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Face of Defense: Soldier Goes Extra Mile in Liberia

By Army Spc. Caitlyn Byrne 27th Public Affairs Detachment

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MONROVIA, Liberia, Jan. 7, 2015 — For Army Cpl. Nicole Mattoon, going beyond the basic requirements of her duties while deployed at the National Police Training Academy in Paynesville, Liberia, is just part of doing her job.

Mattoon, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and a horizontal construction engineer for the 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, has an additional duty she’s happy to perform.

“I have been given the duty of mail noncommissioned officer for Task Force Rugged at the [NPTA],” Mattoon said. “I’m a 12N, a horizontal construction engineer, so I’ve never dealt with mail or the human resources department before. To start with, they pretty much just gave me an address and told me to go from there. … I was put in charge, which was daunting, but I was up for it.”

Setting Up a Post Office From Scratch

Mattoon had to procure a site for the post office, get supplies, coordinate transportation and help in sorting the mail for the 517 soldiers deployed to the National Police Training Academy.

“Once we receive notice that mail has arrived at Roberts International Airport, we go pick it up, record all the packages that come in and for who they are for, re-sort them once we get back to [NPTA], and then, of course, hand them all out to our soldiers, all within the same day,” Mattoon said.

But Mattoon doesn’t just watch from the sidelines as post office soldiers sort, store and distribute the mail. She works tirelessly right next to them, sometimes sorting from evening to morning, so that her fellow soldiers at NPTA can get their care packages as soon as possible.

Army Sgt. Guadalupe Flores, the battalion’s human resources noncommissioned officer in charge, commended Mattoon for her hard work.

“I immediately put her in charge as a mailroom NCO, and without guidance, she established a fully operational mailroom,” he said. “We were the first camp to receive mail. We have a minimum amount of troops, so she works day and night to go pick up mail.”

Honors from United Assistance Commander

Mattoon was recognized Jan. 2 as the service member of the week by Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of Joint Forces Command United Assistance. Flores said she was chosen not only because of the work she does, but also because of the way she conducts herself while she works.

“She has sorted and handled over 100,000 pounds of mail since she has been deployed here,” Flores said, noting the heavy volume over the Thanksgiving and Christmas period that required numerous trips to the airport to pick up new shipments.

Mattoon also made it her priority to ensure that all soldiers, including those camped out at the Ebola treatment unit construction sites, received something from home via either ground or air transportation.

Boosting Morale of Deployed Soldiers

“She really helped lift the morale of all the soldiers at the [NPTA],” Flores said. “She affected the morale of the camp bigtime. Once mail arrived, the mood around camp really lifted. It was incredible.”

Mattoon said that she appreciates the work she is able to do while deployed in Liberia. She even signed up all the soldiers at NPTA for Home Front Hugs, an organization that sends care packages to deployed soldiers, ensuring that everyone had something to open on the holidays.

“The best part of this job is the motivation that people get when they get their mail,” she said. “I get to meet new people every day, and I really enjoy that person-to-person relations factor. Whether I’m thinking about my husband, who is also in the Army, and how I want to make him proud, or whether I’m giving someone their mail, it’s that human interaction that keeps me motivated.”