CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Everything that moves goes through various levels of coordination and logistical contracts that make life abroad a tad bit easier. Postal operations are one coordinating effort that makes time away from family during the holiday season just a little bearable. Mail is the one item can help boost the morale and melt the emotional ice of even your most war hardened veteran.
"Attitudes are quick to change after they come in and receive their mail," said Spc. Mathis Henry, postal operations clerk from the 18th Human Resource Company, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater). "Their emotions go from zero to one hundred real quick."
Even back on American soil, mail affects the temperament of all Americans, from receiving an outrageous telephone bill to getting back a great interest rate from the bank on your next major purchase. Mail can be a conduit of emotion. That same feeling can be amplified by just one single parcel for service members abroad.
"I know sending mail can be really tedious for people to send, especially overseas. I know you have to take time out of your day just to go to the post office to send something out ... just go do it," Henry added. "For Soldiers, mail is just a morale boost in itself; every Soldier wants something to look forward too."
The unsung heroes of postal operations help get your precious letter containing the most adorable macaroni picture from loved ones, salacious gossip from your friends or online purchases from major venders to you in a manageable time. Large collections of correspondence is weighed, scanned, stacked and separated from more than several hundred pieces awaiting their final destination just to reach your unit mail handlers clutches at a nearby Army Post Office.
"While conducting postal operations in Qatar, I helped with the process by giving the Air Force the manifest of where the mail was going to. We also conducted the... mail handler class, inspected mailrooms and gave manifests from APO to APO or back to the U.S. for outgoing mail," said Henry.
Depending on the location of where Soldiers are and the time of the year, the amount of parcels can triple from normal intake. In some cases mail isn't even received until there is enough mail to send out to even the most remote of locations.
"People don't understand the mail process is hectic, especially coming from the U.S. In the states the mail can take seven to 10 business days, but when sending overseas you have to double that," said Henry. "And that's just a rough estimate."
However, when the mail does make an appearance, it can be an influx of parcels sometimes receiving up to 30 palettes of mail at the Joint Military Mail Terminal located at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, where the 18th HRC is currently running the show. This small platoon of just 22 Soldiers is responsible for the mail going to Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. They are also the hub for the two Army Post Offices located in Iraq, but for those eight APOs located just on Camp Arifjan, the mail flows freely from the distribution center to the hands of those trained unit mail handlers.
The last step to the receiver's hands is the unit mail clerk mail operations. The clerks from the 3rd SB are a great example.
To help reduce the homesickness in the Soldiers of their unit, Spc. Jacob Mullet, Spc. Wesley, Moreno, and Spc. Damirra Palacios don't miss a beat and help pass on the holiday spirit to the sustainers of the 3rd SB, based out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.
"I help the morale of the people in my unit, it's all subject to the person but I help nonetheless," said Spc. Jacob Mullett, the mail operations clerk and Pocatello, Idaho native, in between snacking on holiday fudge.
During the hours of 9.a.m. and noon, Soldiers are free to receive their much awaited mail, even if they don't quite remember what it may be which is the case of Sgt. Virginia Clarke, the executive assistant to the commander of the sustainment brigade.
"I really don't remember what I bought," said Clarke who picked up three boxes just moments before. "This could be the ... jeans I ordered. I'm just happy I'm getting my packages, but I have a bad habit of ordering things and not remembering what it was," she said while laughing. "Anyway about it, whether it can from my family or I bought it, I'm happy to get it while I'm here."
Life without mail from friends and family can be disappointing, especially during the holiday season. You could get all the same feelings of euphoria you want from social media, but it doesn't change the happiness you feel from opening up a package of your grandmother's holiday cookies or an envelope with a card of a relative singing "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer."