How to Address a Basic Training Letter

Getting it Right: The Basic Training Letter Address


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.  Even after receiving a few letters from your soldier, it can still be tough to know just how your Basic Training letter address should look.  Here are seven steps you can take to ensure a smooth delivery of your 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 digit in the number designates which platoon the soldier belongs to.  And the other two digits 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.  You would still need 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.  If you want some fun stationary supply ideas, see this post for my recommendations!

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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Read next–The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

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  1. I sent a letter to my soldier and a month later it came back RTS Attempted – Not Known. But I addressed it exactly as it is supposed to be addressed. The envelope was green with some leaves, and at the time I didn’t know their rank, and I sent it without the rank. Is that enough reason for them to deny mail and RTS? I’m just worried that all my mail will be sent back. I feel horrible because a month later, the first letter I sent is back in my hands, and my soldier hasn’t heard from me. Has this happened to anyone? Please help 🙁

    1. Hi! That’s such a bummer. 🙁 I hate mail delays–they are the worst. I totally understand how frustrating it is to go more than a month without contact! Based on what you said, I definitely don’t think the design on the envelope would have affected it. They won’t reject mail based on decorations, only content inside the letter (like if it was packed with gum or the envelope rattled). So that doesn’t sound like the issue.
      I don’t think missing his rank was a factor either. Once a letter makes it to Basic, it stays in the mail room and gets to your soldier eventually, even if there are delays. And the most important information on the address is the soldier’s last name, and his unit information (his company, platoon, etc). His rank is not an essential piece of information for them to sort the mail, since the barracks are mixed ranks between E-1 thru E-4 anyways. As long as your letter GETS to the Basic mail room, with his last name and or his roster number, he will definitely receive it at some point or another.
      So to be honest, it sounds to me like the postal service themselves made the error, and the letter never reach Basic camp. The mail sorters at Basic Training camps are fellow soldiers, so they don’t usually reject mail, unless its containing contraband (in which case the Drill Sergeants usually encounter it). The postal service wouldn’t pay attention to rank, or to the decorations on the envelope, so that wouldn’t have affected delivery for them. The fact that it was RTS seems to me like the postal carrier never delivered it to Basic Training camp. Which is super frustrating. But if you are 100% sure that you addressed it correctly, then I think your best bet would be to try mailing it again. I had something similar happen to me. My letter was left back with me twice, and so I finally popped it in a new envelope and sent it. The third time it went through. I know postal carriers rarely make mistakes, but it can sometimes happen. And it really sounds like you did everything right! So while it’s really disappointing that it happened, I would recommend verifying the address with a source (the commander’s letter, your soldier’s unit’s Facebook page, his unit training page, etc) and then put it back in the mail with a new envelope (so the RTS mark doesn’t confuse the carrier). I hope the second time around is better for you! I wish you and your soldier the best of luck. Congrats on his accomplishment!

  2. My boyfriend is in basic training in Fort Sill, OK. I want to mail him and I have everything but I have to put his rank on the envelope, and the problem is I dont know his rank. Any suggestions or anything at all may help, thanks.

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading! It’s so great you’ve got mail for him. Definitely the most important parts the heading is his last name, so if you have that on the letter (and hopefully the last four of his social) then you’ll be good to go. Also, having his unit information is important for an ensured delivery (the platoon number, class number etc). But bottom line is, while his rank is good to include, your letter’s delivery isn’t dependent upon including it. The drill sergeants call out mail by last name or by soldier number (roster, social, etc), so that’s why those are more important than the rank on letters. Again, thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions! Best of luck to you and your soldier!

  3. I am attempting to discover how to address my child’s letter on the first line. I received the commander’s letter as well as one from my child but neither say what his rank is, if he has one. He is in his 14 weeks of basic training. Should I address it to Trainee John Doe RN?

    1. While the rank is useful, it’s definitely not crucial the way that his last name is, or the unit information provided by the commander’s letter. As long as you mimic the commander’s address, or your soldier’s, it should get to him!

  4. Hello! How long did it take for you get your first letter from him? My boyfriend left for basic at Fort Benning last week and I am not sure how long he will be in reception before you actually starts, or before he will be able to send me a letter?

