Face of Defense: Airmen Deliver Morale-boosting Mail
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
455th Air Expeditionary Wing
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, July 21, 2014 The 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron’s mail clerks work daily to boost morale by delivering packages, online orders and letters to the airmen deployed here.
Air Force Senior Airman Lorenza Kates, left, and Senior Airman Victoria Hill, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron mail clerks, deliver mail at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, June 26, 2014. Kates and Hill are responsible for handling mail for airmen in the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. The duo handles thousands of packages and letters each month. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“My favorite part of the job is seeing people’s faces light up when they get mail,” said Air Force Senior Airman Victoria Hill, a 455th ECS mail clerk deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. She hails from Blanchard, Louisiana.
Hill is one of two mail clerks responsible for delivering mail to airmen assigned to the wing. Although some of their normal duties at home station involves records and data management, here they ensure timely mail delivery every day.
Early in the morning Hill and her comrade, Air Force Senior Airman Lorenza Kates, start their day by coordinating transportation to pick up the mail tri-walls -- pallet-sized boxes -- from a centralized mail location.
“I report to work by 6 a.m. then pick up our forklift to lift tri-wall boxes,” said Kates, who is deployed from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and a native of Dublin, Georgia. “Then we make calls to figure out how many pallets we received for the day before we make our way to pick the mail up.”
After picking up mail and taking it back to their office, Kates and Hill unload the pallets for sorting. While one of mail clerks moves the pallets with a forklift, the other arranges them neatly into rows. They sort an average of 77 pallets of mail each week that amounts to approximately 38,500 pounds.
“The most difficult part of the job is constantly being on the go,” Hill said. “It is heavy physical labor; we run around loading and unloading. But, I really enjoy it.”
Once the packages are sorted, which takes about three hours depending on the number of tri-walls on a given day, Kates and Hill load their truck for mail delivery to mission essential organizations.
According to Hill, mission essential units are those unable to leave their work area during the day to pick up mail. Some of the units include special tactics, aeromedical evacuation, airfield operations and transient management.
After they spend time helping the other section and the morning routine is complete, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing postal center opens for customer service hours. During this time, mail representatives from every squadron in the wing are able to pick up their unit’s mail.
“During customer service hours we check 285s, which are cards that certify appointed individuals to pick up mail for their squadron,” Kates said. “We have to monitor who picks up the mail. We have to ensure we are keeping up with mail center standards. Every hand that the mail touches should be recorded until it is received by the person it belongs to.”
Kates and Hill make certain every piece of mail reaches its destination. Whether it is a mission essential piece of equipment or a letter from a loved one, the mail clerks here deliver a piece of home to airmen every day.
“We get the mission done here whether by keeping morale up or ensuring people can do their job by delivering what they need,” Hill said. “It’s pretty cool to say we are the only ones that deliver mail to all of the airmen from the wing.”