It really depends on the individual situation.
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On October 21st, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC), janiarmysis commented:
thank you for your kindness
thank you for everything on this website you just made it a little more clear my entire life I have been military baby but it's much different now as an adult sending of our baby my sister-in-law is like my daughter just got to Fort Jacson for BCT we are excited and nervous and just really anxious to find out what unit she is going to be in. thank you for all you do and your generocity and all your kindness for future soldiers to be you are soldiers families blessing.
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On October 21st, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC), janiarmysis commented:
thank you for everything on this website you just made it a little more clear my entire life I have been military baby but it's much different now as an adult sending of our baby my sister-in-law is like my daughter just got to Fort Jacson for BCT we are excited and nervous and just really anxious to find out what unit she is going to be in. thank you for all you do and your generocity and all your kindness for future soldiers to ax be you are soldiers families blessing.
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On February 3rd, 2013 12:16 pm (UTC), ext_1630829 commented:
Hi there,

Thank you so much for this. A close friend of mine will be graduating in about eleven days.

I sent a few letters to him at Basic, but then a few days later I received an inbox from him on Facebook saying 'No more letters, closed the mail, talk soon'. My letters won't have got there that soon, as I live in the UK, and so will they keep hold of my letters and give them to him another time? Or will they just be lost?

Thank you so much,
Hannah xo
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On February 3rd, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: Letters
The mail cutoff date is sort of a warning--so that families don't send mail that will arrive after they have left Ft. Jackson. Especially since they spend several of their final days out in the field (at Victory Forge, the final training exercise and rite of passage), and there is no mail call in the field.

The mail cutoff date doesn't mean they stop receiving mail. It is simply when families are instructed to stop sending it. Any mail that arrives before their final mail call at BCT will be delivered. Any that arrives late will get marked "Return to Sender."
— On February 4th, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC), ext_1630829 replied, “Re: Letters” · Expand
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On February 3rd, 2013 12:20 pm (UTC), ext_1630829 commented:
Hi there,

I have a close friend who will be graduating from BCT in about eleven days. I've sent some letters about a week ago, but I received an inbox from him on Facebook, telling me 'No more letters. We closed the mail'. Does this mean that he won't receive my letters? Or that they'll hold them until a later date? And why would they close the mail?

Thank you so much,
It just worried me because the letter took me a long time to write, and I included some things he requested.

Thank you!!
Hannah xo
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On February 14th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC), Cassie Evans commented:
Medical Discharge
My husband has been medically discharged from Fort Jackson, but he has now been there almost 5 weeks and still not home! He is at Delta house, which is where they go just before being flown home (so I'm told) he's been there a week though...do you know can I just drive there and pick him up? I'm in Indiana but I don't care I will drive to bring him home! :( Help, please and thank you.
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On February 14th, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: Medical Discharge
Sorry, I am nobody official--I'm not even at Ft. Jackson--so I have no answers for you. The Army works at its own speed, and there is rarely anything you can do to move it along any faster.
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On March 20th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC), Elizabeth Drake commented:
Thank you so much!
My boyfriend just left yesterday for Ft Jackson and I've been scouring the internet for information for weeks trying to figure all this out. I have no experience with anything to do with military - no family in it or anything so this is all new to me. I think he was just as confused as I am, though he grew up with Navy parents. Neither one of us in the weeks leading up could come up with any definite information on what to expect. Your blog has helped me a lot.

I am not looking forward to the rest of this week - the reception phase. People are saying to keep busy and not think about it - but I can't help but obsess a little bit and wonder how he's doing, if he's scared or homesick, or even if he's having a great time and loving it. How did you deal with the reception phase? it seems like it's going to be a long 10 days.

