Fort Benning Mail
1. Fort Benning is a massive installation at which tens of thousands of pieces of mail are received, sorted, redirected and delivered every day. It takes a little bit of patience when dealing with postal operations of such magnitude. There are several obstacles, which prevent the smooth flow of mail being processed. This note will provide you with some pointers, which may expedite the delivery of correspondence.
Hand written addresses should be printed legibly. A significant amount of letters arrive with poorly written addresses, misspelled words, unreadable terms, and excess flourish in lettering, which make it very difficult for mail handlers to sort quickly. It is recommended that you use simple letters when addressing your Soldier.
Mail takes time to arrive into your loved one’s hands; it may be longer than you expect of the mail system. However, the time it takes to arrive is beyond our control. Mail is not withheld from a Soldier after it arrives at our unit.
The mail flow coming onto and off a Military Installation is a lot different than the Civilian world. In addition to additional security screenings, (and recent shut downs) it is not door-to-door service for the Units. When mail arrives on Post, the first stop is the very small FT Benning Post Office, which only has a few employees. From there it is sorted into the following categories: Ft Benning residents, FT Benning businesses,& Military Units.
The military mail is then sorted into Brigades (FT Benning has seven Brigades). Each Brigade has a mail clerk that picks up mail from the Post Office. That clerk brings it to Brigade where it is sorted into Battalions (and each Brigade has 3-7 Battalions). A Battalion mail clerk then picks it up from Brigade, takes it to Battalion, and sorts it into Companies (each Battalion has 5-7 Companies). The Company mail clerk picks it up from Battalion and sorts it by Platoon (each Company has four Platoons). The DS for each Platoon then gives it out to the Soldiers. Each of these mail clerks have other jobs besides just mail and they are not always available due to field time, staff (24hr) duty, tasking, etc.
To give you an idea of how big FT Benning is. This Post is roughly 200,000 acres. Each Company that conducts BCT or OSUT (OSUT is basic training for infantry, Armor, & Calvary) has over 200+ Soldiers assigned to it. There are over 50 Companies on FT Benning conducting BCT or OSUT at any given time all year long. Each Company completes 3-4 cycles per year; as a whole Fort Benning trains over 40,000 Soldiers in Basic training alone each year. That does not include the other training schools (Airborne, Ranger, OCS, IBOLC, Armor, AIT, Captains Career Course, etc) located at Fort Benning that train continuously all year long too. We also have several “regular”(deployable) Units (3rd Infantry Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, etc). I do not even know how many residents we have on Post, but we have a Middle School and five elementary schools to give you an idea of just how many permanent party families our Post serves.
With these numbers, you can understand why it would take some time for mail to be sorted and start to flow regularly for new recruits. It is very common for you to receive multiple letters from your Soldier asking why you are not writing when you are. The mail from your Soldier to you will get to you much quicker than your letters to him so many times you will find that your mail is actually “crossing” with your Soldiers – meaning by the time you have received several letters asking why you aren’t writing he has indeed begun receiving yours. It will take about 3-4 weeks for the mail to work itself out and flow more regularly, but it will. Your Soldier will get his mail.
Keep in mind that most of Fort Benning observes the traditional 4 day weekends for all Federal Holidays. Even though basic trainees and basic training companies do not observe any holiday except Christmas, trainees will not get mail during 4-day weekends because the mail clerks at each of the stops listed above are normally "staff" Soldiers who will not be at work during holidays and holiday weekends.
In addition, please be aware that you should not send any letters by UPS, FedEx, overnight, or express. They will not get to your Soldier any faster than regular/priority USPS. This is because the military delivers military mail. In fact, sending by those methods may actually slow the mail down, as someone from Brigade, Battalion, or the Company has to find time to stop the training/work they are doing to make a trip to the far end of post to pick up mail that is sent via UPS/FedEx/overnight/express. If you use these methods to send mail you will be wasting your money and taking a risk that the mail will be returned to you if someone is not able to pick it up quickly enough.
