By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)June 15, 2007
The U.S. Army took immediate steps to deliver about 4,500 pieces of delayed mail, some bearing postal dates from May of 2006, that were discovered at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center's hospital brigade mail room last week, Major General Eric Schoomaker, Commanding General of WRAMC and the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, announced today.
Upon discovery of the undelivered mail, MG Schoomaker ordered immediate counting, sorting and delivery of the mail, and relieved the contract-employee mail clerk of duties. A hospital brigade-led team of 20 - 40 Soldiers and Civilian employees assisted by Army Human Resources Command and the Military Postal Service Agency office are in the mail room conducting 24-hour operations to thoroughly screen, survey and forward all the mail items, which include magazines, post cards, letters and direct-marketing materials.
For those Soldiers on campus, the mail is being hand-delivered this evening. Other mail is being sent to the correct destination address via priority mail. Other items will be returned to sender. Mailing of the delayed items is to be completed Saturday. The delayed letters and parcels found will be sent to addressees with a letter of apology from Schoomaker, who assumed command of WRAMC and NARMC in March.
"This delay is completely and absolutely unsatisfactory," Schoomaker said. "Nobody knows better than the Army how important the mail is to a war fighter's morale, and we have taken immediate steps to address this matter."
"Soldiers living in the barracks now have their own personal mailboxes and do not have to retrieve mail from a consolidated mailroom," said Brigadier General Mike Tucker, the WRAMC Deputy Commanding General. "Plus, the addition of a greater number of non-commissioned officers as squad leaders in the Warrior Transition Unit which manages outpatient care will also keep such an issue from becoming a problem - this isn't anything good leadership can't fix."
Though there have not been any complaints or issues at other medical treatment facilities, Major General Gale Pollock, the Acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Army is also taking action. She directed all medical treatment facilities to immediately review and inspect mail room procedures and supervisory controls to determine if this is an isolated incident or a systemic problem.
Given the dynamic, changing patient populations at the Army's hospitals, The Army Adjutant General, working with US Army Medical Command is sending inspection teams to hospital mail rooms nationwide. The inspectors will check the status of mail distribution and ensure procedures are in place to guarantee mail is reaching addressed recipients, particularly patients, regardless of changing status.
After the mail was found at Walter Reed, the Walter Reed Administrative Division surveyed the items and alerted Army investigators, who conducted an initial investigation. The Army is conducting a unit-level Army Regulation 15-6 investigation into the circumstances of how the mail was held.
The Army is partnering with the U.S. Postal Service to dispatch the held mail efficiently. Walter Reed receives over 27,000 pieces of mail per day and averages a monthly volume of over a half-million pieces of mail.
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