I got a phone call last night when he was on the bus from the airport. That was a godsend (even though I'd just seen him off at the swearing in ceremony) I'm just so used to being with him every day that this is extremely hard to adjust to. It's only the second day, or i guess the first real day of not talking with him, so I imagine it only gets easier as the days go by (or I hope so at least) I'm really looking forward to that first letter.
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On March 20th, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: Thank you so much!
You're welcome! I'm glad the info was helpful. Once you know what unit he's assigned to, check my other post that has links to all the unit Facebook pages:


It's fairly likely you won't be in the dark for 10 full days. Reception *can* last that long, but more often it is just a few days. For someone arriving midweek like this, it'd be much more typical for them to get picked up from Reception by their assigned unit over the weekend & begin the actual training on Monday. And they will typically get that one brief honey-here's-my-info call in their first couple of days with the unit.

The first couple of weeks are a big adjustment, no question, when you are accustomed to being in close contact with someone every single day. I found two things helped: 1) Starting to write him a letter even though I didn't have anywhere to send it yet, and 2) Staying as busy with positive activities as possible. Getting used to the new pattern of your days with him away takes time, and it's definitely toughest at first when those letters aren't flowing yet.

Good luck to you!
— On March 21st, 2013 05:10 pm (UTC), Elizabeth Drake replied, “Re: Thank you so much!” · Expand
— On March 21st, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied, “Re: Thank you so much!” · Expand
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On April 21st, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC), Mallory Mason commented:
Worried about him not getting my mail..
My boyfriend is currently doing training at fort Jackson, and hasn't been getting my mail. He sends me letters all the time, and I send him letters all the time also, but recently in his letters he has been saying that he misses me like crazy, and that he has only gotten one letter.. I have sent him several letters, and one contains a bracelet of mine that I sent to him so he would have something of me. He sounds sad because he isn't getting letters, and I've also been very upset about it.. Do they hold the soldiers letters? I'm afraid he thinks I'm not writing him. Please help... Thank you!!
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On April 21st, 2013 07:16 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: Worried about him not getting my mail..
Nothing to worry about. Mail is always slow at first, probably because of the huge turnover with graduates and new arrivals. My husband got none of my letters at first--it was probably 3 weeks in before he got the backlog delivered in big batches. They do NOT withhold mail but I think the mailroom is a pretty small facility for all those units and there is such a huge influx of mail at the start of a new cycle.

After the backlog cleared my husband got my letters regularly, although always more slowly than his got to me.
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On April 30th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC), Jay Da Kiid Williams commented:
wife just got to basic last night
hey this sight is really helpful its a difference with me because im the husband missing my wife who is at ft.jackson its nothing on the internet for army husbands so i have lots of questions...i talked to my wife last night before she got on the base and no more since then so im wondering if they take their phnes in reception or what like hw does that work
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On April 30th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied:
Re: wife just got to basic last night
Usually they get to keep their phones while in Reception--but that doesn't necessarily mean they have a good signal, or anywhere to charge a phone, or any downtime to use it. Reception is very busy and stressful, and they are extremely sleep-deprived besides--so it is not unusual to NOT hear from them during Reception even if they still have their phones. It's not a cause for worry.

She should have the chance for one BRIEF phone call in the first few days after Reception, after she's picked up by her assigned unit to begin training. That's the call where she'll give you her unit info so you can see if they have a Facebook page, figure out the right address to write to, etc.

Once you know her unit, check my list of BCT unit links here:

Edited at 2013-04-30 10:23 pm (UTC)
— On May 4th, 2013 05:02 am (UTC), Jay Da Kiid Williams replied, “Re: wife just got to basic last night ” · Expand
— On May 4th, 2013 11:00 am (UTC), wordswoman replied, “Re: wife just got to basic last night ” · Expand
— On May 13th, 2013 03:09 am (UTC), Jay Da Kiid Williams replied, “Re: wife just got to basic last night ” · Expand
— On May 13th, 2013 04:23 pm (UTC), wordswoman replied, “Re: wife just got to basic last night ” · Expand
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On October 24th, 2013 05:56 am (UTC), Gabriela Payamps commented:
Thank you so much for writing this, my husband arrived yesterday and I felt so lost and wondering what and how he is doing, I feel much more at ease after reading and more ready for what is ahead. Again thank you :)
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