When my daughter left for Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, the 1st thing I wanted to do was connect with her. I was starved for communication with her! As we like to say, I missed her guts! :D.
I started writing letters to her before her plane had officially left the ground. I’d sent her with everything she’d let me send, because there are rules about that sort of thing. We bought bra’s she was allowed to bring, and hygiene products, we bought special bun rolling hair thingamajigs at Claire’s, and cut up some old socks to make more.
Still, believe it or not, and I bet you do believe it, I couldn’t wait to send her a care package! The first thing I learned is that your soldier gets in trouble for your bad behavior. So if you’re sending them contraband hidden somewhere in those care packages, you’re costing them privileges, and causing them pain that comes in the form of PT by way of 'getting smoked', sometimes for their whole unit, ACK.
Does their Unit Allow Care Packages?
So what CAN you put send to FLW in a care package for a soldier at BCT (basic combat training)?
The first step is to make sure the Unit actually even allows care packages. My daughter was in E148, and they did indeed allow the sending of care packages. There ARE units that just plain don’t allow care packages at all period. My daughters unit, like most BCT units didn’t allow food of any kind (at AIT at FLW this was because of a rodent and insect problem as well as poor hygiene and prior spoiled foods, so this DOES vary from base to base for sure.) The prohibition on food and snackage makes regulation cough drops VERY popular, we'll get more into that below.
Will my Solider Want Care Packages?
Of course no one knows your soldier better than you. My daughter wanted care packages. She called home requesting some specific items (Chap Stick and lotion), and we sent them. However, the Café Mom website points out that care packages can make your soldier stand out, when he/she REALLY wants to blend in.
Now on the other hand, here’s a fun quote from a soldier that posted on Café Mom:
When I got my phone on Sunday's I would shop online lol put my mom’s name on stuff. One can't help what parents send *innocent*. I even ordered snacks once for the entire company just for the lols. We were given 15 minutes to eat as much as we could (everything was gone save for the green chip at the bottom of a lays bag (I ordered candy bars, chips, fizzy drinks... You name it, amazon had it). Then someone (anyone) had to do 100 push-ups or we would all get smoked.
My daughter's home now, and here are her thoughts on care packages while she was in BCT:
In Echo 1/48 (BCT) at Fort Lenoard Wood, getting a care package made you popular! It was like you were the lucky guy at Christmas time. You weren't allowed to get food or candy. We could have toiletries, brown towels, shoes (company dependent), army green socks, white socks (ALL white, had to go past your ankle, so tube's or crew).
What can I send right now?
Until you know if your soldier can have care packages at all you can send letters, 1 every day if you can. Spam your Facebook account with their address, pester their friends, and get them as many letters as you can! I carried around stationary and stamps so that everyone I came into contact with could write a quick note!
I sent TONS of letters, and my daughter still asked "Mom, why isn't anyone writing to me!?!"
Many soldiers are only allowed photographs and letters. Most are allowed care packages, but you've got to be REALLY creative if you want them to feel like they got 'treats' in their care package.
What types of things should I put in a care package?
As I mentioned above, my daughters 1st two requests were for chap stick and for her favorite lotion. Soldiers are given a $300 advance on their paychecks to spend at the PX when they arrive on base to buy anything that they need as well. One of the things my daughter mentioned were coal finger and toe warmers.
The most popular item in a care package really seems to be cough drops. That's because they can't have any candy or other food in their barracks, or their pockets, or anywhere but at meal times. They can usually only have the blue menthol kind. There's a small chance they can't have these at all and they'll just get thrown out, but they're pretty cheap, so it's really not the end of the world if they do.
So in a nutshell we have:
- Menthol cough drops (Most Popular!)
- Stamped Envelopes
- Address stickers (Their address, and yours) – Popular Item!
- Stamps, stamps, stamps and stamps.
- STRONG Hair Gel
- Conair Bun Maker (for girls with hair longer than color length)
- Chap Stick
- Pictures *TIP* Wallets are most popular, laminate to last!
- Pre-Cut Moleskin (blister prevention) (My daughter had, but never used them)
- Toilet Paper – One roll per care package
- Wet Wipes – Very popular!
Other popular items include razors, shaving cream, sun block, etc. Those hygiene items can also be purchased at the PX. They’ll also eventually need binders, note cards, and other ‘school supplies’. Again they’ll probably buy these items at the PX as well.
Anything that they can't have, with the exception of food will be held for them until the end of the cycle.