**This is a letter that I wrote to explain everthing we went through for our Son's graduation**
To whom it may concern~
I would like to tell you the story of our visit to Ft. Knox for our son’s graduation from Basic Training. Originally he was scheduled for a graduation date of September 18, 2009. We waited a while before we booked our trip, as I know sometimes these dates change. We were supposed to have a family day on Thursday September 17, 2009 and then graduation on Friday. We waited as long as we could and then went ahead and booked our tickets (We were coming from California). We received a new letter from his company of a change in plans dated August 24, 2009. In it it apologizes for the inconvenience we are about to cause…..going on to explain that they have changed the graduation date to Thursday the 17, It also states that As for Family Day you will be able to spend time with your soldier in conjunction with graduation. Okay so we change our plane tickets to arrive one day earlier. This letter also contains the name of a Training NCO SFC Anthony Arnett with his phone number listed and saying if you have any questions to call. Of course I had questions why was it changed?? I called and spoke to SFC Arnett, he explained that a platoon was either deploying or arriving home and they needed the space on Friday for that. I was fine with that, no problem. I also asked him at this time what happens with my son after graduation as he is staying on at Ft. Knox for his AIT. He said he didn’t know but that he would find out for me if I would be able to take him for Friday night and bring him back on Saturday. He said he would let me know Thursday after graduation.
My trip to Louisville, we arrived in Louisville at about 11am on Wednesday the 16th of September. I was so excited to be going to our son’s graduation the following morning!! We woke up very early and got to the base around 8:30 AM got through the gates no problem, got to the field (Brooks Field) for graduation and even found a seat. We watched as our young son marched on the field and listened as the retired General spoke of supporting our young soldiers. It was a beautiful graduation. We were all told that the platoons would go back to their barracks change and then we could sign him out for the day. THIS is where my wonderful experience at FT. Knox goes to HELL in a hand basket very quickly. We drove over to the barracks and joined all the other parents at the back of the barracks. They had some tables set up with the platoon #’s on them 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, our son was in 1st platoon so we got in line and waited, and waited and waited then some people came out and there was a person going to the table for 4th platoon, then one for 3rd platoon, then 2nd platoon and I know you are expecting me to say and one for the 1st well you would be wrong!! They realized that where the table for 1st platoon was set up is where they soldiers would be forming up so they moved the table somewhere else, so the line moved with it kind of by this time all the other platoons had signed their soldiers out and here we were still waiting for someone to come out to help us sign them out. Isn’t Basic training what these people do for a living, don’t they know where to locate the tables, have they never had a graduating class it was a totally unorganized mess!!! You would think this would be why I am writing and all I have to complain about, well once again you would be wrong!! Finally after about 2 hours of waiting we got to sign out our son, I asked if SFC Arnett had found out for us what he said he would find out and I was told he wasn’t there today, and of course no one else knew anything. So we took our son and enjoyed a wonderful day together. We brought him back at the designated time and were told that still no one knows anything, but to come back in the morning. We left to go to our hotel and then next morning (Friday September 18, 2009) we returned. We got there at 7:00 AM. We stood outside the front of his barracks and finally after waiting again for a while I walked in and spoke to someone at the desk. I asked if they knew if we would be able to sign out our son for the day and bring him back on Saturday. I was told that they have no control over this and that I would have to ask his new commander. I was fine with this, just point me in the direction of the new commander….now this is where it gets interesting…They don’t know who his new commander is or where he is going!!!! They think it may be up by the 4 way stop but they aren’t sure…you have got to be kidding me, There is a building about 2 blocks away but yet no one there seems to know where it is. My son already knew he was going to Echo 1/81, Not one person there seemed to care one bit or even said they would help me find whom I needed to talk to. I also asked since they didn’t know where they were going could I just follow them since they were marching over and I was told yes and that they would be coming out from either the left or right side of the barracks. So we waited some more. There were many families waiting out in the front of the barracks but the people in charge had the soldiers lined up in the back of the building, lots of the family’s thought they had already left! I along with many people that day felt that those in charge were getting a big giant laugh at our expense by changing things on a whim. Is this really how the ARMY is run??? We waited and waited we walked around the building to see where our son was lined up but he wasn’t there they had his group go back in the barracks and then they left going a different way than what I was told. I guess they thought we were stupid or something and couldn’t figure out where to go. I seen a large truck filled with Army bags and I told my husband to follow that truck because I am sure it is going to where we need to be. Guess what that truck went right to where my son was standing. This is where we met the nicest most helpful people on the whole base and I don’t think they were even in the army. There were 3 older gentlemen in an office that let us come in and sit down since it was raining outside. They told us they would help find out what was going on. We sat and waited some more. I was told to stay right there and they would let me know where to go and who to talk to. After more hours of waiting we were told to follow this person over to the barracks where our Son was. We walked over seen him in formation and then they all went in side and a person came out to talk to us. He explained that they needed to get their linens issued but that we could come back at 9:00AM Saturday morning and we could check him out for that day and bring him back on Sunday at 6:00PM. Okay this is where I LOST it!! My plane left Saturday afternoon so I had no way of keeping him for more than a few hours on Saturday. I started crying and yes I even yelled at this person who really seemed to not care one bit. He didn’t offer to see if any other arrangements could be made. He just said very insincerely that he was sorry. I could not believe this, I came all the way from California, I was supporting my Son, and now because he needed to get a set of sheets I couldn’t spend the day with him. Why is there not some sort of plan already set up for people who are graduating and staying for AIT at Ft. Knox? He had already graduated from Basic Training and his AIT didn’t start until Monday so why couldn’t we have been able to check him out from Friday until Saturday instead of Saturday to Sunday. Why is that you have people who work on the same base yet they seem to not know what the other people are doing. Why couldn’t this have already been settled before we got there? I have never seen anything more unorganized for a place that supposedly does Basic training and AIT training; maybe you should have these people get together for a staff meeting or something. They seemed to no know one another and since there are soldiers that stay and do their AIT there maybe it would be helpful to know a little about where the soldier is going.
Why was there nothing in place, like this is how we do graduation, we are going to follow this timeline. This is what happens when a soldier stays at Ft. Knox for AIT, and hey how about telling the parents ahead of time.
Some of the other parents and myself were also wondering is this how the Army does everything, even over in Iraq, is it this disorganized??? I am hoping and praying that the Army is more organized there than they are at Ft. Knox.
What really makes me sad is that the one thing that I kept thinking about was my father, William Graser who spent 459 days in a German Prison camp during WWII. He always talked about his captors and one thing always stood out ~ He was there during Christmas and he talked about how the guards were actually kind of compassionate and let them have a tree and they even sang songs together. So for that one night Nazi German Prisoner guards had more compassion for their prisoners than ANY person at Ft. Knox had for the families of graduating soldiers. What a sad thing for Today’s United States Army!
I am not writing this letter to get anyone in trouble, because I know that famous trickle down effect…my son would be the one who pays in the long run. I am writing this letter so maybe you would think about the families of the graduating soldiers and maybe show them a little respect and compassion. Maybe another Mom like me won’t have to go through what turned from a wonderful trip to a trip from HELL!! Maybe that person whom I yelled at would take some time with the next Mom and say “Let’s see what we can do to help you “ is this asking too much???
I am sending this letter to numerous people just to make sure that someone somewhere reads it, I am also posting a copy on my blog. I know blogs aren’t real important but if anyone out there put into any search engine Ft. Knox, Graduation, Families etc.. My blog will pop up and they can learn what really happens at a Ft. Knox graduation.
Sincerely Joann Allen