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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5 Ways to Save Money in the Military

 

Whether you’re a military family or not, saving money is probably something your enthusiastic about.  And most of those “how to save money” hacks are applicable for military and civilian families.  But, there are some ways to save money that are specific to military families only!  Go us!  🙂  Today I rounded up my 5 favorites:

1.  Live Off-Post

I’m putting this one first because it has the power to be the singular MOST effective way to save money.  Obviously, you could purchase a house well beyond your means and it would only be a financial sabotage.  Or pay rent/bills above your BAH, and that would also be ineffective and detrimental.  But I suggest researching your BAH (literally, google it) and then shop for houses whose monthly average cost (including upkeep) is lower than your BAH.  If you set aside $200 of your BAH every month for only a year, that would still be $2400 in savings.  It adds up!

 2.  Check the LES Monthly

Errors, overpay, underpay, unfair withdrawals…don’t wait and get money revoked!  This one is unfortunately not a guaranteed “money-maker,” but it can be.  It can be an extremely effective preventative against losing money that is supposed to be yours.  One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from wives is that their soldier is incorrectly charted for eating on the DeFac meal plan (aka: the family isn’t receiving their BAS–basic allowance for sustenance).  Fix it!  The Army will backpay you for ANY missed funds, so be diligent to get all the money you deserve!  But don’t let the Army accidentally overpay you either.  If your soldier is no longer supposed to be receiving jump pay, but is–fix it!  The Army always, always, always notices, and it’s a big headache (and heartache) to have to backpay the Army for months of unearned pay.

3.  Save All Military Clothing

My word of advice: don’t throw ANYTHING out.  Save the “not-so-favorite” socks and uniforms for packing lists, field uniforms, etc.  There may be times where he has to have a pre-packed bag full of items, and he won’t want all of his favorites to be in there.  He also probably won’t want to shell out the cash to purchase dozens of brand new items that are going to go straight into his pre-packed bag, completely unused.  Those mandatory packing lists are the perfect place to stuff old and used items that he isn’t going to need available in his locker.  The best part about old?– FREE! Occasionally (again, extremely infrequently) he will get to trade in some of his items for new items.  This rarely happens.  But when it does, you don’t want to be missing some items that you are supposed to be trading in.  Also, you don’t want to have to pay out of pocket for something he is supposed to be turning in, but no longer owns!

4.  Use the Free Resources the Army Gives You

Did you know that the Army offers discounted tickets to many, many events around the country?  This is not just a military discount at Disney World (though boy do they offer deals on that!)  The MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation association) has an entire ticket chart offering discounts at various attractions around the country–for things as small as tour rides in Savannah to things as big as passes at Universal Studios.  Look into the MWR ticket offers before you make big purchases!  Also, the Army offers a variety  of free workshops– resume builders, career networking, etc.  You can earn scholarships as dependents (wives and children) and get financial aid for school.  The list goes on and on.  While you will still have some fees to pay, many of the paid-clubs on military installations are a fraction of the cost of their civilian opponents.  If you’re looking for a casual soccer league for your children, or a summer pool pass, definitely look into the opportunities on post before you decide to go elsewhere.

5.  Look to the Army’s Opportunities to Lessen your Financial Debt

Do you have college loans?  There are *some* programs that can help pay for those <– for the soldier’s loans at least.  Do you have high car insurance and credit card interest on your account?  You can get those refinanced through a military banking source.  Navy Federal has one of the best rates for car payment interest, and USAA offers some of the best credit card deals.  There is also a Military Star Card that offers On-Post discounts on gas and shopping.  Look into the military options you qualify for because they can almost always shave off some of the debt and bills that your past civilian life heaped upon you.

It goes without saying that any department store you shop at is a good place to ask for a military discount.  Don’t be shy!  It’s your right as a military dependent–and there is no shame in flaunting that.  You’re not begging for a free handout, you’re giving stores the opportunity to [willingly] show their support of our troops!  Unfortunately, many stores do not offer military discount (don’t ask me why…grrr).  But there are more ways to save money than a token 10% discount on four tee-shirts at Old Navy.  <–they have a great military discount program for the record.  Do you have any techniques?  Share them in the comment section below!

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My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing to My Soldier

My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing Letters to my Soldier

*This post contains affiliate links!*

Whether you just recently said goodbye to your soldier-to-be, or you’re swimming in those long weeks of Basic Training separation, writing letters to your man is probably a part of your life right now.  For me personally, writing letters became a very strong form of communication (funny how that works when everything else gets limited), and crucial to our relationship’s growth.  It was also romantic and that’s totally my thing.  haha Anyway, something I have mentioned before is that having a letter-writing station helped me never miss a day of writing.  But I never really shared what my letter-writing station consisted of.  A few of the items listed below are things I didn’t have, but really, really wish I did.  (No worries, they will all make an appearance on my nightstand during Ranger School– *sigh*).  Leave a comment at the end if you have any additional stationary supplies to reccommend.  Good luck to you and all your writing endeavors!

