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 34 years.
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187 Responses to Five Do’s and Don’t’s When Writing to Someone at Basic Training or Boot Camp

  1. Susanna says:

    Hello! My son is now in Ft. Benning, at OSUT Training. I am interested in your service, but your website has some very old dates on it, (2012 and 2013) and I am wondering if it is still operating? (Possibly you can update the About Us or Home Page that has “old” information.) Please advise! Thank you

    • Susanna,

      Thank you so much for pointing the outdated information on our WordPress and website!
      Yes. We are still operating and busier than ever!

      For our Army families, we always put the training group (company, platoon etc) information on the back of the envelope.
      Please let us know if your son give you specific information in that regard.

      I will definitely get that updated!

      Thank you again for taking the time to contact us about the need for updates!

      Best regards,
      Helen

  2. Mel says:

    My airman left Tuesday, and now it’s Saturday. I haven’t heard from him or gotten an address either…very hard to not know how he is or not be able to write. How long is a normal wait?

    • Mel,

      I know it is hard to wait for that first call or letter. Usually you will hear from your son right after arriving at Lackland, a “Safe Arrival” call. The next call they make is a scripted address call…pretty frantic sounding as the guys are all talking at once.
      While parents usually get those calls, sometimes the trainee calls a boyfriend or girlfriend first.

      Most calls during BMT come on Sunday afternoon…but may come at any time, so have your cell phone handy and the answering machine set at home.
      Within a couple of days, you should receive a letter from the Training Command at Lackland with his address.

      I hope you hear from him soon!

      Helen

  3. keith says:

    Can some. Please tell me is gel in sole for boots acceptable to send

    • Keith,

      I would not send any packages unless specifically asked by your loved one at boot camp.
      They usually take them to the base or post Exchange (store on military installations) and they can buy any items that they need there.

      Thank you for asking the question.

      Helen

  4. Brittany says:

    Hi,
    My friend just went to basic training for the Navy a week ago and I already started writing her letters on brightly colored paper and I was wondering if this would be okay to send her. I know the envelopes should be white but I was unsure if the paper should be white too. Would she get in trouble if the paper was brightly colored?

    • Mackenze,

      I would think that the colored paper would definitely catch the eye of a training instructor.
      I think she will get some extra attention for it.
      At Project Write2Them, we always use white paper and white envelopes.
      I am sure that your friend is enjoying your letters regardless if she is doing a couple of more push ups.

      Keep writing,
      Helen

  5. Mackenze says:

    Hi, my boyfriend is in his third week of basic training for the Marines in San Diego. I received his first letter on March 20 and immediately replied. I’ve received all of his and have written back each day, but in his latest letter from the 27th, he said he hasn’t received any letters from me. Yes, I addressed it “Rec. (His name)” with the address he has given me on every letter. I’ve only sent plain white envelopes with plain notebook paper and writing inside. Ive read all of the stipulations about writing letters to recruits and what not to do. I’m starting to get worried – I don’t want him to think I’ve forgotten about him. Is this delay normal? Is there anything I can do? Do I need to write “Rct.” Instead of “Rec.”? He writes “Rec. (His name)” so I assumed that was okay. I’m hoping they aren’t that picky.

    • MacKenze,

      We normally don’t have an issue with mail sent to MCRD San Diego. I do not believe that the REC vs RCT is an issue at all, but yes, RCT is the correct title. I suspect that your letters simply crossed in the mail. Just because his letter was written on the 27th, it doesn’t mean that he actually mailed it then. Also, if you sent your first letter on the 21st earliest mail day after the 20th, it is likely that he didn’t receive your letter until Monday the 28th.
      At Project Write2Them, we focus on making sure that there is a steady stream of emails coming in and letters going out everyday, so that letters arrive in a steady fashion.
      Good luck to you and your boyfriend!
      Semper Fi!
      Helen
      In fact the 20th was a Sunday…a big day for writing letters home because it is not an active training day.
      If you would like me to take a look at the address, please send it to

  6. Claire says:

    My boyfriend just left for bootcamp a few days ago. And I’ve started writing letters to him but some of them have pictures that I’ve drawn on the letter and I was planning on making it as colorful as possible to cheer him up. I know that it is not allowed for the envelope to be very colorful but is it okay for the letter itself to be colorful? If I send little snippets of comics would that be okay? Is it okay to send a compilation of all the letters I’ve written and put them in one envelope or would it be better to send each letter individually?

