This article comes from Joint Sustainment Command – Afghanistan
Story by LTC David Jolly
Mail delivery in Afghanistan sets new yearly and holiday records as joint sustainment forces bring holiday cheer to U.S. Service members.
“Since January 2010, teams of postal professionals in Afghanistan have moved the largest amount of mail in Afghanistan’s history, more than 54,517,638 pounds,” said Lt. Col. Donald Brown, chief, Postal Operations Division, 3rd Human Resources Sustainment Center, 1st Theater Sustainment Command. “In 2009, 34.4 million pounds, and in 2008, 19.2 million pounds was delivered.”
Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan also reports that the amount of holiday mail delivered exceeded the amount of mail delivered for all previous years since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001.
The JSC-A is responsible for all sustainment operations in Afghanistan, including postal operations. The 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a Mississippi Army National Guard unit, assumed responsibility for JSC-A in October.
“The success we’re experiencing this season with the mail surge is the culmination of the collaboration of many,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Dowd, commander, 1st TSC.
The 1st TSC, based in Kuwait, provides support for all postal operations for Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“[Worker’s] efforts and the support of our families and friends back home have ensured a positive result this holiday season. There’s nothing better than getting that package from home. We understand that and we worked hard to ensure our troops got those packages,” said Dowd.
Using a variety of transportation methods, including fixed-winged aircraft, helicopters and convoys, mail has been moved throughout Afghanistan with the help of many commands. The 3rd HRSC reports mail has been moved without major delay or backlog despite increased operational tempo.
The U.S. Central Command’s Deployment and Distribution Operations Center based in Kuwait also played an important role in the postal delivery process. One of the missions of CDDOC is the coordination of available aviation assets within theater to move mission essential cargo, one of which is mail.
“Mail is the number two morale booster behind going home on R&R. We all understand that because we all enjoy getting mail,” said Rear Admiral Thomas C. Traaen, commander, U.S. CDDOC. “The logistics team really rallied behind ensuring that everyone received their mail in a timely manner. It has been a great team effort. It was our pleasure to assist in bringing the holiday spirit to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. They deserve it.”
Packages from loved ones in the U.S. to a service member deployed in Afghanistan, completes its journey on average in less than 10 days, meeting the U.S. Central Command’s standard of 16 days for parcels and 12 days for letters, said Brown.
From the United States, mail is transported by air directly to Bahrain and then transported to the respective hubs at Kandahar and Bagram, Afghanistan, where it is then off-loaded, sorted, and moved to its final destination.
“The total amount of U.S. holiday mail delivered throughout Afghanistan from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 is 12.6 million pounds. This is the equivalent of covering every square inch of six football fields in palletized mail with approximately 2,800 pounds per pallet. By the end of December, we estimate to have received more than 13.4 million pounds,” said Maj. William T. Smith, chief, JSC-A Human Resources Operations Branch. “In 2009, the holiday mail delivered was 6.4 million pounds.”
Two of JSC-A’s units, the 101st Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Carson, Colo., carry out sustainment missions throughout Afghanistan. For postal operations, they utilize human resource companies (HRCs).
The 510th HRC, an active duty unit from Fort Eustis, Va., assigned to the 101st Sustainment Brigade, operates the military post office at Bagram Airfield.
“The successful movement of over nine million pounds of mail this month at Bagram was a tremendous effort from a ‘team of teams’ that ensured everyone forward in combat received their mail and packages from their loved ones,” said Col. Michael P. Peterman, commander, 101st Sustainment Brigade. “Our entire Lifeliner staff gained a newer understanding and appreciation for the hard work that our postal service/UPS/DHL workers put in yearly to ensure that every American gets their mail in hometown USA.”
The 328th HRC, an Army Reserve unit from San Antonio, Texas, assigned to the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, operates the military post office at Kandahar Airfield.
“This is another demonstration of the support soldiers, who are the linemen and women of football, so to speak. Their numbers are seldom called, but they are critical to the mission. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved in delivering mail to our service members, and I commend them on a job well done,” said Col. Edward M. Daly, commander, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. “The monumental efforts of these superstars truly made a difference by bringing the spirit of Christmas to Afghanistan.”
Other significant contributors to the successful mail delivery missions are the mobility sections at the JSC-A and its subordinate brigades.
“The JSC-A and its subordinate brigades’ ability to match available airlift platforms against the daily mail requirements contributed to the success of the mail delivery missions. The use of contracted fixed and rotary aviation support was critical for ensuring the successful ‘last mile’ delivery of the mail to the foxholes,” said Smith. “The coordination between the postal requirements and mobility’s resourcefulness has been a key component to mail delivery in Afghanistan.”
Due to the holiday rush, a call was sent out for volunteers to assist with the unloading and sorting of mail at the Bagram and Kandahar mail hubs. Soon, service members from every branch of the military, in the ranks of private to general officer, were found working all hours to ensure their fellow troops received their holiday packages on time.
“All along the line, from the continental United States to the CENTCOM postal units, to Kuwait-based 1st TSC and the CDDOC – military and civilian alike – made this season’s mail flow successful. And, in the true spirit of coalition partnership, the Royal Air Force delivered U.S. holiday mail to Herat,” said Brig. Gen. Philip R. Fisher, commander, JSC-A.
The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force used one of their C-130 military aircraft to assist the JSC-A in reaching the mail delivery milestone.
“The cooperation and hard work is a great success story and all should be proud of their work. The efforts of those involved with the holiday mail service have been phenomenal. The postal units in Bagram and Kandahar, the 101st and 43rd Sustainment Brigades, and the volunteers throughout Afghanistan diligently worked to make sure all deployed in the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan received their mail from the millions of pounds of packages and letters sent from loved ones at home,” said Fisher.
Mail delivery has a tremendous impact on the morale of Service members. During the holidays and due to the amount of mail received, military post offices within Afghanistan increased the number of mail calls for units to pick up mail.
“This is my first Christmas away from home. Although it’s hard to be away from home during the holidays, it’s great to be able to send and receive mail. The postal service has allowed me to stay connected with my family and friends back home. Mail call is easily one of the highlights of my day,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bradley Monahan, assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Kandahar Airfield.