U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY --
Being deployed is no easy task. Not only do service members encounter new trials in unfamiliar territories on a daily basis, but they also deal with homesickness. Even the most seasoned Marines and Sailors miss home at some point during any deployment, and the members of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are no different. In recent years, technology has given service members the ability to contact their loved ones through e-mail, but nothing beats letters from home. Despite being far from home, the 26th MEU mail team ensures each and every package reaches its final destination.
With almost 2,500 26th MEU Marines and Sailors across the ARG, one can imagine the logistical challenge it might be trying to get everyone’s mail to them in a timely fashion. Parcels from home are sent to ports near the Bataan’s current location or are sent to areas the ship will be headed to in the near future. According to Staff Sgt. Jerusa Argueta, the postal chief assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 26, mail is transported to the ship in one of two ways. Packages can either be retrieved in port, or they can be sent to the ship through a replenishment-at-sea (RAS). Both ways sound simple enough, but both ways offer their own challenges.
“The United States Postal Service and Joint Military Postal Agency communicates to ensure that wherever we are, the mail gets shipped to the closest fleet mail center,” explained Argueta. “Once we are close to a fleet mail center, the mail gets placed on a RAS ship, or we receive it pier side when we port.”
If it is determined the mail must be picked up during a port visit, mail is forwarded to where the Bataan plans on porting. Once the mail arrives at the port through ground or air transportation, Marines and Sailors are flown from the Bataan to the port ahead of time in order to begin sorting the mail and taking the appropriate measures needed to ensure each package reaches its final destination. If it is decided mail will be delivered during a RAS, the mail is then loaded onto the appropriate RAS ship. The RAS ship will then meet the Bataan wherever it might be, and packages are cross-decked utilizing a U.S. Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk. While both methods of transfer are extremely different, both end in the mail clerks and mail orderlies sorting the mail for their respective work sections.
Cpl. Roland Royce, an administrative clerk assigned to the 26th MEU said, “We sort the mail by service first. Once the mail is split up between blue and green side, we then sort the packages by each major subordinate element (MSE). After the mail has been sorted by MSE, we signal the mail orderlies assigned to each MSE to sort the mail by section to ensure that it gets distributed in the timeliest manner possible.”
It is important to note not all mail is personal mail. Often times, packages contain vital pieces of equipment needed to repair or maintain the ship or aircraft aboard the ship. Some of the packages are not even packages. Equipment may also be sent in massive crates or containers, which are too large to be shipped using the traditional methods. If equipment or parts fit into this category, members of the helicopter support team are called upon to coordinate the crate being lifted using a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion to the location it is needed.
No matter what sort of mail is sent, the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU mail team know how to handle it. They give their best effort each and every day knowing they will be met with excitement and joy once the packages, equipment and letters reach their recipients.