 

Address Stencil

If you’ve clicked around on my site before, you’ve probably heard me mention this.  It’s the perfect little tool to make the outside of any envelope look beautiful.  (ESPECIALLY if you’re using regular white business envelopes, like me).  A stencil can make all the difference in keeping everything straight and fancy.  Plus they are fun to use.

Address Stamp

But in case you are not a calligraphy-type person (ahem, hello–still aspiring there), this little address stamp can achieve much of the same elegance!  It’s a time saver and requires little to no skill (yay!).  I liked using stamps as a heading to my letters, for decoration purposes, but this stamp would be functional as well as cute.  I wish I had gotten one of these for my wedding stationary!

Roller Stamp

Roller stamps are an easy way to mark the date and number of your letters. I know most people would just say, “Um…isn’t that what the date is for?” and they are right.  But this is where practicality meets art-inspo.  My soldier’s letters would often arrive in clumps of 3 or more identical envelopes, and I didn’t want him to crack the letter open, see the date, and just start reading whatever letter he had grabbed.  Maybe I’m OCD about order.  Anyway, I created a paper band and would fold it around my letters with the “letter number” stamped on the outside of the band.  So that despite whichever envelope he opened (they all looked the same!) he could see the date/number stamped on the band and unfold whichever letter he had last left off on.

 


Fun Stamps

Onto a completely different kind of stamp–I think personal interest stamps, like these planets, are a great way to specialize a letter.  I think I might have sent my husband a few patriotic stamps while he was at Basic Training.  But for the most part, I would buy the most romantic stamps I could find (hearts, wedding ones, etc).  If those weren’t available, I tried to find another stamp that he would see and think of me.  One time I got a sheet of oil-painted landscapes, and another time I got botanicals.  I felt like this little touch of personalization would make him think of me on first sight.  You can even self-design stamps: use a picture of the two of you, a photo of your pet, or some object of significance that no one will recognize but the two of you.  Follow this link to order your own.

 

Basic White Envelopes

If you’ve read any of my mailing-to-Basic-Training guideline posts, you probably know I have a thing for white envelopes.  They might be super lame and super basic.  But it makes me feel so comfortable knowing my letters aren’t drawing any attention!  Obviously, if you use cards, these envelopes would be too narrow and unnecessarily long.  But if you’re like me and like using standard 8×11 stationary paper, these envelopes are perfect for being generically inconspicuous! ha!

Large Stationary Paper

Again, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve said about Basic Training letters, you might have realized I’m super wordy.  And that didn’t change when it came to writing my soldier at bootcamp.  hehe, oops.  I LOVED using large, standard size sheets of decorative paper.  The cute cards that were temptingly gorgeous were also too cramped for my daily letter-writing needs.  I felt like writing front and back on the card would make it look overwhelming and busy.  And it would kind of kill the cute and gorgeous thing.  So, I just used 8×11 paper, as decorative as I could find it, and filled page after page.  The size of these really gave me the room I need to write and to spread things out.

Inspirational Cards

I do have a soft spot for cards though.  And I did sometimes send them!  They perfectly convey “I miss you” without becoming a novel about how, why, and when you miss your special someone. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that–but that usually made it into my everyday-letters).  These are especially helpful if you pass a milestone during your soldier’s time in Basic Training (i.e. his birthday, your anniversary, a holiday).  It switches up your regular paper stationary with something a little extra special.  It becomes something he can grab from his locker and read before bed more than one night in a row.  Cards can be especially effective if your soldier’s love language involves words of affirmation, because cards naturally come with the connotation of care and appreciation.

  Envelope Glue

I hate, hate, hate licking envelopes!  (And can only ever think of the Seinfeld episode whenever I have to lick one, haha).  The sticky part of the peel-and-stick envelopes only sometimes work for me.  I pretty much use a few pieces of scotch tape on the outside of my envelopes, no matter what method of closure they have.  Or at least, I did.  Now I use this roller glue and OMGEE it sticks.  It makes a difference.  It’s good stuff.  And if you keep the cap on, it will stay moist and last a really, really long time.

