Correspondence from the Front:
The Changing Ways American Soldiers Write Home
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"Roman soldiers got socks, GIs get e-mail."

Soldier Using Computer Technology

In today’s modern world, the way soldiers communicate with those they have left behind has changed dramatically. Regular mail is still used to send both letters and packages to men and women on the front lines, but alternative means of communicating such as using telephones and e-mail have become increasingly popular.

Traditional mail systems have been dramatically slowed by a heightened level of security at mail sorting locations. Since the September 11 attacks, every package that goes through military mail has to be carefully screened for explosives, weapons and chemical or biological agents. Religious items, alcohol and pornography are also prohibited.

Since the war began in Iraq on March 19, military mail processing centers such as Fort Dix have received more than 2,400 pieces of mail each day.

Soldiers, especially those with wives and children at home, have used the telephone to communicate with loved ones during this most recent conflict more that at any other time in history. In a single month, soldiers in the Middle East can spend up to $1000 in phone charges. Operation Uplink, a program run by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, solicits donations from people who want to support American troops, and uses the money to purchase phone cards for soldiers at war.Soldier on Bunk Using Phone

Perhaps, the most noteworthy advance in battlefield communications has come with the popularization of e-mail correspondence between soldiers and family members. E-mail allows soldiers a quick and direct way to contact loved ones at any hour of the day.

All branches of the military offer some sort of e-mail access to servicemen and women. In larger, more established camps, particularly near cities, soldiers have access to high-speed connections. But in smaller outposts, like in Khost, an impoverished village on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Internet connections are made through satellite link-ups, and may be limited to a very few computers.

During actual armed conflict however, the military has stated that e-mail services would be largely used for operational purposes and that soldiers in the midst of action would not have time to be sending e-mails.

E-mail use has also raised a significant amount of security issues for military leaders.

Site created by

Jennifer Berringer

April 2003

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