Thursday, January 18, 1996 - 1 p.m.
Colonel Simms: This is an unclassified information briefing on the Army postal operations in Bosnia.
The purpose of this briefing is to provide an overview of the postal operations in support of OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR. The areas I will discuss will include Army postal units involved, both active and reserve; how the mail is flowing; the volume of mail; the transit time that we're experiencing so far. We'll talk a bit about proper addressing, which is critical to us; and the program that kicks off today, Any Service Member Mail.
Our overall objective is to provide effective and efficient management operation for our postal network that supports a deployed force. In order to establish and support the theater of operation, the Commander in Chief, European Command, is in charge, with overall responsibility for postal operations. Personnel Command has been designated by the CINC as his responsible agent for planning, coordinating, executing the postal plan.
Their plan establishes two composite active duty postal companies to be used in theater. The 1/15th and the 510th HE Company. Those two organizations are coming out of Europe.
The initial elements of those two organizations have already deployed. Of the 100 or so soldiers that are associated with those two organizations, 51 are already deployed and on the ground and operational. The remaining 49 are scheduled to move in increments. We anticipate they will be fully closed in the theater on or about the first week of February. They will be located, or elements of them will be located throughout the theater in Croatia, Hungary, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Not only will be they be involved with, once they are fully deployed, the handling of the mail; they will also be providing finance services. That is the money order and stamp business -- very similar to the postal operations that you have here in CONUS, the USPS.
To ensure that the postal services for the family and soldier members remaining in Europe continues uninterrupted, three reserve postal units based in CONUS were mobilized and deployed to backfill the units that are moving to the theater. Those units include the 23rd AG Company from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the 329th from St. Paul... I'm sorry, the 329th is from St. Paul, Minnesota; the 755th from Texarkana, Texas. They have already arrived in theater and have begun operations. The last elements of those units closed on the 15th of January.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the flow, to give you an idea of how the mail is flowing.
Mail generated out of the United States comes through the United States Postal Service system. That moves out through, for letter mail, through the New York gateway into Frankfurt. That is the mail hub here, in Frankfurt. That mail is then broken down and moves to each of the two locations down range -- Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and then Taszar in Hungary.
From there, the mail is further broken out to units, and subsequently, to the soldiers.
I might mention that the United States Postal Service has provided superb support. As you know, the mail portion of this operation began just about at the height of the mail season, and we began flowing mail into the theater on or about the 19th of December, so they have done a magnificent job of getting the mail moved.
This will show you what we have moved in terms of the weight. In December, we've got an average of about 1,397 pounds per day, which the cumulative total is 25,000 pounds. In January so far, you can see that that has increased dramatically, up to 11,000 pounds daily with the total to 184,000 pounds -- almost a quarter of a million pounds of mail so far.
This slide depicts the transit time that we are experiencing. This shows eight to ten days. That means from Any Town, USA to the time it reaches the soldier's hand. Recognize that's the average time that we are measuring. We're experiencing two to four days from Europe down through Hungary and to Bosnia as we speak.
The reverse, in terms of mail coming out of the theater, matches the time that we have going in.
This is probably one of the very important areas if you talk to anyone associated with mail, and that is what we call mail hygiene, and that is appropriate address. What we have at the bottom is a sample address. The variables: service member's name, organization, and APO. The only thing that remains constantly, of course, is the title of the operation.
The location associated with each of the APOs, those locations are area-based.
There are some restrictions on mail going into the theater. There are no rare or precious metals allowed; firearms; alcoholic beverages; obscene material.
At present there are no restrictions on weight, up to 70 pounds which is the standard for First Class. However, as we are encouraging with the Any Service Member Mail, that we limit that to at least shoe-box size for now, as we continue to deploy our organization into the theater.
