News: Not just mail, motivation
Story by Lance Cpl. Bruno Bego
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Approximately 40,000 pounds of mail arrive at Camp Leatherneck’s post office daily and more than 7.4 million pounds of mail in the last year alone. Forty-six Marines spread thin between Leatherneck, Dwyer and Delaram dig through the pallets and sort the mail, package by package, according to its address.
Some stays here, and other mail gets loaded back onto a pallet. Whether by air or ground transportation, the mail travels on average more than 80 miles to forward operating bases and combat outposts throughout Regional Command Southwest at least once a week. Once at its final destination, about three days after it gets to Camp Leatherneck, the mail is resorted and delivered to its owner.
It’s the postal clerks with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) who are in charge of receiving, organizing and delivering mail to all personnel in Southwestern Afghanistan.
“The most important part about our job is bringing morale to those Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers out here,” explains Sgt. Nancy Vasquez, the assistant postal operations chief. “To me, it’s a morale booster to see all the packages come through here to all those guys out there.”
The process for distributing mail to FOBs and COPs takes approximately three additional days from the time it gets to Camp Leatherneck, but the postal clerks work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deliver it as soon as possible.
“This is a really big job,” said Lance Cpl. Jose L. Gomez, a postal clerk with H & S Company.
In order to fully take care of all 7,000 customers a month, the postal Marines saddle up for the Warrior Express Service. The convoy, which last between five and 30 days at a time, is a mobile post office with money orders, labels, boxes and everything else a stationary post office would have. Once the WES team arrives at an outlying FOB or COP, the battle space owner escorts the team to the most remote locations of Afghanistan where the Marines are camped.
“We usually get several phone calls from mothers asking why their son never got a letter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris R. Robertson, postal officer for the 2nd MLG (FWD). “It’s hard to track the exact number of days it takes, but it also depends on the Marine’s location. That’s why we send out the WES teams upon request.
“Without human interference, the mail takes about seven to 10 days to arrive,” continued Robertson. “By the time we physically look at each address it can take about another three days, and to get it out to the lowest level it can take up to 30 days.”
Despite the time-intensive and often dangerous mission the postal clerks have, they know they don’t just deliver mail, but motivation as well.
“This job makes me feel good because I see a smile on Marine’s faces when they get their mail,” said Gomez.
Currently, postal services are the responsibility of 1st MLG (Fwd), but as they prepare to hand over the enterprise to the 2nd MLG(FWD), a whole new group of Marines is ready to put their stamp on the year-long relay, delivering mail to those on and beyond the front lines.