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 grandbabies and wife to my wonderful supportive husband of 34 years.
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311 Responses to Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing to Someone at Basic Training or Boot Camp

  1. Katie Thurston says:

    My nephew left last week for basic and called late last night to give me his address. I am afraid i will not list the information correctly on the envelope so i would like some advice. The info is
    Private Johnson
    First Platoon
    C Company, 3-60th Infantry
    8500 Marian Ave
    Fort Jackson, SC 29207
    I’m sure they are abbreviations on some of this but not sure.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Katie,
      I am sure that your nephew will really enjoy getting letters from you!
      The address format is:
      PVT Last Name, First Name MI (If you have a roster number RN for your nephew add that too)
      I would put the Platoon information and the Company and Infantry info on the same line. For example:
      C CO 3-60th INF 1st PLT

      Helen

  2. Pvt says:

    Hi, may I ask. I live outside USA. If my boyfriend sends me a letter from Fort Benning, will I still be able to receive it? I don’t really know since I haven’t received one letter from him yet. Thanks!

    • Lorraine,
      Yes. If your boyfriend put the correct address and postage on the letter you should receive it.
      Depending on your location it may take some time to get there.

      Good luck!
      Helen

  3. Persephone Nightingale says:

    So, I already messed up on a couple of these. I sent my fiancée a letter on paper scented with my perfume (his sister-in-law did this for his brother and it was okay, so I had no clue it was bad). 😦 Plus, I said that I was proud of him for being so brave. How bad, exactly is this for him. I don’t want to get him in trouble. 😦 Help! I am panicking!!!!

    • Persephone,
      Well, please don’t panic. Once you’ve sent the letter, it’s gone.
      Hopefully he didn’t get too much extra attention for the perfumed envelope and the color.
      I simply would just keep writing to him and not add the perfume anymore!

      Helen

  4. Ola ola says:

    Pls I would like to know if this address is correct
    PVT
    Dco 31st ENBN PLT 3
    6221 Iowa ave,fort Leonard wood
    Mo 65473
    Thanks.

  5. Jasmine says:

    – I have a question, my Fiancé just left for basic in South Carolina what’s the address for me to write him a letter? Cause I don’t want to put something wrong..

  6. Margarette Bailey says:

    My nephew is in basic training in Fort Benning, GA. His birthday is coming up next month. I know I cannot send certain things to him, but was wondering if I might enclose a book of 20 postage stamps in his birthday card. Thought this small gift might be of help to him.

    • Margarette,

      Every training location has their own set of rules. I would suggest sending the card minus the stamps and ask him if it would be ok to send the stamps in your next letter.

      Helen

  7. Jennifer says:

    My boyfriend is in Army basic and his mom suggested I send him a picture but specified that it must be wallet size or he’ll get in trouble. What are the dimensions for that? I have heard different things and don’t want to get him in trouble.

    • Jennifer,
      Thanks for asking such a great question.
      I think of a wallet size photo as being approximately 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches, but I haven’t heard of specific photo size requirements for any unit, but drill or training instructors may have specific requirements for their platoons.
      Please remember that they don’t have a lot of room to store personal items and lots of loose bits of paper or photos can make a mess which could affect them passing inspections. I suggest just one or two photos no larger than 4×6.
      Also, make sure the photo is in good taste so that it doesn’t get him in trouble.
      With our service at Write2Them, the photos are part of the letter so everything stays together nicely and the photos print in a good size and full color.
      Good luck to you and boyfriend!
      Helen

    • Sgt. Stokes says:

      Back in 2014 during my basic I received a 8×10 photo of my girlfriend. My drill made me run an extra mile (total was 4 that day) and that’s really it other than throwing the picture away after ripping it. Please, save your s.o. some trouble and send wallet size which is 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches. He will be happy to receive it and limit it to one or 2 during his basic that way his “stockpile” isn’t trashed. Remember to keep them 100% appropriate or you will cause very drastic punishments to come to your s.o. Please take caution as well as the photo cannot have any writing on the back, only the letter may have writing on it. Thanks for being so cautious, I’m sure your s.o. will appreciate it!