Mechanical Pencils

I’m a pencil girl at heart, and love the flexibility of erasing.  <- for anyone who ISN’T currently in a pen-pal relationship with a soldier at Basic Training, skip this because I’m going to look crazy as I rant for a minute here.  Proceed with caution: sometimes writing a letter can be emotional.  You’re trying to be positive but there are some negatives you have to talk about.  You go on a tangent about something that happened at work and then realize you need to tone it down so that your letter doesn’t come off with an alarmist ring.  The last thing you want is to stress him out.  So you start changing an entire paragraph.  Anyway, pencils are my jam and they saved my skin because I definitely am a committer of “automatic writing.”  I write everything I’m feeling and then a few sentences in realize I need to change direction.  Enter little pencil.  And more importantly, little pencil eraser.

 

Colored Pens

Nothing says “commitment” like permanent ink.  These are not for the faint of heart (see above).  But they are for the creative and collected girl who wants to vary the color and overall look of her letters.  One of my favorite ways to customize a letter is by switching up the ink color.  Even though I’m really a pencil girl at heart, pens can be a creative way to vary your letters at a low cost.  I also happen to have horrible handwriting and write super long letters, so mixing up the paragraph colors can make the letter easier to read after a long day.

Stationary Organizer

A huge key to “making that daily letter happen” is definitely setting up a letter-writing station.  I know this sounds silly, but again, if you’re knee-deep in those long Basic Training months, you’ll understand what I mean.  Writing a letter isn’t always the hard part.  It’s having enough stamps on hand, the right envelopes, and general organization that sometimes makes or breaks the letter getting out.  I kept a stack of about 10 pre-addressed envelopes on my desk, beside my stamp sheet and pen mug.  It made writing letters a breeze, because I knew the only thing standing in my way between getting the letter out or not was simply if I indeed had something to PUT in that envelope at the end of the night.  It was motivating to see the envelope stack diminish over the week, and that level of organization kept me accountable.  It’s definitely a main reason I was able to send him something every single day.

Like I said at the beginning, if you have a crucial or beloved stationary supply to recommend, please leave a comment below!  I think all of us here in the Army family are always open to suggestions!   And even a single comment can really give someone inspiration.   Thanks so much for stopping by, and please come back soon!

 

**Read next: How To Address a Basic Training Letter **

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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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The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

When you’re a new, young Army wife, you hear it all.  “Wow, I could never do what you guys are doing!”  “I didn’t think you were the military-type.”  “Eh, time will fly by.  He’ll be back before you know it!”  “How are you going to afford anything on such a small paycheck?”  “Let me guess…you guys got married for the money.”  “Don’t you love that uniform?”  The list goes on and on!  But amid all the helpful and less-than-helpful comments are usually buried a few golden pieces of advice.   Along the way, I heard a few secrets that really ended up being true about writing letters to my husband while he was at Army Basic Training.

1. Write Him EVERY DAY.

This was the best advice I ever got, hands down.  It’s not that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to write him every day, but reading stories about girls who never missed a day really motivated me!  I made it a point to never skip writing him, and it was amazing.  Writing ended up being therapeutic for me.  It was a good way for me to collect my thoughts at the end of the day.  And it really helped build communication in our new marriage too.   Because of the frequency of our letters, we didn’t have to sacrifice sharing the “little” things of every day life and also the “big things” that we needed to talk about: my job, our moving plans, etc.  My husband said getting a letter from me every day (even a pile up from a few days of no-mail) was a huge morale booster and made all the difference in the world.  He liked knowing that I made him a part of my day, every day, and I liked making him a part of my day.

2.  Wait for the Commander’s Letter.

I had no idea what this was at first.  During the first two 30-second phone calls he got, I thought he would tell me what his address was.  Some girls thought they were supposed to get this from the Recruiter before their solidiers left.  What I eventually came to find out is that the commander publishes a letter about 14 days after Basic Training begins.  He waits until then, because by that time, the soldiers have almost completed their Red Phase (the tough and gruff phase that helps them detox from the world they have previously known).  A lot of letters from home would interrupt the mental training they are putting the soldiers through, and so he purposefully waits to send the letter out for a bit.  When it DOES arrive, it will have all the information you need to address your letter.

It is possible (likely) your soldier will have sent you a few letters before you get the commander’s letter.  If your soldier is in Reception, his location is extremely temporary and will be changing within a week.  He probably won’t even put a return address on his envelope.  There is no mail distribution at Reception and so letters cannot be sent to soldiers during that time.  If your soldier writes you from Basic Training camp, the return address he uses is all you need–as long as he remembered to put down his Unit information and roster number.  In that case, you could technically send a response to that address, but again, your letters probably won’t be delivered until Red Phase is almost over.  And it still might be prudent to wait until you get the Commander’s letter, just to verify that you have all the information needed to address your envelope.  Read this for a detailed explanation on how to address them.

