Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing to Someone at Basic Training or Boot Camp

So now your son or daughter, boyfriend or girlfriend, brother, sister or friend has headed off to Basic Training or Boot Camp. These next 8 to 10 weeks, or in the case of Marines 13 weeks will be some of the most challenging times for them and you.

Away from home, parents, loved ones, buddies and friends and surrounded by strangers (the other recruits) and non-smiling TI (Technical Instructors) or DI (Drill Instructors), the questions are… How do you stay in touch with them? How often should  you write? What should you say to help through the training until you can see them again at graduation?

Here are 5 simple Do’s and Don’t’s.

The DO’s.

  1. Simply write often to your soldier, sailor, airman, marine and guardsman.
    Remember …The best time of the day for these recruits will be ‘Mail Call’ ….especially when their name is called out!
  2. You don’t have to write a long letter; short upbeat notes from home can be just as effective.
  3. Send them photos, news about their favorite sports team or what’s going on at home.
  4. Use plain white envelopes, don’t decorate or scent the envelopes; this can get the Technical Instructor or Drill Instructors attention… usually not a good thing.
  5. Do tell them that you’re proud of them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them at Graduation or when they return home from training for a visit.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t send money; they don’t have much spare time or access to shopping and all money is logged in and locked up. This more work for the Instructors and trouble for your recruit. I made this mistake myself!
  2. Don’t send pornography or ‘pin-up’ or nude photos, off-color or racist jokes or comics. These items can get your soldier, sailor, marine, airman or guardsman in serious trouble.
  3. Don’t send packages of goodies. Basic is not the time for ‘Care Packages”.
  4. Don’t complain about not being able to talk to them or about how lonely you are.
    They are worried about doing well in training, may be homesick  and wish they could talk more often to you. Hearing that you’re upset is another worry for them.
  5. Don’t send bad news…almost anything can wait until they have completed training.  Of course, in the event of family illness or death, you should contact the American Red Cross who will get in touch with your loved ones training commanders.

Services like Write2Them can make it easier for you and their friends to stay in touch while your loved one is at Basic Training or Boot Camp by letting you send email with attachments such as photos or newspaper articles, sport team updates, jokes, funny or inspirational stories, favorite quotes or Bible verses.  You can find more information about the Write2Them service at

About Helen Simmons

I am founder and Executive Director of Write2Them, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving communication between family members and loved ones in military service by turning email into letters from home. You send email and your loved one receives a letter. I am a proud mother of a Airman, a wonderful daughter, son-in-law and grandbaby and wife to my wonderful supportive husband of 33 years.
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152 Responses to Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing to Someone at Basic Training or Boot Camp

  1. Bre says:

    Hello, my boyfriend is in basic training. I wanted to send him some pictures. They are not nudes, definitely not porn, but they are a little risque. (Sports bra and really short athletic shorts) Are those still okay to send or should I just avoid that to be safe?

    • Bre,
      While I am sure your boyfriend would really love to see those photos of you (and probably his training instructor, too), I suspect that he will get a lot of attention for them.
      Each branch of the military has slightly different rules and regulations for their servicemen in boot camp, tech school and even in the dorms on base after they start their first jobs.
      I would probably avoid sending them until after graduation. You might ask him in your next letter if the other guys have received similar photos and if they got in trouble.
      Good luck to you and your boyfriend.

  2. Chantal says:

    I have a question. My boyfriend was recently in FTU training. He gave me his mailing address to write to him, however, the day i sent my mail to him was the day he got shipped off to basic training. Will my letters still get to him? or will it be sent back to me?

  3. Madeline says:

    I sent my SO some letters I always leave the envelope basic nothing extra. I did buy some basic foam or 3 D heart stickers and stuck a few on the paper was wondering if it was fine to put on the actual letter itself. I didn’t think about it until now. also do the DI’s and TI’s open their letters before they receive them ??

    • Madeline,

      No the DI’s and TI’s don’t open the trainee’s letters. However, they do keep their eyes on the trainees when they open the letters.
      The red hearts may catch the DI and TI’s attention, but I am sure that your SO will not be the only one getting Valentine cards and letters. No need worrying about a letter that is already sent. I am sure that he will be very happy to receive your letter!

      Helen

  4. Sammie says:

    Hello, I recently wrote an letter to my friend in Basic Training and mistook the PVT in front of their name for (put). However everything else was correctly written to the mailing address will the person still receive the letter?

  5. megan says:

    Hello, I wanted to know if it is okay to send express mails to my boyfriend.Thank You so much.

