What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day

 

What to Expect at Army Basic Training Graduation Day

 

This is one of the most defining moments in your soldier’s career.  Even years down the road, when the freshness of his blues uniform has faded and the creases are gone, the effects of the day won’t have changed a bit.  Becoming a US soldier is an enormous accomplishment, mentally and physically.  This is the day where your soldier is acknowledged for his willingness to serve.  It’s the day he or she is able to begin what they have set out to do.  It’s Graduation Day at Army Basic Training!  Here’s what you can expect:

The Guest List

ANYONE can attend.  There is no limit to how many family members, loved ones, or friends you can invite.  Remember that your soldier might not have had the opportunity to contact them all himself, so you can help him out by doing that for him.  It is definitely a kid-friendly event.  There are not tickets either, so feel free to bring an additional guest at the last minute.  Note:  only one invitation/announcement letter is mailed to the soldier’s “closest of kin” (an address he provides at the beginning of camp), so if you haven’t been the one to receive that information, head over to your soldier’s unit Facebook page to see a copy of the event details!

Attire

Before all else, consider weather.  If it’s winter or summer, if it’s indoors or outdoors, etc.  There is not one specific dress code, which is why I say give priority to weather.  For instance, if it’s in the middle of summer in Fort Jackson, SC, you will want to wear the lightest possible sundress.  But if the graduation is indoors in the middle of winter, no one expects you to wear a dress.  A nice sweater and pants is totally sufficient.  I have seen everything from completely casual to dressy-Sunday wear.  Semi-formal or formal is unnecessary.

On-Post Access

While there is no limit to the number of guests who can attend, just remember that each driver will need to be able to get through the military access points (the gates).  So if you take multiple cars, make sure each driver has a Visitor’s pass.  You can attain a pass by driving up to the gate and asking about access requirements.  The gate guard will direct you to the Visitor Center and they will assist you in obtaining a pass.  I recommend doing this the night/day before you need to get on post, since the Visitor Center can get busy.  You don’t want to be late for the graduation ceremony!  Note: if you are a veteran or spouse then just use your military ID and skip the passes.

Exception: The Ft. Benning Army Basic Training Graduations (OSUT Graduations) almost always take place off-post. Technically, that means you won’t need any Visitor passes to attend the ceremony.  But if you want to drive on post at all (which you almost always will, to drop your soldier off or to see where he trained) then you’ll still need Visitor Passes for that.

Location

It will be at whatever military installation his Basic Training Camp is located.  If that’s Fort Leonard Wood, then his graduation will be at Fort Leonard Wood.  The graduations are usually in the morning.  It is the Army after all.  ha!  The graduation locations vary by installation, and can be either indoors or outdoors.  Wherever it is, expect it to be a very large venue.  Either a big auditorium, or, most likely a parade field.

Seating

There is no assigned seating for families, but there will be plenty of it.  With the exception of a few designated spots for honored military guests, you are free to take whatever seats you would like!  Families don’t have to sit according to their soldier’s platoons. 🙂  Also, feel free to bring any baby carriers, strollers, or wheel chairs as needed.  There will be aides directing seating and door flow if you need help with anything.

Photos

You can photograph and record the entire event.  Obviously don’t keep your cellphone volume on, but there are no rules against cellphones or cameras at the graduation.  If you aren’t in a good seat or don’t feel like you got satisfactory pictures, there is almost always a professional photographer who records and photographs the entire event.  You can purchase pictures and recordings from them after the ceremony (they will usually have a trailer and advertising at the ceremony site).

The Ceremony

The graduation ceremony will be much more “military” than any other graduation you may have attended.  And the format will just depend on the venue.  If the event is outdoors, expect there to be a lot of marching in formation and a big army band.  If the event is indoors, the soldiers will most likely cross the stage one by one (instead of in formation) and there will be a video about their achievements.   Any graduation will comprise of a chaplain’s invocation, commander’s speeches, recitation of the soldier’s creed, songs, awards for honor students, and of course, the national anthem.  Make sure to pick up a program on your way to your seat, so you know the lyrics to the Army Song and just as a keepsake of this special day.

Gift-Giving and Congratulations

There isn’t a specific portion of the graduation for exchanging gifts or congratulating your soldier.  Nor is there a receiving line or a formal process of dismissal.  Basically, the ceremony will conclude and he will be dismissed from formation and you’ll stand up from your seat and the two of you will find each other on the ceremony site.  At this time, you can take personal pictures or give him a graduation gift.