3. If You have Questions, Write those Last in your Letter, or as a PS.

This one helped me construct my letters a little more carefully.  I tend to write down things as I think of them.  But I learned it was so much easier for my husband to remember (and answer) my questions if I ended my letter with them.  It’s a good rule to practice in any letter-writing circumstances, but is especially helpful for Basic Training letters.  The soldiers’ free time is only an hour or so long in the evening, right before lights out.  Their free time is split between doing laundry, writing you, reading your letters, and whatever else they need/want to do.  So streamlining the information you need from them is just an extra way to make their life easier–and ensure you get the answers you need!

4.  Number your Letters

Obviously, I wrote the date on the top of my letters.  I also numbered the pages because I wrote long letters with identical stationary.  Oops.  But numbering my letters became really helpful during the times that mail call was skipped and my letters built up.  My husband said it happened quite often that my letters would be delivered in a stack.  I didn’t want to mark the outside of my envelope (see why here). But on the initial fold of each letter, I wrote the number of the letter as well as the date.  While the date would work too, numbering the letters felt like a mini-countdown.  My husband liked how easy it was to know which letter should be read first out of a stack of 11.  Numbering probably wouldn’t be a super necessary step if you only write once a week or so, but if you write daily, consider numbering them!

5. Make a Letter Writing Station on your Desk

As I said, I was absolutely determined not to miss a day in writing my soldier.   But the “secret” behind my success was setting aside a non-negotionable time every night to write him a letter.  And I kept all my stationary needs well-stocked: stamps, paper, and pre-addressed envelopes.  I know it sounds silly to pre-address envelopes.  But I found that if I had everything “ready-to-go” then it was much less intimidating to sit down and write a letter.  Even if I was tired, all I had to do was pull out a piece of paper and write a few thoughts or reflections down.  Then everything else was all set-up.   It also was rewarding to slowly use up my designated stack of envelopes or roll of stamps.  I guess when you miss someone that much, any little daily countdown is a motivator!  See this post for supplies I recommend keeping in your writing station!

In this world of advice-givers, you’ll probably run into a lifetime supply of opinions on how you should handle Basic Training as a loved one.  It can be frustrating, especially when it’s coming from someone who has never been in your shoes.  But as someone who has, hopefully something in here can help you the way it helped me.  And if none of it helps, consider visiting one of these sources to get a better idea about Basic Training and letter-writing advice.  If you have some words of wisdom of your own to share, please do so in the comment section below!  One of your secrets could be the key to someone else’s Basic Training survival story.  Thanks for stopping by!

Read Next: Army Basic Training: Letter Writing Myths

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Army Basic Training: 5 (Emotional) Letter Writing Myths

Army Basic Training: 5 Emotional Letter Writing Myths

I wrote a post a few months back about 5 practical myths you’ll run into when sitting down to write a letter to your soldier in Basic Training.  Unfortunately, there are more myths than just those 5. I even wrote about those.  The truth is, many myths aren’t all as cut-and-dry as we would hope.  There are a lot of emotional myths (welcome to life in the Army) and I’m here today to bust those.

Maybe I’m the only one, but separation and lack of communication are usually a recipe for self-doubt and overthinking everything.  It’s easy to try to shoulder the “blame” because as Army wives, we are used to (or getting used to) stepping up to the plate.  It’s a nice quality, but it has to be tempered with reason.  If you haven’t been hearing from your soldier, or you have, but communications just feel “off,” it is likely you might start pointing fingers at yourself.  Your letters are NOT to blame.  Don’t submit to self-doubt, and definitely don’t begin to believe these common emotional lies:

1. My Letters are Getting Old

They aren’t.  I know I haven’t read any of yours, but I can tell you, they aren’t getting old.  Receiving a letter at Basic Training is like Christmas morning for the boys.  You might be that girl that sends a letter once every few weeks, and to your soldier, those are gold.  But if you are that girl who writes him every day (hi, everyone!) you might be wondering if you’re letters are getting old.  They aren’t.  In fact, there is an unspoken competition among the soldiers (generally) about who gets letters and how often.  Not only will you give your soldier a pick-me-up, but you’ll stroke his ego in front of the guys.  If you’re still in doubt, ask yourself this.  Have his letters or phone calls gotten old?  Are you sick of hearing from him?  No.  It works both ways.

2. My Letters are Too Long

Imagine being in a big hospital room with a bunch of other patients and their beds…the lights stay on and there is a continual chatter of noise.  You’ve been given an hour to chill but you have nothing to do.  You have no personal belongings to entertain yourself with–except a letter that just arrived.  The longer, the better.  This is how the soldiers (can) feel.  They aren’t in hospital beds, but they are in big shared spaces with “free time” and nothing to do.  Don’t shy away from writing long letters!  It’s perfectly fine if you’re not a wordy person, just write in the length of style you’re comfortable with.  But if you can write up several pages, go for it!  Don’t hold back just because you are assuming your lengthy letters are annoying.  They aren’t.

