It’s one of the most frequently-asked questions of any Army loved-one when their soldier is at Basic Training. Everyone wants to know if their letters ever made it to their soldier. Or why they haven’t. Or if they will. And while nobody can know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of Basic Training camp, here are a few answers to help you through the fog that we have all been through.
Problem: He is Sending Me Letters, But Says He Hasn’t Received Mine
Solution: If it’s still within 10 days of his departure from you, then he is still in a pre-Basic Training “phase” known as Reception. It’s the soldiers’ first stage of being stripped down to the very core, where their personal backgrounds and circumstances fade, and they become a single unit of men training for the same objective. It’s the stage where they are issued clothing, receive haircuts, and learn how to get into formation, etc. Since this phase is so strict, there is no way that the soldiers can receive letters, in fact, you won’t even have their Reception address! Note: they can send a few letters from Reception, which is why you are getting some, but they won’t include a return address.
If he has been gone for more than 10 days, but hasn’t been gone longer than 5 weeks, then he is in Red Phase. It’s the first phase of Basic Training and supposedly the “hardest.” I’m sure it varies from soldier to soldier. But it’s the strictest phase during which they are introduced to the Army lifestyle. It’s the phase that sets the tone for the soldier’s Basic Training experience. Normally, letters and phone calls aren’t allowed during this phase, because the Drill Sergents are still in “breaking” mode. Again, you might be receiving letters from your soldier, but he won’t be getting mail call until about two weeks into this phase.
Problem: I’m Not Sure If I Have the Right Address
Solution: You have 3 options.
- Wait to receive the Commander’s Letter. It arrives at some time during Red Phase. It will have the address EXACTLY as you need to write it (but make sure you get your soldier’s roster number, or platoon/class information if that is required instead of his roster number).
- Copy your soldier’s return address EXACTLY as he writes it. He won’t be able to write a return address until he is physically in Basic Training, (not Reception) so some waiting might ensue. Your soldier’s way of writing his address might differ slightly from the Commander’s way, but both are accurate. Just make sure you have the roster number/platoon or class information.
- Get on the Facebook page of your soldier’s unit to see if the Commander’s Letter has been published there. Make sure you have the right unit though, as they have very similar numeration. If you don’t know the unit Facebook page, you can look up their training website where an address is often posted under FAQ’s. Just remember, you will still need the roster number or platoon/class number!!
Problem: I Never Got the Commander’s Letter
Solution: The Commander sends out a letter but sometimes it gets sent to someone besides you (if you aren’t his primary point of contact). Your soldier fills out a few different forms of contact during his in-processing at Reception. If he put his parents or a sibling down as his primary kin, then they will more than likely receive any of the letters sent out by the unit. You can of course get a copy of the Commander’s Letter by contacting that family member. But that’s not always possible.
So, another solution is to find your soldier’s unit Facebook page and look for the memo posted there. If you can’t find it the memo, consider connecting with a fellow family member on the Facebook page and ask for a copy of the Commander’s Letter. Just remember that social media is not always a safe place for discussing military topics. There are rules posted on the Facebook pages about what can and can’t be said. Always be careful and err on the side of caution…since it’s your soldier’s safety we are talking about here!
Problem: My Letters are Addressed Correctly, But He Isn’t Getting Them
Solution: If you’ve ruled out the possibility that he is still in either Reception or Red Phase, then there could be another very good reason. There are portions of the training during which your soldier will be sleeping and training “in the field” (outdoors). During that time, there is no mail call, and your soldier doesn’t get a chance to send letters out either. Not to worry! They build-up and are all eventually delivered in one big bundle. But remember that the build-ups are company-wide, and so it could cause a delay in the sorting/delivery process. Again, he WILL get them eventually, but that doesn’t mean he will always get them in a timely manner. 🙁
If your soldier doesn’t seem to be getting your letters, more than likely there has just been a significant delay in the mail sorting. Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence at least once or twice during Basic Training. It’s not done on purpose. It’s a simple logistical issue of having mass quantities of letters arrive in the same distribution room. There is no “delivery” process from the mail carrier to the individual soldiers–that’s the job of the Drill Sergeants. And they have so many other tasks that sometimes mail call gets left behind. Rest assured, the letters WILL arrive (as long as you have the right address and roster number!)
Problem: I Think My Letters are Being Confiscated
Solution: Your letters will never be confiscated, unless they contain something that is contraband: gum sticks, explicit photos, etc. Your letters are US Mail and cannot be confiscated or discarded simply because the Drill Sergeant is trying to teach the soldiers a lesson. To be honest, the letters MOTIVATE the soldiers much more than withholding them ever could. The letters are the property of the soldiers, and the Drill Sergeants cannot just hold onto them for their own reasons.
When it does happen that your soldier isn’t getting his letters, it’s never that he is being singled out. Sometimes, the soldiers (as a group) will get assigned a task at night in punishment for something they did or didn’t do during the day. This task could get in the way of mail call. But it’s not that mail call was restricted. It’s just that training got in the way. That’s pretty much the only kind of situation during which your mail will be “withheld” from your soldier (or if he is training in the field). So out of all your concerns, assuming his letters are being confiscated is the least likely issue!
Problem: I Think My Letters are Getting Him in Trouble
Solution: You can’t get him in trouble for writing too frequently. Don’t worry that you are “annoying” the Drill Sergeants. They are well aware that the soldiers will be getting frequent letters. It’s part of their job to relay the letters to them. The only way your letters could be getting him in trouble is if you are breaking the rules. You can read the guidelines about envelope restrictions here and material restrictions here. It’s pretty hard to break the rules though…you have to be intentionally sending naughty things or going out of your way to make your letters stand out in an alarming way.
Problem: I Just Can’t Figure Out WHY My Letters Aren’t Getting to Him
If you’re still in doubt about what could possibly be going wrong, do a quick troubleshooting exercise:
- Check the current date– Is he in Red Phase?
- Check the known training schedule (if he has been updating you on upcoming events)– Is he in the field?
- Check the address– Is it the right one, including his roster number or platoon or class information?
- Check the rules– Am I violating any obvious rules, like sending padded envelopes?
Out of all the possibilities of what’s happening (or NOT happening in the mail room) the very most common problem with sending letters to your soldier is a simple issue of overflow. With one mail room and hundreds of soldiers, it’s inevitable that keeping up with the mail is going to be tough. Unfortunately. The good news is, your letter will eventually get to him! The bad news is, he might not be getting a “daily” letter–more likely a weekly windfall.
In the meantime, just keep writing him. One day, he will get your letters! And I guarantee, the mountain of mail will be a day he won’t forget. 🙂 If you are having a concern that wasn’t addressed above, feel free to leave a comment below. I will answer your comment as best I can!! And if you have a suggestion for another Army-family concern that needs troubleshooting, I would love to know.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope your period of waiting goes by as quickly and painlessly as possible! Basic Training is long and waiting is such a challenge. But one day it is over and your soldier is yours to keep. 🙂 Homecomings really are perfect. I wish you and your soldier all the best! Come back soon.
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