Mil Handlers work hard to keep morale up
Story and photos by Spc. John Stimac
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Receiving mail at Joint Base Balad can be a big morale booster for service members and civilians, which is why the men and women responsible for making this happen work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Members of the Joint Military Mail Terminal process bulk mail for seven zip codes, including northern Iraq.
In July alone, 1.7 million pounds of incoming and outgoing parcels, the equivalent of 130,000 pieces of mail, came through the JMMT, said Staff Sgt. David R. Cunningham, the noncommissioned officer in charge of JMMT North, with the 81st Military Mail Terminal.
December is the heaviest month, with roughly 2.85 million pounds, or 220,000 pieces of mail, come through JBB’s JMMT, said Cunningham, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native.
JMMT employees load the mail on flight pallets, which Air Force and Department of Defense contractors prepare for shipment. Roughly 10 to 14 planes full of mail fly in and out of JBB each week, Cunningham said.
Cunningham said their mission focuses on the mail coming in and out of JBB, as well as generating postal operating directive reports.
“When the contractor turns in (contraband) items such as knives, etcetera, we have to open the package, provide a picture of the item and notify the mailer and the person receiving the mail that their package was opened by us,” said Cunningham. “Those items should be sent registered mail, that way this would not occur.”
Cunningham said another aspect of the mission is the oversight of the 86 Kellogg, Brown and Root, Inc. employees, through a series of bi-monthly inspections and a performance evaluation board once a month. This is done to maintain a standard of operations, said Cunningham.
“We basically let them know how they are doing,” said Cunningham. “They are a highly professional staff which makes our job easy and the facility pretty much runs itself.”
First Lt. Jamie D. Vestal, the officer in charge of postal operations and a contracting officer representative of JBB postal operations, with the 2nd Battalion, 38th Human Resource Company out of Schweinfurt, Germany, said he provides direct support and ensures parcels and letters get to each Soldier in their respective units.
“We want to make sure Soldiers can receive mail and have no issues sending mail out,” said Vestal, a Chicago native.
All units on JBB must meet military and postal regulations.
Staff Sgt. Johnny Nieves, with the 2/38th HRC, a Lima, Peru native, said his unit conducts quarterly inspections of 135 units’ mailrooms to ensure they are following correct procedures and policy guidelines.
“We also check suspicious mail referred to us by KBR,” said Nieves. “We assess the situation and make sure it goes through the proper channels.”
Receiving mail in a timely manner is a concern for most Soldiers and can also be a morale booster.
Vestal said with the advances in communications such as emailing and texting, sometimes it is just more personal to receive a hand-written letter.
“People are receiving their mail on a timely basis due to better technology, more workers and tracking systems,” said Vestal. “A lot of the KBR staff were prior service military so they understand that it boosts Soldiers’ morale when they receive packages from back home and they are ensuring that happens.”
Anthony Tocco and Gloria Perez, both mail clerks with Kellog, Brown and Root, Inc., sort packages received Aug. 31 at the Joint Military Mail Terminal here at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Stimac, 139th MPAD, 13th SC(E) Public Affairs)