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PIR Day and Liberty During PIR Weekend

The first time you will see your Sailor is at PIR unless you are blessed to catch a glimpse of him/her in a photo on or in the live stream of PIR at or if your recruit is in a 900 division. The new Sailors are not present at any of the Meet and Greets the night before PIR. Meet and Greets are for the loved ones and friends of the graduating Sailors to get together and have some fun and food together and get some information that may help them the next day.

See, and

 If you plan to swim as part of the weekend activities, be sure your Sailor knows this and has his/her PT gear before leaving the RTC since Graduating Sailors must remain in their complete uniform while on liberty.

See for the schedule for PIR.

Here is a document from Sarge that you may find helpful: Sarge's Suggestions.

The comment by BeachBunny at may be helpful. Her comments include info on how to spend less time in traffic.

Driving to the RTC

To print the Parking Pass/Gate Pass, go to within 11 days of PIR. You will need the password that is on the Official Form Letter that your recruit sent you--enter the password using all capital letters. You will need to have Adobe Reader to print the Parking Pass. If you need a newer version go to Some people have found that they were better able to access the link by using Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. Go to to download the Mozilla Firefox browser free.

You are able to print additional Parking Passes/Gate Passes if you have people traveling to PIR in more than one vehicle. Please try to keep the number of vehicles down if you can, but you do have the option if you need it.

If your recruit's PIR date changes for some reason, the password in the original letter will not work since the Passwords are PIR specific and the PIR date is printed on the gate pass. Ask your SR to send you the new password when s/he is moved to a new division. If the gate pass is available and you do not have the password, you can call the PAO at 847-688-2405 and explain your situation. You will need to supply the password from your form letter for the original PIR date as well and they will provide you with the password to get the gate pass. The PAO will not give you the password unless you have a password to give to them; they cannot help if you have lost the password. It is a violation of OPSEC for anyone else to give you the password besides your SR or the PAO.

If you do not get the password to download the vehicle/gate pass or if you have misplaced the form letter with the password, you will need to take a taxi or shuttle to the gate and walk in or park across the street at the Metra parking lot and then walk in.

If you plan to use a GPS to navigate to the base, enter this address: 3355 Illinois Street, Great Lakes, IL 60088

If you drive, stay out of the right lane because it ends and you do not want to have to try to merge.

Be sure to have your registration and proof of insurance or car rental agreement available when entering at the gate. Be sure that everyone in the vehicle has current ID; it is possible that a person with an expired ID would be refused admittance.

If you or someone in your party has difficulty walking, make sure that you have a handicapped/disabled placard displayed upon entering the RTC so that your vehicle will be directed to the correct parking area. (If your vehicle has permanent disabled license plates and you will not be using your own vehicle, check with your local license bureau about getting a handicapped/disabled placard for use during PIR weekend. It may require a form from your physician or proof of the license plate depending on your state.) Use of wheelchairs and manually-powered mobility aids are authorized onboard RTC. They also have wheelchairs available and Sailors/Recruits will help to seat you in one of the handicapped areas. They will help you to find the area closest to your Sailor's division. If you have your own wheelchair, do bring that because you will be able to sit in it and won't have to wait your turn for transport after the ceremony. If you use one from the RTC, then you will be transferred to a chair and will have to wait for one of the wheelchairs to be brought back for you after the ceremony. One other person will be able to sit with you in the handicapped area and any others with you will sit in the bleachers. If you have trouble walking and you don’t have your own wheelchair, you may want to consider renting one in your hometown for use PIR weekend—ask your doctor about writing a prescription for use of a wheelchair for a week. Even if you don't have a handicapped placard, you will be able to utilize one of the wheelchairs at the RTC if it is needed, so don't hesitate to ask if you have a need for one. (See page 2 of the Family Guide at for additional information.)

Walking onto the RTC

If you take a taxi or shuttle or otherwise walk in, it is about 100 yards to the Visitors Center from the gate and then about the same to the USS Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall. (That distance increases to nearly triple that once the lines are set up that weave back and forth.) The Parking Garage is adjacent to the Visitors Center. Dress warmly in winter and wear comfortable shoes all year round. You will need current ID to enter the RTC; it is possible that a person with an expired ID would be refused admittance.

Other Important Information

If an interpreter is needed for a deaf or hearing impaired individual, contact the PAO prior to PIR (several weeks notice is best) and they will provide an on-site qualified interpreter for the graduation ceremony. (See page 2 of the Family Guide at for additional information.)

PIR is held inside within the USS Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall onboard the RTC. All visitors must check in at the USS Yorktown (the RTC's Visitors Center) prior to being permitted to move on to the Drill Hall. Be sure that everyone in your party has current ID; it is possible that a person with an expired ID would be refused admittance.