  6. Raquel says:

    Hello,
    My boyfriend is in the Air Force and will be going to basic training next week. I wanted to send him some of those “open when” letters and add some extra things in them as well, such as if I send an “open when you are stressed” letter I wanted to include bubble wrap as a sort of stress reliever. After reading this though I’m not exactly sure if this will be allowed. Also I wanted to send them all together. I was thinking of making 15-20 of them and want to know if it will be okay to send them all in one large envelope or not. Thanks in advance

    • Raquel,
      What a thoughtful girlfriend you are!
      I wouldn’t add extra items to your letters like the bubble wrap idea.
      Writing lots of letters to your boyfriend is definitely a great idea and he’ll love knowing that you care so much.
      Large envelopes immediately get attention as trainees are not allow to receive magazines etc and your envelope full of envelopes would be suspect.
      Writing on the envelopes (open when stressed) would also catch the attention of the MTI (military training instructor).

      Project Write2Them Project Write2Themmakes it easy to send letters and photos by letting you simply send an email from your phone or computer.

      Good luck to you and your boyfriend.

      Helen

  7. fharasmith says:

    I want to ask for those who knows about my matter.
    what if i send a letter with the plain brown envelope? Because the post employee said “the letter wouldn’t be send if i dont change my plain white with the brown one”. I’d told anything with him,but still not work. He still want me to change the envelope. I dont know what happen with him -.-
    i just afraid my letter be ignore by military camp office.
    Really need an answer here. Thx before

    • Your loved one will definitely receive your mail in a brown envelope and the post office were you’re mailing the letter should accept any color envelope.
      The postal service has some restrictions on very tiny envelopes and may charge more postage for oversized letters.
      Your letter in a brown envelope may attract a little attention from his/her training instructor but they do not keep mail from trainees.

      Be sure that you only send letters/cards, trainees are not allowed to receive packages.

      Good luck!

      Helen

      • cathy lucas says:

        Hello,

        My son has been in bootcamp for a month now. It says my account is not active. How do I activate it?

        Thank you,
        Cathy

      • Cathy,
        I just sent you an email with some specific instructions on how to activate the account.
        Please let me know if you have any questions.
        Thanks,
        Helen

  8. TeNisha Chilcoat says:

    So my boyfriend went to basic training September 8. He will be gone 10 weeks. He’s a guardsmen. I wanted ask since 10 weeks is up in November. But he said he’ll be back for Christmas I don’t get how that’s 10 weeks. I know when he’s done he will be home after that. Also I want to write him but I don’t know the address.

    • TeNisha,

      While I don’t exactly, but if your boyfriend finishes basic training in November, it doesn’t mean that he will be able to come home immediately. Usually after basic training, they head off to their tech school for advanced training. Some of the schools close during the Christmas holiday until after New Years Day and the servicemen will be allowed leave to go home.

      I am sure that you will hear from him soon with his address. You can be sure that he will enjoy hearing from you.

      Helen

  9. Kris says:

    Just wanted to say my cousin is currently in basic and care packages are highly encouraged! Items that benefit them such as protein bars, vitamins, newspapers, etc. And they are shared among everyone there. We’ve (my entire family, we each get items and put them in a box together) sent off 2 so far :)

    • Kris,

      Every training is location has different rules regarding care packages during boot camp and basic training.
      Some Army locations allow care packages after boot camp graduation and during their tech or infantry training school.

      Never send anything but letters until you receive definite word from your loved one in training about packages.

      Good luck to your cousin.

      Helen

  10. Kelly Midgley says:

    How long does it take for a letter to get to my SR. He’s at Great Lakes, IL. How close to graduation should I stop sending letters through write2them?
    Thank you!
    Kelly

  11. katerria mccrear says:

    Can you two days express mail a letter to a recruit in basic training?

  12. olivia Megan says:

    Hi so my boyfriend is in basic training and he’s going to IT school after. Do I stop sending letters because I think they move out right? When do I stop sending letters if I have to?

    • Olivia,
      It depends on what branch of the military your boyfriend entered. In the Army, many of the soldiers complete boot camp and immediately enter their Tech School training and they don’t change dorms. In the Air Force, the week after BMT graduation they stay put they have an additional week of training before heading to their Tech School.
      Helen

      • Janeth says:

        My husband is currently in Basic, and graduating in a few weeks.
        It depends in the type of training he will be getting. My husband will finish Basic in one base and travel 6 hours to another state just to get to AIT where he will be stationed until AIT is over. I received a letter from the information office stating the date in which i could no longer write him at basic “since your soldier will be leaving for AIT and stationed else they mail will NOT forward to them.”

        His parents should have this letter. which includes the information for family day and graduation information.

        My letter states that i cannot write him 12 days before his graduation.

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