CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Mail is an extremely important communication tool that is helpful with sustaining soldiers’ morale while on deployment. “Mail is important cause it keeps you in contact with home,” said Spc. Patrick Claybaugh, a resident of Belle Vernon, Pa., and member of the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) support operations section currently deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. “It makes people at home feel good, makes them feel in touch and it’s great for our morale too.”
However for service members on deployment, mail is not as simple as shipping to a normal street address. Mail going to theater is shipped to an Army Post Office address and makes a stop at the Joint Military Mail Terminal at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Members of the 444th Human Resource Company postal section, from Coraopolis, Pa., work with civilian contractors to process all mail coming in and going out of theater making sure it gets to the correct APO or stateside address.
“We cover six APOs and basically our mission is to process mail, to ensure that mail gets from here to the respective APOs for distribution and that mail coming from the APOs gets back stateside,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Violet Putman, a resident of Williamsburg, Va., and the operations technician for the 444th.
Aside from distribution, Soldiers with the 444th are also in charge of stopping contraband from coming into or leaving theater. “One of our major duties is contraband confiscation procedures,” said Capt. Chet Cooper, a resident of Richmond, Va., and the officer in charge of the 444th. “We have a process where we deal with the MP’s [military police], where they come in and open up packages containing suspected contraband and confiscate it if it is contraband.”
At the beginning of a deployment when units first take over a mission there can sometimes be a learning curve or other minor unexpected issues. That was not the case with the 444th though. “We were able to get over most of the obstacles because we were in contact with the unit we replaced prior to coming here,” said Sgt. Antione Council, a resident of Pittsburgh and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 444th.
Prior to deployment the 444th attended Silver Scimitar, a comprehensive two-week Reserve sponsored training event for active duty, Reserve and National Guard Human Resource professionals. The exercise helps prepare units for deployment by teaching the newest techniques right from theater. “At Silver Scimitar the unit we were replacing gave us an overview of the operation and basically trained us on the operation and once we were at pre-mob [pre-mobilization] we were contacting them and sending through all the paperwork we needed. It was a simple transition.”
With all of the mail to be sorted daily the 444th gets the job done with less than 10 soldiers overseeing around 30 civilian contractors. “I really have a great team, we got over the learning curve really quick and they took charge,” said Cooper. “They really stepped up to the plate.”
“The most important part of our mission is to ensure soldiers get mail in a timely manner and that morale stays at a level where the mission can be accomplished without hindrance,” said Putnam. “It’s what we do.”