Bagram communications Airmen deliver the goods
Airman Ronald Smith hands Senior Airman Audrey Hill, both of the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, mail bound for 455th Air Expeditionary Wing members Dec. 7, 2010 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. During the month of November, 455th ECS members handled more than 360,000 pounds of mail and expect to eclipse that figure in December. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom)
by Tech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/9/2010 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," is often cited as the postman's motto.
Dust storms, indirect fire and additional duties would also be appropriate additions for the five Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron who are responsible for all official and unofficial mail destined for Airmen assigned to Bagram Airfield.
During the previous six months, the Airmen received, sorted and disseminated an average of more than 130 thousand pounds of mail per month.
With the holiday season approaching however, the five Airmen handled more than 360 thousand pounds of mail in November alone and are on track to pass that number easily for the month of December.
Nearly every day, according to Master Sgt. John Long, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron plans and programs flight superintendent, C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft deliver pallets of mail, parts and other items essential to the war effort and morale.
"This crew handles more than cookies and care packages," Sergeant Long said. "They ensure everything from vehicle parts to computer software gets to its intended destination, and they do it with outstanding attitudes."
After 455th Air Expeditionary Wing aerial porters unload each 500 pound pallet off the aircraft, the ECS team sorts through each by hand. They divide their cargo into trucks destined for either the east or west-side post offices.
"It's a physically demanding job," said Airman Ronald Smith, a member of the 455th ECS sorting crew. "Everyone expects to get their mail, but don't usually think about all it takes to get it from the sender to their hands."
Most days the crew handles almost 2,500 pounds of mail, but Senior Airman Audrey Hill, a 455th ECS member, said more than 40 pallets - or about 2,000 pounds for each crew member to load and sort - arrived all at once recently.
"That day was more like an intense workout than a job," Airman Hill said. "It took about five hours to break all the pallets down. It's an important job though, especially during the holidays because of the lift in morale it gives."
Volunteers from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group and other flights within the ECS are integral on those "heavy" days, according to Sergeant Long.
"They realize how big the load can get and are there to help at the drop of a hat," Sergeant Long said. "They load their trucks with their mail and ease the burden on our Airmen. Overall, it just streamlines the process a little bit more."
Staff Sgt. Oluwasegu Odusanya, 455th ECS member and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team, said his Airmen are "something special."
"This effort couldn't be done without Airmen who have pulled together as a team," Sergeant Odusanya said. "They make every day fun and are true professionals. It doesn't matter if we get five pallets or 42," he said. "They know the importance of their mission and rely on each other."
The amount of work and the way the Airmen accomplish it is even more impressive because it isn't their only duty, 1st Lt. Tomasz Krygowski, the 455th ECS plans and programs flight commander said.
"After the mail is dealt with, these Airmen move on to their duties as security managers, support customer service issues and maintain Bagram's Air Force Knowledge Management database," Lieutenant Krygowski said.
"Everybody wants a package for the holidays," the lieutenant said, "and these Airmen will make sure they get it."