    • Claire,
      I think a really thick envelope will get some added attention because the Drill Instructors (DI’s) and Military Training Instructors (MTI’s) are on the look out for trainees getting packages. A thick envelope might mean that he/she is receiving magazines or other prohibited items.
      Good luck to you and your boyfriend.
      Helen

  7. Desiree says:

    I just read about this and recently sent my boyfriend a birthday card and Easter card with bright colored envelopes😦 do you think he will get in. Lot of trouble? Why aren’t families warned about these things especially for new family members just experiencing this? I feel really horrible that my boyfriend will be going through something caused by me….

    • Desiree,
      Some Recruiters probably do mention this to the loved one heading off to boot camp or basic training.
      I wouldn’t say that your boyfriend will get in trouble for receiving mail in colored envelopes, but it will get him some extra attention from his Drill
      Instructor and Military Training Instructor. Remember the job of these instructors is to train and turn your boyfriend from civilian to warrior.
      Good luck to your boyfriend!
      Helen

  8. Alyssa says:

    Hi there,

    My boyfriend left for BCT about a week ago, and just today I’ve thought of sending him articles of things going on around the world, etc etc to make him feel like he’s still part of the outside world. I sent him two but it’s quite a few pages printed, along with letters from my brother and I the envelope I sent is a little bulky. Do you think he’ll get in trouble for that? Am I allowed to send news articles? I’m a little worried for him and I don’t want him to be punished because of me.

    Thank you!

    • Alyssa,
      Well, I am sure your letter got some attention, but your boyfriend will let you know. We normally don’t have trouble with the Write2Them letters because the families scan the articles and attach them to the emails they send, so they don’t stand out. Sending books, magazines etc are definitely not allowed at Basic Training.
      You’ve sent the envelope so I wouldn’t worry about it.
      Best regards,
      Helen

  9. Kayla Latoza says:

    So my boyfriend is in like the 5th week of basic training for the air force and his birthday is coming up so I’m wondering if i can send him a small package?

    • Kayla,
      The Air Force is very strict about packages; none until tech school.
      I don’t recommend sending him a package and remember white envelope for the card.
      Best regards,
      Helen

  10. Hi! My boyfriend is approaching week two of basic training, and I wanted to know if it is allowed to send in typed letters? My boyfriend doesn’t care whether the letters are typed or not, but I wanted to know, will he get in trouble, or will this bring the Sergeant’s attention if I sent a typed letter?

  11. Yasmine says:

    Dear Helen,

    My fiancé left for Air Force BMT a few weeks ago. When he got there, he sent me a picture of his mailing address but since he did it in a hurry, it came out very blurry. I was only able to make out the first half of the address. So I then contacted his recruiter and he told me to send the picture to him and he would try to make it out (the blurry mailing address). He sent me back what I’m guessing he “deciphered” the mailing address to be. So I went ahead and sent my letter off. My question is, how will I be sure that my fiancé gets the letter even if some of the numbers on there may happen to differ from his actual mailing address, such as the zip code or his unit number? Will those who collect mail on base be able to correctly route it to his squadron? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Yasmine

    • Yasmine,
      Unfortunately, you won’t know if he received your letter until you hear from him.
      The training locations get so much mail that having the correct address including the unit information (Co., Platoon, Roster Number etc) all helps get the letters to the trainee.
      Best regards,
      Helen

  12. Dana says:

    My husband just left for basic and we have a 3 year old who’s really anxious to send Daddy a “letter.” I’d send it in a plain envelope but obviously it wouldn’t be a traditional letter and probably scribbled with colorful markers. Could that possibly get him in trouble?

    • Dana,
      I know how hard it must be for you to be at home with a 3 year old while your husband is at basic training.
      While your toddler’s artwork might catch the eye of the Drill Instructor or Training Instructor, but many of them are moms and dads, too and many have probably faced deployments and other time away from family.
      I am sure that your hubby will not get in trouble. You know that those drawings will brighten him day and help keep his spirit strong.
      Many of the families that use our service will take a photo with their phone and simply send it as an email attachment to their loved one.
      While you are not on Post or Base yet, you will find a great support network within the military to help young families.
      Another resource is MOPS – Mothers of PreSchoolers, a great group usually affiliated with a church but most do not require you to be a member of the church.
      Good luck to you, your child and hubby.
      Helen

  13. Daniela says:

    So my boyfriend just finished zero week, and is beginning week one, I didn’t know that you were not allowed to scent letters. I painted him a picture, and the paint smelled so I put a little bit of perfume on my finger and dabbed it on the paint, so the paint wouldn’t smell bad. What will happen to him if the TI finds out? Will he get in trouble? I’m really worried now, I didn’t mean to do any harm? Can someone help me?

