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 (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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My 100th Post!

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“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

I simply cannot believe I’m writing my 100th post.  But I am!

To take a trip down memory lane, I started this blog in the winter of 2015, after an attempt in the beginning of 2015.  I had high hopes that this blog would provide me with a writing platform (of course!) and an ability to use my voice.  That’s exactly what it gave me…but oh so, so, so much more.

It challenged me to conquer things I otherwise would never attempt– Google AdSense, I’m looking at you!  Through it, I was forced to stretch my imagination and mindset (read: post when I had no idea what to say).  It encouraged me to practice patience and attention-to-detail.  I began taking photography more seriously, though my abilities hardly improved. 😀  My writing voice developed in a way I didn’t originally plan.  To create content, I had to combine creativity, research, and practical application to my work.  It’s all been part of the process, and a process that I truly like.

It’s funny how goals shift; as consequences reshape those goals into something new and better.  For me, there is one shining thing that has motivated my blog from the beginning.  So far, there has been one thing that has carried my blog through almost one full year.  I have high hopes it will remain the one thing that propels my blog into future glory.  That thing is love.

I started blogging out of love of writing.  My posts are all about things I love.  I look forward to creating and developing a blog I love.  Love has been central to my blog–whether the content or the process–and even in the concept itself.  I named my blog after  the heart, because it’s the center of love.  And I want this blog to center on things I love, on people I love, on love itself.

Hopefully you will be able to see that what I’m posting about is something I love.  And hopefully you can tell that I loved writing those posts.  I don’t always plan to write about serious things, as I’ll still be doing Ipsy glam bag unboxings and the like!  But that’s because I love the little things in life.  However, in my intention to focus on love, I want to create more content that centers on what I love most: my Army family.  In many ways, I think that will harmonize with focusing on the little things in life–after all, being a family is about experiencing life and it’s little treasures together.

So for my 100th blog post, I simply want to re-center my blog, my focus, and my passion on love.  In the end, it will be what propels my blog, as it does every other aspect of my life!  I can only have success here if I love as I go along.  And that’s what I plan to do.  I hope that in the next 100 blog posts to come, my blog is focused on, centered around, and built with love.  I would love that.  <3

 

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3 Plug-ins I’m Loving

You may have seen (probably not) in my earlier posts that, once upon a time, I had a failed attempt at blogging.  I don’t mind mentioning it because every day of blogging has been a step in learning for me, and I can’t pretend that it’s easy.  SEO, CSS, HTML, and all the rest just doesn’t come naturally to me.  I love writing.  With pencil and paper.

In January of 2015 I bought a domain.  And after a month of trying to blog, I had to give up.  I half-blame it on the fact that I was newly pregnant and so everything was tough for me (except the pregnancy, oddly enough).  But I also blame it on the fact that I went from pencil and paper to self-hosting a website with upkeep costs (on an HP that was intent upon crashing every 4 minutes <–mostly true).  In December of the same year–11 months later–I tried again.  But this time, I did it right.

I started a “free” blog, one that was not self-hosted, on WordPress.com.  You can still visit it here.  It was so so so so so much easier the second time around for three reasons:

  1. Free blogs give less control and hence there was less for me to do
  2. There was less pressure because it was free
  3. I wasn’t as confused because I “knew” what a control panel looked like (and what to expect)

And I liked blogging on my free website.  But after about 5 months I was ready to try blogging on a self-hosted one again.  I wanted my blog to really be my own.  And so I purchased a domain, signed up with WordPress, and the rest is what you are reading right now! (Thanks for that!)

Since my journey of blogging, one of my favorite aspects of the back-end of things has been (and always will be) the plug-ins.  If you aren’t a blogger, then think of plug-ins as apps that help your blog run smoothly.  If you are a blogger, you’ll understand why the three following plug-ins are my favorites of the moment.

Plug-in #1: Yoast SEO

This one is helpful because it appraises my posts AS I’m writing them.  It checks for two things: the SEO quality of my posts, and the readability of my posts.  The plug-in gives green, orange, and red lights to me, depending on how I’m doing.  It also gives me an explanation for WHY I’m getting the light that I’m getting.  For instance, I tend to write in the passive voice, but that is not considered as “readable” as the present tense.  I’ll get an orange light at the foot of my page, with an explanation that I have been using 16.7% passive, which exceeds the maximum recommendation of 10%.  Or my SEO will be off.  For instance, I will establish a certain word as my “keyword” to boost my SEO for the post, but the plug-in will give me a red light if the keyword only appears once in my post.

In other words, this plug-in really forces me to be a better blogger.  It helps me construct my articles better, and pushes me to ensure that I am getting good SEO for each one.  Even though the plug-in can’t prevent me from publishing an article with low readability and bad SEO, it’s pretty much impossible to do when I have the ability to monitor both those factors as I type!

Plug-in #2: Jetpack by WordPress.com

This was my LIFE SAVING plug-in when I made the switch from my free blog to my self-hosted blog.  It single-handedly transferred all my followers from the free blog to my current one.  That was NOT an easy task.  And I didn’t think anything could do that.  But it can, and still does, when I need it to!  It has so many functions that can be turned off and on, and the ease of use is incredible.  I recommend it for any blogger, but especially for those who want to bring things over from one blog to another.

Plug-in #3: Wordfence Security

My blog security.  This plug-in monitors and blocks everything from bots to crawlers to hackers.  They send security updates and notifications to my email too.  I don’t want to breach my security by saying everything that it does–but I’ll just tell you this: it gives my blog complete protection and gives me an awareness of any malicious activity that threatens my blog.  This plug-in is an absolute MUST HAVE.  There is a free version and a premium, and either are completely effective and necessary.

That’s a wrap for my three favorite plug-ins.  I use a lot of plug-ins, but it really wasn’t hard to narrow down the list.  These three are ones that I use more than any others, and for good reason.  If you haven’t added a plug-in to your blog in a while, I would highly encourage you to do so.  There is always some plug-in out there to make your life easier.  And if you don’t have Yoast SEO, Jetpack, or Wordfence, those are my top three recommendations!  Leave a comment below if you have a favorite plug-in.  I would love to know so I can get it!

 

 

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