  8. T says:

    Hello, So I sent my friend some jokes about ISIS and the army that I found online (she loves inappropriate jokes but I’m afraid that they will get her in trouble). What happens if they don’t like what is in the letter? What happens if inappropriate materials are sent? Do we both get in trouble if they are meant to be jokes?

    • Tanisha,

      I am sure that your friend enjoyed your letter and the jokes. Usually letters are not read by the Drill Instructors, so these might just slip right by.
      Letters are personal communication. Don’t worry …remember ISIS is the enemy!

      Helen

  9. Samantha Coleman says:

    My boyfriend has been in basic training for two weeks now and I have received my first letter but all that was on the envelope was his name and Fort Benning Ga. I know that there is suppose to be more than that on the envelope such as his rank and rooster number due to his brother writing letters home while he was in basic training. What am I suppose to do to make sure he receives my letters since he didn’t put anymore information on the envelope than just his name and Fort Benning GA?

    • Samantha,
      I would try contacting his parents or his recruiter to see if they can help you with the information.

      Helen

    • Persephone Nightingale says:

      Samantha!

      My fiancee is also at Fort Benning. Their first set of letters did not have the exact address, as they hadn’t had one assigned yet. The next one you get should have the full address so you can get started on sending. This is what they told me and his mother. 🙂 Yo may already have gotten another letter since then, but I hope this helps.

  10. Sandy says:

    My friend left to Navy bootcamp in Great Lakes, Chicago in November 23,2016 anyone know when he should be back? After graduation will he come home or will his family have to take his phone to him ? How does all this works?

  11. Brianna says:

    I have the information to write my friend but I’m not sure what to write on the envelope here is the info 👇 do I just wrote it on the like that

    1-31FA/BV, CN
    BTRY, 3 TLT
    5955 Rothwell st
    Fortsill, Oklahoma 73503-4482

    • Brianna,
      You did a great job getting all those bits of information.

      The address should be:
      PVT Last Name, First Name MI (if you have the RN or roster number, add it)
      1-31 FA (I am not sure about BV) C BTRY, 3 PLT
      5955 Rothwell St
      Ft. Sill, OK 73503-4482

      When he sends you a letter, double check on the address.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      Helen

  12. Shelby says:

    Hello I cannot find answers anywhere else and I have some serious concerns. I sent my boyfriend a letter in the beginning of November and didn’t receive one back and it could be because it was beast week but I timed how long it takes mail to get to him so I sent it so he could get it after. Now I think I’m being ignored. I saw that he was on Facebook but he did not bother to message me and it hurts. I don’t now how this works and if I actually am being ignored. I missed his graduation but he understands that I do not have thousands to spend on tickets so he said it will be fine he will just see me during the holidays or something. On the day after his graduation I missed a phone call he made to me from his sister’s phone and I have the WORST anxiety because it’s a no no and frowned upon. By the time I got the message it was too late but I seen his Facebook so does he have access to talk to me? I hope I didn’t disappoint him with the phone call I cannot sleep or eat with this much regret on my mind. He said he wouldn’t forget about me but I’m feeling invisible. Graduation was 5 days ago btw and I can’t calm myself down I am lost. A few people said he has another week to go and will get his phone back next Monday on the way to tech school is that true ?

    • Shelby,
      First, take a deep a breathe. I am not sure which training location your boyfriend graduated from, but in general, they have very little access to phones during basic training. They are tired after a full day of training and so they don’t write to any one very much. During graduation weekend, they have access to their phones and the Internet, which is why you probably saw him post on Facebook and why he tried to reach by phone.
      After graduation, if they are at Lackland after BMT graduation, they have another week of training with limited access to their phones.
      Things get much better once they get to Tech School, so hang in there!

  13. Lyd says:

    HI, I’m really scared right now b/c I realized I shoudn’t have put lipstick all over my so’s basic training letters and now I am really, really, really scared? will he get in trouble???

    • Sgt. Stokes says:

      Hello Lyd, I was at basic in 2014 and I’ll answer your question! Generally, during “Mail Call”, as we call it, the “Drill’s” will glance over letters and generally don’t pay too much attention to them. Yes the drill may have poked fun at your boyfriend due to lipstick possibly being conceived as “mushy” “cute” and whatever else, but worse case scenario, He gets a funny nickname. One of our pvt’s had his girlfriend send him lipstick and he got the nickname “red lip” and during his graduation we all chanted that. It made his time a little funner he said and he also stated that every time he was called “red lips” he would think of home and his girlfriend and it would make him sad for a moment. Hope i helped ease some concern!

