6 Things To Memorize Before Army Basic Training (ABT)

Headed to Army Basic Training?

Basic training is an extremely stressful time. Sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, and yelling instructions doesn’t exactly create the ideal study environment. Do yourself a favor by memorizing these 6 things to know and learn before Army Basic Training. By doing this, it should give you a few less things to worry about or the very least save yourself some pushup

How to Have a Great Valentine’s Day Without Your Military Spouse

Long distance relationships are hard, they’re even harder on holidays that are all about love. Grocery stores across the country quickly remind everyone that Valentine’s Day is coming and you must buy; candy, flowers, cookies, cupcakes, a card that sings, a giant teddy bear, and maybe some balloons to show your love for someone.


If you’re like me you don’t really care about receiving any of that, especially when you can’t even celebrate with your boyfriend/spouse because they’re in the Military. To a lot of people it’s just another day and, “If you love someone you should show them every day, not just one day out of the year.” Or you’re the hopeless romantic kind that absolutely loves Valentine’s Day and the romance of it all.

Regardless of how you feel about Valentine’s Day, you can still make it a great day without your significant other being there and here is how!

  1. Wake up and pick out your favorite outfit. Just because you’re alone on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel good about yourself!
  2. Make yourself a really great breakfast. If you’re like me you’ll go to the bakery and take full advantage of the heart-shaped donuts.
  3. Is it a nice day out? If it is take advantage of it. Go for a run, a hike, or a quick scenic drive filled with love songs during your lunch break. Plan a lunch date with some girlfriends, surround yourself with people that make you happy!
  4. After work stop by the grocery store to pick up a face-mask, some of your favorite comfort foods, and a good movie – this night is all about you!
  5. Before you go to bed, make a list of all of the things you love about your relationship with your military spouse/boyfriend. You’ll go to bed thinking positively about your relationship and happy!

At the end of the day remember, you do have someone out there that love’s you and would be there with balloons, flowers, candy, cookies, and a teddy bear if they could. Spend the day loving yourself and loving that you have a great relationship and you’ll find that Valentine’s Day on your own isn’t so bad.

Sandboxx is a mobile app that enables comms to exist throughout the military journey. The entire DOD organizational structure built into Sandboxx lets those in uniform and their families stay connected like never before possible. Sandboxx Letters continues the mission by give loved ones the ability to send physical mail to those in basic or on deployment. Learn more about how Sandboxx is revolutionizing the way our military community thrives at www.sandboxx.us and download the app here, www.sandboxx.us/app.

SANDBOXX is a mobile app focused on connecting our military community.
Army | Navy | Marines | Air Force | Coast Guard

How to Survive Army Basic Combat Training (“boot camp”)

The Army requires all officer candidates (who are not prior service enlisted) to attend Basic Combat Training (“boot camp”) prior to moving on to OCS.

The Pre-Armstrong Workout for Pull-up Beginners

If doing full dead-hang pullups, or as a whole, the official Armstrong Pullup Program is too difficult for you, we recommend trying the following workout until your max set is 7-10 controlled, full dead-hang pullups. Best of luck!

The Pre-Armstrong Pullup Program Workout

The Pre-Armstrong Program for Beginners (click for jpg)
The Pre-Armstrong Program for Beginners (click for jpg)

When required, simply pick any bicep curl type exercises (barbell, dumbbell, alternating, exercise tube, kettlebells) or row exercise (machine row, barbell row, single arm bicep curl, etc). Whichever exercise your ability and equipment availability allows will work, just stick with only one or two exercises per requirement and ensure you continually challenge yourself with the weights and repetitions.

Pullup Substitutes

This workout makes use of pullup substitutes. Based on your own ability and the availability of equipment, consider any (or a combination) of the following exercises:

Exercise Tube Pull-downs

Exercise tubes are some of the most versatile of all workout equipment

Loop an exercise tube over your indoor pullup bar, door, or tall piece of furniture. Kneel down or back up to increase resistance. Simulate the pullup movement as much as possible.

5 things to write about when sending letters to basic training

sending mail to basic training

Basic training, recruit training, boot camp…whatever your service calls it…is a time of stress, long days, hard work, and very little comfort.  This is why mail call is so important.

Mail call is the connection to friends, family, loved ones, and the rest of the outside world.  When you get mail at basic training, you’re happier.  When you don’t get mail, even for a single day, you can feel pretty down.

We frequently get asked, “What should I write about when I send mail to my son/daughter/friend/etc. at basic training?”

Here are 5 things you can write about in letters to your new recruit.

And if you’re using the Sandboxx app to send your letter, we’ve even written down some ideas for pictures you can include.

