By Sgt. Michael Tuttle, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentDecember 18, 2006
KIRKUK, Iraq (American Forces Press Service, Dec. 18, 2006) - Soldiers work at a world-class pace to sort and prepare packages at the Warrior Post Office here during the holiday season.
While mail arrives by plane to Forward Operating Base Warrior four times a week during the rest of the year, the post office, which occupies a former dining facility for Iraqi Olympic athletes, now sometimes receives mail twice a day.
The troops of the 747th Adjutant General Company Postal, a reserve unit from Helena, Mont., sort and distribute the mail to 23 units on FOB Warrior and other surrounding forward operating bases. The units include other military services and civilians who work on the bases.
"We normally receive about 40,000 pounds of mail per week," said 2nd Lt. Malise Hamper, postal officer in charge. "That's expected to increase by 50 percent over Christmas."
The Warrior Post Office provides all the same services that a post office in the United States offers, Hamper said. They also work extended hours to ensure units traveling from other forward operating bases are able to pick up mail for their soldiers.
None of the reservists were postal specialists before their current deployment. However, they have combined their previous military and civilian experience to create a more efficient sorting system than the one they took over in September.
Just in time for the rush season, they are near completion on a new mail bin system patterned after a commercial express mail deliverer.
Staff Sgt. Nathan Brasel, postal operations noncommissioned officer in charge, designed the new sorting system.
"There was a lot of wasted space in the old shelving structure," Brasel said. "The overflow mail ended up on the floor and had to be sorted again, delaying soldiers getting their mail."
The new system, built by the Warrior Post Office soldiers, includes an additional 36 square feet for each bin, ensuring that each unit's mail is able to be organized in one spot as it comes in.
"All the mail is important," said Master Sgt. Brett Hardcastle, post office noncommissioned officer in charge. "But ... there are official documents, pieces of mail that may affect a soldier's career. It's important to get that out as quickly and efficiently as possible."
To help get mail out quicker, extra hands from around the base pitch in to assist with sorting. Volunteers, including a regular group of Warrior firefighters, show up at the post office every time a delivery comes in.
"We would get the sorting done, but without their help, it would take four or five times as long," Hardcastle said.
For a long time, deployed soldiers have counted on the lift in spirits that receiving mail delivers. That touch of home is more imperative during the holidays.
"E-mail is one thing. But a letter that your spouse or family has touched is special," said Brasel. "You can't measure the morale boost and the contribution to the mission after soldiers receive that mail."