by Spc. Edgar Reyes
2nd BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.
FOB KALSU, Iraq – As Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepare to redeploy stateside, mail traffic continues to flow efficiently even as the amount of mail volume coming into the post office increases with the start of a new deployment cycle.
Ensuring mail traffic continues to be handled effortlessly is the responsibility of Army Reserve Soldiers from the 755th Adjutant General Postal Detachment, which is based out of Texarkana, Texas.
Their day begins in the early morning hours as CH-47 Chinook helicopters drop off mail in palettes near the airfield here, said Spc. Shaneisha Braswell, mail clerk, 755th AG Postal Det. Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 pieces of mail are downloaded and sorted out to each corresponding unit in the brigade. The mail is then placed into bins, corresponding to the different units in 2nd BCT, so battalion mail clerks can disperse it to their respective companies.
In addition to the manual labor this entails, the Soldiers also perform administrative tasks, which include inspecting outgoing packages, completing money order forms, performing equipment inventories and collecting payments for miscellaneous postal services, said Braswell.
"Inspecting outgoing mail requires much time and attention to detail," she added.
Outgoing mail policies are strict and prohibit many items, such as weapons, narcotics, explosives, pornography, animals and flammable liquids. Other obscure items prohibited are soil, international foods, used clothing, honey and shrapnel.
"We had a Soldier come in to our office trying to ship shrapnel to the states from a roadside bomb blast that hit his vehicle," said Braswell. "Many times, Soldiers do not know that items such as shrapnel and foreign rocks are prohibited so we (755th AG Postal Det.) advise leaders to read over the policies and brief their Soldiers. A simple thing like having possession of a foreign plant, after signing a form stating a Soldier has no prohibited items in his possession, could cause serious Uniform Code of Military Justice actions against the Soldier."
With the 2nd BCT's time winding down in Iraq, the postal office has seen a large surge in outgoing and incoming mail. A lot of Soldiers are sending their stuff now because they are deploying back to the states and want their belongings at home before they get there, said 1st Lt. Ruth Gonzalez, team leader, 755th AG Postal Det.
"The most common items being sent are military issued equipment (Table of Allowances-50)," said Gonzalez. "Before we arrived in theater, there was a policy in place that required a commander's memorandum to be able to ship TA-50. The memorandum is no longer required, which allows Soldiers to ship most military items except sensitive items and nuclear, biological and chemical protective gear."
The sudden rush of Soldiers has caused the postal section to augment its staff with Soldiers from Company A, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, in order to keep up with the demanding amount of mail traffic, said Gonzalez.
"The thing we learned is, regardless of the number of staff on hand, you have to control the people coming into the office in order to ensure the mail flows smoothly," said Gonzalez.
With the arrival of the new units, 2nd BCT Soldiers were told to tell family members to stop sending mail around Oct. 1 until Soldiers get back home to the states, said Braswell. The decrease in incoming mail will allow the newly arrived Soldiers to start receiving their first influx of mail quicker and reduce the mail returned to the states because Soldiers are no longer in theater.
"This job is important because it boosts the morale of the Soldiers here in Iraq," said Braswell. "When a Soldier receives a letter from someone, it lifts their spirits. It might take two or three weeks, but at least they know it is going to get here and that someone who is thousands of miles away is thinking about them."