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Neither snow nor deep freeze keep mail from Antarctica

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
  • Air Force News Agency
Members of the Det. 4, Pacific Air Forces Air Postal Squadron here have been busy supporting Operation Deep Freeze 2007-08 winter flights to Antarctica beginning in late August after more than 150 days since the last shipment of mail to the ice station.

The detachment members collected 14,000 pounds of incoming mail in more than five months for the staff of the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station who have wintered over and who are heading down to the frozen continent.

Severe winters prevent any flights into Antarctica, but mail is flowing again now that winter fly-in flights have started in late August. Loaded into tri-wall containers, the mail is palletized eight containers at a time and loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III for a five-hour flight to its destination on the ice.

We have three pallets ready to go right now and by the end of the season we will have one more," said Master Sgt. Al Coe, the Det. 4 postmaster. "We have 14,000 pounds with only 100 people on the ice, but the C-17 is taking a lot of people down there so we have their mail too."

Collecting and sorting mail is not the only mission for Det. 4 members. The postmaster has to make two trips a year to inspect and audit the postal operations on Antarctica. The postmaster will travel to McMurdo Station and the South Pole for about a week to make sure operations are running smoothly.

"We make sure they have the right forms and right procedure in place to process the mail," Sergeant Coe said. "We make sure things are well."

Servicemembers know mail is a great morale booster. Like any military member deployed throughout the world expecting mail, people stationed in Antarctica are no different.

"They are excited to get their mail. They live off the mail," Sergeant Coe said.

"We catch a little flack because mail doesn't always go down on the first flight," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Hartley, the incoming postmaster. "It's like being in a deployed location and waiting for mail. They have been waiting all winter for it."

Det. 4 is a unique one-Airman, two-civilian post office. The air mail terminal is not a Department of Defense operation, but a National Science Foundation one. In a given year, the post office can handle up to 240,000 pounds of mail for Operation Deep Freeze. 

"Basically the NSF borrows me," Sergeant Coe said. "They reimburse the DOD for all the weights of the mail coming in and going out from Antarctica."

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