Today marks the effective day for Any Service, Any Family Member Mail. This program became popular during DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. It's designed for the public to send and mail packages to unspecified service members or their families who are deployed. Mail may be sent to any post office to the addresses that you see listed here. Since the theater is continuing to develop, again, I would like to emphasize that we would initially like to emphasize that mail no larger than shoe box size be sent. We feel by the February time frame we will be able to accept unlimited. This just enhances our ability to ensure that mail is through-put.
The other reminder is, this still does take 32 cents. Sending a letter into the theater, 32 cents is what it would take.
During the month of February, a special program called No Greater Love, a non-profit humanitarian organization here in Washington, D.C., has established a special address that has encouraged school children to send Valentine's Day cards. That will run in the month of February only.
We have a toll-free hot line which is available to assist mailers in verifying zip codes in support of OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR, and any restrictions that apply. The number is, I believe it's in your handout, but if not, I'll pass it to you:
1-800-810-6098. That will lead you to the Military Postal Agency. Individuals there will be available from 8 to 4 Monday through Friday to answer questions.
Our objective is to ensure that the deployed force are provided the best possible postal services. You can assist us in getting the information out with regard to correct addresses. If that is possible, then you will do us a great service in ensuring that mail is efficiently getting into the theater.
Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes my briefing. What are your questions?
Q: You spoke in terms of pounds. Can you convert that to pieces?
A: Pounds is, I think, about as much as I can get to right now. As we look at moving the mail, we don't look at the pieces as much as we do the tonnage that goes on the aircraft and/or ships.
Q: In your past experience, though, you should be able to say what a pound of mail is...
Voice: There's an 80/20 split. Eighty percent is normally parcel weight, and 20 percent of that is usually letters.
A: So that would vary, obviously, if it's all letters.
Q: Why not rare and previous metals? What's wrong with sending somebody a bracelet or a ring or something?
A: Those restrictions are placed, there are two ways that they're placed. In this instance it can be placed by the country in which we are going into; and/or the postal service itself.
Q: Who is doing this?
A: This is a country restriction, as we understand.
Q: Do you know why?
A: No, sir. I do not.
Q: In the past, haven't some of these Any Service Member Mails enjoyed just a little too much popularity, and haven't they over-burdened the system at times?
A: They certainly increase the volume of mail that we have going into the theater. We like to encourage it because as most of you know, getting a letter, and when someone doesn't write to you every day, and the means by which we are able to distribute this makes it a positive thing in that everybody gets something every day. It does increase our workload and volume, but we feel comfortable that we'll be able to handle that.
I did not mention in my brief, but we have not experienced a dramatic backlog, and in anticipation of getting all of our forces in on the ground, we believe that we will be able to handle this satisfactorily.
Q: This will sound funny, but it's a serious question. Do you all have a motto like "Neither rain nor snow nor hail nor sleet," like the U.S. Postal Service used to have?
A: No, sir. Not necessarily a motto, but we believe that if we can get it there as quickly as possible we're going to make a soldier happy. But that's not necessarily a motto.
Q: You've got a lot of forces moving into position, people in transit. How much of a problem is it now to get mail to those folks if you don't know where they are from day to day?
A: That is a challenge. We have systems, automated systems that are assisting us in terms of the locator process, but until we get the full theater deployed, and all of our assets in place, when we have a complete handle on that, but it presents a challenge. As I talk to the theater, they indicate that it's a challenge, but we've been able to get that done.
Q: And the eight-to-ten-day time table you laid out is something you're meeting now? Not something you...
A: That's what we are meeting now. What we laid out here is what we are meeting right now, with the load that you've seen.
Q: How is the Any Service Member Mail distributed? Is it purely at random, or is there any attempt to send it to people who aren't getting mail or something?
A: It is an equitable distribution or break. Just as I indicated, we will get, we will split... Say we get 5,000 pounds in Frankfurt, and we will put 5,000 pounds on one bird or the other, depending on what the population is on the other end. Then we attempt to equitably distribute that on the ground. Certainly as they break it on the ground they attempt to distribute to folks who haven't received any mail that day. That's the real purpose. We found that to be quite a benefit with regard to morale.
Press: Thank you.