Hi Everyone!! We are back from PIR weekend, and it was a wild ride! Thank you to everyone here - ALL of the information on this site really helped prepare us for PIR weekend, so if you are getting ready to go, please review the files here before you go!
I wanted to share some additional things that I learned during my experience this weekend, in the hopes that it might help others, moving forward.
1) Although we can't talk about the day/time of Battlestations before it happens (against OPSEC rules), my son was able to tell us on his last call/letter that he would call us on X day at X time to tell us that he is a sailor, so if you ask your SR that question, it really tells you what you need to know.
2) I did not get my "I'm a Sailor" call until I was already at GL, since my son's division was one of the last in his PIR group (they go in numerical order), and they didn't finish BS until Thursday morning. However, we knew that he had passed before the call because we picked up our tickets without issue that morning (they open at 10 am). They would not issue you tickets if your SR hadn't passed, so if you haven't received your call, yet, go early on Thursday to get tickets, if you can! :)
3) At the place where you pick up your tickets is a NEX, and you can get a lot of Navy apparel and stuff there; HOWEVER, the NEX on base (that you can go to after PIR is over) has a much larger selection of clothes and stuff to buy there. I wish we had known that earlier, since we bought stuff at the off-base NEX first, and I found better stuff at the one on base after PIR.
4) Sarge's Meet & Greet is an UNOFFICIAL dinner/party on Thursday night for the families of the Sailors graduating the next day. The sailors will not be at this party, but it was a great way to meet other families before PIR. Sarge is on Facebook, and you should RSVP with him if you want to go. It doesn't cost anything - it is all run on donations, so if you can donate I would suggest doing so in advance because you can donate online. But bring cash for the event since it is a cash bar and there is a basket raffle and you need cash for the tickets. It was fun, but a little long (5-9 pm), and you need to stay until the end if you participate in the basket raffle.
5) Make at least one friend at Sarge's party! I had already made friends with another mom on FB who's son was in my son's division and they both were travelling to the same place for A school. I met her in person for the first time at Sarge's party, and we exchanged phone numbers there. For the rest of the weekend, she and I texted each other when we weren't sure about where we were supposed to be, or needed directions, etc. It was wonderful to help, and be helped, by another Navy mom, and it really made things easier and more fun!
6) Sarge does give a lot of really good information at the event regarding PIR. The best thing we learned was that if you take Sarge's "shortcut" to the base for PIR then you don't need to leave your hotel until 6:30 am and you will get in and seated before all the rest of the guests who left at 5 am and sat in the line of cars on the GPS route to the base. It really does work!!
7) Sailors who are flying out of GL for A school need to be back on base sometime between 7-9 pm on Friday night. Mine wanted to be back at 8 pm, even though his curfew was 9 pm. Use Sarge's shortcut again to drop your sailor off at the same gate you entered that morning - they CAN just get out of the car and use their badge to walk through the turnstile to get into the base. This was really easy and we avoided the huge line of sailors who returned via the main gate!
8) Sailors who are flying out the next day from O'Hare will be arriving at the airport REALLY early, leaving the base at either 1 am, 3 am, or 5 am. I would recommend going to the airport (Terminal 2, door 2A), and being there when they arrive (it's really cool - the USO plays patriotic music when they walk in!), but if you don't want to (or can't) get up that early then plan to have your sailor KEEP his box at his rack and not bring it out with you on Friday after PIR. If they do this then they can have their cell phone (assuming they shut it off when they arrived and it is still charged) when they get on the bus to the airport on Sat morning, and they can contact you and let you know where they are and when they are boarding their plane. Also, they CAN come back out later and get you a gate pass to allow you to see them off at the gate, so you don't NEED to be there when they first go through security.
9) If you are also flying out of the same airport that your sailor is flying out of ON THE SAME DAY, then you do not need a special gate pass to go sit with your sailor at the gate before they leave. You will just need to check in and use your own boarding pass to get past security. This only works if you are leaving within 24 hours of your sailor's flight. Also, you can come back out and check back in later, if you need to. Our sailor boarded his plane at 7:30 am, and our flight home wasn't until 6:30 pm, so we didn't check out of our hotel or bring our luggage that early. We just went to the airport, checked in, went through security, saw him board the plane, then left the airport, came back later that afternoon, re-checked in for our luggage, then went through security again to our gate for our flight home.
10) Unless you are really used to the stress of traveling and being up at all hours of the night/morning, you WILL be tired at some point over the weekend. Catch sleep where you can!! We had our "Do Not Disturb" sign up on our hotel door the whole time we were there and we also got a late check-out on Saturday so that we could take naps in between the times we were on the go. The hotels are all very accommodating and know that your schedules are crazy, so don't feel bad asking for (a little) special treatment - they have guests like you every week!
It really was an amazing weekend, but I will say again that it helps to read everything that you can about PIR weekend and be prepared before you go. My husband was constantly asking me how I knew where we were going and where we were supposed to be, and all that. All of my ravenous reading of the files on this site, and on FB, made this experience much easier for all of us, and allowed us to focus on spending the best quality time with our sailor for the short time that we had before he left again. Good luck to you all, and congratulations to all your new sailors!