Congratulations, you have just received orders to your first ship! A common dilemma you may face is whether or not you should send a formal introduction letter. You may have heard that nobody really expects it, nobody’s going to read it and it will go straight into the trash. You may have heard that it’s a big prank; that the JOs are going to tape it to the bulkhead and make fun of you for being new and clueless. You may have heard that it’s an outdated tradition, and that its purpose has been satisfied by your correspondence with a sponsor JO over Facebook.
Here’s the straight dope: You should send a formal introduction letter. In fact, all of the above may be true, and yet you should still send an introduction letter for this simple reason: It is the professional, classy thing to do. You can never go wrong with professionalism.
Don’t want to be the butt of anyone’s jokes? Then keep it brief and formal, and don’t go overboard in touting your accomplishments. For the love of all that is good and holy, do not try to be funny or clever; not now. Here are some basic pointers:
- Address the letter to the CO, by rank and last name
- Start by expressing excitement that you have received orders to the command
- Briefly touch on your education, previous experience (if any), family situation, and hobbies (careful– try not to let it sound like a personals ad)
- Mention by name that you have been in correspondence with your sponsor from the command
- If you have received any physical correspondence from the ship, say so
- State your arrival date and your travel plans thereto pertaining
Provided you don’t try anything weird, nobody’s going to criticize your formatting. Keep it simple; 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins. Here’s an example from that venerable tome that many are issued but few will ever read, the Division Officer’s Guide:
Since this seems to be in high demand, here’s a typed out version you can use as a template.
The Division Officer’s Guide suggests that you should use this letter to make requests as to which division or department you’re assigned. Personally, I don’t recommend this. Most ships won’t have a lot of flexibility in DIVO assignments; you’ll go where there’s an opening. It also may be a few weeks before you’re actually assigned anywhere, and in that time your mind might change about where you’d prefer to start, given the option.
Send your letter via physical mail to the Commanding Officer at the ship’s FPO address. Some might consider this overboard, but if you want to cover all your bases and don’t trust mail to deployed assets, you can scan your letter and email it to the XO (you can get the XO’s address from your sponsor). Do this as a backup; you should still send the physical letter.
When should you send it? If possible, my recommendation is to shoot it off as soon as you have a solid idea of your travel plans. As we quickly learn, though, it can be tough to make an itinerary in the rapidly shifting seas of ship scheduling. Absent a firm travel plan, I would wait no longer than two months before the report date in your orders.
So there you have my piece on the intro letter. It is an outdated and unnecessary naval tradition, just like swords and salutes and all manner of wardroom etiquette. It’s professional, classy, and one of the first tests to see if you have a clue. Do it.