Military Wife Must-Haves

 

Military Wife Must-Haves

I’m sure everyone has their go-to’s when it comes to kitchenware, beauty, fashion, etc.  I definitely have a running list in each category!  Kitchenaid ANYTHING for starters.  But then there are those things that don’t necessarily fit under the same category (or any) but tend to share one common theme: they are must-haves if you’re a military spouse.  Some of these have been gifted to me, some I have bought for other, and some I have bought for myself!  They are either “necessities” for getting through the military lifestyle we live, or they are the perfect way to embrace and celebrate it.  Do you have any of these?

 

1. Address Book

It’s no secret I’m a firm believer in stationary, especially as an Army wife.  But this one isn’t actually meant for all those Basic Training love letters you write.  I have found that the frequent moves (both of our family and our military friends) has created a great need for change-of-address organization.  I think the Kate Spade address book is a cute and classy way to do it.  However, there is a pretty cheeky address book that leaves room for nicknames and shoe sizes.  And then of course there is a classic and more tame little pink book version.  Take your pick and fill it up!

 

2. Push-pin Travel Map

Speaking of moving around, you will probably fill up one of these too!  A push-pin map of the USA not only gives you a visual reality-check on just how many times you’ve set up a home somewhere, but it also is a great way to document your lifetime of travel.  If you want to go all-out (or if you are lucky enough to live overseas) a push-pin map of the world is also a beautiful career display.

 

3.  American Flag

I feel like this is the initiation gift that every military wife should receive, or gift to her husband!  It’s the perfect salute and symbol of what your family stands for.  Fly it proudly outside your home!  And if you have an apartment and no balcony (like my first 2 years of our marriage), then hang it as a wall tapestry behind your couch or in your dining room.  It’s still a beautiful way to celebrate your lifestyle and the country we are all so proud of.  A final option, though it’s a little less visible, is to invest in a glass flag case and keep your folded flag displayed in it.  A very classic, very respectful display of the flag!  If you want the whole flagpole kit, and not just the flag, this is all you need.

 

4. The Army Wife Handbook: A Complete Social Guide

For all my Army girls out there!  There is a complete set of “social rules” and expectations that come with the territory of being an Army wife.  And navigating through those can be tough!  This guide is geared towards etiquette and social obligations, which I find to be one of the least “discussed” topics among Army wife literature.  It’s not really a crash-course about acronyms and what to expect on deployments, which is what this book covers.  But the social rules can be really tough to “pick up” naturally, and having a guidebook is extremely helpful.

 

5. The 5 Love Languages ~ Military Edition

I’m not saying this because I’m a love-book junkie (thought I am), I’m saying this because every military relationship deserves a book celebrating and coaching the tumultuously beautiful journey of a military romance.  I have great respect for Gary Chapman’s interpretation of love languages and how they are spoken.  Even if you’re not a military couple, a firm understanding of how to identify your preferred language, and how to speak your spouses’s is extremely important.  The love languages are a true eye-opener in any relationship, but most significantly in a romantic one.  Curious what your love language is?  Take the test here.  (Then buy the book and learn about how you give and receive love based on it!)

6. His and Hers Silicone Wedding Bands

These are often more necessary for the military member than the spouse.  But for those of us that like having matching wedding bands, or who want to feel a special connection, getting a his and hers set is the way to go!  Wearing a metal wedding ring during training can sometimes be dangerous for your soldier (if he is paratrooper jumping out of an airplane, etc) and other times it can just be painful (pull-ups during PT).  Having a silicone option can be useful for your soldier to slip on before a training exercise, or before he leaves for an Army school if he worries about losing his real ring.  During those times, it can sometimes be nice to switch rings with him, not because you have to, but because he does.

7. Military Wife Jewelry

This one is pretty basic.  It’s like having a tee that supports your favorite sports team.  Everyone should have at least one.  Even if you’re not the kind of jewelry-wearer who wants a black and gold charm bracelet that says “Army” in capital letters, you can still have military-themed jewelry that supports your lifestyle.  (Like this Morse Code bracelet).  One of my favorite ways to connect with my soldier when he is gone is to wear a meaningful necklace or ring that reminds me of him.  When he went to Basic/OSUT in Ft. Benning, I wore a Georgia shaped ring every day.  Other times, even when he is home, I often wear sapphires, as their “Infantry Blue” color celebrates the lifestyle we have chosen together.  Get creative with the meanings and treat yourself to some bling!

8. Amazon Home Services

Not a traditional must-have, but I put on because WHO hasn’t had their fridge break an hour or two after their soldier leaves for a few weeks? *raises hands*  My internet goes out when he is gone, computers crash, and of course some kind natural disaster occurs (Hurricane striking the NIGHT that he leaves).  #myreallife.  Anyway, Amazon can’t control the weather, but they CAN and DO offer home services.  Meaning no matter where you live in the US, you can have someone come over and fix your problem when your soldier isn’t home to do so.  Seriously, they have tons of services: from mounting TVs to painting the baby nursery to ASSEMBLING FURNITURE.  Basically, they’re the magic fairies we always hoped would exist.  Now they do.  Click here to browse their services!

