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Marines and soldiers train inside a field-expedient post office aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., during a training exercise to prepare for postal service in austere environments, Sept. 11, 2012. Fourteen Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group joined with soldiers from the 82nd Sustainment Brigade to practice processing mail without the aid of modern technologies.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

Training prepares Marines, soldiers to process mail in isolated areas

13 Sep 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

A Marine stood in front of the base’s main post office and directed visitors toward the small, inconspicuous tent off to the side.

The field-expedient post office served as the new place of work for 14 postal Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group and three soldiers with the 82nd Sustainment Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C., as they took rotating shifts manning the facility during a training operation here, from Sept. 10 to 14.

Their task was deceptively simple: handle mail the old fashioned way.

It isn’t much to look at. It doesn’t have the technological amenities or the quantity of personnel found in the large base facility, but the consolidated field post office represents one of the only ways to take care of service members’ postal needs in isolated areas.

“We’re trying to give them the training needed to succeed in servicing personnel in Afghanistan,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Heltebran, a postal officer with the regiment. “They are going from having everything they need at their disposal into an environment where they don’t have those resources. Most of the time, they don’t even have electricity.”

This training will help the Marines perform missions as part of a Warrior Express Service Team, which provides amenities such as postal service to troops in remote forward operating bases. The traveling postal teams normally operate in groups of 3 or 4 and must have the ability to function independently. Experience is key to their self sufficiency, added Heltebran.

The WEST model and training held at Camp Lejeune drew the attention of the Army, which sent three soldiers to join the Marines at the field post office in order to expand their current postal capabilities.

“We value the Marines as being the subject matter experts,” said Army 1st Lt. Ephriam Bethel, the operations officer for the human resources operations branch of the brigade. “We are always going to go out there and search for something better. Because this is something [they] do regularly, it has been great for us. My soldiers are very excited.”

Bethel hopes to take the lessons learned here back to Fort Bragg, where he and his soldiers are working to build upon their own operations.

Performing postal operations without the aid of modern technology poses distinct challenges, but the small connection postal Marines provide to the outside world can be a vital link for Marines in the field. The humble tent sitting outside the main Camp Lejeune post office is the first step in ensuring troops receive postal service in forward deployed locations.
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