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380AEW Article

Al Dhafra Post Office delivers morale from abroad

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Harvey
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

Care packages and letters from loved ones and friends make their way to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, often making the day of the deployed members who receive them.

This would not be possible without the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron post office.

Postmaster Tech. Sgt. David Harris, deployed from Pacific Air Forces Postal Squadron, Yokota AB, Japan, leads his team of Airmen and volunteers to enable the base to have this vital service.

“We deliver morale, first and foremost,” he said. “Approximately 90% of the mail that we receive and send out is personal mail. The other 10% is official mail, which feeds directly into mission accomplishment for units across the base.”

As postmaster, “I work to ensure that all members of the post office are trained, quality control measures are in place, and that any hiccups in the daily operations get smoothed out so that we can provide the best customer service to our patrons,” he said.

A day at the post office may be a little busier than what it appears when an Airman arrives to mail an item off.

“We open every day at 8:00 am, and depending on the day, we already may have customers waiting,” said Harris. “They might be ready with packages in hand, want to ask for assistance tracking down a package, or just inquire as to the process for mailing a package out.”

The morning is taken up with prepping packages already received to go out and conducting unit mail calls, then the process to receive the day’s mail delivery begins.

“At this point, we unload the truck and start getting the inbound mail sorted and placed on the appropriate shelves,” said Harris. “Once the truck is fully unloaded, all of our prepped outbound mail gets loaded ... Depending on the size of the truck and the number of volunteers we have, it can take 30 minutes to an hour to get all of the inbound mail sorted and shelved. Now begins the prep for the afternoon mail call. This consists of going through and scanning all of the packages that arrived that day.”

In the midst of handling daily mail operations, changes regarding customs forms are expected to take place in the near future.

“Currently everyone is able to complete the handwritten forms until further notice … Additionally, once it is implemented the biggest challenge will be making sure the customs forms are accurate,” he said. “From the weight, to the description of the contents, errors could cause post office staff to have to reject the form and the customer will need to re-accomplish.”

In addition to those changes, the free mail program will be ending soon.

“The program is currently being evaluated by the Department of Defense and they have already decided to discontinue it at a few locations, to include here,” Harris said. “Free mail will officially be discontinued at Al Dhafra on Nov. 11, 2020. We already have a stock of stamps available for purchase here at the post office or postage can be applied directly to letters if brought to the check-out window.”

A common mistake Airmen make while trying to get items mailed to them at ADAB can be easily addressed.

“We have a little bit of redundancy built into our address requirements, so even if part of the address gets cut off we should still be able to get it to the right location,” he said. “However, the zip-code is the most important part of the address as that is what determines if it makes it to Al Dhafra. Our zip-code here is 09853, but if a customer were to put in 09854, that one digit difference means their package now gets sent to Madagascar!”

The work personnel and volunteers do has not gone unnoticed by Capt. Krea Fiscus-Ard, the 380th Sustainment Services Flight commander.

“Our Postal team is the epitome of building genuine community,” she said. “They are an unseen link that bridges the gap between deployed members and loved ones. This team goes above and beyond for their customers and have built a consistent network of volunteers that come out to support them with their mission, which is truly impressive.  I am very proud of the work they’ve accomplished here at ADAB.”

By enhancing the morale of personnel stationed at ADAB, the post office helps contribute to one of three wing priorities.

“As I said, about 90% of the mail we see is personal mail,” Harris said. “Even with all of the technological advancements that we have, so much is at the touch of our fingertips, there is just something undeniably exciting about getting a handwritten letter from your loved ones. I can’t count how many times people have come into the post office wanting to send a letter to their children. We are connecting families, and that is something that is incredibly important at deployed locations. I can’t think of a better way that we fit into the wing’s priority of caring for Airmen than that.”