Military Postal Service delivers in South Korea
Chong Ku-hae (right) from the Yongsan Garrison Post Office talks with a customer March 16.

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea - "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

These are the words chiseled in granite over the entrance of the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue and has long thought to be the United States Postal Service's motto.

The true origin of this famous saying is credited to mounted Persian mail couriers who carried out their duties with great dedication during the Greek and Persian wars in 500 B.C. That tradition of excellence serves as the same standard for the members of the Military Postal Service carrying out postal duties on the Korean Peninsula.

"There are approximately 184 servicemembers and civilians who work for the military postal system on the Korean Peninsula," said Gregory Mackessy, director of postal operations for 8th Army. "We move more than 12 million pounds of mail annually for all United States Forces Korea members."

Created in 1980, the Military Postal Service Agency is an extension of the United States Postal Service, serving as the single manager for military mail. The organization is jointly-staffed and headquartered in Washington D.C.

"Our postal mission is accomplished by a dedicated team who strive to provide the very best postal service on the peninsula," said Mackessy. "Some of our people are up as early as 3 a.m. to ensure mail is transported across the peninsula so recipients can pick it up that afternoon."

The process by which military mail is moved to overseas locations is an excellent example of coordination between several national agencies and the use of several transportation mediums before it arrives at the Joint Military Mail Terminal at Incheon.

The U.S. Postal Service moves military mail within the U.S. to one of its major processing facilities on either the East or West coast, depending on which theater of operations the mail is intended. From there the mail is broken down by class.

First Class, Priority and Express mail are loaded onto commercial aircraft and flown to the destination country. Usual transit time for this class of mail is 24 hours from the time it is sent from the processing facility in the US until it reaches the destination country.

Registered mail and Space Available Mail (SAM) that is less than 15 pounds and 60 inches in combined length and width are also flown from the processing facility to the destination country. This mail, however, will normally take up to 48 hours to reach the destination country.

The slowest method used, and most frustrating for mail recipients, is Parcel Post and other bulk mail. This mail travels from the processing facility to the destination country on a ship, normally taking 30-45 days to reach its destination country.

The standard transit time from the local post office where the mail originated until it reaches the Military Post Office in the Republic of Korea for Priority letters and packages is 8-10 days. SAM and surface parcels will take 18-21 days and normal parcel packages will take 30-45 days.

While final delivery is different for each service, the final step in the delivery process for Army customers is the transition of mail-handling responsibilities from the Military Post Office to the unit mail clerks. Mail clerks distribute mail to the addressee and are the face of mail delivery service to most servicemembers and, sometimes, the brunt of any dissatisfaction.

"We receive about ten inquiries and complaints a month," said Mackessy. "Most of the time we are able to resolve those to the customer's satisfaction. Often times, it comes down to an addressing problem."

While some delays of mail delivery do occur because of adverse weather and transportation problems, the majority of mail is received quickly. To ensure the quickest deliver possible make sure those sending mail use the servicemember's full name, unit number or PSC number (with box number if used) and the correct nine digit zip code. Senders should not put a city or country name in the address. If this happens, mail may be routed through the local nation's post office. This will cause a significant delay in receiving mail.

Senders should also include a return address and only print on one side of the package. If the sender uses a previously mailed box, they should block out old markings with a permanent marker.

"It is often said that working in postal is a thankless job," said Mackessy. "If a customer does receive great service from one of our postal workers, we would appreciate it if they would take a moment to let us know through an Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) form. It lets us know we are doing a good job and makes our day too."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16