1. Just say hi.

No need to overthink this one.  A post card, a single page of stationary, or better yet a Sandboxx letter, all have plenty of space to simply tell your recruit that you’re thinking of them.

Something like the following would work great:

“Hi Bobby!  Just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you.  Keep up the great work.  You rock!”

Sandboxx photo suggestion: a quick snapshot of you, the letter sender.  Selfies welcome.

button Get the Sandboxx app so you can send letters from your mobile device! 

2. Share some encouragement.

With all the stress of basic training, plus being away from loved ones and the comforts of home, it’s easy for a recruit to feel down.  Share some encouraging words to boost their spirits.  After all, we want them to succeed and to feel good about their accomplishments.

Try something like this:

“Hey Natalie, I know some days can be tough and you miss home a lot.  Just remember that I/we support you, and I know you can do it!”

Sandboxx photo suggestion: a funny or inspirational photo or meme.

encouraging mail to basic training or boot camp

3. Tell him/her that you’re proud of them.

This can go a long way.  Reading how proud you are of what they are doing will give them a ton of inner strength to keep on truckin’.   It doesn’t have to be flowery or over the top, just something genuine to let them know how proud you are.

Use this as a starting point:

“Thinking of you today.  Want you to know that I am very proud of you.  You’re doing something amazing.”

Sandboxx photo suggestion: something patriotic would work…the American flag, a bald eagle, etc.  Even better would be a selfie of you giving a big smile and a thumb’s up!

4. Sports scores, local news, family activities.

Your new service member is starving for information from the outside world.  So…send them some.

Here’s an example:

“Hey bud, I know you didn’t see it, but the Lions won the Super Bowl.  Never thought that would happen!  Also, they’re building a new high school gym here.  Gonna be nice.  Sam and I are taking a trip to see Chad this weekend.  We’ll send some pics.  Keep rockin’ it there at basic.  See you soon.”

Sandboxx photo suggestion: a picture of the winning goal, a photo of the new gym, or pics of the family or group of friends from the recent trip.

5. “Can’t wait for you to graduate!”

Graduation day for your recruit seems like a distant future event.  So, remind them of the light at the end of the tunnel.  If you know you’ll be there when they finish, tell them you can’t wait to see them in their fancy new uniform.  This will be a big help to keep your service member working hard to reach their goal.

Try this out:

“Hey girl, can’t believe it’s only a few weeks til you graduate.  Thank god, cuz we need to do a movie night.  Keep it up, you’re almost there.  See you soon!”

Sandboxx photo suggestion: a pic of your calendar with graduation date circled.

basic training graduation date

Letters to your recruit don’t need to be long.  They don’t need to be fancy.  Any mail from you will make a big impact.  Especially since your service member won’t really have access to text messages, Instagram, Facebook, etc. while at basic.

So keep those letters coming.

Want more tips on sending mail to basic training?  Check this out:

5 Tips When Writing to Someone at Boot Camp

My Dad’s Letters

Military life can be both miserable and rewarding.  The reward comes from working with great people on great teams accomplishing great missions.  The misery comes from austere locations, uncomfortable situations, and separation from loved ones.

One thing that makes every aspect of military life more bearable is the ability to keep in touch with friends and family.  But many times, the only way to connect is through the mail.

importance of military mail in basic training

When I was a recruit, going through my initial military training, I got mail just like everyone else did.  It was simultaneously the best and worst time of the day:

  • Best – because it was my connection to the outside world, the world that didn’t include drill instructors and smelly recruits;
  • Worst – because there was very little time to read and enjoy the stories, jokes, and gossip sent by friends and family.

basic training recruit training boot camp mail call

It was the same for everybody.  Mail was our escape.  It was our sanity check.  It gave us hope that there was life after recruit training.

For some, mail call brought snacks that they couldn’t keep.

For others, it meant envelopes soaked in perfume or really crafty, artistic packages…which invariably led to some ‘gentle’ ridicule from the instructors.

crafty military care package

Some got great news, like the birth of a child.

Others got horrible news, like the death of a parent.

Now matter how you look at it, mail call was (and is) how recruits stayed connected with the important people and events in their lives.  And it was all the more important during the holidays.

The mail I got at basic left a lasting impact on me.

Specifically, in the letters from my dad I received something far more precious than anything I’d ever requested for a birthday or for Christmas.impact of father on son

Something more valuable than a lesson on how to throw or catch, more timeless than a lesson on fishing.

What my dad sent to me during my three months of boot camp was powerful, wonderful, mysterious.

