Rules / Etiquette

What Spouses and Family Members Can Expect Regarding Communication During Basic Training and Boot Camp

Inside: What to expect when your service member leaves for basic training – care packages, letters, phone calls – we break it all down!

If someone you love is going off to Boot Camp or Basic Training, you’re probably nervous about the lack of communication. Don’t worry, we have answers!

My own husband went to Boot Camp in 2001, which was before social media or cell phones existed.

Yikes!

I wanted to get up-to-date info, so I polled veterans, spouses, and girlfriends who recently went through Boot Camp or Basic Training to ask how they stayed in touch.

Surprisingly, many of the rules haven’t changed.

Service members in basic training.

Are cell phones allowed in Basic Training?

There are no cell phones allowed in Basic Training. This is a consistent rule for all of the military branches: Do not expect your service member to be able to call you, text you, or receive your messages when they are in Basic Training.

  • The Marine Corps does not allow any cell phone access until after graduation.
  • The Navy has their trainees place cell phones into a bag with their clothes and personal belongings, then the whole bag is shipped home to their family.
  • Army recruits keep their phones shut off and in a locker.
  • The Army will allow some cell phone use during AIT, which is after Basic Training.

Can service members / recruits make ANY phone calls during basic training?

Even though there are no cell phones, the military training allows a few phone calls home from their call centers.

There will be an initial very brief call (lasting less than one minute) where the service member can call home, report that they have arrived and provide a mailing address. This call is typically to their next of kin, so if you are dating they may call their parents.

  • Service members who went through Basic Training said the Navy allowed 1-2 phone calls per month.
  • Army recruits are allowed to call every 3 weeks when they phase up, and then every weekend once they complete Basic and begin AIT.
  • The Marine Corps doesn’t allow any calls home (besides the initial arrival call) until after the Crucible, which is the final week of training.
  • In general, phone calls are limited to 5-10 minutes.
  • Service members from all branches said that the length and number of phone calls allowed depend on the platoon’s behavior.
  • Phone privileges can always be taken away. Occasionally, a phone call may be offered as a reward.

Are care packages allowed in Basic Training?

Most branches are very restrictive about what the recruits can receive in Basic Training. Generally, no gifts or care packages can be sent. Sending restricted items, or ‘contraband’ could get your recruit yelled at or publicly embarrassed.

  • One Air Force spouse reported that even sending colorful envelopes got some people in trouble!
  • A Navy veteran explained that it’s best not to send anything at all, because recruits are only permitted to have very specific items. “For example, they’re only allowed to have a certain flavor of Halls cough drops and that’s it, so trying to send them anything is pretty futile and not worth getting your sailor in trouble over.”

Stick to the official packing lists and follow any family instructions from the unit. Occasionally, families are allowed to send bulk items that will be shared with the whole platoon.

If you plan to send care packages after Boot Camp or Basic, save these ideas!

Green Bay Packers theme decorated care package.
Can you send care packages during bootcamp? Collage of care packages

Can you write letters during Basic Training?

The best way to stay in touch is with snail mail letters. Recruits don’t have much free time, and are only able to write on Sundays or occasionally in the evenings. However, your letters can be a huge source of comfort for them.

Related: 5 Best Ways to Support Your Service Member at Basic Training

Many people said they wrote almost every day, then sent an envelope each week containing multiple letters.

You can also send sealed “Open When” letters, such as “Open when you’re having a bad day.” They will be able to keep the letters with them until they are needed. Several people reported that they would smuggle a stick of gum into each letter, which their trainee enjoyed!

Stationary and flowers with text that reads: 55 Open When Letter Topics for Deployments, Training, Boot Camp and Separations.

Another girlfriend wrote, “I signed each letter with my thumbprint, so he could have a little piece of me.”

You can print out pictures and send them in letters. Do not send anything racy or inappropriate! Regular photos or ultrasound pictures are acceptable.

Quote ideas to put inside your letters:

Initial letters will take a while to be delivered. Families have recently been encouraged to send letters through the Sandboxx app.

This program coordinates with the Basic Training classes to print out and deliver letters quicker than the Post Office. They will also provide recruits with an envelope for a reply letter.

When do you get details about Family Day and Graduation? What can I expect for that day?

At the end of Basic Training, loved ones are invited to attend a Family Day where they visit with their recruit. Boot Camp Graduation is usually the following day.

Related: 7 Boot Camp Graduation Gifts That Will Make Your Service Member Smile

Because these events are the same for most graduating classes, you can find details on the websites and Facebook pages specific to your service member’s Basic Training program. Family members are encouraged to follow specific Facebook groups so they can see photos of their recruit throughout the process.

  • Individuals wishing to attend graduation will need to make their own travel and hotel arrangements.
  • Guests should provide names and drivers’ license info to the recruit in advance.
  • Some families say their service member discussed Graduation details in letters.
  • Others said they called to discuss Graduation.
  • If you are dating, try to coordinate with their parents so you all have up-to-date information.

Basic Training is a challenging time apart, but it will fly by when you stay busy writing letters and making plans!

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6 Comments

  1. My grandson has been in since sept 9th. He called my son to sY he was ok and made it. How c an I get adddess to mail him a letter.. i have nothing other than he is at great lakes

    L

  2. My husband left to basic training but hasn’t called to make sure he made it safe ! How can I get in contact with him to make sure he’s safe

  3. Hi All –

    My husband recently left for basic and then AIT (he’s infantry so it’s combined) and tried to call me today but I missed it. Is that the only chance he gets to call? I feel so terribly and I don’t know what to do. He sounded so much like he needed my support in his voicemail. Has anyone ever been in this situation and has ideas on what I can do?

  4. You need to update this. The Army and Air-force are allowed cell phones during basic each week. The Navy and Marines do not.

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