If you have others in your group who are not on the Access List who make the trip to GL, they should wait at the hotel and meet up later at a place away from the RTC--at a restaurant or at the hotel. Only guests are authorized to be on the RTC and others will be instructed to leave or wait in the car. Waiting in the car for four hours or more would not be very comfortable. Plan to arrive at the RTC by 6:30 am CST when the gates open on the day of PIR if you are driving onto the RTC or around 7 am CST if you will be arriving by taxi or shuttle or otherwise walking onto the RTC.

The RTC will stream PIR live at or beginning at 8:45 am CST for those who are unable to attend in person.

Remember that your Sailor will be in dress blues/whites and you want to wear something that will be appropriate for the occasion and look good in pictures with your Sailor. (GL changes over to dress blues the first full week of October and to dress whites the first full week of May. The command determines the switch over date and it could change from that if the need arose.) I suggest that you wear business casual or nice church clothes. You will see people wearing everything from very casual to formal. Remember that you will be standing and walking quite a bit, so wear comfortable shoes. Also remember that you will be sitting in metal bleachers inside the USS Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall, so consider dress length if you wear a dress/skirt. You may want to take something to sit on--a cushion, small thick blanket, or jacket--especially in the cooler months. It is cool (some say cold) in the Drill Hall year round, so you may want to have a sweater or jacket. There are signs with the division numbers on them within the Drill Hall to indicate the approximate location that the Sailors in each of the divisions will be standing. Look for the sign for your Sailor's division and sit in that area or at a slight angle (in the section just to the left or right) of the sign to give you the best view. By sitting at an angle to the division, you will be able to scan the Sailors more easily than if you are seated directly in front of them and looking straight down the rows. You make the decision as to where to sit.

The Sailors really do look alike at PIR so knowing ahead of time where your Sailor will be marching/standing within the division may help you to locate him/her faster than if you don't have that information. Ask your Sailor to tell you where s/he will be standing when s/he makes the "I'm a Sailor!" call or ask in a letter about 2 weeks before PIR so that s/he has time to respond. The Sailors are arranged by height with the tallest Sailors in the division in the back. Some loved ones take binoculars or use the zoom feature on their cameras to help locate their Sailors. If you choose to do this, you may want to wait until the recruits are in formation rather than while they are marching so you can better see what is happening. Do not bring signs, balloons, or flowers. If the recruits or Sailors who are helping in the Visitors Center see any of those items, you will be asked to take them back to your vehicle or to leave them in the Visitors Center, so save them for the hotel. If you were to make it into the Drill Hall with a sign, it would be so sad if your sign were to cause one or more other loved ones to miss seeing their new Sailor due to your sign.

When you get in the Drill Hall take some practice shots with your camera to get the best pics for the lighting you have and your pics will turn out much better. You can take photos and videos within the Drill Hall, but you cannot take photos or videos anytime you are outside while onboard the RTC.

If you are able to adopt a Sailor who is alone for the day, please do so. You will have to work with your SR to find out if s/he has a shipmate who will be alone in order to set this up. Be sure to loan the new Sailor a cell phone so s/he will be able to talk to his/her loved ones and if you have an extra laptop, allowing him/her to have some computer time would be nice as well. Also, don't forget to hug and congratulate a Sailor whose family couldn't show up. (One mom who was not able to attend PIR met another mom on N4M with a son in the same division as her son. She was able to send her son's cell phone and a few other things to the second mom ahead of PIR. The second mom was able to pass that on to him since the two Sailors were both staying at GL after PIR as well as adopting him for the weekend.)

All new Sailors must have a Liberty Buddy during Liberty PIR weekend. That "Buddy" can be any adult (you, for instance, if you are an adult) or another Sailor. Remember that if you plan to send your Sailor back to the RTC or TSC on public transportation rather than accompanying him/her and make sure that there is at least one other Sailor also traveling with him/her.

The raising and lowering of the National Ensign, the American flag and organization flags is known as Colors. At the RTC and Naval Station Great Lakes this is at 0800 each morning and each evening is at sunset, so the time varies depending on the season. All uniformed personnel must stand at attention and salute during colors; everyone else must also stop, face the direction of the music, and be respectful. Be aware that if you are onboard the RTC or Naval Station Great Lakes at Colors that you must stop what you are doing and face the flag. If you are in a vehicle, you will pull to the side of the road. This may affect you PIR weekend.

 If your Sailor flies out to "A" School or training, s/he will have Liberty from about 10:30 am when Liberty is called following PIR until sometime in the evening (usually around 8 to 9 pm, but it could be earlier--s/he will know the time) and s/he will need to be back at the RTC about a half hour before Liberty expires to be certain to get back to the ship on time. If your Sailor has watch at some point during the day, you will need to return him/her to the RTC in time to be back to the ship for it and then pick him/her up afterwards if there is still time remaining before Liberty expires.

