The events briefing lasts about an hour to 1 1/2 hours. While subject to change, the current schedule for the briefings is:
0900 (9:00 AM)
1100 (11:00 AM)
1400 (2:00 PM)
0900 (9:00 AM)
The events briefing gives you an overview of what will/when will happen during the graduation weekend, as well as rules you and the recruit must follow. Even if you are current/retired military, I highly recommend attending one of these briefings (The only "negative" comment I have about the briefing is that the briefer kept referring to our graduating loved ones as "Your Recruit." "Your recruit will arrive at 0900 hours." "Your Recruit is allowed to ride in your vehicle." I remember thinking to myself, "Wait a minute, they are *YOUR* recruits, but they are *MY* daughters).
In addition to signing in and attending one of the briefings, the Reception Center has a snack bar and a gift shop. It is here that you can also order copies of the graduation ceremony videos.
One of the things that surprised me the most during our visit were the number of family members and friends attending. When I graduated Air Force Basic in 1975, there were about three recruits in my flight who had family members/friends attend the graduation parade. In my daughters flight, there were just two recruits who DIDN'T have family members or friends attending. One recruit in my daughters' flight had 16 guests attending! When we arrived at 10:30 for the events briefing, the two close parking lots were already almost full. Those who arrived a little bit later for the briefing had to park in other parking lots two, three, and even four blocks down the road.
After the events briefing, we decided to drive over to the other side of the base (the base is divided into two sections). As we crossed Military Drive to enter the gate on the other side, we noticed a long line of cars for those using the temporary visitor passes at the gate's visitor center (being retired military, my vehicle has a military sticker, so we didn't have to use the passes). The temporary passes must be signed by Security Police to be "activated." In order to activate the pass, you will need your vehicle registration, your drivers license, and proof of insurance. Once signed, the pass is valid until the end of the following Sunday.
During the events briefing, we were told that the recruits would arrive at the Reception Center that evening at about 1600 (4:00 PM) for the evening retreat ceremony, which begins at 1630 (4:30 PM). Noting the size of the morning crowd, we decided to see if we could check into our hotel a little early and try and make it back by about 1500 (3:30 PM) to "beat the crowd" and try and get a close parking space.
We had reservations at the Best Western Lackland Inn & Suits, which is just down the road on Hwy 90. The hotel is clean, modern, and modestly priced (for San Antonio). However, if I had to do it again, I wouldn't stay there. Instead, I think I would try the Holiday Inn which is just another few blocks down. When I made the reservations, I asked for a suite, and was told there were three types of rooms -- regular rooms, small suites, and large suites. I chose the small suite (trying to save a few bucks). The "small suite" turns out to be nothing more than a room with a kitchenette. While this is not too bad, there were absolutely no cooking/eating utensils supplied, so unless we wanted to go out and buy a complete set of cooking utensils, it didn't do us much good. At least in the Holiday Inn, there would have been room service. We were gone from the room all day on Friday, and the room had not been cleaned upon our return at about 8:30 PM. I complained about this, and the room was cleaned while we were out on Saturday, but upon our return we found that someone (presumably the maid) had left a walkie-talkie on one of the beds. Minor problem(s), but shows a lack of attention to detail that one expects when staying in a "nicer" hotel.
Eagle3000 (The folks who run the Basic Training Souvenir Shop) have a list of " hotels which give discounts for family members attending Air Force Basic Training Graduation.
There are two videos professionally taken during the graduation weekend -- the Thursday retreat ceremony and Friday's graduation parade. You can order a copy of each at the Reception Center Gift Shop. The cost is $21.00 for each video or $35.00 for both. They are delivered (by mail) about six weeks after you order them.
You can also buy loads of basic training souvenirs at the shop.
Hint: If you don't want to fight the crowds at the gift shop, you can order most of the popular items, online.