What Happens to Your Soldier Afterwards

This one is SO entirely dependent on his personal career.  I can’t fit all the information here, and will be making a separate post about this.  But I had to at least include something about it here since everyone wonders after the ceremony concludes…what’s next?  You’ll see some soldiers go home with their families that day.  Others will have 15 minutes to hug and talk before they board a bus for Airborne school.  Some have a 12-24 hour pass before they leave for their AIT training.  It’s a little chaotic.  The best news is, your soldier will know EXACTLY where he or she needs to be after the ceremony, if anywhere, so don’t worry.  Follow your soldier’s lead and enjoy any part of the day that you get to spend together!

Concluding Thoughts on Army Basic Training Graduation Day

While your soldier will experience many other meaningful moments in his or her career, none are quite like graduation day from Basic Training.  This is a really big day and marks an enormous change in your soldier’s life.  So remember to celebrate their accomplishments!  You may have “burning” questions about where they are heading next, and how hard bootcamp really was and if they feel like the same or different person.  You may even notice changes in them yourself.  But give them an extra ounce of understanding and expect the entire day to be a whirlwind for them.  Remember that the day is about them.  There will be plenty of time to catch up or get serious details like future assignments, next trainings, etc.  But keep those questions to a minimum and just try to have fun!  They will have a lot to tell you, and this is the perfect opportunity to stop and listen and get to know the US Army soldier they have become.

I’m so glad you took the time to stop by!  Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions about your soldier’s Army Basic Training Graduation Day.  I’m so happy for you during this exciting time.  It’s truly moving to see a loved one transform into a soldier, and attending their graduation ceremony is one way to celebrate that change.  I hope you get the opportunity to participate in this special occasion.  Thank you for reading, and please come again!

Also in this series:

What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day 

Continue Reading

Army Basic Training: Phone Call Rules

 

Phone Calls during Army Basic Training + Cell Phones at Army Basic Training

 

I remember as a kid riding past one of the Basic training areas on Ft. Knox (back when there was a bootcamp there) and seeing lines of soldiers standing at a series of pay phones.  It was a moving image of just how much the soldiers wanted to check in with home.  They would stand and stand and stand until they got the chance to say hello–to hear a loved one’s voice.  I’ll always remember that picture of love.

Fast-forward 10 years later and my husband became one of those soldiers in need of a chance to use the phone.  But in the world of cell phones, long lines of pay phones aren’t really necessary at Basic Training.  (Fun fact: I do see phone stations on post still…But they’re always empty).

A quick disclaimer: policies stated in this post can vary depending upon the platoon, as cell phone usage is completely dependent upon the Drill Sergents’ discretion in each platoon.  So anything you see here regarding the frequency of calls is DEFINITELY subject to change.

Cell Phones At Drop-off

First off– when you drop your future soldier off with the recruiter, leave his phone with him.  You might have heard “he can’t have his phone at Basic” or he can’t have it when he processes.  True, he can’t use it.  But he can bring it with him.  So definitely encourage him to take it.  His phone will not get confiscated and thrown away.  It will definitely get taken, but it will be held safe and secure until he is allowed to use it.  SEND IT WITH HIM.

When he lands in the airport (if he flew), he might be allowed to call you.  This is the infamous 30-second phone call you might have heard about.  It’s just a chance for him to tell you he is okay and just landed.  It’s a nice call to get.

Cell Phones At In-Processesing

Almost nobody talks about in-procesesing.  In fact, I feel like I need to write a whole post on it.  But basically, before your soldier begins his 10 or 14 or 16 weeks of boot camp, he has to process into the Army.  For OSUT guys, for instance, this takes 7-10 days.  This is the point that his cell phone will be turned in and stored away.  He won’t get to use it here, but they will give it back to him when he leaves for his official Basic Training area.

Cell Phones At Basic Training

The first day of Basic Training, he will once again turn his phone in.  The phones are kept locked up with the Drill Sergeants.  They aren’t stored in a huge mass pile in a warehouse where your soldier will never see it again (thank goodness).  It’s definitely not like having an item confiscated in an airport, never to be seen again.  The Drill Sergeants keep a labeled crate of each platoon’s phones and chargers, and they bring them out at the same time when soldiers are given the chance to use them.  Don’t worry about the safety of his phone–it won’t get stolen or lost.

Phone Call Frequency

The first three weeks of Basic Training (Red Phase) are the most strict.  While it is extremely unlikely that your soldier will be allowed to call during this time, it is still possible.  And onward from Red Phase, the likelihood of your soldier being able to call is increased.  It is all according to the discretion of the Drill Sergeants.  They feel under no obligation to let the soldiers call (unlike mail call, which is a regular occurrence), but they might use it as a morale booster or reward for excellent training.

