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What happens to mail at basic training?

It’s been a few years since I went through recruit training on Parris Island, but …

Echo Company recruits receive letters and packages from home during mail call Feb. 8. Mail call is often a way for recruits to get away from the wear and tear of training and find encouragement from loved ones.

It’s been a few years since I went through recruit training on Parris Island, but I remember the long runs, sand fleas, and (my personal favorite) pugil sticks like it was just yesterday that I first lined up on those famous Yellow Footprints. In hindsight, it wasn’t the physical challenges or the intense training that I sometimes struggled with–it was missing my family. You know to expect exhaustion, but you don’t anticipate the loneliness that would sometimes creep in over the squad bay just after lights out.

Making their racks
You would not believe how comfortable these racks are after a long day of training. (Image courtesy of Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas, U.S. Marine Corps)

Fortunately for me, I had a pretty steady stream of letters coming in from my loved ones back home. Nothing staves off loneliness and uncertainty quite like a few words of encouragement from the people you hold dear. Of course, back when I was going through recruit training, Sandboxx didn’t exist yet… but if it did, I probably would have received letters more than once a week–and as a result, the entire ordeal would have probably felt quite a bit less trying.

Sandboxx makes it faster, easier, and more convenient to receive messages from your loved ones while you’re going through training, but through my conversations with Marines of my day (I got in way back in 2006) and further talks with new Devil Dogs just recently entering into Uncle Sam’s favorite gun club, I’ve become aware of a number of hurdles that can make it a bit tougher for those important messages to reach the recruits or trainees at basic training right away.

Training always comes first

mail at basic training
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

While mail call is easily the most important part of the day from the vantage point of the recruits and trainees, it isn’t for the drill instructors or drill sergeants tasked with preparing young men and women for service in their respective branches. Training schedules are jam packed with essential lessons, physical training, and administrative tasks that have to take precedence over morale-improving exercises like distributing the mail.

Those charged with training the next generation of American service members have all gone through the same training themselves, and they’re well aware of how valuable mail is to their recruits and trainees. However, sometimes delays in the training schedule or remediation of essential lessons can leave precious little time at the end of the day for the comforts of home.

Sandboxx makes it easy to follow what your loved ones are doing at basic training, thanks to weekly training updates provided right in the app.

While I was in training, I became aware that I wouldn’t always receive my mail the same day it reached the squad bay. At the end of the day, the training always takes priority.

Holidays are always hard

mail room
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joshua S. Brandenburg, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

For many military branches, training through holidays is just a part of the job. However, base mail rooms and U.S. postal carriers tend not to be operating during official holidays. That, in conjunction with the massive number of letters and packages flooding into military installations around gift-giving holidays like Christmas, can sometimes create a back-log of work in base mail rooms.

That means sometimes letters or packages reach our training facilities days before they’re actually placed in a trainee’s hands. It’s not common, and base mail rooms are exceedingly good at what they do, but sometimes the volume becomes too much to quickly sort and distribute.

Sandboxx makes this process much easier, because all letters sent through the Sandboxx service arrive at their respective installations pre-sorted for easy distribution to recruits and trainees.

Of course, delays are still a possibility around the holidays.

We can’t always write back

mail at basic training
(Marine Corps Photo)

When I was going through recruit training, mail call often came at the end of the day. That was great for morale after a long day of training, but not always conducive to writing back. We had limited time to receive and read our mail before the drill instructors had to get us in the rack to get enough rest for the following day’s training. Sometimes I was able to write back to my family and friends, but sometimes I wasn’t. It’s important for families to know that we still want you to send letters to us, even if we’re not responding.

Sandboxx letters make it much easier to write back quickly, thanks to the included stationary and envelope.

At one point during my tenure on Parris Island, I wrote a letter to my wife on the envelope I received from her, just because I couldn’t get my hands on any paper at the moment. That’s not a problem for trainees or recruits that receive their mail via Sandboxx.

Feature photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

Alex Hollings
Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran.