The Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon was established in 1976 as a way to recognize the very best of each flight that graduates from the Air Force’s Basic Military Training School at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. Winners of this decoration have the immediate reward of being granted an additional town pass during the week of BMT Graduation ceremonies, as well as the privilege of being allowed to wear it throughout the duration of their Air Force careers.
That honor is well-deserved, because even to be considered for the award they must meet some extremely stringent criteria. In addition to passing every single inspection throughout their training, they must score at least 90 percent on every written examination. Candidates also represent the most physically fit Airmen in their flight; to qualify for the Honor Graduate Ribbon, they must achieve at least the “Thunderbolt” status on the fitness test. This translates into running two miles in under 14.25 minutes and a mile-and-a-half in 8:55 or less, as well as performing 62 push-ups, 70 sit-ups, and 4 pull-ups.
But even achieving those numbers doesn’t guarantee the soon-to-be E-1 Airman a right to wear the ribbon because Honor Graduate candidates must be recommended by the military training instructor and the school commander. And even with those recommendations, being honored with a special ceremony during graduation week is not a shoo-in; no matter how many Airmen are recommended for the award, just ten percent of the trainees in any given flight are selected to receive the ribbon.