WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 22, 2009) -- Since the start of HooahMail just 21 days ago, more than 3,540 accounts have been set up by families and friends of Soldiers in Afghanistan, and some 1,690 letters delivered.

The letters, many accompanied by photos, have been delivered to those Soldiers often in less than 24 hours.

HooahMail, a one-year pilot program that began Dec. 1, allows Soldiers in Afghanistan to keep a physical reminder of their loved ones with them to be read and re-read whether in the field or at their operating base.

The way the hybrid mail system works is family and friends establish free accounts at www.HooahMail.us where they create and send their letters which can include black and white photos not to exceed 4 inches by 7 inches. Those letters are then transmitted through the HooahMail secure server in Bagram and Kandahar, Afghanistan. From there, the Army postal office downloads the letters to a special machine which prints, folds and seals the letters. The final stop is delivery to Soldiers through unit mail call.

Brig. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, the Army's adjutant general, said the HooahMail system will be expanding.

"We will expand that, in fact we're expanding this week to about eight other FOBs, principally on the eastern side of Afghanistan," Mustion said. "They'll be able to directly receive the mail and it won't have to go through Bagram or Kandahar, and that will potentially make it much quicker than it is today."

The HooahMail system combines the modern technology that's available to the Army through the Internet with traditional mail, he said, but cuts delivery time from 14 days down to as little as one day.

While the Army has established Internet cafes and phone call banks, Mustion said the Army also found in some outlying areas access to those systems is sometimes restricted and not readily available in Afghanistan, which is how the concept of HooahMail came to light.

"This was an item that was brought up to us by family members as well as by Soldiers," he said. "We looked at available technology and found this system works. We're seeing the number of users and the number of letters continuing to increase."