By Dijon Rolle, USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public AffairsDecember 9, 2010
HEIDELBERG, Germany - It's a long way from the sunny skies of Los Angeles to the wintery wonderland of Heidelberg just ask any Soldier from the 376th Human Resources Company.
The 18 Army Reservists from the golden state recently made the 14-hour trek to conduct their annual unit training.
The group of postal Soldiers is deployed here for two weeks to learn the ins and outs of postal service operations. And despite having to deal with jet lag, frosty temperatures and a bit of a language barrier, the reservists said they're ready to begin their mission.
"We had a couple of confusing moments when we landed but we're all really excited to be here," said Spc Mayra Ortega. "I don't think we really believed we were coming until we got here. That's when it really hit us."
After the long flight Ortega said the group was happy to enjoy a familiar favorite - McDonalds.
"It was the first thing we had to eat and it was amazing. We also had some German Christmas cookies that were pretty good too," she said.
After a quick tour and a round of in-processing, the group was broken down and dispatched to postal facilities throughout Mannheim and Heidelberg to train for the next 14 days on sorting mail, processing packages and running a mailroom.
Ortega along with two other Soldiers - Spc Veronica Rodriguez and Spc Eric Colio are training at Community Mail Room 419 on Patton Barracks.
"We don't really get to do a lot of postal operations when we drill," Rodriguez said. "So this is kind of like an opportunity for us to have some hands on experience which is what our job is supposed to be about. This is what is going to prepare us for when we deploy and we're learning a lot already. Everyone has been really polite and helpful."
Colio, an Iraq war veteran, knows firsthand just how important this training is. "Mail is a huge morale booster for Soldiers especially during the holidays when they're overseas and serving away from their families and we realize that," he added. "It's a big job and we're just glad to be here to help get it done."
The trio will be supervised by John Harris, wage leader and lead clerk at CMR 419. "I try to rotate them around so that they have a true experience of what it's like to work in a mail room and get the full experience," Harris said. "The last unit that we had here did a great job and we want to make sure this group is able to get as much training in as possible."
The timing of the reservist's arrival couldn't have come at a better time either.
Their training also coincided with the huge holiday mail rush. Garrison postal officials said they welcome the extra hands to help expedite the many pounds of packages, letters and cards flowing into community mail rooms.
"They have been a great help this time of year because with the additional man power we are able to get things done faster and that cuts down on some of the overtime that would be required for our normal employees," said James Harris, Heidelberg post master. "They're a great help to our organization and we really appreciate the opportunity to help get them trained up."
The 376th also deployed personnel to Korea, Italy and Japan to conduct annual training at postal facilities there.
The reservists are scheduled to return to California Dec. 21. Another rotation of Soldiers (from a different reserve unit) is expected to arrive in January.