AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Six months. One hundred and eighty days. Four thousand three hundred and twenty hours. There are lots of ways to count the amount of time that deployed members are away from home, family, spouses, children, parents, and pets and all of the missed birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and graduations in between.
In a world dominated by text messaging and FaceTime, it would be easy to think that traditional snail mail and handwritten letters were a thing of the past. However, Al Dhafra Air Base is home to approximately 3,000 deployed service members, receiving approximately 52,000 pounds across 8,500 packages in any given month. One could happily agree that the lost art of letter writing is alive and well for the families and friends of Al Dhafra service members.
Anyone who has ever been deployed knows that the best days are always ones that include “You’ve Got Mail”. One simple letter or carefully constructed care package is the biggest morale booster and best way to provide love and encouragement.
For U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Darnail Eden, a food service journeyman from Minot Air Force Base, the opportunity to broaden his horizons and explore the Air Force outside of food services was enough motivation to volunteer for his first deployment, offering his time and experience to a career field unfamiliar to him. An experience that he reflects on as making him “more confident knowing I am doing something that is teaching me more about what it really means to be an Airman.”
Not only is the six-person ADAB postal team responsible for the massive impact to morale on ADAB, they also support the mail for operations for various locations throughout the region.
Becca Cooper, USO expeditionary operations and programs manager for USO Southwest Asia and Horn of Africa, shared that her primary role is to support austere locations with morale boosting programs.
“The post office is key to keeping morale going because we can run our operations, but if it doesn’t get there or they don’t process it, then it is not going to reach our troops. So, they are vital to our mission,” she said.
Cooper brought in in coffee and smoothies to the ADAB postal team, a group that she has lovingly nicknamed “The Magnificent Six”, as a generous thank you for their hard work and support.
“We have had so much mail coming in!” she said. “We would not be able to do it without the kindness and work ethic of these genuine individuals who are not only doing their jobs but are also the foundation for supporting morale throughout the whole region and into Africa.”
In just one day, Staff Sgt. Darrin Hurt, custodian of postal effects, advised that they processed 7,000 pounds of mail across more than 1,500 packages. Thanks to the help of base volunteers, a feat he said would normally take six to eight hours was able to be completed in two.
Hurt shared a recent interaction with a customer who came to pick up mail and exclaimed “Man, I got two packages?! It’s like I won the lotto twice today!” Experiences like this are what Hurt says makes the six months, one hundred and eighty days or four thousand three hundred and twenty hours worth it.