What is a Letter of Instruction?

A letter of instruction is a formal notification written in letter form 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; they can be written about almost any subject by anyone.

That said, in the U.S. Military they are used perhaps most frequently in two ways.

One is as directions for the settlement of the author’s estate in the event of his death. This is not a will, but 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.  The second letter of instruction—like the one shown below—is used as a corrective or remedial tool in the military.

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

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 on board 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 fuels 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 the aviation fuels 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 fuels 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.


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