In his letters to me my father wrote of how proud he was of the man I was becoming.  He told me how much he loved me.  He wrote about how confidently he believed that no matter what obstacles I faced in life, I could overcome and succeed.

Through his letters, my dad gave me permission to be strong, to win, to lead.  I became a better recruit, and ultimately a better warrior because of those letters.

father's impact on soldier through military mail

“My father gave me the greatest gift…he believed in me.”~Jim Valvano

Thanks for believing, Dad.  And thanks for writing.

Join the Sandboxx community here to make an impact on your service member.

Sending Letters to Boot Camp & Basic Training over the Holidays

holidays schedule impact on letters mailed to basic training boot camp recruit training

Make sure your mail gets delivered over the Holidays.

We have contacted mail rooms across the country to ensure that you can get your mail to your servicemembers as quickly and efficiently as possible during the Holidays.

holidays schedule impact on letters mailed to basic training boot camp recruit training

If you are sending mail to MCRD San Diego, MCRD Parris Island, or JBSA Lackland, check below for details on their closures. All other bases or locations are following USPS holiday hours, and may be delayed. You can find details on USPS hours here. (Please note USPS can take from 2-10 days to deliver letters during normal operations. Over the Holidays, this may double).

Keep sending mail to your loved one over the Holidays, even if you do not receive regular replies. From our experience, replies from your loved ones can take up to two weeks to get back to you as they reply via USPS.

MCRD San Diego – Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday Dec. 22nd 2016 using Sandboxx will be delivered to your Recruit on Friday the 23rd. After that, the San Diego mail room will be closed until Tuesday Dec. 27th. We will resume printing letters on Monday Dec. 26th in order to get your letters to your Recruit on the 27th when the mail room re-opens.

The New Years Holiday Schedule is similar. Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday Dec. 29th using Sandboxx will be delivered to your Recruit on Friday Dec. 30th. We will resume printing letters on Tuesday Jan. 3rd 2017 to get your letters to your Recruit on the 4th when the mail room reopens. If sending via USPS, please add an extra 7 days to the times above.

MCRD Parris Island – Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday Dec. 22nd 2016 using Sandboxx will be delivered to your Recruit on Friday the 23rd.  After that, the Parris Island mail room will be closed until Tuesday 27 Dec. 2016. We will resume printing letters on Monday the 26th of Dec. to get the letters over the Holiday to your Recruit on the 27th when the mail room reopens.

UPDATE: The mail room at Parris Island informed us that they will not be open Friday, December 30th. This is an update to the previously published schedule.

Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday Dec. 28th (today) using Sandboxx are scheduled to be delivered before the mail room closes for New Year’s. Any letters sent after 5 p.m. today will be shipped on the 2nd to arrive when the mail room reopens on the 3rd of January.

Reminder – Sandboxx relies on FedEx and the USPS for round trip delivery. Both organizations do their best to deliver on time. While they are 99.9% reliable, their operations are put under additional pressure during the Holidays and delays can occur.

JBSA Lackland – Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday Dec. 22nd 2016 using Sandboxx will be delivered to your Future Airman on Friday the 23rd.  After that, the Lackland mail room will be closed until Tuesday 27th Dec. 2016. We will resume printing letters on Monday the 26th of Dec. to get the letters over the Holiday to your Recruit on the 27th when the mail room reopens.

The New Years Holiday Schedule is similar. Letters sent before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday Dec. 29th using Sandboxx will be delivered to your Future Airman on Friday Dec. 30th. We will resume printing letters on Tuesday Jan. 3rd 2017 to get your letters to your Future Airmen on the 4th when the mail room reopens. If sending via USPS, please add an extra 7 days to the times above.

Sandboxx is a mobile app that enables those in uniform and their families stay connected like never before possible. Servicemembers, veterans, reservists and recruits can use Sandboxx Units to stay in touch with all those they have or will serve with. Sandboxx Letters continues the mission by giving loved ones the ability to send physical mail to those in basic training, boot camp or on deployment. Join the Sandboxx community here.

U.S. Naval Academy Admissions: Tips for Success

tips for naval academy admissions

If you are considering applying to the U.S. Naval Academy (or any of the Service Academies, for that matter), you must realize that the competition is extremely stiff.

As an example, consider the class portrait for the USNA Class of 2020. More than 17,000 applications were submitted; but fewer than 1,400 appointments were offered. If you aren’t that good at math (which you should be, by the way, if you’re considering a Service Academy), that’s an appointment rate of around 8%. Which means that 92% of those who applied were turned away. Not great odds.

tips for naval academy admissions

However, there are ways you can make yourself more competitive. If your goal is to be offered an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy (or any of the other Service Academies), here are four tips that can help you stand out as a candidate.

