Airmen provide 'customer service with a smile' one package at a time
By Senior Airman Bryan Swink, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 27, 2012
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Letters, parcels and care packages arrive on a daily basis for service members. Most packages are filled with goodies, entertainment and a piece of home that family, friends and loved ones want to share.
When these packages are received, morale is boosted, smiles are generated and the deployment becomes a little bit more enjoyable. What if the mail or packages did not arrive? Fortunately, we do not have to worry about the delivery of our packages; the tireless efforts of the postal workers here on base ensure customers receive what is sent from their families and friends.
Every day, a 16-person team manages all inbound and outbound mail at three separate locations to ensure everyone can send and receive their mail in a timely manner.
One of the main responsibilities of the window clerks is to conduct a parcel inspection on 100 percent of all packages leaving the base. Central Command policy requires all outgoing parcels to be inspected in the area of responsibility. Once the clerks complete the parcel inspection, they put a date stamp and signature on the parcel.
"We take this process very seriously," said Staff Sgt. Demetrius Palmer, 379th ECS Custodian of Postal effects. "I'm not going to put my name on any package unless I have thoroughly inspected it. There could be legal ramifications if I don't do my job correctly."
Palmer has advice to customers for speeding up the process.
"It would make it easier on the customer and the clerks if people would come to the desk with the package already open," Palmer continued. "This would allow us to search the packages quicker and cut down on customer wait time."
"We stay extremely busy shipping out roughly 200 to 300 parcels per day," said Senior Master Sgt. Yvonne Davis, 379th Expeditionary Communication Squadron chief of postal operations and Augusta, Ga. native. "We receive between 300 and 400 packages a day, but that number will triple during the holiday season."
Davis, who is originally stationed at Pacific Air Force Air Postal Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, supervises the 15 crew members here and ensures everything, including the trips to the local international airport, go smoothly.
"We send six (mail control activity) members to the local airport every evening to deliver outgoing mail and collect incoming mail," said Davis.
The MCAs are required to always have the mail within their sight. All mail, both incoming and outgoing, are ran through an X-ray machine to detect any contrabands being shipped.
"The X-ray process is mainly designed for incoming mail," said Davis. "Our clerk's attention to detail during parcel inspections has helped alleviate problems with outgoing parcels clearing customs."
Contraband is an issue with incoming mail. Between two and three prohibited items are found each day.
"Most of the contraband we find is alcohol and electronics containing lithium batteries," said Palmer, a native of Calif. and assigned to the 52nd CS Spangdahlem AB, Germany. "Customers do not realize that it doesn't matter how hard they try and conceal the items, the X-ray machine will catch it."
When alcohol is passed through the machine, the image turns red. A lithium batteries image turns green. Adult items or material are also confiscated.
If contraband is found in any incoming packages, the items are removed and a memorandum is placed in the parcel informing the customer of what item has been removed.
Once the mail passes through customs, it is brought to the 379th mail facility where it is sorted and ready for pickup. Sorting the mail can be challenging when correct information isn't on the shipping label.
"This process goes a lot smoother when the correct address is included," said Staff Sgt. Chang Kim, 379th ECS postal clerk. "We can also better accommodate customers if they get a tracking number for every package so we can locate the packages easier."
Kim, assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is in charge of sorting the packages to ensure each and every package gets to the proper destination. The goal of the post office is to maintain 100 percent accountability and deliver of all mail items.
"Right now we are at a six percent misplacement rate and working on ways to reduce this further," said Kim, a native of Baltimore, Md.
The postal process can be tedious and time consuming for customers, but the postal workers assigned to the 379th are here to serve.
"We ask that the customers be patient with us and the process - in particular, customs requirements," said Davis. "We want to ensure every package that comes through our facility is delivered correctly to the appropriate destination. We understand these packages are important for our customers."