Only your Sailor will know his/her flight arrangements for certain and even Sailors going to the same "A" School could be on different flights or fly from different airports depending on flight availability. Your Sailor will fly out of O’Hare International Airport (ORD)Midway International Airport (MDW), or Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport--MKE. Once in a while flight availability issues cause a Sailor to fly out on Sunday instead of Saturday, but you wouldn't know this until PIR (or possibly when you get the "I'm a Sailor!" call if you get that on Wednesday or Thursday), so be flexible if you can. S/He will let you know what airport s/he will fly out of and when so you can meet him/her at the airport and spend time with him/her before his/her flight and give him/her his/her cell phone with charger, laptop, a few snacks, and other things that will fit in his/her black backpack. Favorite underwear are wanted by most since the guys are ready to be out of their "tighty whities" and the gals are ready to be out of their "Granny panties" by this time (they may also want their favorite bras). Some also want cotton swabs (Q-Tips) since these are not permited at the RTC. You can take a black backpack or a small black duffle bag and have your Sailor check it or his/her black backpack from the RTC and use the other one for a carry-on, but remember that your Sailor will need to be able to carry everything once s/he is at his/her destination.

A large number of Sailors are taken to the airports at the same time in buses from the RTC that make the trip between the RTC and airports every few hours. The Sailors know which bus they are to be on and can tell you that following PIR. Some may arrive as early as 1 am and some as late as 6 am regardless of when their flights are. Once the Sailors are at the airport, a USO representative will divide them into groups based on their destinations and give them instructions. Some flights will be within an hour or so of arrival and some could be late in the afternoon or evening, so some may be at the airport for a short time and some may be there for several hours. Some meet at the USO, while others choose another spot. Be sure your Sailor has a calling card so s/he can call you at the airport if you miss each other so you can meet up before the flight. The calling cards from will work at the airport and at "A" School if your Sailor has left overs. Once your Sailor has his/her boarding pass, you can go with your Sailor to the airline counter to get a courtesy/guest/gate pass (sometimes called a companion pass) so you can wait with him/her until his/her flight--you will need photo ID. (See Some airlines do not allow minors to accompany the Sailor to the Gate and others require ID for minors who will accompany the Sailor, similar to what would be accepted at the RTC, even though minors who are flying do not require ID, so be prepared for either situation. Also, be aware that the gate passes may be limited to immediate family members only in accordance with TSA regulations. A fiancée/fiancé is usually permitted to obtain a gate pass, but a girlfriend/boyfriend may be denied one. You may go through a different TSA checkpoint than your Sailor to get to the gate, so be sure you know the gate number. Some Sailors are told they are not to leave the airport while waiting for their flight even if there are several hours before the flight and others have been allowed to leave the airport as long as they return no later than 2 hours before the flight (most plan to arrive back 2 1/2 hours before the flight to allow for any problems or for traffic), so check with those giving instructions at the airport and don't go through Security if your Sailor is able to leave until your Sailor has to be back for his/her flight. If your Sailor has several hours until his/her flight, s/he may not have to go to the gate for a while and may be able to leave his/her things at the USO and spend time with you within the airport or away from the airport; this is especially good to know if some in the party may not be able to obtain a gate pass. Remember to keep OPSEC and PERSEC in mind to help keep our Sailors safe and do not post arrival or departure times or specific flight details until after it has already happened and your Sailor and his/her shipmates are safely at their next destinations.

The USO at O’Hare International Airport is located on the Mezzanine Level OUTSIDE of the security checkpoint in Terminal 2 above the Delta Airlines Ticket counter so anyone can access it. Sailors arrive by bus at Terminal 2 and meet up with a USO representative, so you can go to the USO for more information and assistance. The USO at Midway International Airport is located INSIDE of the secured area past the security checkpoint in Concourse C near the gate area so you must have a boarding pass or courtesy/guest/gate pass to get beyond the TSA security checkpoint. The USO at General Mitchell International Airport is located INSIDE of the secured area past the security checkpoint on Concourse D across from Gate D30 and you must have a boarding pass or courtesy/guest/gate pass to get beyond the TSA security checkpoint. You must be current military, retired military, or a dependent to go into the USO, but you can still meet your Sailor there and some family members have been able to enter if the USO was not very busy.

