Your person is headed off to boot camp! What an exciting time in their life– and your life, too. It’s a new chapter in the life of your family and your relationship… and the start of a brand new military journey. There are so many new adventures ahead for your whole family.
One question we get a LOT at Jo, My Gosh! is about boot camp gifts. After all, you want to support your loved on, during, and/or after one of the hardest things they’re going to do. What should you buy before the send-off? After graduation? What’s a good idea? … And of course, what’s a bad idea for gifts for your newly minted service member?
It can be tempting to stock up on a ton of things to make the barracks feel more like home. But before you press “buy” on a ton of cool gear, hit pause, and check out this master list of all the things your new recruit will need.
Essentials for boot camp
Your recruit will need just a few essentials when they step off the bus at boot camp.
- Paperwork organizer: It will help them to keep their intake papers in order, like their SSN card, driver’s license or other photo ID, direct deposit form
- Shower shoes: Basic flip flops are perfect (and cheap!)
- Clothes on your back and 1-2 days of civilian clothes
- Under $100 in cash
That’s seriously it. The military can and will supply almost everything else they need. However, if you want to upgrade these basics, you might consider:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Shaving cream
- Toothbrush container
- Toothbrush (non-electric)
- Eyeglasses sport-strap
Yes, the absolute basic basics will be provided at boot camp. But they might not be your person’s preferred brand, flavor or style. Providing the essentials that you know they love will help make the boot camp experience a little more comfortable.
Note: after consulting with my spouse, he mentioned that these items might be taken from new recruits upon arrival. In his words, “they want to strip you of everything you came with.” If you choose to purchase things for boot camp, keep that in mind, too.
Perfect boot camp graduation presents
Honestly, your newly enlisted service member has been working hard in not perfect conditions for several weeks or months. Right now, they want a few basic things: comfortable bed, clean clothes, a hot shower and a gigantic meal.
Oh, and a good night’s sleep because drill instructors don’t wait for the sun to rise.
You might want to consider:
- Booking a hotel room just for them
- Taking them out to eat at a restaurant with huge portions
- Going shopping for upgraded (and smaller!) civilian clothes
- Gifting money for their new uniform and insignia (some, but not all, may be provided by the military)
- Fancy beverage of choice, respecting legal drinking age for those under 21
Presents to take to the next school
Now, your person will likely be headed to a follow-on school where they will learn more about their military occupation or job. These training locations are much more flexible when it comes to what you can bring.
Other gifts to consider might include:
- Upgraded tactical gear
- New computer
- New cell phone
- Gifting them money for car payments or insurance
- New tactical sunglasses, like Oakleys
Having upgraded gear is a nice way to start your military career! They can make their job easier, since they know they have quality items they can rely on.
Gifts to outfit their barracks
Many new service members are single and will be living in the barracks. Think of it like a college dorm… but filled with troops instead of students, although many in the military go to college while serving on active duty!
Just like setting up your first apartment or dorm room, your service member will need some essentials to make life easier with their roommates.
Bonus: all of these items make great gifts!
- Slow cooker: to have hot meals ready no matter how long they’re gone
- Power cords: but the good kind with all the bells and whistles
- Microwave: because, well, it’s a microwave
- Good hanger: for their expensive uniforms
- Amazon subscription to extra strength laundry detergent: y’all, grease paint stains everything it touches
- Gift cards: think Target, Walmart, Amazon, grocery stores. They’ll need a lot of stuff and this makes it easy to get what they want ASAP
Congrats on this exciting new adventure in your lives! Welcome to the military family!
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- 5 Secrets to Living Your Best Military Life
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!