A few years ago, I had my fair share of questions about writing letters to my soldier while he was at Basic Training. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. Pretty much everything I wanted to know had been asked at one time or another by someone before me. I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions that a lot of us have had about writing letters to our soldiers-in-training. Are any of your questions on the list?
Why Hasn’t He Gotten My Letter?
There is a multitude of reasons for this, but the main answer is usually pretty simple. The mailroom gets overfilled and it takes a few extra days for the letters to get sorted and distributed among the men. But if your not sure if that’s the issue, I wrote a whole post on what could possibly go wrong between his mailbox and yours.
2. Why Hasn’t He Included His Return Address?
If he hasn’t included his return address, it’s almost always because he is still in Reception. That’s the first 7-10 days after your soldier leaves. It’s technically not “part” of the 10 weeks of Basic, but it’s inevitable. Reception is essentially the “in-processing” of Basic, where your soldier is issued his equipment, gets his head shaved, learns basic formation moves, etc. He might be allowed to write you, but you won’t be allowed to write him back, and hence, he won’t have a return address to include. Once he arrives at Basic Training camp, he will be able to share his address with you.
3. I Forgot to Include ___ in the Address. Will He Still Get It?
This all depends on what you left out. If you forgot to include his rank or first name, don’t worry, his roster number will cover for you (or in some cases, the “roster number” is the last 4 digits of their social security number). If you forgot his roster number, but included his rank and full name, it’s a toss up. Out of his unit’s official title, the most important part is his Company information (A, B, C, etc) and his Battalion number (X-XX IN BN <- for example). The Company and Battalion designation are extremely important, but if you forget to add the IN BN after the number combination, your letter will still make it most likely.
4. Do I Have to Wait for the Commander’s Letter?
If you have received a letter from your soldier, that includes his return address and his roster number (or platoon and class information, if that is needed)–then go for it!! Mail those letters! Your letters might not be distributed to your soldier til around the time that the Commander’s Letter makes it to you. 🙁 That doesn’t mean you can’t mail them though. If your soldier has provided you with his return address and roster number/unit information, there is no need to wait for the Commander’s Letter.
5. Can I Send Him Photos?
The details of this are definitely subject to the opinions of each Drill Sergeant. Soldiers are allowed to have pictures of their loved ones, in fact, they may be allowed to hang one or two on the outside of their locker. However, some Drill Sergeants are particular about pictures being sent through the mail. As long as the photos are appropriate, most Drill Sergeants will permit the soldier to keep them. They will order the soldier to open the letter in front of them, however, to sensor the photos. Once the photos have been screened, the soldier will most likely be allowed to keep them. There is only one definitive rule held by all Drill Sergeants: no explicit images are permitted. At all. There is no Drill Sergeant that will allow this, as it is a strict Army rule, across the board.
6. Can I Send Him Something Besides Letters: Cards, Newspaper, Clippings, Calendars, etc.?
This one is much like the question above. It is dependent upon the Drill Sergeant. As a general rule, reading material (besides the Bible and the letters you send) are not permitted to be kept by soldiers. So sending two or three sports articles might not be okay. Most do not allow magazines. Something like a child’s drawing or a calendar diagram (for your soldier to mark off the days) would almost always be allowed. All things– letters, calendars, cards, etc MUST be mailed in a standard envelope, however.
7. How Will the Drill Sergeant Know if I Sent Him Something He Can’t Have?
There may be a temptation to send something the soldier “can’t” have. I’ve heard of people putting gum sticks or thin lingerie in the envelope (not even kidding you). You may wonder, will the Drill Sergeant even know? The Drill Sergeants know to look for abnormalities in the envelopes–extreme thickness, noise, lumps, etc. One time, I had sent such a thick letter, the Drill Sergeant asked my husband to open the letter in front of him, assuming it was filled with photos. It was just a big fat letter! haha I’ve always been too wordy. But even IF you can sneak something into the envelope without it being noticeable, that doesn’t mean you’re safe.
The soldier can get in serious trouble for having contraband, as they call forbidden items. Even if the Drill Sergeants didn’t notice it when it came through the mail, locker inspections happen periodically throughout Basic. A stash of gum or explicit photos could get your soldier in huge trouble. You might be sending him something with the best intentions, but it could have dire consequences. Do not put your soldier at risk of being punished or recycled (having to start training all over again)– just don’t send it!
8. Can I Send Him a Package?
Not to keep saying the same thing–but this is just dependent upon the Drill Sergeants. The simple answer is this: you CAN send them, but he won’t be able to open them without permission (and overseeing) of the Drill Sergeants. If, upon opening, the package is filled with candy, goodies, and other edible contraband, the Drill Sergeants may confiscate the contents on the spot. Some Drill Sergeants have been known to allow the soldier to distribute the sweets among all the men, right then and there, with no leftover-storage allowed. Other Drill Sergeants have eaten the goodies themselves!
When my husband was at training, I sent him his cell phone and charger in a small mailing box (you can read more about phone rules here). He told the Drill Sergeants ahead of time that it would be arriving, and what was in it. While he still had to open the box in front of them, the Drill Sergeants let him keep the phone/charger–thank goodness! Packages are just dependent upon the humor of the Drill Sergeants, as well as the contents of the package.
9. Can I Send Him More Letter Writing Materials?
Theoretically, you can. You won’t get in trouble for sending blank pages, and your soldier won’t get in trouble for having envelopes and paper in his locker. But rest assured, you won’t need to do this. There is a mini store (the PX) that your soldier will periodically have access to. He will get to visit the store at the beginning of training, and a few times a month to restock on permissible needs- paper, envelopes, pens, and stamps included.
10. Is There a Limit to How Many Letters I Can Send Him and How Long They Can Be?
There is definitely not a limit, in quantity or length! As much as you can manage to write, send it. Your soldier will never tire of or get overwhelmed by mail! I talk more about facing personal letter-writing doubts here. I would not hesitate to send as much mail as possible! But keep in mind that about 10 days away from graduation, you might want to stop sending letters, in case they never make it to him. With mailroom delays and the normal length of time it takes a letter to travel, there is a risk that a few letters won’t make it to him before graduation if you send them too close to that time.
There are so many more questions to be answered about writing letters to soldiers at Basic Training, but these are the top 10 I continually ran into during my own soul-searching. Hopefully one of your own was on the list! If you have any more, share below. It’s always fun to see what others have wondered and what answers they discovered. It all helps our Army Family! Thanks for reading and please come back soon. 🙂