By 1st Lt. Stephanie R. PavelkoMarch 29, 2017
Above the entrance of the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue lies a quote from the late Herodotus that reads, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds".
Often mistaken as the dictum of the United States Postal Service, the inscription recognizes the service of the couriers who served courageously throughout the Persian Wars. The couriers, just as our military postal clerks do today, risked life and limb in service of the cause, often storming through the fight to deliver correspondence. Though the days of mounted couriers have long since passed, today there remains a segment of wartime couriers whose mission is no less important than in 500 B.C.
Today's postal operations involve more than saddling a fast stead and galloping into the fray, parcel in tow. Current contingency postal operations are complex; providing service to an expeditionary and at time austere battle field, where minimal infrastructure and limited transportation assets routinely hinder the mission due to a constant requirement to compete with other commodities. It is a task that the 1st Cavalry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade (1CD RSSB) does not take lightly.
The RSSB is responsible for oversight, planning, and execution of postal operations in Afghanistan and the forces within. The organization supports more than 40,000 authorized users: Service members, DoD and DoS (Department of State) civilians, coalition partners, and U.S. citizen contractors.
Managing the operations, processing and coordinating movement of more than 26,000 pounds of mail each day requires a team of experts well versed in postal regulations, capable of coordinating across a multitude of networks and organizations hundreds of miles apart.
"It has taken a decade to improve and standardize service," said Col. Christopher H. Colavita, commander of the 1CD RSSB. "The initial state of postal operations in the region did not always function with efficiency; however, today, due to the efforts of the postal and logistics community, the operation runs as a well-oiled machine."
Colavita explained that when the unit arrived in August 2016, mail was not identified as a priority within the sustainment community. Mail sat on the flight line for days at a time, exceeding transit times and delaying delivery to its recipients. Resource managers did not understand the impact mail had on the Total Force, and did little to ensure its movement throughout the country.
Colavita said it was not just procedural changes that lead to the unit's success; but rather fostering a mindset that prioritized mail. He emphasized that changing the mindset was vital to improving mail movement.
"When resource managers were convinced that we took mail seriously, there was a shift," said Colavita. "I wasn't receiving phone calls about mail anymore. They understood that it was important to me and it became important to them too."
This shift in mindset began in the height of the holiday mail season, which was profoundly felt by the 22nd Human Resources Company (HRC) upon its arrival to theater. The 22nd HRC is out of Fort Carson, Co. and is attached to the 1CD RSSB for postal support at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
They are tasked with running two Military Post Offices (MPOs), four Satellite Post Offices (SAPO), and providing service to ten additional forward observation bases (FOB) -via Rodeo Teams consisting of three Soldiers conducting mobile postal finance service (MPSF)/Rodeo missions. Through coordination with the Human Resource Operations Branch (HROB) and RSSB leadership, the company was able to quickly adapt and establish itself in theater and began operations.
Colavita reflected on the 22nd HRC's arrival and its impact on the mission.
"They [22nd Human Resources Company] is where the rubber meets the road," Colavita stated.
He said it is the unit's "never be satisfied approach" that has made them so successful. The 22nd HRC epitomizes mission command, exercises disciplined initiative, and constantly assesses the mission and its requirements concluded Colavita.
"The desire to reject taking residency and rather to improve every day and strive for more than the baseline has been my mindset since our arrival," said Colavita.
Cpt. Steven Spiker, commander of 22nd HRC, attributed the success to the company's commitment to the mission attitude.
Spiker stated that prior to arrival, the company knew very little about the RSSB or the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade. However, it was clear that the organization was extremely competent and professional.
"Col. Colavita and Command Sgt. Maj. Crosby have been phenomenal," explained Spiker. "From day one, they made us feel like we were a part of this family, the Wagonmaster family."
He expressed that the RSSB allows them the autonomy to assess and operate while providing the necessary support and guidance to complete the mission successfully.
"They understand our mission and allow us to do our job. That's all we could ever ask of a leader," stated Spiker.
Spiker also noted that it is not only the impeccable leadership that allows 22nd HRC to be successful, but also the support from the brigade's headquarters, specifically the HROB.
"We really owe a big thank you to Warrant Officer Claudia Daniels and her team," stated Spiker. "The overall teamwork and support from higher has greatly impacted the success of postal operations across the country. The HROB does its part and provides the resources and technical guidance and expertise we need to be successful and that helps us to focus on carrying out the mission to make the team successful."
The cohesion among the organization is clear, resulting in a number of improvements to postal operations.
One of the team's greatest successes is the enhancement of the transportation network that supports Helmand Province. This is due to re-establishment of the previous air stops under the country's End-to-End contract for mail movement, initiated by the 518th RSSB HROB and finalized by the 1CD RSSB HROB. The contract expansion has provided two outlying locations, previously limited to space available movement, with three days a week service significantly reducing transit times. In February, the organization secured additional personnel to create a fourth Rodeo Team, increasing 22nd HRC's ability to provide support to outlying FOBs and units.
Serving as the most prominent reflection of the team's accomplishment is the re-opening of a post office at FOB Fenty on February 27, 2017, now as a SAPO. The post office provides the same level of service as Bagram, with the exception of Registered Mail. This new capability provides personnel with service that was previously only available on a monthly basis via Rodeo mission.
"The new SAPO is a project we worked very hard on as a team," Spiker said. "We identified a need and between the HROB and RSSB command team, they provided us the support required to gather enough personnel and supplies to complete the task."
Colavita and Spiker both agreed that the success of postal operations and SAPO were a team effort focused on providing excellent support to all personnel regardless of their location in country.
For the RSSB commander, the significance of mail is irrefutable.
"Observe the importance mail plays in our films, our literature; a Soldier is always writing or receiving mail," Colavita said. "Mail is not merely a morale boost. It is a combat multiplier. Mail helps provide a will to fight."
It is for this reason Colavita believes there is always room for mail. Whether it is a bag, a package, or a single letter.