Navy Boot Camp Guide for Families (What Parents + Spouses Should Do)

The ultimate Navy boot camp guide for families back home.

Today, we are going to discuss in great detail the Great Lakes Navy boot camp guide for families.

Watching your child or spouse leave for Naval boot camp can be hard on the family members left behind.  You have to go weeks without being able to speak to them and you won’t know how they are doing.

The first two weeks after my husband left, I stayed as busy as possible.  My husband had been gone for months at a time before for business, but we always had been able to communicate with him.

Now it was radio silence and it pained me not knowing what he was going through and not being able to be there for him.

As the weeks went on, things got easier to handle.  Not only did my family and friends rally around my kids and I, but I also found an enormous amount of support and resources that helped make the transition bearable.

Now I want to pass those on to you!

Do you have a spouse, child, or other loved one who is going to boot camp soon?  Here are some ways to find support and make it through those weeks of little to no contact with your loved one.

Find out what important things you should do while they are gone, as well as what to expect during this time with our Navy boot camp guide for families.

I also want to include that I am in no way an expert or official on this subject, and that the following advice is based upon my own experience only.

This page is full of important information, so you may want to bookmark it so you can come back later.

MEPS swearing in ceremony

You may be wondering, “Can I watch my son or daughter swear in at MEPS before they leave for boot camp?”

Yes.  Parents, spouses, family members, etc. are allowed to go to the MEPS swearing in ceremony the day your loved one ships out to boot camp.

MEPS stands for military entrance processing station.

Once your recruit signs up to join the military, they usually have anywhere from a few weeks up until a year until their ship out date.  Boot camp for the Navy is at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois.

The night before their ship out date, recruits meet at a hotel near MEPS.  My kids and I were able to go to dinner with my husband, then took him to the hotel to drop him off and say goodbye.

The next morning we went back to MEPS.  We were able to watch my husband swear in and say goodbye quickly one last time.  It felt so surreal.

The morning after your loved one swears in at MEPS, they will leave for boot camp.  They will spend most of their day traveling.

They are told not to bring much with them, but they can bring their cell phone.

Navy boot camp scripted call

When they arrive at boot camp, they are allowed to make a 30 second scripted phone call to tell you that they arrived safely, to look out for a letter and a package with their things, and that they will call again in a few weeks.

My husband made this call at 1 am E.S.T. and somehow after being up all night waiting for the call, I fell asleep and missed it.

He was able to call again the next day to tell me the same thing.  Make sure you keep your phone with you at all times, and keep it on loud (if possible).

I highly recommend leaving your phone next to you at all times while they are at boot camp because you never know when they will call you.

And you don’t want to miss that opportunity to speak with them because it may not come again.

When will I get a letter from Navy boot camp?

Exactly one week after my husband left for Navy boot camp, I received his official letter.

This letter includes the graduation password if you are driving (you need this to get on the base), a list of who the recruit wants to attend graduation (this list can be changed later, if needed), and their official address where you can start sending letters to them.

This is not their first personal letter, and only contains important information for you to save.

The address listed on this letter is where you want to mail your letters to, not the address that is on the box you will or may have already received.

The letter will also have their prospective graduation date.  It is usually 8-9 weeks out.  Note that this date CAN change if they fall behind on any tests.

navy boot camp guide parents

You should also look for a package to arrive around the same time as the letter.  I received my recruit’s package the same day as his letter.

This box contained his cell phone, charger, shoes, and clothing.  Anything that they have brought with them to boot camp will come back in this box.

Be on the lookout for these two items during the first two weeks after they leave.  Then shortly after you receive these items, you should start receiving any personal letters from your recruit.

Extra tips for families

Stay busy and get out of your house because you will be sad if you stay home.

Pick up extra shifts at work to have extra money for graduation and moving costs!  Go out with friends!  Take your kids to the park or pool!

And research, research, research!

If it weren’t for the enormous wealth of information I found online, I would have felt so lost during this period.  But instead, I was prepared and knew what to expect!

This helped to ease what felt like the loss of my husband.

It’s okay to be sad.  It’s okay to cry.  Just don’t park there and sit in that grief.