3.  My Letters Aren’t Positive Enough, or They are Too Positive

It’s a fine line.  You don’t want to gush about how great life is for you, because you know more than likely he isn’t having the time of his life.  But you don’t want to write drippy and depressing letters because you want to boost his morale, not bring him down.  It’s a personal preference thing, but I found that honesty is the very best course.  If I was feeling down, I wrote about it.  But I tried to balance it out with a positive story or occurrence from my day, to keep the letter from being a “downer.”  Basic Training was just too long of a time span for me to “bite-the-bullet” and just push through emotional conflict.  As newlyweds, I found it was vital to be 100% honest with my husband (and I still do!) because those first few months of marriage are a tender time to build communication skills.  You can’t let Basic Training get in your way.  Be honest and don’t overthink the positivity-level of your letters.

4. My Letters Just Depress Him

So, again, I haven’t read your letters.  But do you have concrete proof that your letters are depressing him, or are you just assuming that?  Try to remember that missing someone isn’t the same as never wanting to hear from them again.  If your soldier has specifically told you that getting letters from home makes him extra homesick, then try to work on your style a bit.  (see above)  If you’ve been sending tons of “downer” letters, try to dial it back.  Or if you’ve been sending extremely peppy letters about how amazing life is back on the ranch, maybe it’s making it harder for him to be away from all that.  Whatever you do, don’t assume your letters are depressing him, unless he specifically tells you so.

5.  My Letters Should Mirror His

Am I the only person who thinks this way?  Sometimes there can be a communications-pressure to try to “stick” to whatever your soldier is doing.  If he is opening up emotionally, you should swoop in with your own emotional update. If he seems down, your letters should be equally as “ho-hum” because you wouldn’t want him to feel like you guys are emotionally imbalanced.  But I’m going to appeal to sticking with the truth again.  Don’t feel bad if he is writing super detailed letters, or sleepy vague ones, or even self-examining monologues.  Unless you talk in person identically, there is no need to write identical letters.  It’s perfectly fine for him to be writing letters that dive heavily into what his daily training is like, while you stick to some fairly round-about updates on school and your job.  Overthinking or manipulating your letters into some kind of mirror effect will only stress you out and keep you from freely speaking the truth.

Hopefully, none of these emotional myths EVER crossed your mind.  Don’t let me put ideas in your head!  But in case you are human and some of these slipped into your mind during those long Basic Training nights of separation, don’t feel like you’re the only one.  Just know that there are hundreds of Army wives/fiancees/girlfriends going through all the same Basic Training nights with you.  And there are many resources you can turn to, either for support or fellowship with people who are or have been in your shoes.

Now go write your soldier a letter!

**Are you doing it right?  Read next: How to Address a Basic Training Letter**

 

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Army Basic Training: 5 (More) Letter Writing Myths

Army Basic Training: 5 (More) Letter Writing Myths -- BUSTED

 

Army Basic Training has its highs and lows, for the soldiers and their families.  The highs can be pretty high (hello, Family Day) but the lows can be low.  One of the best way to combat those Basic Training blues is through love letters!  It can be very romantic to pen letters to each other every day.  But it can also be stressful if you’ve been hearing rumors that swirl around the ever-famous Basic Training mailing system.  I’ve busted some myths before, but here are 5 more letter writing myths you can disregard during your letter writing sessions:

1.  The Drill Sergeants are Hiding my Letters

It’s a total myth that Drill Sergeants withhold letters on purpose.  That used to happen in the Old School US Army, but it’s not a tactic of the modern Drill Sergeant.  It would be a total morale killer and the Drill Sergeants have the important job of balancing motivation with morale.   If they every “withhold” mail, it’s usually for one of two reasons, and never on purpose:  1) The soldiers are busy with a task at night that interrupts the time they would have to receive mail.  2) The soldiers are practicing field training excerises in the field, and when they do that, there is no mail call.  If you’re soldier has sent you quite a few letters but has yet to receive any of yours, that does NOT mean he is in trouble.  It doesn’t mean his mail is being confiscated.   Usually, it simply means that there has been a delay in sorting mail.  But if you’re unsure, I wrote an entire post on why he may or may not be receiving your letters.

