Letter Of Instruction in the Military

Soldier reading over letter of instruction in the barracks.

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A letter of instruction (LOI) is a formal notification written in military message format notifying the receiving party of specific issues and detailing how the sender would like them addressed. Generally speaking, letters of instruction are used in business communications and with personal affairs. However, they can be written about almost any subject by anyone.

In the U.S. Military, LOIs are used perhaps most frequently in two ways. These include directions for personal estates and as a corrective measure.

Directions for Personal Estate

The first method is as directions for the settlement of a person's estate in the event of that person's death. This is not a will but can be used as more of a to-do list of people to call, documents to obtain, and final arrangements for a funeral. It may also list specific assets and allocations.

Corrective or Remedial Tool

The second type of letter of instruction—like the one shown below—is used as a corrective or remedial tool in the military. Consider the most common LOI as a formal counseling session from a superior officer or senior enlisted personnel to a junior military member who has demonstrated sub-par performance. This typical LOI will not only review the standards the member should be meeting but offer a remedy to pursue better performance in the area of deficiency. Perhaps a plan of action to follow can be added to fully require the intended party to understand the consequences of not performing at the required level.

A Sample Letter of Instruction

In the sample below, the letter of instruction has been written as a way to help the recipient improve his job performance, which has been deemed “unsatisfactory.”

The letter goes on to list a number of failings on the part of the recipient, and advises him to become more hands-on, writing: “You must personally set your division's goals and personally verify they are being met.”

It then lists necessary steps to improve performance and closes with words of encouragement, offering continued assistance and noting: “We want and need your success.”

Sample Letter of Instruction as a Reprimand

From: Commanding Officer, USS NEVERSAIL (CV 11)
To: LCDR Mike Rowmanage, USN, 987-65-4321/1300
Aviation Fuels Officer, USS NEVERSAIL (CV 11)


Ref: (a) MILPERSMAN 1611-080

1. This Letter of Instruction is issued per the reference to discuss specific measures required to improve the unsatisfactory performance of the Aviation Fuels Division onboard NEVERSAIL.

2. Since your assumption of duties as aviation fuels officer on board NEVERSAIL, you have allowed unauthorized procedures to exist in the Aviation Fuels Division that resulted in the structural damage to JP-5 storage tank 8-39-02J during underway replenishment on 18 July CY. You failed to familiarize yourself with appropriate aviation fuel directives and thus you were unable to verify the proceedings in your division. You also failed to ensure all directives were maintained up-to-date. Generally, you relied totally upon your assistant aviation fuels officer for the day-to-day operation of your division.

3. To function effectively as an aviation fuel officer, you must become more involved in the day-to-day aspects of your division. You cannot manage from your office, accepting the counsel of your assistants without developing an adequate personal knowledge of specific procedures. You must personally set your division's goals and personally verify they are being met.

a. You must review every aviation fuel directive applicable to USS NEVERSAIL. You will ensure that you are familiar with directed procedures. As a matter of routine, you will personally verify that your division does not deviate from directed procedures unless authorized by higher authority.

b. You will submit quota requests for yourself and CWO2 J. S. Ragmann to attend an aviation fuels officer course upon completion of this deployment.

4. This letter is designed to aid you in correcting deficiencies in your performance as a division officer. The entire chain of command is available to assist you in any way possible. We want and need your success.


This sample letter of instruction provides the junior officer with direct feedback with no grey areas in tone or meaning. This is also a written version of the documented counseling session offering immediate assistance by other senior and more experienced members in the command. This is a perfect tool to create a better junior officer in the command and prevent potential loss of mission capability in the future.