      • Sgt. Stokes,
        Thanks for your insight!
        The DI’s will look for ‘training’ moments throughout boot camp because that’s their job; to take civilians and turn them into Soldiers, Marines and Airman.
        Helen

  14. Hannah Natale says:

    My friend let for basic a few days ago to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and told me to write him first, but he didn’t give me any address and I know he doesn’t have mine. Do I just address the letter to the military base or is there a specific address I need to find?

    • Hannah,

      Unfortunately, you do need the specific address. They get so much mail at Lackland.
      I suggest that you contact your friend’s family who will receive the address information from him directly or from the Command.

      Good luck!

      Helen

  15. Caisey says:

    Hi!

    My boyfriend leaves in 9 days to fort Jackson for basic training. I was told that it would be helpful to send him paper, envelopes and stamps in order for him to send letters home. I was going to print out some address labels and put it all in a box for him to have during the period of his stay. If I send a package, will he be able to receive it? If not, will he have access to these things while he is there in order to send letters home?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Caisey,

      I would send him off to Ft. Jackson with some paper, envelopes, stamps etc. for those first few letters.
      He will have time to go the PX (Post Exchange – think Walmart or Target) and purchase items when he gets there.
      I would not send him any packages until you hear from him that he can receive a package. If he requests certain items, only send those items nothing extra even though you will want too.

      Good luck to your boyfriend!

      Also, look at signing up for Project Write2Them service to make it easy for you to get your letters to him!

      Helen

  16. K.H says:

    My boyfriend has been in basics for about a month now, but I haven’t gotten any mil from him yet….he told me he’s been writing when they got phone time but that was 3weeks ago and I haven’t heard from him since. I’m pretty sure my mom has been throwing away my letters (I don’t know why I thought she liked him, and she won’t admit it) saying that they must be getting lost in the mail or something. That’s not the case because me and him triple checked the address.

    Is there a way for me to call someone to get the information needed to address letters to him? I don’t have his moms phone number.

    • Dear K.H.

      I hope you have heard from your boyfriend by now!
      Sometimes they are just so tired after a day of training that they simply don’t have much energy to write.
      I would suggest contacting his Recruiter. If you contact me at info@write2them.org, I may be able to help.

      Helen

      • K.H says:

        I have heard from him thank you! My mom was throwing the letters away and finally admitted it and gave me one😊. I followed your tips when I wrote back, you were right he asked for pictures and for lots of letters because he gets bored. Thank you!

  17. Lacey Backel says:

    My boyfriend is leaving for marine corps boot camp in about week. It’s obvious not to send porn or any inappropriate photos, but would he get a lot of attention from his DIs if my letters were really mushy (lots of I love you’s ect.) I just don’t want to cause him any unnecessary stress so if someone could offer some experience here that would be great. Thank you in advance!

    • Lacey,

      I would say that 99.9% of the time the contents of communications between the trainee and their loved one are completely private. Drill Instructors/Training Instructors don’t read the letters you send. I suppose if they noticed colored paper, decorations, lots of hearts and xoxo’s, they might call out your boyfriend.

      Does anyone else have any thoughts or advice for Lacey?

      Enjoy these days before he leaves for boot camp!

      Helen

  18. dawn says:

    my son went into the Navy, there is only one boot camp for the navy, when I called to get the address I was told they didn’t know. So I went online and found the address myself. Is it common practice for Recruiters to tell you they don’t know where your son went?

    • Dawn,
      While you can find the address for each Ship and Division on the Great Lakes Naval Training Center website, you may not which Ship he has been assigned too.
      It can take a few days before the Recruiters get the address information for your son.