You have to keep living your life.  Especially if you have kids, then it’s even more important that you help them through this transition.

We know this transition will be the hardest for moms, dads, spouses, and children.

When can I write a letter to my recruit?

As soon as your recruit leaves for training, you can start writing them letters.  Then when you get their address in the official letter, you can send them all out at once.

The official letter will explain how to address your letter to Navy boot camp.

Before my husband left, he told me that he didn’t want me to write him a letter everyday, because that would be a little excessive.

But by the time I got his first letter, he wrote that it was important for me to write everyday because it would help him get through boot camp.

So I recommend writing your significant other or loved one a letter everyday!

Hearing their name called at mail call at the end of the day helps boost their morale.  Reading words from a loved one back home helps them deal with what may be the most difficult experience they have ever been through up until that point.

So write as much as you can!  You may want to also encourage others to also write letters.  (Other family members, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, siblings, children, etc.)

Make sure to not send any pictures that you wouldn’t want to be seen by the RDC’s (Recruit Division Commanders).

You should also make sure not to write about how sad you are that they are gone.  (You can tell them you miss them, but don’t make them feel guilty for leaving).

They don’t need any extra pressure added on to them and they don’t need to feel responsible for the way you may be feeling at home.

You need to make sure you write encouraging and supporting letters!  Tell them you love them and miss them, but don’t make them feel bad about it.

Facebook groups for family of recruits

This will be one of the best resources you will find while your loved one is gone.  There are numerous Facebook groups online for parents, spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.

The best groups to find will be the groups that will be made specifically for your recruit’s PIR date (Pass In Review – AKA Graduation).

Once you get the official letter, you will have the prospective graduation date and can look up the Facebook groups that will be made for that PIR date.

Here is an example of what the groups look like:

navy boot camp parents spouses girlfriends

These groups will be highly active and contain an enormous wealth of information.  You will be able to talk to other parents and spouses of recruits who are going through what you are going through!

This helps tremendously because as much as your family and friends love you, they don’t understand what you are going through.  How could they?

This is the #1 thing I suggest doing while they are in boot camp!  Join the groups!  You will be so happy that you did.

Two of the times that my husband called me while he was gone, I was ready by my phone expecting his call because of these groups!

The parents will post when they get a phone call, so you know when your recruit’s division will finally be able to use the phone!

Other online resources for parents and spouses

Some other websites with advice and forums for support are:

Navy For Moms

Navy Dads


(I joined these groups even though I am a spouse!)

There are numerous other websites and blogs out there if you do a quick search where you can find more information as well.

When you should get your dependent military ID 

If you are a spouse or child of the recruit, and have been enrolled in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), you are eligible to get your military ID while your loved one is in boot camp.

Your recruit should sign you and any eligible children up in the system referred to as DEERS while they are at boot camp.  They will fill out a form and mail it to you.

Once you have received this form, you will be eligible to get your military ID at any RAPIDS site near you.

Health insurance for dependents

Your military ID will also act as your health insurance card.  Your recruit’s social security number is what you use for this insurance.

As soon as your recruit goes to boot camp, his or her dependents are eligible for Tricare health insurance.  (As long as you are enrolled in DEERS).

Your recruit will also be able to sign you up for dental insurance which is currently through United Concordia as of right now (November 2021).

By the time my husband graduated boot camp, we had already gotten dental insurance and went in for our cleanings.  So make sure you take advantage of this as well if you need to.

Navy boot camp phone privileges (Can Navy recruits call home during boot camp?)

Yes, they can call home while they are away.  But only a handful of times.

I received 3 phone calls from my husband while he was away at Navy boot camp.

This might be the same amount you will receive, or you may get more or less.  It depends on the division and their RDC’s.

I received 3 phone calls:  The first 30 second scripted phone call.

Then on the third Saturday after he left, I received my first real phone call at around 10:30 AM EST.  That phone call was about 18 minutes long.

He sounded quite upset at this phone call, but he also had little to no sleep at this point.  Make sure you just keep encouraging your recruit!  They need you to reassure them and motivate them.

These phone calls will come from a (847) area code.  If you see any strange area codes pop up on your phone, you should answer your phone.  But both of my phone calls came from the 847 area code.

