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Special delivery: Combat truckers fill mail call void

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lindsey Maurice
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Imagine living thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by drab desert and working 12-hour days anywhere from six months to a year. Sometimes a simple letter or package from a loved one can make all the difference in a deployed servicemember's day.

So when a Department of Defense contract with a transport company was abruptly halted in late December 2009 within Southwest Asia, the 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's 70th Medium Truck Detachment didn't hesitate in taking on the mission to ensure thousands of servicemembers continued to receive their mail.

"This is an important morale mission and we're proud to be a part of it," said Master Sgt. Charles Mann, 70th MTD Bravo Flight leader deployed from Hurlburt Field, Fla. "We have about 60 Airmen working this mission, moving roughly 400 tons of mail a week throughout the (area of responsibility to include Iraq)."

The "combat truckers" officially took on the mail mission Dec. 28, in the interim of a new contract being awarded, delivering mail to various bases within two Southwest Asian countries. Having just turned responsibility for the mail mission here back over to a newly contracted company Feb. 6, the truckers will continue mail deliveries to servicemembers throughout Iraq for several more weeks until that contract is also finalized.

"The Airmen are doing an extraordinary job," said Sergeant Mann. "It was a seamless effort on their part. We went from doing our regular [line-haul] mission to jumping right into this without missing a beat."

The mail mission begins when the mail arrives to the combat truckers' undisclosed location. There, it is then sorted out between three main routes. The mail is then loaded into the trucks and convoyed to various locations in the AOR. The routes can keep the Airmen on the road anywhere from two to three days at a time, depending on the location, terrain, weather and other factors.

"We work really long hours and the schedule is constantly changing, so we need to stay motivated and flexible," said Tech. Sgt. Kory Kearney, 70th MTD convoy commander deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. "It's a great mission to be a part of though and the support we get from all the different forward operating bases is outstanding."

Sergeant Mann added that while the convoy mission seems to be somewhat safer than it was about four years ago when he first deployed as a convoy commander, the Airmen are always training for the worst case scenario.

"We tell them to stay focused, not to get complacent and never to take anything for granted going out on the road on a mission," he said. "While the missions may seem routine at times, there's nothing routine about them because anything can happen at any time. We can't afford to make mistakes out there. They just need to remain focused and I think they do a good job of that."

Once the detachment completes the Iraq mail mission, it will go back to fully supporting its regular mission of hauling equipment and supplies across the AOR.

"It's nice to be a part of such a great mission - making sure our brothers and sisters in arms get packages from their loved ones - it's a major morale booster," said Staff Sgt. Chris Poole, 70th MTD alternate convoy commander deployed from Pope AFB, N.C. "But on that same note, it's going to be nice to get back to our regular convoy missions through Iraq. That's what we trained for and what I'm looking forward to."