Soldier Feature: Staff Sgt. Carlos Santiago serves his country by delivering Christmas cheer

By Sgt. Courtney L. Davis, U.S. Army Garrison Public Affairs OfficeJanuary 2, 2022

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CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea (Jan. 2, 2022) – Christmas was right around the corner and the garrison post office was ready to deliver the goods. U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys service members, civilian workers, and volunteers worked extra hard this season to make sure their patrons received their packages.

One staff sergeant in particular went above and beyond to make sure his crew was well trained and ready to give out what mail trucks brought in.

Staff Sgt. Carlos Santiago, a U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys postal sergeant and Fayetteville, North Carolina native, has been serving in the Army since 2003. He started his career as a human resource information system management specialist serving in Yongsan, South Korea. In 2008, he reclassified to a human resource specialist. He has been stationed all over the world, including a tour in Iraq.

In 2019, while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, Santiago traveled to Camp Humphreys with a rotational unit. He had no idea that two years later he’d be permanently assigned to South Korea.

“When I was on rotation here in 2019 it was kind of ‘blah,’” said Santiago. “There was not much we could do, so when I found out I was going to PCS here I wasn’t upset. I was supposed to PCS June of next year, but I extended to June of 2023.”

In December, Santiago, like so many postal workers around the holidays, poured his heart into his job to make sure customers received their parcels.

“This season it’s been busy, but we also have a system change in the way we track and deliver packages,” said Santiago. “This is the week before Christmas, so we been getting two, almost three trucks a day. The last two weeks we have had almost double, triple the number of people sending packages out, so it’s been a challenge too.”

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As he and his coworkers prepared for that time when a very special visitor would pay a visit, the daily demand to ship and pick up parcels continued to grow. As they sent along letters addressed to the North Pole, the post office expanded its Christmas Eve hours to make sure everyone received their very special gifts.

“We will be doing Operation Santa Claus, and that is a big thing Sergeant Santiago will be helping us with,” said James Gruff, the USAG Humphreys postal superintendent. “We will be open at 1200 on Christmas Eve, so we have time to process all of the mail that is brought into Camp Humphreys. Then customers will be able to come get their packages throughout the day until we close at 2200.”

Despite the heavy workload, the highly trained and proficient service members, volunteers, and civilians of the Camp Humphreys post offices looked forward to the opportunity to serve the community during the holidays.

“Christmas time is a unique time,” said Gruff. “You see Soldiers are away from home and especially in Korea, separated from their families, and it’s just pure joy to be able to give them a sense of belonging by giving them their packages correctly to help them have a good Christmas.”

With every leader, Soldiers, and civilian pitching in, Operation Santa Claus was poised to run as smoothly as a sled on ice.

“I was here at 0900 with the rest of the leadership. We had a truck come in at 1000,” said Santiago. “Because we had enough personnel present, and we finished unloading the truck, the postmaster opened the window at 1100.”

Santiago said he knew it was going to be a long night and even expressed he was a little anxious throughout the day. He received a boost from several honorary Santa’s helpers.

“The customers surprised me though. Several brought snacks and someone even brought us dinner,” said Santiago. “The dinner was extremely welcome, and I kind of lost track of time. We delivered over 1,200 packages that day. I guess it felt good, making sure we were able to help people have Christmas the way they wanted.”