Keeping mail flowing while deployed

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Pamela Smith
  • 320th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
On a daily basis, the morale of people deployed to the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing weighs on the minds of the base postal flight, and they want nothing more than to deliver.

"We're big-time morale boosters," said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Morgan, an information manager by trade. "That's our main mission."

Saturday through Thursday, the seven-person team is responsible for transporting an average of 6,000 pounds of mail between the local international airport and this forward-deployed location.

As the main mail control agency for this area, the group also dispatches mail to 10 other contingency locations throughout the area of responsibility.

"Mail comes here where it's sorted before being trucked to two different locations and flown by military or commercial air to the other eight," said Staff Sgt. Elpidio Abaya, postmaster.

Abaya and Airman 1st Class Lichella Spikes, both deployed from Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, said this job is a lot different then what they are used to at their home station.

"At Rhein Main, we don't get the opportunity to handle the mail," said Abaya, "Our part of the process is mostly administrative."

At home stations, personal mail is handled separately from official correspondence, but here it all comes together.

At the airport, the postal workers handle everything from loading and unloading the trucks to separating mailbags and parcels by ZIP codes and completing all of the necessary paperwork with the customs officials.

Once they have returned to the base, mail is pitched into separate unit bins, based on the mailing address of the letter or parcel, and is picked up by the unit mail clerks. Individuals can go to their unit mail clerks for their mail after it has been picked up from the mail distribution center.

For most people assigned to the postal flight, this is a big change from what they are used to doing.

"I love this because it's a lot different from what I do at my home station," said Senior Airman Marion Dumas, an information manager who works at the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan. "In our career field, unless you've worked in (base information transfer center), this is all new."

Having a great team to work with also helps, said Spikes.

"We're like a family, we're always together," she said. Besides working side-by-side, six days a week, they also spend most of their off-duty time together as well.

The tight-knit circle includes their counterpart at the "tent city" post office.

"I enjoy seeing the expressions on people's faces as they send things home," said Airman 1st Class Norman Brown, the only postal clerk assigned to the tent city office. "We're helping them keep in touch with their loved ones."