A military letter of recommendation increases the likelihood of acceptance when applying for a particular position, promotion, special program, military school/academy, or to request an award/medal that a person feels they deserve but was not awarded upon discharge. Whether it’s the Air Force, the Army, the Marines, or the Navy, there’s a good chance a letter of recommendation will be required at some point in a military career. Typically, a collection of recommendation letters is required for these applications/requests, with everything in an application package being less than 6 months old. When admissions committees are comparing two candidates with equal kits, a collection of sterling recommendation letters from credible, reliable sources can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Table of Contents
- Who to Select?
- How to Write (Format)
- Sample 1
- Sample 2
- Sample 3
When selecting a writer for a military letter of recommendation, keep in mind that extra weight is given to recommenders who are high ranking officers. A captain, major, commander/colonel, general/admiral are excellent options; however, if they do not know the candidate personally, they aren’t a reliable judge of their character and therefore a poor choice.
If it’s not possible to get letters from chain of command, the next viable options are people who know the candidate personally, preferably someone who can attest to their growth or has seen them in a leadership role. A letter of recommendation could come from a teacher/professor, an employer, a coach, a mentor, a religious leader, or anyone that can speak to the applicant’s character.
A collection of recommendation letters should come from a variety of sources who present similar testimony of the candidate’s character relevant to the position/promotion/program/award for which they are applying. Providing the letters contain true and accurate evidence of the applicant’s eligibility, this collection will make for a cohesive argument in their favor. In some cases, a specific number of recommendation letters is demanded. The applicant should research the guidelines of the application before submitting to avoid providing too many, or too few, letters of recommendation.
A military letter of recommendation should be well-crafted and precise in format, as it will go into the official files of the military. It’s very similar to a business or college style letter, but the formatting is more detailed for military personnel or civilians employed by the military. The main content of the letter will include an introduction, 1-3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. These paragraphs should be numbered (unless the writer is non-military personnel). All writers should keep the tone of the letter professional and do their best to deliver a sound argument regarding the applicant’s qualifications and suitability.
If the letter is written by military personnel, it will follow a clear-cut format. Use organization letterhead if possible and, at the top of the page, include the following information:
MEMORANDUM FOR: [rank and name of recipient, recipient’s unit or organization]
FROM: [rank and name, unit or organization name]
SUBJECT: Letter of recommendation for [rank, last name, first name, unit]
Writers who are not in the military can ignore these formatting details such as office letterhead, “MEMORANDUM FOR”, “FROM”, “SUBJECT”, and numbered paragraphs but they should still include the date.
The first paragraph should contain the name of the applicant and the intent of the letter; 1 sentence is sufficient but this paragraph could be 2-3 sentences should the writer wish to include how long they’ve known the candidate, their credentials, and what qualifies them to recommend the candidate.
May 3rd, 2015
MEMORANDUM FOR: Lt. Col. Guillermo Alma, 31st Rescue Squadron
FROM: Col. Tristan Derstenfeld, Little Rock AFB Commander
SUBJECT: Letter of recommendation for MSgt Cabato, Jacqueline
1. I highly recommend Master Sergeant Cabato, Jacqueline for the available position in the 31st Rescue Squadron. MSgt Cabato has worked under my supervision at Little Rock for the past 2 years and has demonstrated a positive influence and an incredible dedication to her team.
The first example introduction was written by a Colonel to a Lieutenant Colonel, therefore it follows the exact format of a military letter of recommendation. Included in the paragraph is all the necessary information – name and rank of applicant, position for which they are applying, how long the writer has known the applicant, and in what capacity.
To the US Air Force Academy Board of Admissions,
It is with great privilege that I write to you in regard to Marco Shykairy’s application into the US Air Force Academy. Marco has been a star athlete on my soccer team for 3 years at Felix Varela High School. His leadership, persistence, and physical ability has helped us become one of the most successful teams in our league and I believe he would excel in the competitive environment of the Academy.
This example is written by a high school student’s soccer coach recommending the student for the Air Force Academy. The coach doesn’t know specifically who will be reading the letter so it is addressed to the board of admissions. The writer displays a clear understanding of what the academy is looking for in a cadet and believes that this individual possesses the necessary qualities.
The body of the letter should be a minimum of 1 paragraph, but can contain 2 or even 3 paragraphs. The idea is to explain the reasoning behind the recommendation by describing the character of the person being recommended, listing personal attributes, and recording experiences of which the writer has direct knowledge, that are also relevant to the position. Any personality traits considered valuable to the position/purpose of the application should be mentioned such as leadership, dependability, integrity, camaraderie, and tenacity. Real life examples of these positive attributes should be recorded to strengthen the letter.
2.Corporal McEvoy’s promotion to Sergeant would be well-advised as he has proven time and time again that he is an intelligent, disciplined, confident leader. His duties and responsibilities are carried out in the highest manner of diligence. McEvoy’s team is well trained and extremely organized, which directly relates to his ability to command a unit. He gets results from his soldiers because he demands their respect by exhibiting bravery, influencing his comrades to improve in their training and performance. Corporal McEvoy wants his soldiers to succeed, he wants the army to succeed, and his loyalty never falters.
A promotion from Corporal to Sergeant is a big step, and the writer of this first example presents a solid case for the promotion of a particular NCO. Leadership, integrity, loyalty, discipline are all traits a Sergeant should have and the higher ranking officer recommending this individual attests to these attributes first hand.
