Training to go 'postal'

Story and Photos by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley
15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — 81st Adjutant General (Postal) Soldiers are training to earn their postal certification, aka F5 (“Fox” 5), skill identifier during a month long course here.

The 81st, which falls under the 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), technically activated in April 2007 but wasn’t operational until this July, is quickly preparing for an impending deployment.

“They’re ahead of schedule,” said Temecula, Calif. native Staff Sgt. John Haye, a Mobil Training Team instructor with the Soldier Support Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C.

Haye, along with other instructors, are training the Soldiers in 12 postal related subjects from handling of mail and parcels to money orders and claims. 
Much of the training is conducted on IRTs, Integrated Retail Terminals, which quickly calculate postage and insurance rates for mail.  Most of the training IRTs are USPS “hand-me-down” equipment, Haye said, although the Soldiers will likely use newer equipment once deployed.

“The most challenging thing is all the forms we have to keep up with,” said Spc. Peter Alva, a 502nd Personnel Support Battalion (Forward) postal clerk attached to the 81st. Alva, a Naples, Fla., native, is one of eight Soldiers of the 502nd attached to the 81st.

The 81st, a Military Mail Terminal team, is one of only three in the active Army and is poised to support Soldiers in Iraq in every way that the civilian-ran post office can stateside. The 81st’s mission is vital, and the instructors are making sure that their students understand that.

“No matter how tired you are, no matter how you feel, no matter how sick you are [you have to] get the mail to the Soldiers because those Soldiers have been out on convoys. They’ve been out kicking down doors,” Haye explained.

As many Soldiers may attest to, mail is often cited as one of the chief morale builders in Iraq.

“They’ll take [mail] with them on the convoys. They’ll take it with them as they’re out on patrol,” Hayes said.

“For us, it’s a good morale booster to give to the Soldiers.”