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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 30, 2020

Mail operations during COVID-19

By Story by Sgt. Andrew Winchell Task Force Spartan

Not rain, snow, sleet, extreme heat, or even COVID-19 can stop delivery of the mail.

“There are 58 mail rooms here on Arifjan alone,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Harris, the mail operations noncommissioned officer in charge for Task Force Spartan. “We alone are responsible for 1,300 people.”

Harris and his team start their day at 0800 and play a critical role in getting mail to the service members and civilians serving Task Force Spartan among other organizations.

“We start our day picking up the mail from the main mailroom,” said Harris. “The main mailroom sorts things out by the smaller mailrooms we have on post. Then we come and pick it up to sort it out by person.”

“When we arrive to pick up the mail, we never know how much it’ll be, could be just a few packages or over 200 packages,” said Harris. “There was a short time when COVID really starting shutting things down that we didn’t see much coming in, but that was a very short time.”

COVID-19 has affected the world and changed the operations of many businesses, so it comes as no surprise that it would affect mail getting to places too.

“COVID only slowed down mail for a short time, maybe a week or so,” said Harris. “Getting mail to service members and contractors is of the utmost importance, especially during these times when people look forward to packages from home or something they’ve ordered like a book to help pass downtime.”

Receiving mail can help boost morale not only for service members and civilians overseas but also for friends and family that get mail from loved ones abroad.

“Sorting the amount of mail we receive sometimes can become overwhelming,” said Harris. “We have had to shut down the mailroom twice since being here. We never want to make that call, but when we get over 5-6 bins full of mail, it can be very difficult to get it sorted in time for pickup that day.”  

If your mail is delayed, there can be multiple reasons, like the restrictions that come along with a pandemic.

“Mail may be delayed sometimes, but my team and I make sure that when we get things in, we process it and update the roster as quickly as possible,” said Harris. “With so many things closed down because of COVID-19, mail is one of the few morale-boosting things left.”
Harris and his team work hard every day to make sure service members and civilians get their mail.

“At the end of the day, we are here to make sure people are getting their mail with as little delay as possible,” said Harris. “For some getting a letter or package from home can turn a bad day or week around.”

The Soldiers of Task Force Spartan are currently being led by the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division.

The mission is a unique, multi-component organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units.

Through Operation Spartan Shield (OSS), Task Force Spartan maintains a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen our defense relationships and build partner capacity.