Here's a tip about what your loved one will want to do -- EAT. Neither of my daughters were "sweet-lovers" before basic training. Both of them were into "health foods." However, a week before graduation, I talked to my daughters on the phone, and they asked me to bring food, any food, but make sure I brought lots of "junk food." After we checked into our hotel, before returning to the Reception Center, we found a grocery store, and (get this!) a drive-through Chinese Restaurant (China Rose, located on Military Drive, just north of Hwy 90). Between the grocery store and China Rose, I bought 2 quarts of fried rice (one quart of chicken, one of beef), a cheesecake, an apple pie, a package of cookies, a 12-pack of coke, and two chocolate pudding "snack packs." My thoughts were to give my daughters a wide choice, and save any leftovers for the next day. What leftovers?
Zero, nada, zip, nothing!
We decided to leave the crowd who were gathering around the picnic tables by the Reception Center, and found a small park right behind the Commissary. After polishing off all of the food we brought for them, as well as a candy bar that I happened to have in the van for myself, my daughters asked me if we could stop by Baskin Robbins on the way back to the Reception Center. Bring your loved one food -- lots of food!
Another thing to be prepared for. If you aren't or haven't been in the Air Force, expect your loved ones to be speaking to you in a foreign language. They will use military/Air Force acronyms without thinking about it. "When we were doing PC, the MTI told me to report ASAP to the MPF." (Translation: "While we were busy doing exercises, the guy who is in charge of my life at this point in time, told me to go as fast as I possibly could to the building where the people who do the paperwork hang out").
Friday : The graduation parade begins the next day (Friday) at 1100 (during the summer months, when the weather is hotter, the graduation parade is at 0900). However, the parade is held on the other side of the base, away from the Reception Center. Since 9-11, they don't allow parking close to the bleachers on the Parade Ground, so busses begin leaving the Reception Center at about 1015. They use dozens of busses and they keep loading/moving passengers at an impressive pace. Learning our lesson from the night before, and knowing there was a scheduled briefing at 0900 that many people would be attending, we arrived at the Reception Center at 0800 to get a close parking space. Hint: If you decide to do this, there is a MacDonalds on Military Drive, just north of Hwy 90. A couple of breakfast sandwiches, and a large cup of coffee, and you're good to go.
A word for smokers: The retreat bleachers, the parade ground, and the Reception Center are nonsmoking areas. However, you can sit in your car and smoke, and the picnic tables in back of the Reception Center have been designated as smoking areas. Away from these areas, you can smoke outside, but there is no smoking inside of most of the Air Force facilities.
The graduation parade begins at 1100, and is over surprisingly quickly. I expected the parade (with speeches) to last a full hour, but it barely lasted 30 minutes. Again, upon completion, the recruits are dismissed and everyone in the stands gets to rush down and congratulate them (after you find them). Your loved one is allowed to ride the bus back to the reception center with you, or, you can choose to walk back with them (about 3/4 of a mile). At that point, they are released for an all-day on-base liberty, and can ride with you in your vehicle anywhere on base.
Right after the parade, and until about 1300 (1:00 P.M.), there is an "open house" held in the dormitories. This period is referred to (by the Basic Training Staff) as the "payback" period. This is where you can see where your loved one actually lived, and can see with your own eyes that it was possible to teach him/her how to make a bed and fold clothes. This is also a chance for you to meet and talk with their T.I.s. Before walking over to the dorm, one of my daughters begged me, "Please, Dad, don't make any jokes, okay? Our T.I. DOES NOT have a sense of humor." Luckily for her, the bay she lived in was on the top (3rd) floor, up five flights of stairs. Upon reaching the top level, I couldn't even breath, let alone attempt to be funny. I think they build dormitory floors higher than when I went through basic.