      Best regards,
      Helen

  19. Stephen says:

    So my boyfriend left for basic yesterday we where able to talk up until the moment he got on base… I haven’t met his family yet and I did give him my address to put in his wallet how soon should I look forward to seeing a letter to him he’s at ft Jackson

    • Taelor Mayo says:

      my boyfriend is at ft jackson as well! it took about a week and a half for his parents to get a letter, and 2 weeks for me to. i hope that helps. and if you need anything, just ask 🙂

    • faith sudduth says:

      give it about a week or two , then you should get a letter

  20. Alexis Vanderwaal says:

    My bestfriend is in basic training& I wanted to know it would be okay to print out funny pictures and send them to her? Just to make her smile.

    • Alexis,

      Yes. You can send funny pictures. Just remember that your friend will need to keep everything neat in their lockers, so lots of small pieces of paper are not a good idea.

  21. Cat says:

    Can I send my soldier two letters in one envelope?

    • Cat,
      Are you thinking of getting a large envelope and address a couple of letters?
      Large envelopes may get some attention as the Drill Instructors are looking for magazines.
      If you can put a couple of letters in a regular size envelope then there should be no issues.
      Helen

  22. Tami says:

    When I wrote to my boyfriend, i put pvt first name, last name on accident for about 15 letters. When I think its suppose to be pvt. Last name, first. Will he still get my letters? He got a few a few weeks ago but none lately

    • Tami,
      I really don’t think that the order of the name would affect the mail delivery significantly.
      If he has confirmed that he received some of the letters you’ve sent and the address on his envelope matches the addresses you have been sending to, I wouldn’t worry about it.

      Helen

  23. Kathi says:

    Why only white envelopes?

    • Kathi,

      Colored, decorated or large envelopes will get the attention of the military training or drill instructors.
      White envelopes just don’t get the same attention.

      Helen

      • Persephone Nightingale says:

        Fudge knuckles!!!! My mom sent my fiancée one in a yellow envelope. But, his mom said it was okay, as it was okay for her first Son. What do I do!? Also, refer to my previous comment…. 😦

  24. Jess says:

    My friend left for marine Bootcamp much earlier than expected and I was out of town when he left so I never got to give him my address. We had talked about sending letters but we thought we had a few weeks to figure things out. We didn’t get a real goodbye just texting so I’m not sure if I should write him or not. I know none of his other friends are writing him and I see that you mentioned it could really impact their experience for the better. Is there anyway I could write him before receiving an address? Seeing as he doesn’t know my address he won’t have anywhere to send the form to.

    • Jess,
      That’s really nice that you want to write to your friend.
      I suggest contacting his parents and seeing if they will give you his address.
      I am sure that your friend will really enjoy your letters!
      Helen

  25. Zain says:

    Hi Helen!

    My package was delivered to Fort Sill on 8/1. In addition, I received a letter from my soldier on 8/7 stating that she has not received any of my packages or letters. Is this normal?? How long can it take? Its 8/11 now and I’m hoping her next letter says she received it, but I didnt think it would take this long to get to her, especially if it was delivered 6 days before her letter to me.

    Thanks,
    Zain

    • Zain,

      I am sorry I didn’t respond sooner; we’ve been very busy.

      Most trainees can’t get any packages during basic training. Did you ask her in one of your letters if she could receive a package before you send it out to her? It’s possible that because you sent a package that they are holding it until graduation.

      Zain, I am not sure exactly when you started sending her letters because you’re not using the Write2Them service, so I can’t tell you if it’s a normal time span. We usually tell people 2-3 days depending on the location. During the summer months, the training locations are in full swing with many trainees receiving mail, so there may be some delays at Ft. Sill.

      Did you check the address on her letter with the address you have been using on your letters to her?

      Improperly or misaddressed mail certainly will delay a letter.

      I hope by the time you’ve read this that she’s received all of your letters and that package you sent.

  26. Kenia says:

    Hey.. I have a question my bf left to boot camp 15 days ago. I mailed him some letters the first and second week..Do y’all think he got them already?.. I still haven’t gotten one from him yet! Thank you.

    • Maria says:

      Hey, my boyfriend leaves for bootcamp tomorrow… and I’ve talked to his mom, and she told me that the first like two-three weeks, they’ll be settling in and start training, so they won’t have as much free time for right now. However, I don’t know if it’ll be the same for every branch. My boyfriend’s mom was in the Navy and he’s joining the Marines so I guess it all depends on their DI.

