Missouri unit transforms old mail building into a customer-friendly postal operation
Story and Photos by Sgt. John Stimac
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Members of 1st Platoon, 387th Human Resource Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Bethany, Mo., began their deployment in October with an extra mission, to transform a building that did not meet Department of Defense postal regulations into a functioning, efficient postal center.
The 387th took over postal operations from a Marine detachment at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, and spent the next five months making renovations to the inside and outside of the building.
Staff Sgt. William Woodward, the postal operations platoon sergeant with the 387th HRC and a Princeton, Mo., native, said when they arrived, the building's physical security was not in accordance with DOD regulations.
"The first improvement was adding bars to all the windows and steel doors at the exits, to bring it up to standard on physical security," he said.
Woodward said all the materials used in the renovations were gathered at Al Asad, from either the logistics supply yard or the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.
The renovations were put on hold between mid-November and December for the holiday rush.
"Our mission comes first, so of course we had to focus on getting mail on and off Al Asad," he said. "After that, we started working on smaller renovations projects."
Woodward said when he initially walked in the door at the post office, it was the least efficient postal operation he had seen during his four deployments.
"We bring a few things to the table with our civilian skill sets," he said. "We put those to work and made it an efficient and customer-friendly operation."
Woodward said the biggest renovation was the expansion of the main lobby, now double its original size.
"This building wasn't set up for a retail type of facility like a post office," he said. "There were two rooms adjoining the existing lobby not being used, so we … knocked down some walls, and then framed and trimmed them out."
They also constructed new retail postal finance windows to make it look more like an actual post office, he said.
"Even before we actually took over, we began to look at how to improve the situation here," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Riley, the postal supervisor with the 387th HRC and a Tarheel, Mo., native. "Whether it was the building or customer service, our gears were already started."
Riley said they worked many long hours for almost two months straight to get the job done.
"We were working day and night," he said. "We had to run the post office during the day, and couldn't swing sledgehammers when customers were there. We sometimes worked past midnight doing all the refurbishing and cleaning."
Riley said all the work they have done and are continuing to do is aimed at improving the operation.
"We're proud of the final outcome," he said. "No matter where we go, we are making our working areas and our living areas better."
Woodward said no matter what he asked of his Soldiers, they were eager and willing to do it.
"I appreciate that they applied themselves and put in the hard work that was necessary to make this mission successful," he said.
Pfc. John O'Donnell, a gunner with A Troop, 141st Brigade Support Battalion, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Vancouver, Wash., native, mails a foot locker home in preparation for his re-deployment back to the U.S. March 11, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Members of 1st Platoon, 387th Human Resource Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) spent five months renovating the postal office, which included doubling the size of the lobby.