Postal dets keep APO mail coming, going

1st Lt. Erin Dorrance, Story and photo
Kaiserslautern American

John Jordan was ecstatic when he picked up his mail from the Ramstein Northside Postal Center and received a holiday package from his aunt.  He grabbed the box and hurried home to open it and see what new DVDs and photos she had sent.

Mr. Jordan’s package was one of 72.5 million pounds of mail and $39 million the Department of Defense spent on APO mail in 2004.  

In the excitement of receiving a package from home, Mr. Jordan probably did not think about the journey the package made through the U.S. Postal Service and APO systems.  

“APO mail is certainly a morale boost for the troops,” said Col. Rich Weathers, 38th Combat Support Wing commander.  “Not only are people deployed for months at a time receiving APO mail, many live overseas and are able to send and receive mail without the cost of international shipping.”

The 2nd Air Postal Squadron, part of the 38th Combat Support Wing, is headquartered with a staff of 26 people at Ramstein.  

The squadron is responsible for eight postal detachments and operating locations throughout Europe that receive, transfer, manifest and dispatch mail to and from the U.S. These detachments are strategically located throughout the continent in order to streamline the mail transportation process and are located in Alconbury, Amsterdam, Athens, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Madrid and Milan.   

“Mail never sits,” said 1st Lt. Francis Tyson, postal flight operations commander. “We make sure the mail is constantly moving so it can get to its final destination as quickly as possible while maintaining control at all times.”

In order to ensure mail is not stagnant, the postal detachment personnel are in constant communication between the ground handlers, airlines and trucking companies, said Master Sgt. Randolph Thompson, Detachment 4 chief.  The detachments work closely with 45 commercial air carriers which support 350,000 patrons through 51 APOs.  

***image1***“We are always keeping our eyes open for future ways to route the mail,” said Tech. Sgt. Todd Miller, Detachment 4 mail control activity chief.  “If an airline has a direct air segment to CONUS as well as foreign destinations, we contact the carrier representative to negotiate movement to decrease delivery times.”
The detachments are always thinking of innovative ways to speed up the process and save money.  Detachment 4 recently purchased a tug vehicle to haul mail from the incoming planes to their processing center.  

Before this capability, mail sometimes “sat” at planeside for up to two hours, said Sergeant Thompson.

“As soon as the plane touches down, we can grab the mail, take it to our facility and start processing it,” he said.  

Detachment 4 also secured a contract with a local trucking company to dispatch mail between postal facilities within the same geographical area instead or aerial flights which saves the DOD more than $400,000 each year, said Sergeant Thompson.  

The detachments not only process mail for local APOs, they also support U.S. naval vessels, U.S. embassies and consulates, NATO, as well as retirees.  

A military retiree may receive up to 16 ounces of APO mail, said Tech. Sgt. Darren Stanley, Detachment 4 aerial mail terminal chief.  

Because the detachments are located in specific locations throughout Europe, they are usually not located close to a military base.  

Most of the Airmen do not have access to the base exchange, commissary, child development center or other support facilities.    

“We live, shop and work in the local communities because that is what you do when a base does not exist,” said Staff Sgt. James Clawson, Det 2 postal clerk.  

Although Airmen are living in the local communities, some of the detachments are located in high-threat areas for U.S. military personnel.  

Due to the existing threats, embassy regional security officers provide security support and information to the personnel and insist they take security precautions during their tour.   

Postal detachment tours at these detachments are accompanied or unaccompanied remote assignments depending on the location, said Staff Sgt. Lee Swan, Det 2 postal clerk.

For more information regarding postal service jobs, log onto the Air Force Personnel Center’s EQUAL Plus Web site or contact Tech. Sgt. Stephen Boyd, 2nd AIRPS, at 480-5710.