FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2006) - The Army post office here is no different from those in the U.S. - the pace drastically picks up during the holiday season.

While mail normally arrives at the base four times a week, it now receives mail twice a day.

Reservists with the 747th Adjutant General Company, from Helena, Mont., sort and distribute the mail to 23 units here and at surrounding FOBs.

"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 Soldiers had no post office experience before taking over in September, but have created a new mail-bin system that improves mail sorting.

"There was a lot of wasted space in the old shelving structure," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Brasel, postal operations NCOIC and system designer. "The overflow mail ended up on the floor and had to be sorted again. That kept Soldiers from getting their mail."

Built by Soldiers from the 747th AG Co., the new system includes an additional 36 square feet for each bin, and sends each unit's mail to a single spot as it arrives.

"All mail is important," said Master Sgt. Brett Hardcastle, post office NCOIC. "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."

Volunteers from around the FOB often pitch in to sort the extra mail coming in during the holidays.

"We'd get the sorting done, but without the volunteers it would take four or five times as long," Hardcastle said.

In this age of instant electronic messaging, the Soldiers don't take mail for granted.

"E-mail is one thing. But a letter 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."

(Sgt. Michael Tuttle serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)