2.  The Drill Sergeants Open my Letters

The Drill Sergeants won’t open his letters (though they very well might open his packages, if he gets any).  However, if a letter arrives with a suspicious feel–like lumps of gum or a stack of photos, they will ask your soldier to open the letter in front of them.  The soldiers are not permitted to have any candy sent through a letter, so it will be confiscated on sight.  If, for some reason, the candy makes its way through the letter and into your soldier’s locker, he will get in even more trouble for having it in his possession.  Moral of the story: don’t send gum.  Onto photos…as long as they are appropriate, they will not be confiscated.  See my original post for guidelines on sending pictures.  Again, if the envelope arrives puffy or like it is stuffed with photos, he will most likely have to open the envelope in front of the Drill Sergeants.

3. He is Too Busy to Read my Letters

There are some days that the soldiers will be very busy.  And on occasion, their day and night will be spent in the field, meaning they can’t receive mail (see above).  But for the most part, they are given at least 1 hour of down-time before bed to unwind, talk, and get ready for the next day.  If you send him a letter, just know that he WILL get the chance to read your letter eventually.  And he will love it.

 4. The Letter Rules are the Same as When my Friend Attended a Few Years Ago

Unfortunately, this one is totally a myth.  The “rules” vary from month to month–in fact, they vary from platoon to platoon!  There are some rules that are set in stone: no inappropriate photos, no packages of candy, etc.  But some are a little more flexible.  It all is dependent upon the Drill Sergeants.  Some of the Drill Sergeants are very picky, and will even ban newspaper clippings (does anyone read those anymore?).  Others are okay with the clippings, but draw the line at decorated envelopes (those don’t get confiscated, but the soldier gets reprimanded with PT).  I talk about the issue of sending non-letter items in this post.  Know the basic rules, and then err on the side of caution.  Don’t be afraid to ask your soldier too!  He might tell you that everyone has been getting scented and colored envelopes, in which case you can do it too.  But there is no harm in playing it safe during your first round of letters, until you find how his Drill Sergeants have been reacting to mail.

5. My Letters Need to be Extremely Varied

After the first 10 letters, you may start wondering if you need to mix-it-up a bit.  A lot of Basic Training letter guides will tell you to send sports clippings, hollywood updates, or even “themed” letters.  There is nothing wrong with those!  (clipping rule–see above or see here).  But there is also nothing wrong with sending a regular, normal letter (or card)!  There is no way for your soldier to add “variety” to his letters, and I’m sure you never get tired of his!  That goes both ways.  There is no harm in adding a special element to your letter, but don’t feel pressured to create drastically different letters each time.  The creative obligation can become overwhelming and you wouldn’t want it to be the reason your letter production slows down!  Write from the heart and you can never go wrong.

That really is the golden rule in all of this:  Write from the heart.  The key is to WRITE.  Write, write, write and enjoy those response letters.  There’s no emotional equivalent to seeing one of those little white envelopes in the mail!  Especially the first one.  Who would have known in this modern world that sometimes the best kind of communication is good old-fashioned letters?  Go write some!

For help with that, take a peek at my post about properly addressing Basic Training letters.

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What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at a Basic Training Family Day

I remember the day like it was yesterday.

My husband and I had been married for less than a month when the day came for him to leave for Basic Training.  It was heartbreaking.  I was pining away for Family Day–we both were.  Those 9 weeks of training were the longest we had ever been apart (we lived 8 miles apart before we were married).  When our Basic Training Family Day rolled around, I flew across four states just for the occasion.  And it was TOTALLY worth it!  (Side note: 4 modes of transportation was a lot though–I recommend simplifying if you can. haha)

Let me start out with a quick disclaimer about Family Day: most Basic Training camps dub the day before graduation as “Family Day.”  But if your soldier is attending Ft. Benning, GA for OSUT (meaning he is at Basic to be an infantry or armor soldier), then Family Day is a separate weekend from graduation weekend.  It occurs in the middle of your soldier’s training cycle to give them a much-deserved break.  (They roll straight from Basic into their AIT).  Other Basic camps unfortunately don’t get this mid-way break because they have a natural weekend break between their Basic Graduation and their AIT Graduation.  One more quick note: each battalion may vary in their Family Day procedures a little bit.  The following information is all based on my personal experience.  While it might not be identical to the Family Day of your soldier’s battalion, you can expect something similar!

What Basic Training Family Day Is:

Basic Training Family Day is essentially a weekend break for your soldier.  (See above paragraph for explanation on why they get this!)  It is designed for family (and friends) to get the opportunity to spend time with their soldier-in-training.  It’s gives your soldier a breath of fresh air and some quality time outside of the platoon.

What Basic Training Family Day is Not:

It is not a two-day pass of freedom for your soldier.  (Unfortunately!)  He will have many, many, many rules to follow while he is spending time away from his training area.  While he won’t have to physically train at all during the Family Day weekend, he will absolutely have to adhere to a (large) set of rules.  It’s also not an overnight pass.  That was a hard one to swallow.