I feel like there are a million military wife must-haves…haha…but that’s really not true.  The only thing I must have is my soldier by my side!  And of course my babies.  And my faith.  Okay, so there are a few biggies.  But the small things can be really fun too, and can make the military wife life a lot easier!  What is a must-have for you?  Leave a comment below, sharing your faves!  Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.

*Note: the links I provided are affiliate links*

Read next: My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing to My Soldier

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6 Things Army Wives Hate About War Movies

5 Things Army Wives HATE About War Movies

 

So we don’t have “every” war movie–but we go through seasons of “being able” to watch them and avoiding them at all costs.  Can you relate?  These are a few reasons why we feel that way…

1. We hate how they remind us of the realities our husbands face.

Every Army wife knows her husband could (or in some positions, will) face a dangerous situation.  We know that deployments are an inevitable part of the job.  But we try not to spend our days thinking about that.  During our non-deployment seasons of life, we try not to live in fear of the what-could-be future.  That isn’t to say we pretend it isn’t going to happen.  But we choose to not live in fear.  Our husbands live out life with courage, and so do we.  Watching a movie that centers around the possibilities our loved one could face (or has already faced) are sometimes an unnecessary “reality check” we don’t appreciate.

2. We hate how accurate they are.

I know not all movies are accurate–by any stretch of the imagination.  But there are war movies that really nail one aspect or another of combat, deployment, high stress situations, etc.  Once again, we know it exists.  Many of our husbands have lived through that, and in a different way, we have lived a tiny part of it through them.  Getting an extremely vivid experience of something that is a reality for us hits home in a tough way.  It’s not entertainment, it’s just a visually aggressive portrayal of something we already think, feel, or experienced.

3. We hate how inaccurate they are.

There is nothing more annoying than a movie which attempts to display the accomplishments of the US Army, the feelings of a soldier, or the relationship in an Army family–and completely falls flat.  Sometimes it’s borderline disrespectful.  Most of the time though it’s just irritating.  Okay, maybe some points are laughable, considering how wrong they get it!  But really, with so many civilians who can’t even fathom the rhythm of the Army and the experiences of our families, it’s nothing short of frustrating to have our lives and our soldier’s accomplishments smeared across the screen in some kind of attempt at vainglory or Hollywood cheese.

4. We hate watching the wife and children cope and struggle because it is all too familiar.

Some things really get to you on a mental level.  You see a soldier saying goodbye to his comrade in a fast-paced, sweaty, all-too-soon 3o second interval.  And you look over at your soldier and can’t help but wonder who he is thinking of.  Did he go through that with a battle buddy, or does he sometimes think of saying goodbye to you?  You get caught in a mental struggle.  But then to see a wife or her children attempt to make it through the emotional trauma of war and separation hits you on another level.  It’s no longer a mental struggle.  You are engaged emotionally in the movie as you literally watch your own thoughts and feelings pulled across the screen.  You feel worn out and drained.  The hour or two you spend watching her world fall apart, pulls at the emotional balance of yours for that short period of time.  You have been there, and you just can’t help but feel so many of those feelings all over again.

5. We hate war movies because it’s way too “everyday” to be called entertainment for us.

Okay so for most Army families, war movies are not a script of their lives.  But still, we spend all day living on post, washing uniforms, and cooking dinner alone: living-sleeping-breathing the Army.  Which don’t exactly mind.  But when it’s time to settle down for some entertainment, we don’t want to watch more Army stuff!  It’s time to break out the RomComs or family flicks!  This is definitely a personal preference thing–but I don’t see how something that’s all business for us can become a form of entertainment, no matter how appealing the scenery or soundtrack is.  It’s kind of like watching a movie about running 500 errands on a Saturday, when that’s your current weekend routine!

6. We hate the reception war movies get by the civilian public.

The only thing more annoying than an inaccurate movie, is a glowing reception from the public about how “moving” and “great” a cheesy war movie is.  On the flip side, it’s also just as upsetting to watch an “accurate” war movie, and hear the public tear the military to pieces because of the exposure they happened to glimpse.  Either way, it can be pretty upsetting to read reviews about war movies.  Almost as upsetting as watching them ourselves…

Did I miss something, Army wives?  What is it that you don’t like about war movies?  Or if you’re in a season of watching them, please share a comment below about how you’re feeling when watching!  Thanks for reading and come back soon!

 

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Army Basic Training: Top 10 FAQs About Writing Letters

Top 10 FAQs About Writing Letters to Your Soldier at Basic

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?

  1. 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.  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. 🙂

 

**Read next- How to Address a Basic Training Letter**

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Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn’t Gotten My Letters At Basic

Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn't Gotten My Letters At Basic

 

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:

  1. Check the current date– Is he in Red Phase?
  2. Check the known training schedule (if he has been updating you on upcoming events)– Is he in the field?
  3. Check the address– Is it the right one, including his roster number or platoon or class information?
  4. 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.

 

**Read Next: 5 (Emotional) Letter Writing Myths**

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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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