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Mail to Troops in Iraq to Speed Up

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Updated June 05, 2003

Most of us take instantaneous mail (email) for granted. Even when we're forced to use "snail mail," we expect our letters to reach their recipients in two or three days. However, while many deployed troops now have access to email, those deployed to forward locations, such as Iraq, often do not. Similarly, it certainly takes longer than "3 or 4 days" for "snail mail" to reach these locations. The Military Postal Service Agency has received a number of complaints about the speed of mail deliveries to and from Iraq. Military members and family members have claimed that mail to and from Iraq can sometimes take up to one month. The officials are aware of the problems and expect changes to ease some stumbling blocks.

Here's how the system has worked in the past: A servicemember, stationed somewhere in Iraq, writes a letter and mails it from his unit military postal facility (which are generally soldiers assigned to the extra duty as "unit mail clerks.")

Traveling through Iraq is still dangerous, so unit mail clerks generally wait until they have enough outgoing mail to fill a truck before risking the overland journey to Baghdad. Then, because there was no military postal facility at Baghdad, mail was sent as military cargo, via military airlift, to Kuwait.

At Kuwait, military postal members sorted the mail, and then placed it on a commercial flight to JFK.

From JFK, the United States Postal Service takes over, and delivers the mail to U.S. addresses, just as they do for any other mail. From JFK to the destination, the mail takes three or four days to reach the recipient (for U.S. addresses).

Mail to Iraq worked just the opposite. When one would mail a from the states to Iraq, it would go, via the United States Postal Service to JFK. From there, it was turned over to the Military Postal Service Agency, and flown to Kuwait, via commercial air.

At Kuwait, the mail was sorted by military postal members, and then sent as military cargo to Baghdad. Unit mail clerks (making trips from the unit to Baghdad to deliver outgoing mail), would pick up mail for their unit, and transport it back. The mail is then distributed to the troops in the unit.

The main problem, according to agency officials, was that there was no mail facility in Iraq. "Now there is one at the Baghdad International Airport and we expect that will improve service," said an official with the agency. Opening the facility in Baghdad will speed the process and eliminate the Kuwaiti step.

The military mail official said mail clerks are working around the clock to eliminate the mail backlog. "We're moving between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds of mail each day," he said. He estimated the backlog at about 300,000 pounds of mail.

Additionally, as travel in Iraq becomes safer, unit mail clerks will begin making more frequent trips to Baghdad to deliver and pick up unit mail. This will speed up deliver time for troops stationed outside of Baghdad.

Military postal officials refute the rumor in Iraq that says the U.S. Postal Service is holding the mail at JFK airport Mail leaving the region takes 16 hours to get to New York. From there, it takes about three or four days to reach the recipients.

Above Information Derived from Official DOD News Release

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