By Sgt. Andrew Winchell
Not rain, snow, sleet, extreme heat or even COVID-19 can stop the mail.
"There are 58 mailrooms here on [Camp] Arifjan alone," Army Staff Sgt. Robert Harris, the mail operations noncommissioned officer in charge for Task Force Spartan, said. "We alone are responsible for 1,300 people."
Harris and his team start their day at 8 a.m. and play a critical role in getting the mail to service members and civilians who serve Task Force Spartan, among other organizations.
"We start our day picking up the mail from the main mailroom," Harris said. "The main mailroom sorts things out by the smaller mailrooms we have on post. Then we come and pick it up to sort it out by person."
"When we arrive to pick up the mail, we never know how much there will be — could be just a few packages or over 200 packages," he continued. "There was a short time when COVID really started shutting things down, and we didn't see much coming in, but that was a very short time."
COVID-19 has affected the world and changed the way many businesses operate, so it comes as no surprise that it would affect mail delivery also.
"COVID only slowed down mail for a short time, maybe a week or so," Harris said. "Getting mail to service members and contractors is of the utmost importance, especially during these times when people look forward to packages from home or something they've ordered like a book to help pass downtime."
Receiving mail can help boost morale not only for service members and civilians overseas, but also for friends and family members who get mail from loved ones abroad.
"Sorting the amount of mail we receive sometimes can become overwhelming," Harris said. "We have had to shut down the mailroom twice since being here. We never want to make that call, but when we get over five or six bins full of mail, it can be very difficult to get it sorted in time for pickup that day."
There can be many reasons for mail to be delayed, especially due to the restrictions during a worldwide pandemic.
"Mail may be delayed sometimes, but my team and I make sure that when we get things in, we process it and update the roster as quickly as possible," Harris said. "With so many things closed down because of COVID-19, mail is one of the few morale-boosting things left."
Harris and his team work hard every day to make sure service members and civilians get their mail.
"At the end of the day, we are here to make sure people are getting their mail with as little delay as possible," Harris said. "For some getting a letter or package from home can turn a bad day or week around."
The soldiers of Task Force Spartan are being led by the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division. The mission is a unique, multi-component organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by Army Reserve support units.
Through Operation Spartan Shield, Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen defense relationships and build partner capacity.
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