When Basic Training Family Day Occurs:

It occurs over a weekend– meaning Saturday and Sunday.  Usually it takes place about half-way through the training cycle.  But not always.  The Basic Training Family Day for my husband’s company was in the ninth week of his fourteen weeks of training.  If you are your soldier’s first point of contact, then you will receive a letter from the commander (that all-important letter I have referenced before) stating when Family Day occurs.  If you are a girlfriend or friend and aren’t receiving communications from your soldier’s commander, you might be able to access the information via your soldier’s Company Facebook page.

Who can Attend Basic Training Family Day:

Basic Training Family Day is completely open to all family, fiancees, significant others, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, frenemies, and neighbors of the soldiers in training.  There are no tickets or reservations required.  And if no one comes to spend time with a soldier, he or she can still enjoy some time away from the training area.

The Basic Training Family Day Schedule:

This is a brief synopsis of what mine was like:

  • 7:30am arrive at the Basic Training area
  • 8:00am an “introduction to the Army” briefing
  • 9:00am soldiers and families reunite
  • free time all day off-post and on-post
  • 7:00pm drop-off time

There are no activities planned for the family and soldier to participate in together.  The solider will have a special formation beforehand (early on the first morning of the Family Day weekend).  During his formation, the Drill Sergeants will go over the Family Day rules.

Meanwhile, the families will gather in a classroom and receive a brief “introduction to the Army Family” as well as learn the rules that the soldiers will be under during Family Day.  You will learn a little bit about what your soldier has been doing the past few weeks, and then A LOT about the rules.  During the introduction, you might get addressed by one or two of your soldier’s Drill Sergeants, but most likely the Company Commander.   At my Basic Training Family Day, we were also given a chance to ask questions that are related to Family Day.  It wasn’t a question-and-answer session about how to deal with the Army or ask about your soldier’s future assignments– but if we were confused about the rules, that was the time to ask.

After the families are released from their briefing, the soldiers will be finished with theirs.  At the Family Day I attended, the soldiers were all outside finishing up their briefing when we walked out of the classroom.  We reunited right there outdoors once they were dismissed.  Some Family Day procedures may include having the soldiers come to meet their families indoors in the classroom.  I think it just depends on which briefing is finished first.

Once you pick your soldier up, HE IS YOURS UNTIL drop-off time.  Yes, there is a drop-off time.  And since it will vary from Family Day to Family Day, I won’t state an exact time here.  But just know, that time means EVERYTHING.  If you drop your soldier off even two minutes late, it is highly probable he will be recycled and have to begin training all over again.  Do not, under any circumstances, drop him off late.  Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for you to “take the blame” for him.  Even if you are 100% at fault for why he is late.  That is the Army life.  It’s the soldier’s responsibility, completely, to be back at the appropriate time.  He cannot be shielded by wives or parents or even his children’s excuses.  So, no matter what you do on Family Day, DROP HIM OFF ON TIME.

The second day, Sunday, is similar to the first day of Family Day.  The only difference is that there is no family briefing.  Your solider will have to report to his morning formation, just like the day before.  Though he probably won’t be told all the rules again, he will definitely be told what time he needs to return by.  Once he is released from formation, you may pick him up and take him off just like yesterday.  His drop-off time MIGHT be earlier, since it is the day before training.  ASK your soldier.  Do not drive off until you know what time he needs to return by.  Once you know, drive away and enjoy your day together!

**Special note to those whose Basic Training Family Day falls on a Federal Holiday weekend:  You lucky duck!  It is extremely likely that your soldier will get a 3-day weekend with you!  Obviously, you need to double-check the commander’s memo (the invitation either mailed to you or posted on Facebook).  It will confirm or deny this phenomenon.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Family:

The Army can’t really issue out rules to the family or friends of the soldier, but there are still a few that exist:

  1. Do not go anywhere on the training grounds except where the signs and aides tell you to go.  You are NOT allowed to go into your soldier’s barracks.  There will be a sign or two directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the gathering area (our gathering area was a classroom).  Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
  2.  You can’t let (or make) your soldier drive.  Anyone except the soldier is allowed to be the driver, because they aren’t permitted to get behind the wheel.
  3. You can’t go very far away with your soldier.  He will have mile restrictions that, as his visiting family, you must stay within.  The mileage restriction is usually a 25-mile radius, but you will be given the exact rule during the briefing.  Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty to do within the restriction!  Your soldier will just be thrilled to be leaving the training area footprint with you.  This rule obviously only applies when you are with your soldier.  There is no restriction on the visiting family outside of Family Day hours.  It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Soldier:

There are many.  So many.  🙁  Unfortunately, this is not a complete list.  Don’t worry, because you will be told (and possibly be given a pamphlet on) all the rules.  It might vary from battalion to battalion, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind:

  • The soldier cannot drink, nor can he smoke.
  • He can not wear anything besides his uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes).
  • As stated above, he is not allowed to drive AT ALL.  Nor is he allowed to travel outside a certain mile radius.  Though it’s a strange rule, he may not sit on the ground (don’t ask…).
  • He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
  • Until he is dismissed from formation (in the morning), he cannot leave the training area.
  •  He can’t return late (missing the return formation).

