By Staff Sgt. Victor JoecksAugust 27, 2016
SOUTHWEST ASIA - U.S. Soldiers on a remote base in the Middle East have few of the accommodations found back home in the states. They live, work, and eat in rows of tents while walking on ever-present sand past concrete walls and portable restrooms.
The Army dictates the contents of most tents toward operational requirements, but there is one tent where Soldiers receive personal conveniences, amenities, and even the tastes of home.
That place is the mail tent.
"Even with the upgrade of technology like Skype, there's nothing better than getting a paper letter in the mail," said Maj. Lonnie Strickland, the executive officer with 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery. "Whether it's a mom or wife sending cookies, or a friend sending blankets, there's nothing that shows more support than physical mail."
Soldiers from Alpha Detachment of 4th Platoon, 912th Human Resource Company, 90th Human Resource Company, 17th Special Troops Battalion, 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), run the mailroom and have the responsibility for ensuring deployed Soldiers receive those connections to home.
"We provide postal services for Coalition forces," said Cpl. Luis Delgado, the remote site's noncommissioned officer in charge with A/4 912th HR Company.
"If you're here, you're entitled to (Army Post Office) mail. We also reroute mail to other countries for mislabeled units. We update (United States Postal Service) with tracking of all the packages. We scan it here and reroute and document any postal violations. We run unit mailroom inspections."
Along with the Army, the A/4 912th HR Company, an Army Reserve unit from Florida, also provides mail service for Navy Sailors, contractors, and, as needed, service members from allies like Australia and Britain.
As a junior NCO, it's rare for Delgado to have the chance to be noncommissioned officer in charge of a location, and he's taking full advantage of the opportunity.
"I know it's a lot of responsibility," said Delgado, who's from Orlando, Florida. "I'm finding myself in command staff meetings and seeing how the process works. They actually come to me to see how mail works. It's good to see the other side of things and even set up new procedures behind the scenes."
Those procedures have ensured the efficiency of the mail process. This has allowed A/4 912th HR Company to deliver, in the last eight months, more than 5,600 pieces of mail weighing over 145,000 pounds. In the same span, the unit has also processed 2,800 parcels of outgoing mail weighing over 64,000 pounds.
Receiving packages provides Soldiers the chance to personalize their otherwise conventional living areas.
"From a Soldier's perspective, everyone knows how important mail is," said 1st Lt. Jacob Stinson, the supply officer in charge, 1st Battalion, 182nd Field Artillery. "Being out here in an austere environment, you revert back to receiving letters and packages.
"Joes (military jargon for Soldiers) are ordering stuff off Amazon. We're living in tents, but being able to order stuff and make it 'home,' that's huge for these guys."
After picking up the mail from the delivery truck, Delgado and Spc. Tamicha Volcy, postal clerk with A/4 912th HR Company, they scan it for accountability, sort it by unit, and facilitate the pick-up of mail by a supported unit's mail clerk. When units are redeploying, it can get especially busy, because Soldiers mail home tough boxes full of supplies and all the things they ordered during their deployment.
"Being a small team, it does get busy. But, we're able to manage it," said Volcy, who's also from Orlando, Florida. "You have to stay focused and just do your job."
No matter how hectic it gets, the postal team knows their work will bring a smile to the Soldiers' faces when they receive their packages.
"Whatever makes their day, comes on a random day," said Delgado. "It's really cool to see."