Last year at this time, I sat in your shoes. I was ecstatic my DS achieved his dream and received an appointment to USAFA. We were not a military family so none of us knew what to expect. I joined this board earlier in the year and it was a great resource for asking questions and learning more about what to expect. A year later there are a few lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you. Some other parents may want to join in and give their opinions as a parent of a cadet as well. Pre-BCT We watched a lot of videos on BCT and Cadet life. It helped us and my DS (a lot less he tells me now) prepare mentally for the challenges of BCT. You will be invited to several parent groups on Facebook over the next several months. They are great places to lean on each other, but can also cause unnecessary stress if you take every word on them as gospel. You will find all types of parents on the board from those who think USAFA is similar to a regular college and ask how often their child can come home, to the parent who can't let go and wants to take charge of everything in the Cadet's life from day one. They will offer to set up meals for A Day and so on and all will be with the best intentions, but they don't always jive with what the Wing has in mind. Enjoy but do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions of seasoned parents before you make a rash decision or buy a product. I Day It will be a blur. Some will go out early to spend time with family and some will want to fly by themselves and say good-bye at home. Let the DS or DD make these decisions. They will likely have as many if not more emotions going on in their heads than you do when the day arrives. If you go (and I hope you do as it was wonderful to watch) enjoy a wonderful meal with your DS or DD the night before. We had dinner and met another family from our state. I think meeting other future Class of 2020 Cadets the day before helped ease the nerves for my DS. However, once you arrive the DS is gone without much time for fanfare. They do some quick processing and then you stand with them for a quick orientation speech before they give you about a minute to say good-byes (by far the hardest part for the parent). Stick around and watch them board the bus and stop by some of the booths to learn more about pay, clubs and USAFA in general. If possible, stay and come early the next morning for the parade and swearing-in ceremony. You will be shocked at the transformation. Also, join Web Guy as it will be your life line to your Cadet over the next 6 weeks. You will find yourself surfing photos for hours during BCT to get a glimpse of your Cadet. BCT BCT is broken into two segments. It also has two different sets of Cadre leading the sessions. Do not be surprised if your Cadet has several different roommates during BCT. Letters are the life blood of a Cadets life during BCT. I found it silly at first when they suggested you write (or email through AOG) everyday, but my DS said it really was what helped them get through each day. BCT I is on the hill and involves a ton of learning how to be in the military. There is a ton of marching and learning and meetings. They also have fun with intramurals, but there is not downtime. You will write daily, but only expect a few letters in return during BCT. There will also be attrition. It doesn't take long for some incoming Cadets to learn USAFA is not for them. In the middle of BCT, there is Doolie Day Out where new Cadets (Doolies) are paired with a sponsor family. They get their phones back and this will likely be your first voice contact with your DS/DD. Expect to hear a change in the child to be more formal. Each Cadet is different so be careful to read too much into what to expect on the call. My DS was very chatty and wanted to tell us about BCT I. Others talked about their Cadet using the time to vent. The best advice is to listen and take the conversation where the Cadet wants to go. When they return from Doolie Day Out they get the second set of Cadre and prepare for BCT II and Jack's Valley. BCT I seems to focus on the mental side of basic while BCT II is more on the physical side and building the unit as a team. By this time the days fly by and before you know it BCT II will be over and A Day will arrive. A Day This is another opportunity to go to USAFA. It is a lot to ask parents just 6 weeks removed from I Day and only a few weeks before Parents Weekend, but if you can it is worth the trip. My wife and I went as it gives you a couple of hours to visit with your child. The parade is great (except for the fainting which will happen and a lot more than you expect). Don't worry about those who faint as they are well cared by the staff. You finally get to see your Cadet at the end of the parade and it is wonderful. The best hug you will ever get! But back to the advice - before A Day our parents board was putting together sign-ups for food as many of the Cadet parents could not make it. We ended up buying $150 worth of Chick-fil-a at 6 in the morning and put it in heating packs and carry it up hills to the parade fields. At the end of the parade we were told our DS' squadron was doing the shoulder bars in Polaris Hall. We were able to have a more formal ceremony and learn about the expectations and leadership for the semester. At the end, they told everyone lunch was provided next door. In the end, we only got to spend about 30 minutes with our DS visiting and left a ton of food for the squad for dinner, but it was worth every minute. The lesson was parents over analyze and prepare so it is just part of the experience. Parents Weekend This is the first prolonged visit with your Cadet. They are now in school and the campus is open for tours including Jack's Valley. We stayed in Colorado Springs Friday and Saturday and then headed to the mountains for a short get away on Sunday and rafted on Monday morning. It was what our DS wanted to do. It is a great weekend with your child and really prepares you for the fall semester. I hope this gives you some insight into the first franic part of this journey. It is remarkable and we have enjoyed it immensely so far.