    • Daniela,

      Don’t worry. You already ‘scent’ the letter…pun intended. I am sure by the time it arrived at BMT, the fragrance had faded and probably was not very noticeable.
      My advice is to simply keep writing to your boyfriend. You might want to consider using Write2Them. Your letters are not scented and in plain white envelopes.
      You can add photos easily your emails and they print in full color.

      Good luck to you and your boyfriend,

      Helen

  14. macyamoore says:

    Dear Helen, my boyfriend has been at Fort Benning for about two weeks now. He just got out of reception and said I will get his address once he sends me a letter. So, I have about 13 letters ready to send to him, just no address yet!! There’s one particular letter I need him to read first. Is it okay for me to write “open me first” on the back of the envelope? Or will that get the DS attention and get my boyfriend in trouble for some reason?

  15. I sent about two weeks worth of letters once I got the address for my boyfriend at basic training. Now I am concerned that the amount of letters I sent will cause negative attention for him. I guess there’s nothing I can do at this point and am writing a letter a day. Does anyone have experience with this or suggestions?

  16. Eva says:

    Dear Helen,
    My fiancè left for basic last week, I received a call from him on Staurday that he has left the reception and is at his basic unit. When I ask him what’s his address he told me he doesn’t know. I know he is at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and that’s it. I’ve read online that I can call the administrative office or the Garrison Command and they will be able to give me his correct unit & such so I can send out my letters (I’ve written him every day since the day he left, so as of now I have a good stack of letters waiting to be mailed out.) I want to call and find out, but don’t want to get him in trouble, since the family section says “it is the soldier’s responsibility to keep the family informed” on “Ask a drill sergeant”. What should I do? How can I find out his correct address without getting him in trouble? Please help!

    • Eva,

      I would suggest contacting your fiancé’s parents who might the ones who get the official notification letter from Ft. Leonard Wood.
      Every training location handles this differently, but you might not be able to get the information from the administrative or Garrison Command, if he didn’t list you on the paperwork.

      Otherwise I guess you have to wait until you hear from him with the address and then send your letters out.

      By the way, Write2Them can make sending those daily letters of support much easier for you by allowing you send emails and photos through your computer or smart phone. we suggest using a medium size when sending photos. We allow multiple emails with photos each day and all photos are printed in full color.

      Good luck to you and your fiancé. Thank him for his service!

      Best regards,
      Helen

      • Craig says:

        The waiting is the hardest part…I asked a similar question when my daughter was at FLW Missouri. I know its hard, but I would wait. In a few weeks he will be able to call you and start writing letters himself. That’s when you will get the correct address. I wouldn’t contact his Drill, my solder wanted nothing to stand out. The more they stand out, the more they are PT’d. Even receiving many letters at once can make a solder stand out. Trickel them in to him, a few every day or every other day, as they don’t get mail call daily so they can stack up. Best wishes and congrats to your soldier and a Thanks for his service.

    • Mayee says:

      410 IOWA AVE UNIT 12
      FT LEONARD WOOD, MO 65473

      • Mayee,

        Your address looks fine. We recommend that our families put the date and letter # in the subject line of the emails that they are sending to their loved one’s write2them.org email address. You can number your letters at the top of each one.

        Good luck.
        Helen

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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

  20. 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?

  21. megan says:

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

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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

  27. katerria mccrear says:

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

    • We suggest allowing about 2-3 days for delivery for most training locations.

      • corina quinn says:

        Hi- are we allowed to use express mail or just standard mail to send letters?

      • Hi Corina,

        First, thanks for asking the question. I am sure that many families wonder the same thing.
        The bottom line is that Express Mail or Priority Mail is expensive, especially if you want send a letter every day. Also, non-white, Express or Priority Mail envelopes will certainly draw attention to the Trainee at basic training or boot camp.

        At Project Write2Them, we try to encourage lots of family members and friends to send letters every day to their loved one at basic training or boot camp by allowing them to simply send emails and photos to their loved one and we get them all processed and out to them. With our service, it’s easy to get a stream of emails coming in and letters going out!
        You can check us out at http://www.write2them.org .

        Please let me know if we can answer any more questions for you!

  28. 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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