    I haven’t written one a day so far and Im excited to send them out. Thanks

    1. Hi there! Thanks for stopping by and reading. 🙂
      The Reception battalion phase lasts 7-10 days. My husband went to Benning for Basic too! He was allowed to write me at Reception, but he didn’t ever include a return address because it was so temporary. They didn’t really want the soldiers giving it out because they don’t do mail call for the soldiers at Reception. Anyways, while he was at Reception, I got three letters from him. (I know it can be different for every class though, depending on how often the cadre give them time to write). The first letter I got was postmarked 5 days after he reported to Reception. The next two were a day apart from that.
      When he got to Basic Camp itself, the first letter he sent me with his actual mailing address was postmarked about 10 days after his report date (11 days after we said goodbye). I was living in Virginia, so there was a three day delay between GA and VA with our letters. So basically, I got his real official address about 14 days after we said goodbye. I think 2 weeks is pretty normal for when to expect his address, though it can vary a little bit. The first time I was able to send out mail, I had like 14-18 letters to send! lol
      Again, thanks for stopping by and don’t hesitate to comment any more questions you might have! Best of luck to you and your boyfriend!

  5. I’ve written my boyfriend a letter everyday since he’s been gone. I put about 6 or 7 letters in one envelope and I’ve sent 3 sets of letters. He wrote back saying he had only gotten 1 set of my letters. From what I understand, they can receive multiple envelopes at a time. Why wouldn’t he get all my letters?

    1. Welcome! How sweet of you to send him a letter everyday! You’re definitely right that they can receive multiple envelopes at a time. It’s good to hear that he received at least one of your sets, because it shows you’ve got the right address and everything! Getting the wrong address or missing parts of it can cause a big delay in delivery. From what it sounds to me, there is simply an overload in the mail room. They only have one mailroom at Basic camps, and it receives all the letters from all the companies. Unfortunately the mailroom just gets overwhelmed with mail and the sorting takes longer than it does for other US mail deliveries. My husband would often get my letters in clumps. 🙁 I hoped that one would trickle through the mail everyday to give him something to read, but it didn’t end up like that every week. The good news is, the letters will definitely eventually get to your soldier! The part that stinks is that it can just take a few extra days for the letters to be sorted through and delivered to the soldiers. The best news is that you are continuing to write him, so he will definitely be getting mail and that’s really important! I wrote a post about troubleshooting why your soldier isn’t getting your mail, if you want a bit more info on it! Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

        1. No, the thickness or heaviness won’t affect the delivery! It’s purely just a matter of how busy the mailroom gets and how quickly the mail is sorted through.
          Even if for some reason the drill sergeants wondered why the letter was heavy and thought maybe there was something unauthorized inside, they still wouldn’t confiscate the letters. They would deliver them just as regularly as they would deliver anything else, but they would possibly ask your soldier to open it in front of them. (They wouldn’t read it or anything, they would just make sure a bunch of unauthorized things didn’t tumble out of the envelope). I doubt that will be an issue for you, but just in case you’re worried, the thickness definitely wouldn’t make the letters “undeliverable” or contribute to mailroom delays! It’s all up to the mailroom as to how quickly or how slowly the letters are sorted and delivered.

  6. Thank you. I was just about to mail a letter with no Roster number or waiting for the Commander letter. Very informative.

  7. I sent my solder a letter on an expidated service but when I tracked it they delivered it to the mail room not the address given to me by my solder. Is that a bad thing will my solder get this letter? I tried calling the mailroom at Fort Benning but of course they don’t answer the phone. I’m worried he won’t get the letters.

    1. As long as you addressed it according to your soldier’s directions, it will get to the right place! Don’t be alarmed if the tracking service says it was delivered to the mailroom. It’s supposed to go to the mailroom first. The mailroom is shared by all the companies, and it is the duty of the personnel to then further sort it according to how it was addressed (to whom it was addressed to). It can sometimes take a while for the mailroom to sort through the letters, but rest assured that if it made it to the mailroom, it will make it to your soldier! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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