Kuwait Mail Terminal Ready for Holidays

By Sgt. Chris Jones, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Oct. 27, 2006 - The Joint Military Mail Terminal Kuwait is gearing up for, by far, its busiest two months of the year -- the time when servicemembers are sending and receiving packages for the holiday season.

The staff at the mail terminal, which is located at Camp Arifjan, is taking steps to ensure the mail process doesn't miss a beat during November and early December.

According to statistics provided by the mail terminal, about 2.5 million pounds of mail were sent to servicemembers in the terminal's area of operations in November 2005, and more than 3 million pounds were sent home by servicemembers.

One of the first things the soldiers, contractors and Defense Department civilians at the mail terminal are doing to get ready for this year's influx in mail is simply preparing to work some long hours. With unwavering resolve to process mail on the day it arrives, the staff knows there will be plenty of overtime involved.

"Whenever the volume of mail increases, we do work longer hours," said Allen Watson, branch manager of the Joint Military Mail Terminal Kuwait. "We're ready to work long hours, because it's the (holidays), and those soldiers want their packages."

Watson, an Air Force retiree who has deployed to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, said his prior military experience gives him understanding about how deployed servicemembers feel when they receive mail, especially during the holidays.

"I know what it feels like to be deployed and get mail," Watson said. "You're on camp all the time ... and then you get a package in the mail -- it's such a morale boost."

The mail terminal processes mail coming in and out of every camp in Kuwait, as well as a few in southern Iraq -- Camp Delta, Camp Adder and Camp Bucca. Altogether, the facility manages 10 post offices in the region.

The Joint Military Mail Terminal Kuwait is the focal point for all mail in the region. After it is processed, outgoing mail heads to Bahrain, the main hub for the Central Command area of operations, then to the U.S., while incoming mail is shipped off to Kuwait and southern Iraq.

"We're basically a hub, a distribution center," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Arrington, Joint Military Mail Terminal Kuwait noncommissioned officer in charge and a member of the 3rd Personnel Command, which recently relieved the 1st Personnel Command.

A soldier in the Army Reserve who works at a similar civilian mail hub in Asheville, N.C., Arrington said his role in Kuwait is to assist the contractors at the mail terminal in any way he can. "(The contractors) are in charge; we soldiers are here to make their life easier," Arrington said.

Another role the military plays at the mail terminal is to send distribution reports to camps in Kuwait and southern Iraq to let the post offices know how much mail they should expect to arrive.

Every piece of mail that goes through the mail terminal goes through a high-tech X-ray system. With this particular X-ray, every once in a while the computer will show a picture of a weapon or another illegal item that isn't really in the package, and it is the operator's job to identify it. These images are preloaded in the computer and appear from time to time.

"The computer plays those little tricks; it helps keep the operator alert," said Maj. Sharon Weston, Joint Military Mail Terminal Kuwait officer in charge. "It's a way to keep the operator fresh and make sure he's seeing what he needs to be seeing."

After the inspections, mail is packaged by contractors from Kellogg, Brown and Root, and distributed by contractors from Public Warehousing Company. The distributors face a dangerous job, as three of the camps they deliver to involve crossing the Iraqi border.

Another job of the mail terminal is to keep an updated roster of units in Iraq and Kuwait, so mail can automatically be forwarded to the soldiers if their units relocate.

As the holiday season approaches, the mail terminal is gearing up for a hefty workload -- but it's the kind of work that couldn't be any more rewarding, said Arrington, who spent four years on active duty with the 101st Airborne Division before heading to the Army Reserve.

"Just today, I got a letter from my work buddies back home," Arrington said. "That means a lot."

Watson, who has worked in Kuwait for six years, recalled when the Iraq war began. He and other civilian contractors were given the option of going back to the U.S. He stayed put, and he hasn't thought about going home since.

"I have a passion for mail," Watson said. "I got that passion from my time in the military, and now that I'm on the other side, it feels good to help."

(Army Sgt. Chris Jones is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

[Web Version:]