Arrive the day before PIR and go to Sarge's Meet and Greet (go to Events on the right and move the calendar to the day before PIR and then locate it or click on the Events tab above) and maybe part of another Meet and Greet (Ramada Inn has one and sometimes Flanagan's) and then plan to leave late Saturday or on Sunday to have the most time with your Sailor when PIR is on Friday. If PIR falls on a holiday weekend, the RTC will post on their facebook page if there are to be any changes in the typical flight arrangements for the Sailors; for example, those graduating on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving usually fly out on the Friday after Thanksgiving rather than on Thanksgiving Day.

About a week before PIR send your recruit an index card to write down the flight details and then s/he can give it to you after PIR. Sailors or loved ones have gotten so excited that they have gotten details confused so this may prevent that.

If you want to put something on the index card, you could put the following:

Please fill this out when you get your final orders and then give it to us at PIR. Do not mail it.

Name of Airport:

Approximate arrival time at airport:

Date and time of flight:


Flight number:

Gate number:

Best place to meet (if known; otherwise, we'll meet at the USO):

Note:  Your Sailor most likely will be responsible for arranging and paying for transportation from the airport s/he flies into to his/her new command, "A" School in this case. (Some have been able to be reimbursed for the cab fare, so remind him/her to get a receipt.) Often several Sailors arrive around the same time and share a shuttle or taxi. S/He should check at the USO at the airport because they can usually suggest the best options. (You can also check in the group for your Sailor's "A" School and see how others handled this and let your Sailor know.) It will be that way from now on although sometimes a sponsor will meet the Sailor upon transferring to a new duty station.

If your Sailor stays in GL, you will have a short time with him/her (anywhere from 15-60 min.--s/he'll know) following PIR and then s/he will return to his/her ship to be transported to the Training Support Center Great Lakes (TSC). Some loved ones return to the hotel to wait on the call or go out to eat. Others wait in Building 1326 at the RTC Recreation Center located next to the NEX. S/He will call you after s/he checks in at the TSC, which takes about 3-5 hours, and will have Liberty until Liberty expires that night at 10, but you must drop him/her off about 30 minutes before to give him/her time to get to his/her barracks. S/He will be able to take his/her cell phone back with him/her that night. Then s/he will have daytime Liberty (pick up between 6 am and 7 am and drop off 9:30 pm or so--your Sailor will know the time) each day of the weekend. You may have to sign your Sailor out and back in each day for Liberty; some have had to and others have not. There is no overnight Liberty PIR weekend. Have him/her bring his/her black backpack on Saturday and maybe Sunday so s/he can take things back with him/her, such as cell phone with charger, laptop, other electronics, and a few clothes. Favorite underwear are wanted by most since the guys are ready to be out of their "tighty whities" and the gals are ready to be out of their "Granny panties" by this time (they may also want their favorite bras). Some also want cotton swabs (Q-Tips) since these are not permited at the RTC. If your Sailor has watch at some point during Liberty, you will need to return him/her to the TSC in time to be back to the barracks for it and then pick him/her up afterwards if there is still time remaining before Liberty expires.

Arrive the day before PIR and go to Sarge's Meet and Greet (go to Events on the right and move the calendar to the day before PIR and then locate it or click on the Events tab above) and maybe part of another Meet and Greet (Ramada Inn has one and sometimes Flanagan's) and then plan to leave late Sunday or on Monday to have the most time with your Sailor. If PIR falls on a holiday weekend, then your Sailor will also have daytime Liberty on the federal holiday, so plan to stay for all of the days of the holiday weekend if you are able. 2013 Federal Holidays that this will affect: Labor Day-09/02/2013, Columbus Day-10/14/2013, and Thanksgiving-11/28/2013 (PIR will be on Wednesday).

Two groups you will want to check out if your Sailor will stay in GL are Great Lakes A School Q&A and GL A-school moms. You can also check out the Training Support Center (TSC) Great Lakes Facebook Page.

If you are staying at the Gateway Inn and Suites, your Sailor will have to obtain a special chit in order to visit you there since that is an area that is off-limits to the students at the TSC. Be sure that s/he knows that and obtains the “deviation chit” before visiting you there. (Some have indicated that their Sailors did not have to have the deviation chit to visit during PIR weekend, but that they would need one at other times, so the TSC may have changed the policy on this. It is better for your Sailor to know of the possibility than to not have one and need it.)

If you don’t know where your Sailor will go for training, go to Ratings, A School Locations, and Links to Groups.


If your Sailor has PIR during the holiday stand down around Christmas and New Year's Day at the "A" Schools, the new Sailors typically must check in at the "A" School as above before taking leave. This is the only time that Sailors can take leave prior to the end of "A" School and the Sailors are permitted to go "in the hole" for leave. Your SR will get details about this at BC and/or at "A" School after check-in. You may have to help your Sailor with travel arrangements and then let the new command know.

The above information is provided by lemonelephant, the mom of a Sailor

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