Snail Mail Boosts Morale for US Soldiers in Ukraine
Setting out hours before the sun would even warm the horizon, Soldiers of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine left their base in western Ukraine – their destination, Kyiv. Their mission: the mail.
For the more than 200 U.S. Soldiers who call the combat training center near Yavoriv, Ukraine home, there is no Army post office where loved ones can send letters and packages, said Master Sgt. Elizabeth Setser, the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s human resources noncommissioned officer in charge who also serves as the JMTG-U mail officer in charge.
However, the U.S. Embassy is providing a much needed link home.
“The embassy is in the process of setting up their diplomatic post office, and once that happens we will be able to set up an Army post office,” said Setser, a resident of Guthrie, Oklahoma. “Until then, the Embassy is letting us use their system to get our Soldiers their mail.”
Once a week, a group of Soldiers make the seven-hour, one-way trip from Yavoriv to Kyiv. While there, they work with Embassy postal workers to ensure the U.S. Soldiers’ mail is separated, accounted for and loaded for transport.
The trip takes the Soldiers two days. Once back at the combat training center, Setser and the JMTG-U postal clerks ensure all packages have arrived safely. They then sort them into predesignated areas, making distribution easier.
Sgt. Douglas Piper, a U.S. Army reservist assigned to the JMTG-U from the 406th Human Resources Company in Kaiserslautern, Germany, said there is a considerable amount of coordination that goes into picking up mail at the Embassy.
“There’s checks and balances with the Embassy,” said Piper, who has been through the Army’s postal operations course and holds the postal clerk additional skill identifier. “We work with them to verify tracking numbers and account for mail.”
Piper describes the JMTG-U mail room as a true, “in the field” mail room. Without an APO, he said, all mail is accounted for, but, he added, he and the 45th IBCT’s postal clerk, Sgt. Nicholas Buchanan, are working every day to bring mail operations up to U.S. Army and Federal standards.
“Buchanan is doing a lot to make sure we have the proper processes and paperwork,” Piper said while sorting mail. “There is accountability, but real-world processes need to be set up and he is taking charge of making sure that happens.”
When the 45th, an Oklahoma Army National Guard unit, arrived in January, they were the third rotation of U.S. Army Soldiers to take on the mantle of JMTG-U and found several areas in need of improvement. One of those areas was the mail room.
Since arriving, the brigade has reorganized the mail room, built improved shelving and trained more mail handlers.
These small improvements have smoothed the process of distributing mail, which helps bring joy to the Citizen-Soldiers tasked with professionalizing Ukraine’s army by helping develop a combat training center in western Ukraine along with mentoring Ukrainian CTC trainers.
“Even with the technology we have today, Soldiers love getting mail,” Setser said. “It’s exciting; Soldiers come to the mail room asking, ‘Did I get anything? Did I get a box? Did I get a letter?’ and their faces light up when they open their mail.”
Source: US Army (USAREUR)