The first thing you need to keep in mind is that for the most part, personal communication is a valuable commodity in Afghanistan. The country is vastly rural, far moreso than Iraq is. Due to this, depending on the area a soldier is in, they may not get the same things another soldier will have at another FOB. For example, large bases, such as Firebase Phoenix, Jalalabad, Bagram, and Kandahar Airfields have pretty well-developed infrastructure. Places like these were hooked up with wifi and other means of communication. I wasn’t at any of those bases, and was relying heavily on the computer lab provided by the military on my FOB when writing this blog. For the most part, the military is good at keeping soldiers provided with a computer lab, but there are FOBs that don’t have them.
Personal phones are available for purchase at major FOBs or bazaars if soldiers are allowed to visit them. Roshan isn’t exactly the best phone company in the world, but it’s definitely great if you need to speak with family. SPAWARE also provides DSN (Data Source Name) phones that can be used to call family, provided you have an open account with them, but like every other option out there, this is not universal. Some bases are either too remote or too dangerous to support non-military communications. For the most part, there should be some way for a soldier to contact home, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them for some time.
As for mail? As far as I could tell, this was universal for any base that wasn’t a major place (Bagram, Jalalabad, Shank, Kandahar, Phoenix, etc.) could receive mail, but not send any out. I personally received mail probably once a month or two months, but that’s because the Air Force unit in charge of my task force’s mail route was lazy and rarely picked up mail. I encourage you to send care packages as often as possible, because that might actually make or break various hygiene issues, and the military is notorious for losing mail.