JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The U.S. Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command partnered with USAR's 678th Human Resources Company for a pilot program that provides real-world training opportunities in order to boost Soldier readiness.

Soldiers of the 678th spent two weeks of annual training conducting postal inspections at mailrooms in 163 Army Reserve facilities throughout the 99th RSC's 13-state region stretching from Maine to Virginia.

"We have to inspect at least one-third of those facilities each year," explained Roselyn Young, chief, Administrative Support Service Branch, 99th RSC. "With the 678th, they've come and inspected the entire region; they completed a requirement in one month that normally takes three years."

While the 99th RSC benefited from having this requirement met, the Soldiers of the 678th enhanced their skill set as well as their individual and unit readiness.

"At the postal unit, we don't have very many postal missions inside the United States; most of our missions come from deployments and mobilizations to other countries," explained Staff Sgt. Keith English, postal supervisor with the 678th. "It's very difficult for us to conduct annual training that gives us the postal training we require, so that our Soldiers would have the opportunity to do the job they've been given to do."

The idea of having Soldiers perform postal inspections at Army Reserve facilities originated with the 99th RSC based on a lack of internal manpower needed to successfully complete the annual inspection requirement. U.S. Army Reserve Command supported the concept by selecting the 678th to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

"This pilot program really worked for the 99th and our unit, and if there were other programs like it, we would get more training and be more proficient in our job," English said.

This program supports the Army Reserve's sustainable readiness concept, which is a balanced, requirements-based method of providing operational forces as well as operational and strategic depth. Sustainable readiness calls for units to maintain some level of readiness at all times in order to meet enduring Overseas Contingency Operations and homeland Defense Support of Civil Authorities requirements.

"We get real-world training, which adds greatly to enhance our readiness," English said. "That means less time needed to train for deployments because we get the training prior to. I would like to see things like this go on for all Soldiers, not just postal."

"It gave us a hands-on opportunity to actually see how a post office is supposed to run," said Spc. Sardaris Haynes, a 678th Soldier who conducted approximately 20 postal inspections during the two-week training. "I haven't done this since Advanced Individual Training two or three years ago, so to have that refresher and a hands-on, real-world experience was a great opportunity."