1. Do 3 Sports

To be admitted to the Naval Academy, you must be physically fit. As a midshipman, you will most likely be expected to participate in athletics of some kind. But beyond the athletic requirements of student life, the physical fitness standards required of commissioned officers (what you will be if you can survive four years “by the Bay”) exist to make sure you are ready to lead in combat.

One of the best ways to show that you have what it takes physically to succeed at USNA, and to eventually lead our troops, is to be involved in varsity athletics while you’re in high school. But don’t just stick to one sport. Do three. If you play football, consider playing baseball and basketball, as well.

If you are a tennis star, think about working to become a track and field star, or a swimming phenom.

Bottom line: if you can get varsity letters (or at least show that you have participated) in three organized sports, you will be more competitive as a candidate.

2. Everybody gets A’s: do more

Think you’re smart? I guarantee someone at the Naval Academy is smarter. I further guarantee that your straight-A transcript(s) from high school, JuCo, CommCo, or university will not make you stand out. All of the truly competitive candidates have straight A’s. So…

Do more than simply get A’s in your classes. Look at getting into Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Consider making room in your schedule for one or two college level classes. Are there academic competitions that you can participate in? Do it. Even better, do very well in those competitions so you can add those accomplishments to your USNA candidate application.

If you are a high school graduate already, keep getting those A’s. But be smart about which courses you enroll in. Can you get into the tough STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses? Can you use some of those high school AP classes as college credit, and then enroll in 200, 300, or higher level classes? If so, do it. Also, get involved with academic student groups, lecture clubs, etc.

Bottom line: A’s aren’t enough. You need to show that you seek out very challenging academics across many disciplines, and that you succeed in those challenges.

3. Be a Leader

Remember a few lines up when I wrote that you need to show you participated in multiple sports? Okay, add this to your to-do: get into leadership positions on those teams. In fact, seek out leadership positions in everything you do. In your sports, in your school clubs, at church, in your civic groups (which we’ll talk about next). Graduates of the Naval Academy will assume positions of great responsibility upon graduation. So, make it easy for the Admissions board to see that you are not only capable of being a leader, but that you aggressively seek out the challenge of leadership.

Bottom line: your competitors will be student government presidents, club presidents, team captains, and leaders of all sorts of other extracurricular activities. You must show the same on your application.

4. Be a Servant

This may sound like a contradiction to the previous tip, but you need to show the Admissions board that you are a selfless servant. The military isn’t called ‘the service’ because that’s a cool moniker. It’s called the service because many of the requirements placed on you will necessitate great sacrifice.

To show that you embody the ideal of service before self, get involved in civic groups. Volunteer. Seek positions of leadership at church, in your school’s holiday food drive, at your local YMCA or Boy’s & Girl’s Club. Do things that show you want to serve others, in order to improve their lives.

Bottom line: as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, you will be expected to display an attitude of service. And as an officer of these United States, a very special trust and confidence will be conferred on you by the American people. Make it a habit now to pursue the welfare of others before you seek your own comfort.


Jeremiah graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 2009, and went on to become a Marine Corps intelligence officer.  Prior to the Naval Academy, Jeremiah was a Marine Corps Sergeant.  He has deployments in the Pacific, and to Afghanistan.

Join the Sandboxx community here.

First Jump for a Marine

what jump school is like for marines


U.S. Army Airborne School, more commonly known as Jump School, takes place at Ft. Benning, GA.  This is where the majority of military parachutists earn their basic qualification.

The school’s basic jump course is three weeks long, and consists of three phases: Ground, Tower, and Jump.

During Ground Week, students learn the basics of the parachute landing fall (PLF), and how to identify and control (sort of) the direction of their descent.

Tower Week gives the students practice in mass exit (lots of people exiting an aircraft quickly), deploying the combat load, and getting used to the physical shock from the opening canopy.

Jump Week…is when the fun stuff happens: actually parachuting from an aircraft in flight.

marines at jump school army airborne

I had the opportunity to go to Jump School as a Marine Corps intelligence officer. I commanded a platoon of ‘radio reconnaissance’ Marines, and our mission required me to be a parachutist.  So off I went to earn my wings.

Here’s what I wrote after my first jump:

Here I am in the third and final week of training: Jump Week.  This week we’ll do five low-level static line aircraft exits.  Two of the jumps must be during the day, and two at night; two must be slick (just the main parachute and reserve), and two must be made with a combat load.  Today, we jumped slick.  Our remaining jumps include 1 day-slick and 1 day-combat; and 1 night-slick and 1 night-combat.

Then we’ll all be basic parachutists.


Up until now, I haven’t really been nervous.  As we boarded the aircraft, wearing our parachutes and reserves, our helmets, our ankle braces, and some anxious smiles of excitement…I still didn’t really feel nervous.  But I was paying attention to my mental, emotional, and even physical reactions to the whole experience.

It wasn’t until we were fully in flight, and the first team of jumpers exited, that my physiology changed.  Straining to turn and watch the first jumpers prepare to exit, anticipating the commands they received from the jump master, and then seeing them fling themselves out the door on the right side of the craft, I had a cold, hard realization.

I was about to jump out of an airplane!  I got nervous.

Honestly “nervous” isn’t the right word.  Fearful is more appropriate.  This is what I noticed:

  • my heart rate increased, but it felt like it dropped into my stomach;
  • my mouth became dry;
  • my perspective became slightly myopic, internal.

Yeah…those are some physiological effects of fear.

I wasn’t crippled by the fear, though.  It’s not like everyone else on that plane had no fear or anxiety.  We all did.  But we were still going to jump.

And no way, as a Marine, would I chicken out while a bunch of Army guys jumped!

jumping from a c-130

The C-130 Hercules we were on made a few passes over the drop zone, and vomited out wave after wave of jumpers.  Soon…it was our turn.  We focused on the Jumpmaster, anxiously waiting for his commands.

“Outboard personnel, stand up.”  Those seated against the skin of the C-130 stood up.

“Inboard personnel, stand up.”  Those of us seated on the cargo net in the middle stood up.

“Hook up.” We hooked up, and checked our lines and equipment.  I was the third jumper in the stick.

“One minute!”

The door was open.  I was ten feet from it.  I could feel the warm air coming in, and could smell the C-130’s exhaust.

My heart began to race; my breathing became more rapid.

“Thirty seconds!”

jumpmaster gives 30 second signal

My heart was pounding, and I made an effort to keep calm by controlling my breathing and, surprisingly, by looking outside.  We were 1250 feet up.  It didn’t look all that daunting, and gazing out at the treetops and fields actually soothed my nerves.

“Stand by!”  The number one jumper was standing at the door, facing out, ready to launch himself from the platform.

“Green Light! Go!”  

Jumper 1, a Marine Corporal stationed at MCAS Cherry Point, disappeared.  Jumper 2, an Army Second Lieutenant stationed at Ft. Benning, shuffled toward the Jumpmaster.  I shuffled forward, too, but kept back about an arm’s length.

Jumper 2 turned to his right and disappeared.

I made eye contact with the Jumpmaster, handed him my static line, and turned.  Step, kick…

WHOOSH!airborne jump exit

I left the aircraft and was met by a shocking wall of air from my right.

“One thousand.”  I was blown into a horizontal position.

“Two thousand.”  The force of the air tossed my helmet about my head.

“Three thousand.”  I realized my eyes were closed and opened them; I could see the first two jumpers in the air ahead of me.  My chin was tucked to my chest.  My hands clutched the sides of my reserve parachute.

“Four thousand, five thousand.”  I could feel the tug of the deploying parachute catching air.

“Six thousand.”  I reached up to grab my risers, the straps that connected the parachute to the harness on my body.  I looked up to inspect the canopy.  I needed to make sure it had fully deployed and that there were no rips, tears, holes, or broken suspension lines.


No damage and it was open, but it was twisted.  I grabbed the two risers and pulled them outward away from my head.  I began kicking my legs as if riding a very awkward bicycle.  I spun a couple times until the twist undid itself and the parachute opened fully.

Then…it felt like I was just hovering.

There wasn’t much noise.  All I could really hear was my breathing.  The descent was so smooth, I wasn’t sure I was even moving at all.  I looked around to ensure no other jumper was too close to me, and to get my bearings on where I was in relation to the drop zone.

I was floating straight down.

My landing was great; I executed a perfect PLF.  Then I quickly set to work putting the spent parachute into my aviator kit bag.

I was happy for an uneventful landing.  I could have been dragged by the parachute, landed in a bog, or caught a patch of weird air and dropped harder than expected.  Easy day for me, though.

I picked up my aviator kit bag with spent parachute inside, and headed for the rally point.


I had completed my first parachute jump.  And got paid to do it.  Not a bad day.


Jeremiah graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 2009, and went on to become a Marine Corps intelligence officer.  Prior to the Naval Academy, Jeremiah was a Marine Corps Sergeant.  He has deployments in the Pacific, and to Afghanistan.

Join the Sandboxx community here.