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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Booting up

Warm welcome

Lining up first thing

Ready to go in

Duffels in hand

Full head of hair

Shaved head

53 years

Body scan stepping in

Standing still

Going through RFID scanner

Ready to check out

Rules to follow

Beds and lockers

Training rifles

Firing positions

Classroom

Training tracks

Here they come

Airman's run

Running in red

Family with sign

Through the crowd

Running through signs

Arriving for coin ceremony

Congratulating top airman

Tray of coins

Giving the coin

Big hug

Instructors marching

Flight marching

Marching with flags

The oath

The next generation?

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--Every year, the U.S. Air Force graduates about 35,000 new airmen. Each and every one of them comes to Lackland Air Force Base here, where they spend eight weeks in intensive basic training.

It all begins each week when between 400 and 700 new trainees are brought to Lackland, where they must first get all their gear, including their boots and caps. If they survive the training, they get their airman's coin and join what they are told over and over again is "the best air force the world has ever known."

CNET Road Trip 2014 visited Lackland to see the beginning and ending of the airmen's eight-week journey.

Click here to read my full story on Air Force basic training.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

After eight weeks of basic training, the trainees become airmen, and their graduation is celebrated by a large contingent of family and friends. Here, a new airman gets a warm welcome from a friend.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

New trainees are broken up into squadrons, and then into groups, known as "flights." Here, a flight of fresh trainees waits outside to be brought in, have their heads shaved, and get all their new gear.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

A flight lines up outside the building where they will get their heads shaved and be given their gear. Though they've barely begun their training, they're already required to stand at attention, be silent, and look straight ahead.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Preparing to go inside the building, the new trainees hold their brand-new duffel bags, which will soon be filled with 40 to 45 pounds of gear.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

They may come in with short hair or long hair, but if they're male, it's got to go. Here, a new trainee prepares to say goodbye to his full head of hair.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

It took less than two minutes for this trainee, seen in the previous photo with a full head of hair, to have his head shaved. Now he's ready to begin his Air Force training.

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For 53 years, Lester West has shaved incoming male trainees' heads. Over that time, he said, he's probably shaved more than a million heads.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The Air Force is using a body scanner to determine each trainee's measurements. Here, a trainee is seen stepping into the body scanner.

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A trainee stands still as the body scanner determines his measurements.

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Each and every piece of gear the trainees are given has an embedded RFID tag. When they have suited up and have everything else in their duffel or in their hands, they walk through this scanner, which is meant to determine if they have everything they need.

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A brand-new trainee, boots in hand and hat on head, prepares to check out. His eight-week journey to becoming an Air Force airman has begun.

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These rules are posted on the wall for trainees to read and follow as they wait for processing. It's clear, from the last rule in the list, that this sign has been posted since a sexual harassment/assault scandal rocked the Air Force a few years ago. Many of the new procedures in place at Lackland have been instituted in response to the scandal, in which dozens of female trainees said they were sexually assaulted by instructors.

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In a brand-new dormitory building, trainees' beds and lockers are perfectly made and organized during the day while they go through training exercises.

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Trainees learn to work with these rifles, which cannot fire live rounds, but which will be used in all weapon drills during their time at Lackland.

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Trainees do a wide range of drills during their time at Lackland Air Force Base, including learning how to work from a firing position like this one. Unfortunately, no live training was going on when CNET Road Trip visited.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Trainees spend several hours every day in classrooms, learning the academic portion of their Air Force education. Classrooms are filled with non-networked computers. They are not allowed normal outside contact during their eight weeks of training, though they are allowed a few short phone calls to friends or family. They may not access any kind of social media during the training period.

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The trainees go through regular physical exercise, including running around a large track near their barracks. Based on the speed of previous runs, they are categorized into groups, each of which has a specific color. The slowest runners use the red lane, while the fastest use the blue lane. This is meant to apply peer pressure to get better as they proceed through training.

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After eight weeks, the trainees graduate. But a day before the formal graduation ceremony, they take part in what is known as the "airman's run," where each of the flights dresses in special shirts and runs over this bridge and through a gantlet of their friends and family members.

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Carrying a group of flags, graduating airmen continue the Airman's run.

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A group of soon-to-be graduates dressed in the red t-shirts of their flight makes their way through the Airman's run.

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Friends and family line a street at Lackland Air Force base for the Airman's run. Many hold signs that celebrate their loved ones' achievement.

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The soon-to-be graduates make their way through the crowd.

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Two flights pass by lined up family and friends, some of whom carry signs celebrating the soon-to-be graduates.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The day before they officially graduate, the new airmen go through what is known as the Coin Ceremony, where they are given the ceremonial coin that signifies their entrance into the Air Force. Here, a flight arrives at the ceremony as hundreds of friends and family, as well as the airmen's instructors look on.

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Col. Michele Edmondson, the commander of Air Force basic training, congratulates the top airman, as measured by a wide range of criteria, during the coin ceremony.

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A tray of coins, each of which will be given to a graduating airman. They will likely hold on to those coins for the rest of their Air Force career.

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An instructor hands out a coin to a graduating airman.

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After the Coin Ceremony, friends and family get their first chance to hug their graduating loved one since training began eight weeks earlier.

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A group of military training instructors march at the official graduation ceremony the next day.

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Each flight marches around the ceremony grounds, in front of their friends and family, as well as gathered instructors, Air Force commanders, and other dignitaries.

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Airmen carrying the flags of the United States, the Air Force, and each of the states represented by graduating airmen march on graduation day.

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The graduates take their official oath to the Air Force.

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Master Sgt. David Drennon, who leads all the basic training instructors, with his two daughters. The son of an Air Force family himself, could he have fathered the next generation of Air Force airmen?

Caption by / Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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