      I hope this helped somehow! 🙂

      • Maria,
        Thanks for sharing the information.
        Those first weeks of training are very difficult and at the end of the day your boyfriend and the other recruits or trainees will be very tired!
        That means, don’t expect a lot of letters from him :-(, but you keep writing lots of letters to him. Hearing his name called at Mail Call will definitely brighten his day and keep him going during those long hot days of boot camp!

        Helen

    • Alyssa says:

      My boyfriend sent one the very first week he was in. Just remember they are busy. It can take time. Be patient.

  27. Zain says:

    Hi Helen,

    Firstly, thank you for this wonderful and informative website.

    My girlfriend was shipped off to basic training in Fort Sill on July 19th. Today we received our first letter from her! I’ve been writing her letters every day since the 19th, so I’ve got so many that I still was unable to send out (since we had no address till now!).

    So, my question is: can I send one of those 11×15 big yellow envelopes with all of my letters in there at once? I was planning on individually enveloping each of the letters, then putting all of those envelopes [along with some pictures] into the bigger yellow envelope.

    Thank you again and hope to hear from you soon,

    Zain

    • Zain,
      Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you’re finding the blog helpful.
      It’s really neat thing that you’ve been writing to her all along. I know she’ll love getting those letters from you.

      I don’t think you should send all the letters in a large envelope.
      I am sure the drill instructor will closely monitor the contents of an envelope that large, because he or she will be looking for
      items that shouldn’t be sent to trainees during boot camp.
      Just put the letters in normal size white envelope and mail them. Also don’t send too many loose pictures.
      They have to keep every neat and organized in their foot lockers.
      The last thing that need is a lot of different size pieces of paper to keep together.

      That one of the great things about our Write2Them letters all the photos just print right out in the letter in full color.
      Easy to keep neat and organized as the letter folds and goes right back into the envelope.

      Keep writing to her…she needs to hear your encouraging word of support!

      Best regards,
      Helen

      • Zain says:

        Thank you for such a quick response! I will definitely heed your advice.

        Actually, the main reason I wanted to send the large envelope is because I had a 11×14 collage made with our pictures, including her family’s pictures. So it would be my letters plus the collage that would go in the envelope. This particular envelope is the one from the USPS, if that matters.

        Should I still send it ?

        Best,
        Zain

      • Zain,

        The photo collage sounds wonderful! I am not sure that she will have room for it during boot camp.
        That might be an awesome gift for her graduation before she heads off to her tech or advance training school.
        Maybe one of our ARMY families could advise Zain better about the size of the collage. Does anyone have any experience with this?

        Helen

      • Zain says:

        Helen,

        Do you think if I send the larger envelope that she will still receive it? I have about 10 letters + the 1 collage to send to her , which wont fit in a regular envelope. I am okay with them inspecting it, as long as my partner receives it without any delay!

        We just got her letter with address today!!! Can’t wait to send it to her with the fastest shipping possible haha

        Thank you,
        Zain

  28. Krista says:

    My best friend just went to boot camp for the marines, she wrote me a letter and I just got it yesterday. She seemed really down, and the only thing that seemed to be upbeat in the short letter she wrote was that she was excited to see me in a couple months. I’m worried about her, I wanna send her a few pictures of how much my dogs grew, and write her lots but I’m afraid she will get in trouble. Do you think sending a photo of my puppies would be ok? I wanna cheer her up.

    • Krista,

      We have families that send photos all the time to their Recruits at Parris Island and MCRD San Diego.
      Your friend needs her girlfriends back home to keep her up-to-date on everything that’s going on. You can bet that she misses you and that she’s working extremely hard.
      I am always in awe of our Marines!

      Photos of family, dogs/cats, and most anything are fine. Just remember that part of the training is having to keep everything very well organized which includes photos and letters. All the photos attached to Project Write2Them letters are printed in full color…from your phone medium size is perfect.

      Yes. Send the photos…it will definitely cheer her up!

      Helen

  29. john says:

    can you help me obtain the address to write my son letters? hes at fort sill in Oklahoma city doing basic training for the army national guard

    • John,
      Once you get the address, I can give you some advice on the formatting, but unfortunately I don’t have access to the address.
      Perhaps her family has received it already, I suggest asking them.

      Helen

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