2. MAIL: This is one of the best things you can do to support your trainee! Please, try to keep your letters upbeat and positive. Tell them how proud you are of them. I have seen letters and support from family members & friends do amazing things in trainees. Your trainee can do great things, but a trainee who feels supported can achieve much more.
WE DO NOT HOLD MAIL, OPEN IT, NOR DO WE READ IT!
Many people do not realize the vast amount of trainees on Fort Benning, at any given time, and the channels it must go through before reaching the trainee. Each DAY, roughly, 13,000 pieces of mail come into Sand Hill and just Sand Hill. Each must be hand sorted through 5 different channels to get to your trainee. Mail to a trainee will take an extra 5-10 business days (longer around a holiday). Even if you overnight them, it will get to Fort Benning overnight, but will take another 5-10 business days to be funneled down through the channels to your trainee. So, your mail could take 2 to 2.5 weeks to arrive to y. UPS and FEDEX will take the same amount of time. All mail for trainees, even those delivered by UPS and FEDEX are delivered to the Fort Benning Main Post Office first.
Mail to you will arrive much sooner than it will to them. So, your trainee will probably tell you in his letters that he hasn’t received any letters and that he thinks the drill sergeants are holding it. They’re not. Number 1, they wouldn’t do that. Our drill sergeants have integrity. Number 2, they’ve seen how a letter can affect a trainee. Number 3, it’s illegal (yes, even to the Army). With the rigorous training schedule (most days are14+ hours long), mail is sorted and delivered when there is time. This can also cause delays in writing letters to you.
You can send letters, cards, photos (not photos from the company Facebook page), extra envelopes, stamps, and/or writing paper (these are also available for purchase by the trainees.). Everything should be of an appropriate nature. Keep in mind that your trainee has access to an ATM and a small exchange to be able to get personal items. They are provided or have access to everything they require for Basic Training.
DO NOT SEND: These items will be confiscated and placed with your trainee’s personal belongings to be returned to them at the end of the cycle.
-ANY types of food items -Civilian reading material (except for religious text. Examples are Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, the Koran, etc.) -Firearms, knives, and razors (Personal shaving razors are available for purchase at the small exchange.) -Civilian clothing -Jewelry, including watches (Religious items and watches must be authorized by a DS. All other jewelry is prohibited.) -Medication/Vitamin of ANY type. Both prescription and over the counter. -Electronic devices such as Ipads, cameras, CD’s, video tapes, Ipods, MP3 players, etc. (Cell phones can be sent with DS approval, but will be placed in their personal belongings until the next time they’re able to call) -Stuffed animals or dolls -Plants (live or artificial) -Liquids -Cash in excess of $50.00 (Trainees are only permitted to carry a certain amount of cash at any given time.) -Tobacco products including electronic cigarettes (no electronic devices), nicotine patches and gum -Alcohol including mouthwash (no liquids) -Caffeine products -Pornographic material
WHAT CAN I SEND?
**First and foremost, please remember that every company/troop, every platoon, and every drill sergeant is different. One may allow certain things where the other doesn’t. Rule of thumb, IF THEY DON’T ASK FOR IT, DON’T SEND IT.
Just about anything that they would need while training is available to them at the PX. Soldier’s are taken to the PX immediately and shown by the DS what things are “off limits” and what items are allowed. This is when they make their initial purchases. They are taken to the PX about every two weeks to buy items such as toiletries, shampoo, and shaving cream. There is no need to send these basic items as the Soldiers have the opportunity to buy them and they are affordably priced (and tax free).
WHAT YOU CAN SEND: Letters of encouragement, love and motivation. A good rule of thumb is that unless your Soldier specifically asks for something, you shouldn’t send it. Some BCT training units or even platoons are stricter than others. If your trainee has already sent you a letter requesting an item then he/she must have received the approval to have that item from his DS. Your trainee will know if he can or cannot have certain items .
*** Soldiers are directed to turn in any prohibited and contraband items within the initial 24 hours after arrival to the company. After the initial 24 hours, any prohibited and contraband items found in the possession of the soldier will be confiscated and disposed of. If a trainee is found with contraband they will face consequences individually, and possibly give consequences to their platoon or entire company.