Story by: Staff Sgt. Jeff Hansen
BAGHDAD, Iraq — If your local mail clerks look a little stressed or overworked during this holiday season, they have good reason to be.
With the holiday season here, Soldiers in Iraq receive more care packages than any other time of year, and Camp Liberty is no different.
This is great for the Soldiers of Multi-National Division — Baghdad, but it also causes a great deal of work for mail clerks.
Spc. Krystal Juarez, a mail clerk assigned to Company B, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, estimates that she delivers about twice as much mail daily during the holiday season. This has been going on since around the end of November and shows no sign of slowing down.
"It hasn't stopped," Juarez said.
Most of the mail received recently has been care packages, whether from individuals' families or non-profit companies like the United Service Organizations. Some companies even send care packages directly to the mail room, the contents of which are distributed to any Soldier who comes into the mail room.
Juarez said she wants to make sure everybody gets something, and having a box full of items like candy and "thank you" cards seemed like a good way to hand things out.
The Karkh Area Command Military Transition Team receives more care packages than any other unit this time of year. Part of their mission involves handing out care package items to Iraqi children and their families, which several companies in the U.S. have been more than happy to assist with by shipping food, clothing and toys.
The combination of official mail, care packages, medical supplies and Army Direct Ordering items makes for a big enough work load, as is. However, this is only part of it as the 1st Armored Division prepares to arrive in Iraq.
Spc. Laura Baily, a mail clerk assigned to Company A, said the holiday rush is nothing she didn't expect, but with the addition of the incoming unit's mail coming earlier than they had hoped, there has been more to carry and sort through.
With her fellow service members in mind, Juarez helped start a program she calls "Soldier to Soldier" to assist troops at remote locations who do not receive mail as often as those on the main bases.
Bases like Contingency Operating Station Hammer, for example, only receive their personal mail when their shipping container is full, due to the manpower and time it takes to deliver bulk mail over great distances.
Juarez, with help from Spc. Ashley Callines, Spc. Murphy Wakefield and Spc. Ryann Gilmore, has asked division staff and unit members who find themselves with an abundance of care package items to donate to the Soldier to Soldier program. This way, she hopes, the shipping containers will fill up faster, and Soldiers can receive their personal mail more often.
During the excitement of opening care packages, Juarez and Baily want to ensure Soldiers still remember to protect their personal information. Tear mailing labels off of packages and burn them, do not just throw them in the trash.
Next time you're opening a care package during this holiday season, remember there are Soldiers working very hard to ensure that package made it to you.