CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan --
Whether it is Girl Scout cookies sent by patriotic Americans or photographs of your child’s first day at school, mail is the number one source of morale for Marines in a combat zone.
The postal office at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, sorts an average of 300,000 pounds of incoming mail per month.
Each piece of mail is scanned via tracking number through the Automated Military Postal System before postal Marines sort it by unit. Once the mail is placed in its respective unit’s tri-wall container, the mail is available for pick-up by Combat Logistics Battalion 1. CLB-1 will then deliver the mail to its respective unit via combat logistics patrol.
Cpl. Alberto Garcia, a postal clerk with 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) said he knows firsthand how much the mail can improve a service member’s day.
“When I saw my package this morning, I started dancing because I was so happy,” said Garcia. “And that’s what we do. We boost morale and keep customers happy.”
The busiest time of the day is around lunchtime when flights come in with mail deliveries. Although summer is not here yet, the rising temperatures create new challenges for the postal Marines.
“Having to sort through thousands of pounds of mail out here in the heat is really the only downside to the job,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jamie Nelson, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Camp Dwyer Post Office, 1st MLG (Fwd).
Despite the climate, Garcia said he prefers to be busy.
“On the days where no flights come in, those days just drag on,” said Garcia. “But when we’re sorting through mail, time flies.”
The ten Marines at the post office support 89 units aboard Camp Dwyer. Additionally, they support four infantry units at Forward Operating Bases Geronimo, Hanson, Dehli and Payne.
Though the group is small, the workload is a constant flow of pallets that must be sorted. The demand for letters and packages will remain high as long as there are Marines and sailors in Afghanistan.
“Having a little piece of home out here and away from everything is great for morale,” said Nelson.
In addition to sorting through mail belonging to all the Marines and sailors south of Camp Leatherneck, the post office offers services for outgoing mail. Much like a post office in America, a customer can drop off their mail and get boxes for future shipments.
However, many Marines not stationed at Camp Dwyer do not have the convenience of using the post office’s services. To meet those needs, the postal Marines go the extra mile.
When a unit puts in a request to send mail back to the U.S., postal will send a Marine out to the FOB to collect the outgoing mail. They then bring it back to Camp Dwyer where it goes through the same process as all outgoing mail at the post office.
The enclosed package is inspected to ensure no unauthorized items are sent. Mail sent from Afghanistan is then put through an X-ray scanner before it leaves the country.
For Garcia, this deployment is an opportunity to build camaraderie and strengthen relationships with the Marines he works with.
“The nice thing about being deployed is these guys you’re with become family by the time we go home,” he said.