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MotoMail System Helps Link Deployed Marines, Loved Ones

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2006 – In the age of e-mail, podcasts and blogs, it's easier than ever before for deployed troops to stay in contact with their friends and loved ones at home.

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MotoMail is a free, Internet-based letter writing and delivery service that puts letters in the hands of deployed Marines and sailors much faster than traditional mail, often within 24 hours. Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps

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But many say none of these high-tech communications can compete with an old-fashioned card or letter they can tuck away in a pocket or backpack and reread anytime, anywhere, until it's faded and dog-eared.

A Marine Corps innovation is offering the perfect middle ground: letters from home that are downloaded, printed and delivered in hard-copy format, usually within 24 hours rather than the week or more is takes traditional "snail mail" to arrive.

MotoMail, short for "motivational mail," is the Marine Corp's answer to express mail for deployed Marines, Master Sgt. Ronald C. Williams, postal affairs chief for Headquarters Marine Corps, told the American Forces Press Service.

It brings the speed of electronic transmissions to deployed troops, even those without easy access to computers or unable to wait in long lines to use one at an Internet café, he said. At the same time, it gives them the satisfaction of a permanent note they can hold in their hands.

The service, introduced more than a year ago and steadily growing in usage, is based on the British armed forces system called "E-Bluey" used to send free messages to British troops around the world for the past five years, Williams said.

MotoMail enables friends and families with Internet access to send up to five free, letter-type messages a day to deployed Marines with total privacy, he said. Many members of other services co-located with deployed Marines also have access to the service.

Writers register on the MotoMail Web site and type out their message and the name and unit address of the intended recipient. All units participating in the program are listed in the drop-down menu on the screen.

The letter goes to the MotoMail server, which forwards it to the designated postal unit. There, Marine postal workers download the messages, print them and run them through a machine that folds and seals them to ensure privacy.

Marines receive their MotoMail letters at their next mail call.

While far speedier than traditional U.S. mail, and more personal than electronic transmissions, MotoMail comes with some limitations, Williams said. It can't send attachments or enclosures, can't relay packages and can't be used for letters addressed to "Any Marine."

Messages must have a real Marine's name and unit address to be processed, Williams said. Messages with fake or incomplete names won't be delivered.

More than a year since it was introduced, MotoMail is gaining in popularity, with 106,000 active accounts delivering almost 800,000 messages to date at the rate of about 1,880 letters a day, he said.

Deployed Marines and their families have rave reviews for the system and see it as a big morale booster.

"We are so grateful to have such an amazing service made available," wrote one user on the MotoMail Web site. "It brings us much comfort to know that letters can reach our loved ones in such a timely fashion. Much thanks to those who made this possible."

"It is wonderful to know that I can get information to my husband the same day whether it is something important or just an I love you," wrote another user. "It makes the time between actual contacts seem more bearable."

Still another agreed, "It is wonderful to know I can send my son a message whenever I want. God bless all of you who are making it so much easier for us to communicate with our loved ones. (There's) lots of love flowing throughout that server."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Marine reads a piece of MotoMail at Forward Operating Base Hit, Iraq, on Christmas Day. Photo by Sgt Richard D. Stephens, USMC  
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