Anyone who has waited for their soldier’s return from Basic Training will tell you that the letters are absolutely the best part of the wait. And any soldier will probably agree! Writing them might come pretty easily, but making sure they arrive at their destination is another thing. Here are seven steps you can take to ensure a smooth delivery of your Basic Training letter:
Step One: Start with a Clean White Envelope and a Black Pen
Sounds boring, I know. But if you read my last Basic Training Letter post (5 myths busted) then you’ll know that it’s sometimes a big deal to the Drill Sergeants if you spice up the envelopes. And it’s a big deal in a bad way. To spare your soldier the risk of punishment, don’t put anything on the envelope except a stamp and two addresses. Bright pink envelopes, stickers, and perfume aromas are only risks that could get your soldier in trouble. While some Drill Sergeants don’t care about that kind of stuff, some do–and they use it as an opportunity to give your soldier grief. Don’t feed the Drill Sergeants.
Step Two: His Name and Number
His name is important, but maybe even more so–his roster number. To the Drill Sergeants, he is known by his roster number. The first letter in the number designates which platoon the soldier belongs to, and the other two letter indicate which soldier he is. Ex: Roster Number 101 means he is soldier number 01 (they go alphabetically by last name) and in 1st Platoon. Failing to include that number on the envelope is a big deal. They go by roster numbers more than names when it comes to mail!
Some bootcamps use the last 4 digits of the soldier’s social security number as their roster number. This makes it easier for you! (As long as you know their social security…and as long as you know that their addressing system uses socials instead of roster numbers.) Often, the addresses that require the social security number will also require a class number and platoon number combination (since the social security number says nothing about their location in the company). For instance, your soldier might be in the 4th platoon, and his class is the 22nd cycle of trainees going through Basic that year (2017). So his address line would include something like this: “PLT #4 CLASS 22-17.” And that part of the address would be really important. It doesn’t denote the individual soldier, so you still would absolutely have to include his name and rank, or social security (all three is ideal).
Step Three: His Unit
This matters because your soldier is not in the only training unit on post. It’s just as important to write as his name and roster number. Write it exactly how it is specified in the Commander’s letter (see Step Seven). Exactly. You can also write it the way your soldier does on his return address labels (as long as you include the roster number or whatever combination of social security/platoon/class information is required). I chose to just copy my soldier’s address the way he wrote it, even though it was slightly different than the Commander’s Letter. I got my husband’s letter before the Commander’s and I didn’t want to wait! You can do that too. But don’t make up your own variation– either do it exactly like the commander or exactly like your soldier. Either one will get your letter to the right place!
Step Four: The Training Site Address
It’s the usual building number, street address, etc. This is just important because the US mail requires it. After all, this is still “regular” mail in the end. 🙂
Step Five: A Stamp and Your Return Address
See Step Four above. *Note:* Letters that go undelivered to the soldier (because you didn’t include his roster number or unit, or because he graduated) will not be returned to you. I know I said it’s US mail…but nobody is going to take the time to return your letter to you if your soldier doesn’t receive it.
Step Six: End with a Clean White envelope
Like I said in Step One…don’t decorate the envelope after you seal it. Clear plastic tape is fine if your envelopes have a hard time staying shut (for some reason, mine always did). But otherwise, leave the envelope plain and inconspicuous. You never want your mail to be the subject of unwanted attention for your soldier. The point of your letters are to bring him relief and comfort! And I know there are exceptions–some girls get away with all kinds of decorations on their letters. But since there is a 50% chance that this will cause problems for your soldier, I recommend erring on the side of caution.
Step Seven: Wait for the Commander’s Letter
This one is the hardest, but most important, of all the steps if you are in doubt as to how to address it (meaning you didn’t get a letter from your soldier). The Company Commander sends out a letter to all the soldiers’ points of contact on the first day of Basic Training (it arrives 2.5 weeks after your soldier left home). It specifies the unit and address of your soldier, as well as some guidelines and general information. WAIT FOR THIS LETTER IF YOU ARE IN ANY KIND OF DOUBT. Your soldier gets the chance to write his roster number on the outside of the envelope, or to include his platoon and class information. That unique information is necessary (see Step Two). Do not send your letters before you get this roster number or unit information.
It is possible that your soldier will have written you before the Commander’s letter arrives. And you of course want to write him back. If he has filled out his address fully, then go for it. But if he only included his name and a street address, with no unit information, roster numbers, or platoon and class details, then you need to wait. I know. The wait is a killer. But be patient– do not send your responses until you receive the Commander’s letter and the information you are lacking! Your letters won’t even be given to your soldier until about 3 weeks into training anyways. Red Phase. Sending your letters early won’t do any good–and you even run the risk of not addressing them properly if you send them too early.
**Special Note for Girlfriends and Fiancees* Your soldier is given an envelope on the first day of Basic Training to fill out, and that envelope is the one that the Commander uses to send his letter in. If your soldier uses his parent’s address, or a roommates, then the Commander’s letter will go to them.
The Finished Product
When it’s time to mail your letter, an envelope heading to Fort Benning should read something like this:
- Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Roster #
- __ Company, __ IN REGT
- Street Address
- Fort Benning, GA 31905
A letter heading to Fort Sill will look similar to this:
- Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Last 4 social security digits
- __ Btry, __Field Artillery, PLT # __ Class ___
- Street Address
- Fort Sill, OK 73503
Letters going to Fort Leonard Wood might look like this:
- Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Class # __
- __ Co, ___ Battalion
- Street Address
- Fort Leonard Wood, MO 65473
And letters sent to Fort Jackson will probably look close to this:
- Soldier’s Rank, Full Name
- ___ IN Bde
- ___ Battalion, ___ IN REGT
- ___Co, __ Platoon
- Street Address
- Fort Jackson, SC 29207
And don’t worry if your envelope looks different from that– as long as it matches either your soldier’s letter or the Commander’s letter you’ll be fine! And if you choose to wait for the Commander’s letter, the only problem you’ll have to deal with is patience. That’s the hardest part. But wait for it, and in the meantime, just write the letters and hold onto them. By the time I could finally send a letter to my soldier with the right address, I had written 18 of them. haha But at least they all arrived!
I wish you and your soldier (and letters) all the success in the world! If you have any specific questions about sending a Basic Training Letter (or otherwise) that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below. Thanks so much for stopping by!
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