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Two from Keesler deliver precious cargo, mail
Airman Ronald Smith, left, hands Airman Hill mail bound for 455th AEW members Dec. 7. Airman Hill is deployed from the 81st TRSS at Keesler. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom)
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Two from Keesler deliver precious cargo, mail

Posted 1/5/2011   Updated 1/5/2011 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/5/2011 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," is often cited as the postman's motto.

Dust storms, indirect fire and additional duties would also be appropriate additions for the five Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron who are responsible for all official and unofficial mail destined for Airmen assigned to Bagram Airfield.

During the previous six months, the Airmen received, sorted and disseminated an average of more than 130,000 pounds of mail per month.

As the holiday season approached, the five Airmen handled more than 360,000 pounds of mail in November alone and were on track to pass that number easily in December.

Nearly every day, C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft deliver pallets of mail, parts and other items essential to the war effort and morale, according to Master Sgt. John Long, 455th ECS plans and programs flight superintendent. He's deployed from Keesler's 81st Training Support Squadron.

"This crew handles more than cookies and care packages," Sergeant Long said. "They ensure everything from vehicle parts to computer software gets to its intended destination, and they do it with outstanding attitudes."

After 455th Air Expeditionary Wing aerial porters unload each 500 pound pallet off the aircraft, the ECS team sorts through each by hand. They divide their cargo into trucks destined for either the east or west-side post offices.

"It's a physically demanding job," said Airman Ronald Smith, a member of the 455th ECS sorting crew. "Everyone expects to get their mail, but don't usually think about all it takes to get it from the sender to their hands."

Most days the crew handles almost 2,500 pounds of mail, but Senior Airman Audrey Hill, a 455th ECS member, said more than 40 pallets -- or about 2,000 pounds for each crew member to load and sort -- arrived all at once recently.

"That day was more like an intense workout than a job," said Airman Hill, who's also deployed from the 81st TRSS. "It took about five hours to break all the pallets down. It's an important job though, especially during the holidays because of the lift in morale it gives."

Volunteers from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group and other flights within the ECS are integral on those "heavy" days, according to Sergeant Long.

"They realize how big the load can get and are there to help at the drop of a hat," Sergeant Long said. "They load their trucks with their mail and ease the burden on our Airmen.

Overall, it just streamlines the process a little bit more." Staff Sgt. Oluwasegu Odusanya, 455th ECS member and noncommissioned officer in charge of the team, said his Airmen are "something special."

"This effort couldn't be done without Airmen who have pulled together as a team," Sergeant Odusanya said. "They make every day fun and are true professionals. It doesn't matter if we get five pallets or 42," he said. "They know the importance of their mission and rely on each other."

The amount of work and the way the Airmen accomplish it is even more impressive because it isn't their only duty, said 1st Lt. Tomasz Krygowski, 455th ECS plans and programs flight commander.

"After the mail is dealt with, these Airmen move on to their duties as security managers, support customer service issues and maintain Bagram's Air Force knowledge management database," Lieutenant Krygowski said. "Everybody wants a package for the holidays, and these Airmen made sure they got it."

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