During training, platoons will sometimes earn a perk for finishing the best, and often that reward is a phone call.  Sometimes too, the Drill Sergeants are feeling nice and will give the soldiers their phones for a bit on Sunday, to make calls.  This is why its KEY for your soldier to have brought his phone.  If he doesn’t have it, he will have to ask one of his buddies to share their phone.  And while a good battle buddy might do that, both soldiers will get significantly less time to talk on the phone!

Again, phone call frequency varies IMMENSELY depending on the Drill Sergeants, and even the Company’s SOP.  While one platoon might get to have their cell phones 4 times during Basic Training, another platoon might only win 1 phone call, and never be given another opportunity to call besides that.  It is all completely dependent upon a variety of facts that change throughout the training year (and with each Drill Sergeant).   I have heard of spouses getting as many as 8 calls, while others received as little as 2.

Phone Call Length

You probably already have guessed this, but phone call length varies enormously as well (especially if your soldier is sharing a phone!)  My shortest call was the 30-second one, and my longest was 3 hours.  It just depends one when/why your soldier gets to call you.

Sometimes the soldiers are given their phones to make calls at the end of the night, and they don’t have to be turned back in until training the next morning.  This is rare, but it is really, really nice when it does happen.  Nothing is better than an all-night phone call!  But if this never happens to you, don’t feel bad.   Any call and every call is amazing.  Length doesn’t matter once you hear their voice on the phone!!

Phone Call Privacy

Contrary to popular belief, the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and listen to their phone calls.  All calls are conducted in the bay (barracks) where the soldiers sleep.  So while there isn’t total privacy, since your soldier will be surrounded by his entire platoon, he will at least have privacy from his Drill Sergeants.  And to be honest, the other soldiers won’t be sitting there listening to each other’s calls–they will be too busy making there own!

The same goes for texting–the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and read all their texts.  If your soldier gets the chance to text or call you, rest assured that both of you will be able to carry on a normal conversation.  Talking in a busy bay might not be the best setting for a phone call, but it beats sitting in a phone booth with a line of 20 people behind you!

Final Takeaways

  • Phone calls from Basic Training are completely inconsistent, unpredictable, and amazing.
  • Soldiers–TAKE YOUR PHONE to Basic Training.  You’ll want it.
  • Loved Ones–ANSWER EVERY CALL YOU GET.  Answering unknown numbers is scary.  But missing a call from your soldier is worse.

Hopefully you found some answers here regarding phone calls and cell phones at Army Basic Training.  If you’re wondering about something I might have missed, please ask in the comment section below!  As always, thank you for stopping by.  Come back soon!

 

~Read next:~Army Basic Training: Letter Writing Myths~

Continue Reading

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 **

Continue Reading

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 (you can read more about phone rules here).  He told the Drill Sergeants ahead of time that it would be arriving, and what was in it.  While he still had to open the box in front of them, the Drill Sergeants let him keep the phone/charger–thank goodness!  Packages are just dependent upon the humor of the Drill Sergeants, as well as the contents of the package.

    9. Can I Send Him More Letter Writing Materials?

Theoretically, you can.  You won’t get in trouble for sending blank pages, and your soldier won’t get in trouble for having envelopes and paper in his locker.  But rest assured, you won’t need to do this.   There is a mini store (the PX) that your soldier will periodically have access to.  He will get to visit the store at the beginning of training, and a few times a month to restock on permissible needs- paper, envelopes, pens, and stamps included.

    10. Is There a Limit to How Many Letters I Can Send Him and How Long They Can Be?

There is definitely not a limit, in quantity or length!  As much as you can manage to write, send it.  Your soldier will never tire of or get overwhelmed by mail!  I talk more about facing personal letter-writing doubts here.  I would not hesitate to send as much mail as possible!  But keep in mind that about 10 days away from graduation, you might want to stop sending letters, in case they never make it to him.  With mailroom delays and the normal length of time it takes a letter to travel, there is a risk that a few letters won’t make it to him before graduation if you send them too close to that time.

There are so many more questions to be answered about writing letters to soldiers at Basic Training, but these are the top 10 I continually ran into during my own soul-searching.  Hopefully one of your own was on the list!  If you have any more, share below.  It’s always fun to see what others have wondered and what answers they discovered.  It all helps our Army Family!  Thanks for reading and please come back soon. 🙂

 

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

Continue Reading

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**

Continue Reading