CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- The Marines of the Camp Leatherneck post office are few in number but have been working hard during the five months they have been deployed. Ensuring mail is delivered and picked up from all service members and civilians working in Regional Command (Southwest), the Marines of the post office make postal operations run as smoothly as possible.
To ensure mail is delivered to, from and throughout Helmand province, the postal Marines push through as they face different obstacles every day.
“I think something that everyone has learned is how to adapt to different situations because it’s never the same,” said Cpl. Enrique Gonzalez, official mail noncommissioned officer, and a native of Santa Barbara, California. “Sometimes there are Warrior Express Service missions or morning flights so we have to adjust, or it’s a late flight so we have to stay up here. It’s pretty much just trying to get stuff done even though the day is different.”
Though most of the postal operations happen aboard Camp Leatherneck, the Marines also travel to different forward operating bases on WES missions to deliver as well as pick up any mail service members want to send back to the states. For service members located aboard the most remote forward operating bases within RC(SW), the WES missions make sure Marines and sailors throughout the area of operations are able to receive a package or letter from home as well as send mail to loved ones awaiting their return.
“We’ll take a Marine or two of ours, a Marine from Marine Corp Community Services and disbursing and they’ll all go out to a FOB together to conduct business on a WES mission,” said Sgt. Christopher Rogers, postal dispatch chief and assistant operations chief, and a native of Pomona, California. “It generally lasts about one or two days, then they come back here and process all the mail once it comes in.”
Once mail arrives at the post office, the mission is not yet over. The Marines must take it through its next steps in order to distribute it properly. This may seem like an overwhelming task since the post office and its small number of workers must service more than 5,000 U.S. service members and civilians, but the postal Marines ensure no shortcuts are taken.
“We inspect the packages, put on the postage, then everything gets X-rayed and we push it out from here,” said Lance Cpl. Bhavin Patel, assistant postal operations chief, and a native of Schaumburg, Illinois. “We make sure all the addresses are correct, whether they’re going active or cutting them off, we manage the list.”
Additionally, to make sure the mail is being delivered in a timely manner, the Marines keep track of how long it takes letters and packages to travel from the States to Helmand province.
“We do Transit Time Information System for Military Mail as
well, which is where we take five parcels and five letters, we check the dates the boxes were made for the palettes and we also see when it was postdated to see how long it takes it to get from the States to the country and then from the country to Leatherneck,” said Lance Cpl. Xavier Kuhn, official mail clerk, and a native of South Chicago Heights, Illinois. “We do that six days a week, and then Sundays we take the averages and we send it to the operations chief. He looks and sends it to whomever else in order to let them know if the mail is getting here in a decent time.”
Though the post office is run by fewer than 10 Marines and a handful of civilians, the high performance of postal procedures is due to the dedication and attitude of each postal worker.
“With such a small detachment of postal Marines, they have done a phenomenal job accomplishing all tasks assigned while adapting to the ever-changing missions,” said Staff Sgt. Torrence St. Romain, postal operations chief, and a native of Marksville, Louisiana. “The Marines have done such an awesome job boosting the morale and bringing a little piece of home to all the service members and DOD civilians in RC (Southwest). I couldn't ask for a better team of Marines to deploy with.”