There are more, but those are the basics.  <–haha see what we did there?

Basic Training Family Day Warnings:

During our family briefing, we were given some heavily suggested “guidelines” that technically weren’t rules, but were basically warnings.  While the soldier is allowed to make purchases, and often families like to go shopping during this time, we were warned to be wary of making big purchases.  Unfortunately there are quite a few shops surrounding Army posts that target brand new soldiers.  They sell boots (an expensive item) and other pieces of equipment that your soldier might want.  After so many weeks of training, he be tempted to buy because “he needs a better or newer thing that he has worn out during training.”  It’s totally a reasonable thought from your soldier-in-training.  But BE VERY CAREFUL.

The Army only allows certain items to be used.  There are regulations on any piece of clothing or piece of equipment.  Many surplus stores sell dupes and “similar” items that are not Army standard.  If he buys an expensive pair of boots but they don’t qualify according to Army standards, he won’t be allowed to wear them.  To be on the safe side, don’t shop for anything Army-related off-post.  He has already been issued the amount of equipment and uniforms that he will need to complete Basic Training.  (And there is a mini store [the PX] nearby bootcamp where he is occasionally allowed to restock on small items: soap, pens, paper, etc.)

There are also a lot of “deals” that air on Family Day weekends.  Car dealerships will prey on new soldiers who have a pile of cash and haven’t been able to spend it.  Just be careful and remember your soldier can’t have much at all in his barracks.  Even if he makes many, many purchases, it is likely he won’t be able to bring most of it back with him to the barracks.  (Especially not a car!)  You don’t want the Drill Sergeants to confiscate his new purchases!

Basic Training Family Day Suggestions:

Your soldier will probably have a lot to tell you!  Try to go somewhere you can talk and catch up.  Drive around town and find a place to walk.  It has been a while since he has enjoyed a leisure meal, so you could treat him to one.  Often this will be your soldier’s first chance to receive military discounts at restaurants and stores!  The day will go by quickly, so don’t try to do too many activities at once.  Just focus on being in the present moment, and giving your soldier a well-deserved break from his daily training.

If there is something he has been running low on, like letter-writing supplies or calling-cards, it is a good time to go shopping for some! (But don’t stress–the PX remains a good backup resource for his needs, if you don’t have time to go shopping together).  Whatever you do, don’t worry about trying to meet his Drill Sergeants or “see your soldier in action.”  You will see his leadership at the graduation ceremony, and there may be a ceremonial display of training during the graduation weekend.  Family Day is all about spending the day away from the training grounds with your soldier!  I also recommend that you spend the final half-hour of the day just chatting in the parking lot.  That way you can squeeze out every last minute of the day without risking him missing formation.

Purchasing Souvenirs of the Day:

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll want to purchase a little token to remember the trip by.  It is very likely that there will be a table of gift items available for purchase before and after the “introduction to the Army” briefing at the start of the Basic Training Family Day.  Many military units sell gift items on days such as Family Day, as fundraisers for future unit events.  However, if those aren’t being sold, you can also purchase military-themed gifts at the local Post Exchange located on post.  Another option is to visit one of the local military museums.  They always have a gift shop with plenty of merchandise.

Final Thoughts about Basic Training Family Day:

Our Basic Training Family Day was two of the best days we had during our first year of Army life.  It’s such a welcome break from being apart, and really helps alleviate the burdens of separation.  Even though it’s not an overnight pass, consider visiting your soldier for Family Day!  While travel is expensive, and it makes sense to place a priority on Graduation Day, Family Day is still a great opportunity for families to reconnect.  If you can make it work, I would definitely recommend visiting for Family Day.

If you have any further questions about the Basic Training Family Day that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you want any further information on dealing with having a soldier in Basic Training, consider reading my posts about writing Basic Training letters, favorite supplies for doing so, and how to address them.

**Read next: What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day**

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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!

**Shop here for the ultimate envelope-addressing stencil.  It’s a one-of-a-kind tool!  This is an affiliate link.  Or, visit this post to see ALL my stationary supply favorites!**

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

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