Soldier in focus - Pfc. Michael Lyjak
June 17, 2009
BAGHDAD-Neither sand, nor heat, nor bullets will stop Pfc. Michael Lyjak from performing his job as mail clerk with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Mulit-National Division-Baghdad.
Lyjak, from Monroe, N.C., is deployed with the "Old Hickory" brigade at Forward Operating Base Falcon in Iraq.
Lyjak has processed about 1,200 packages since arriving at Forward Operating Base Falcon, April 26. He recently received 250 packages in a single day.
"I'm constantly doing something every day," said Lyjak, "I pick up the mail from the post office, then I sort it, record it, and distribute it."
Lyjak works 12 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no postal holidays at Falcon. He is the only Soldier who processes mail for the hundreds of Soldiers in the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 113th Field Artillery, Special Troops Battalion, as well as his own company.
"It's different knowing you are responsible for people's happiness," Lyjak said. "And it's weird, because in a way I'm in charge of morale."
Lyjak stumbled around the mail room, stuffed with footlockers and packages of all sizes, and sorted everything into smaller piles as he spoke.
"I've seen everything from empty boxes, to guitars, and even an engine." said Lyjak, "It's cool; sometimes I get things like cards that kids have sent and they've drawn all over them."
Lyjak makes an extra effort to memorize the names of those who have mail, so he doesn't have to check a list when Soldiers ask. He sometimes even stops Soldiers in passing to tell them they have packages.
"I try to take mail personally because I know how it would be if I was on the other side of the door," said Lyjak.
Mail clerk is not a formal Army job; it is normally done in addition to someone's regular duties after taking formal coursework and passing a test. Lyjak, for example, is a human resources specialist, but is serving as a full-time mail clerk in Iraq.
Lyjak works long hours and currently does not get any days off. He said his job is not easy, but he still enjoys the work.
"It's a tedious job." said Lyjak, "It takes a lot of patience and there is a lot of lifting. It is not for the weak."
Lyjak said mail can take anywhere from five to 12 days to get from the U.S. to Iraq, and he has some tips for those sending packages.
"Make sure the box fits what you're sending, use sturdy boxes, make sure the address is right and don't send drinks or anything sharp," said Lyjak. "One of the mail clerks with another company almost had her hand sliced open because a knife was sticking out of the side of a box."
With all the mail that passes through his office, Lyjak has his own preference for care packages.
"I like to get PlayStation 3 games and family photographs," said Lyjak.