2. Arnold von Weyler graduated from the Air Force Academy with flying colors. The grueling and demanding schedule of a cadet allowed Mr. von Weyler to demonstrate his physical toughness and mental fortitude. Through this challenging process, he has honed his leadership and tactical skills.
3. Under my supervision, Mr. von Weyler displayed prompt obedience, proper conduct, unfailing courtesy, and unwavering honor. He learned quickly to accomplish delegated tasks in a professional and proficient manner, always striving for excellence in the hopes of one day becoming a skillful pilot. Mr. von Weyler is proficient in aviation principles and simulators and has gained significant experience which has helped prepare him for SUPT.
The second body example, written by a director at the USAFA for an Air Force Cadet, testifies to the individual’s merit as a cadet and their qualifications for acceptance into the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training.
The conclusion is used to express a high level of confidence in the candidate, reiterating their suitability to the position/program/medal for which they are applying. The writer may add additional comments that were not included in the body paragraphs. Offer contact methods should the reader require further information concerning the writer and/or the applicant. These contact methods can be included in the conclusion paragraph or at the bottom of the page.
If the letter is written by a civilian, a formal sign-off should be used to end the letter. The writer should include their signature and name. Military personnel will follow the same guidelines but a sign-off is optional. They may also choose to repeat their rank, position, and commanding unit, although it’s not necessary if this information was presented at the top of the letter.
4. PFC Jarre is a highly qualified-soldier who has continuously demonstrated his ability to lead and excel. It’s men like him that preserve my faith in the Marine Corps and help maintain the power of our armed forces. It would be in your best interest to seriously consider Private Jarre into the FTS program.
Archibald B. Williams
Chief Warrant Officer 5, USMC
2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejune, NC
This conclusion paragraph summarizes the intent of the letter, reiterates the writer’s confidence in the applicant, and includes the appropriate contact information at the bottom of the letter.
3. Miss. Sanwar would be a great asset to any organization. I know her to be an intelligent, strong, and loyal individual. I recommend Miss. Sanwar without hesitation for admission to the United States Navy. You can contact me at for any further questions.
CPT, U.S. Army (Retired)
Professor at East Lancashire College
Written by an ex-military captain, this concluding paragraph is brief and to the point. Although the candidate is applying for the Navy, a recommendation letter from a high-ranking officer in any of the military branches is dependable.
January 6, 2010
MEMORANDUM FOR: Lt. Col. Kyle Garrison, Chief, Military Awards Branch
FROM: Maj. Francis Hart, 19th Infantry Division
SUBJECT: Letter of recommendation for Capt Kapaun, Jigar, 19th Infantry Division
1. This letter is to support the consideration for upgrade of the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to Captain Jigar Kapaun to a posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
2. I had the honor of serving alongside Captain Kapaun for 5 years. Our last deployment was in Afghanistan where we set up a Security Partnering Team. During one of the scouting missions, Captain Kapaun and his tactical team were suppressed by heavy fire. A grenade was thrown into the building where the team had taken cover. Captain Kapaun, in an act of fearless heroism, dove on the grenade before detonation. This action saved the lives of 4 men and protected multiple others from severe injuries.
3. Captain Kapaun was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross but I believe his act of valor should be recognized with the highest decoration; the Medal of Honor. I’m sure you, too, will appreciate his act of courage and bravery and take this request into consideration.
Maj. Francis Hart
Dear Admissions Committee,
My name is Katharina Heiss, I teach English at Bozeman High School. I taught Gerard in both his junior and senior years. He is a highly motivated student with unlimited potential who would make for a great cadet in the U.S. Naval Academy.
Gerard has wanted to be in the Navy since I first met him in his junior year. He is a smart, talented, and determined individual. Gerard plays more than one sport and participates in many other extracurricular activities as well, yet he never allows his school work to fall short. He shows incredible focus and preparedness in class. Gerard is able to juggle a wide range of challenges while keeping his eye on the ultimate goal; getting into the U.S. Naval Academy.
Gerard demonstrates exceptional writing and comprehension skills. He’s always the first one in class and the last one out. He is respectful, compassionate, and it’s obvious by the way he acts with his classmates and teammates that he is a natural born leader.
Gerard is the perfect candidate for cadet in the USNA and I strongly recommend that you consider his application. I would be happy to answer any other questions you have about this extraordinary young man’s qualifications.
October 24, 2015
MEMORANDUM FOR: Maj. G. Scott Vander Hamm, Air Force
FROM: Capt. Guion Preston, Airfield Operations
SUBJECT: Letter of recommendation for 2d Lt Kyle Suthers
1. Second Lieutenant Kyle Suthers has played an integral role at Keesler AFB. He has helped keep this base organized for the better part of 3 years and now aspires to become a pilot. 2d. Lt. Suthers has my full support in this endeavor.
2. 2d. Lt. Suthers is a very capable, intelligent, and driven individual. Standing a cut above his peers, he exhibits unlimited potential. He is dedicated, focused, self-disciplined and shows remarkable leadership.
3. 2d. Lt. Suthers consistently applies good judgement while tending to his responsibilities. Being an officer in charge of air traffic controllers, RAPCON, airfield management, and ATCALS, has provided an excellent starting point for a pilot. Although his current position does not require this, he is proficient in theory of flight, air navigation, and aircraft operating procedures.
4. As a skilled professional with an outstanding work ethic, 2d. Lt. Suthers will use his expertise and aptitude to become a successful pilot. I strongly suggest you take his application into close consideration. My contact details are below should any further information be required.
Capt. Guion Preston