In addition to Sundays, you’re going to be living for mail call, let me tell you! There’s tons of information about mail out there, but let me add a few key pieces of information. Pass this along to your family members too, and cover your ass in advance.
When you first arrive, you’ll fill out an address card to mail home to your family. If you’re savvy enough to read this blog, you’ve probably already told your family to blast that address all over Facebook when they get it, which is totally fine. There are a couple of things to keep in mind, however.
MTIs are required to give you your mail promptly. Once they pick it up, they need to distribute it. They can’t hoard it in their flight office. That’s as far as the rule goes, or so they’ll tell you. They have to pass it out, but they don’t have to let you open it or let you read it. Integrity plays a big part here. Don’t do anything stupid to jeopardize the chance to read your mail. We typically got fifteen minutes of “personal time” at the end of the night, during which we could open, read, and reply to mail. It’s not a lot of time, as you can imagine, and I was lucky to write one letter during that time period. Many trainees stayed up past lights out and wrote letters, but keep in mind that if you get a non-duty inspection and an MTI comes back, you’re supposed to be asleep. Still, it didn’t happen to us, so take it for what it’s worth.
When MTIs pass out mail, they’re not supposed to throw it at you. Your mileage may vary. It depends on your MTI’s attitude and interpretation of that rule and what “throwing” means in their world. My MTI thought throwing was disrespectful, so he didn’t do it. Typically, he would leave mail pass-out to me and my ELs. You know how OCD I am, I used to have it all alphabetized before distribution. 🙂
You’ll be able to buy stamps at the mini-mall. Do yourself a favor and at least bring a sheet down with you to start. You’ll end up needing those stamps to mail those address cards I mentioned earlier, so the sooner you bust out your stamps and start sharing, the sooner those cards go out. Your flight members will pay you back a stamp later.
You’ll store your stamps in your security drawer tray, as they’re considered a valuable at BMT.
Tell people to keep it simple. This is not the time to send those jumbo cards, regardless of the holiday or if it’s your anniversary. Everything you receive must fit in the back half of your security drawer. I said everything. If you’re fortunate, your MTI will let you into the civilian luggage closet so you can stash some letters in your luggage. Think small-sized envelopes and cards.
If you receive pictures, you are required to show them to your MTI, in case anything is deemed inappropriate. I shouldn’t have to explain too much about that – steer clear of nudity, shots of people (especially underage) who are intoxicated, etc. Hopefully, your family has some common sense. One good strategy is to have your family members draft a letter on the computer, where they can insert pictures into the letter. It’s a great way to save space, versus having tons of loose photos.
If you receive a package or a thick envelope of any kind, you are required to open it in the presence of the MTI and show them the contents. That being said, unless it’s a toiletry item you can’t find at the mini-mall or a better fitting sports bra (the mini-mall offers little for women needing more support), I would really suggest that you tell family and friends not to send anything. This is not the time for care packages – that can wait for tech school, where there are no restrictions. Again, anything you receive has to be shoved into the back of your security drawer, which fills up quickly. The only thing I ever requested to be sent to me was spray hair gel and hairpins, for obvious reasons.
Advise your friends and family against sending food. MTIs, take your new diet very seriously. Food is not allowed in the dorms, period. Trainees will try to sneak peanut butter packets back into the doors, or Nutri Grain bars. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That’s a jumpstart to the time machine that’ll take your ass right back to an earlier week of training. Yes, you can get recycled for something like that. The one time a trainee of mine received a nutritional bar, the MTI with us at the time made everyone do pushups while she shoved that thing down her throat as fast as she possibly could. It wasn’t enjoyable for her or the rest of us on our faces. No food!
When you’re ready to mail letters out, you’ll be able to walk to the mailbox during “free time,” such as when you’re picking up dry cleaning. [Yes, I said “dry cleaning,” more on that later.] We would typically load our satchels with our wingman’s mail, to minimize trips. Trips to the mailbox are not done during the morning or the middle of the day, which is a quick way to get yelled at.
Don’t read mail outside of personal time. Don’t carry it in your satchel with your BMTSG, unless you are en route to the mailbox. Don’t get caught writing letters in class. All of these things will get you in trouble.
Encourage your family and friends to send mail often, and down the line, you may want to suggest that they write to some of the trainees who don’t ever receive mail. An encouraging note from home goes a long way at BMT!