Tips make BCT separations easier
Crystal Lewis Brown is an Army spouse of five years and the editor of the Fort Jackson Leader.

FORT JACKSON, SC -- It feels like little time has passed since my younger sister was hanging onto my leg and crying for me not to leave for college. Today, my sister - who is 13 years younger than me - is a freshman in college herself. Observing my mother's reaction from afar, I can see an easy similarity between her feelings and the feelings of those parents and loved ones who comment on Fort Jackson's Facebook page each day.

The loved ones are often conflicted; they express the pride they feel in having a loved one serve his or her country while also sharing their concerns about whether their Soldier will be OK. As I peruse the many comments left by our more than 14,000 followers each day, many of them share the same concerns. Where is my Soldier' Will he or she be OK' Will I receive a phone call' So I have compiled some answers to the most commonly asked questions in hopes that the husbands, wives, moms, dads and other loved ones out there will understand a bit better what to expect while their Soldiers are in Basic Combat Training.

Bookmark Fort Jackson's website.
The post website offers families a wealth of information about what to expect. From the homepage (www.jackson.army.mil) click on the photo of the drill sergeant to be directed to a page that includes links for each of the post's BCT units and a list of graduation dates. The page also includes helpful hints about how to properly search for a unit. For example, the unit address has two main parts: The company which is a letter, like A, B or E company. The second part is the battalion, like 2-13 or 1-34. Click on the "Families of Soldiers in Training" tab on the left-hand side of the homepage for even more links, including information about the local community; maps and directions; how to address mail; and frequently asked questions.

Haven't heard from your Soldier' Don't freak out.
Lt. Col. Bryan Hernandez, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, said that each Soldier is mandated a phone call at the end of BCT's three phases (there is a breakdown of each of these on the Fort Jackson site), which means each Soldier should have at least three chances to use the phone. Keep in mind, however, that it is up to the Soldier to decide whom he or she will call. However, said Hernandez, in many cases, Soldiers may receive additional phone calls as privileges.

Know what is allowed before sending a care package.
As tempting as it is to sneak a bulk-size bag of candy bars into a care package, resist. Candy is among those items considered contraband. Also on the list is medicine, tobacco products and electronics. Hernandez encourages loved ones to send socks, personal hygiene products, paper, envelopes and stamps.

Know before you go.
In addition to the welcome letter that goes out when BCT Soldiers arrive, there is also a five-week letter that explains what family members can expect for graduation and family days. Among the most important of the tips included is to continue to confirm the Soldier's BCT progression so that if the Soldier's graduation date is delayed for some reason, you will know sooner rather than later.

When in doubt, contact the unit.
Contact numbers for each unit are located on the installation's website, and many of the units have Facebook pages that also contain key information for families.

Page last updated Wed September 29th, 2010 at 15:25