If you see that area code show up on your phone, DO NOT MISS THE CALL!  They may not be able to call you back if you miss it.

My last phone call came the day after Battle Stations.  Battle Stations 21 is the final evaluation that lasts 12 hours long and is a real life simulation on a ship.

Below is a great YouTube video about this final test.

Battle Stations is overnight, then if they pass that final test, they will call you the next afternoon!

This phone call will be the call when they tell you, “I’m no longer a recruit, I’m a sailor!”

This is the phone call that confirms that their graduation date is correct. 

Some may not get this call until the day before graduation, depending on their recruit’s division and when they take Battle Stations.

Ideas for military kids when their parent is away

Older kids may understand why their parent has to leave, but younger kids might not comprehend why their parent is now missing.

Before your spouse leaves for any separation, they can make a few videos of them reading your children’s favorite books.  Then after your spouse is gone, you can play the videos for your younger kids everyday so they remember that their Daddy/Mommy loves them.

I highly recommend this for anyone with children!  It is a great idea for any separation you will face as a military family including TDY’s, deployments, trainings, school, and more.

If your children are old enough to write letters, I would also have them write letters to their parent or draw pictures for them if they can’t.

My oldest son wrote letters to his dad while my youngest colored a few photos that I mailed to my spouse.

Your recruit should also write letters to their kids to let them know they are thinking of them while they are away.

Where to find weekly photos of the recruits in Navy boot camp

By following the Recruit Training Command on Facebook, you can find weekly photos of your loved one during training in Great Lakes. Please check back weekly to see the updated photos.

Banking for military

Once your recruit swears in to DEP (delayed entry program), you are soon eligible to join banks such as Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA.  (As a spouse, recruit, or family member).

We now bank with Navy Federal Credit Union and we love them.

Both banks offer checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and loans.  They also pay the active duty service member a day earlier than other banks. 

Active duty service members are paid bi-monthly on the 1st and 15th of every month.

So if the payday for the month is June 15, Navy Federal and USAA would deposit the funds into your account anywhere from a day to a few days before the 15th.  (Depending on holidays, weekends, etc.)

I highly recommend checking out both banks to see if either of them fit your needs.  We switched from Wells Fargo and are very happy with their service.

Below you can find the Navy Federal pay dates for the current year.

Do you get paid in boot camp?

Yes, you do get paid in boot camp!  My husband started Navy boot camp at the end of May and was paid by mid-June.

Active duty service members are paid twice a month, on the 1st and the 15th.

We have Navy Federal, so he was paid a day early on June 14.

The first few paychecks may have some money taken out for uniforms, things bought at boot camp, etc.

Does my wife get BAH while I’m at basic training?

Yes!  If your recruit is married or has dependents, they are eligible to start receiving BAH from the day they leave for training.

They may or may not get BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) in the first paycheck.  We did, but I hear that it varies.  Either way, they will receive the full amount that they are entitled to.

BAH is determined by duty location, pay grade, and dependency status.  Single recruits will not receive this extra pay because they will be expected to live on base after boot camp until they reach a certain rank.

Those who join the military with a spouse or children, will receive this extra pay from their very first paycheck.

While your significant other is in boot camp, the BAH will be determined by the spouse or child’s location.  You can find out the BAH for your zip code here.

Married sailors or those with dependents, may also be eligible for BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence). (This covers food for the service member).

However, they will not get BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) while they are in boot camp and A school because the service member is eating on base.

Single sailors will not receive BAS until they reach a certain rank and live off-base, or if they gain dependents.

As of 2021, BAS for officers is $256.68 per month and $372.71 per month for enlisted.  (Current BAS is found here.)

Navy boot camp guide for families wrap-up

I hope this information helps as you begin your new adventure.  Again, I am by no means an expert on the topics listed above and it is based purely on my own experiences.

If you have any questions about Navy boot camp (from a family member’s perspective), feel free to leave a comment below!

Related posts about Navy boot camp and beyond:

Military Graduation Gifts
How to Make Friends as a Military Spouse
34 Perfect Long Distance Relationship Songs
Help! My Spouse Wants to Join the Military

how to survive navy boot camp as a spouse or parent


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