U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leland Jones
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, March 30, 2007 — Nothing is more anticipated in the military than the sound of "mail's here". Mail call is a service member's lifeline, especially in such a remote area. But here in the Horn of Africa, the proverbial mailman has taken on quite a different look.
With more than 5,000 pounds of mail - filling up two flatbed trucks - twice a week, the postal center here takes on the frenzied look of the central facility of a major city. Postal specialists from all services join forces to unload, sort and deliver more than two tons of letters, packages and parts to soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen serving in dusty, remote locations such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Yemen.
Postal specialists from throughout the region resemble a choreographed routine, separating mail by organizations and location, where it is then locally distributed.
"Due to space limitations at the postal center, mail clerks must take their mail back to their unit for separation and distribution to offices and individuals," said Army Staff Sgt. Leland Jones, a postal specialist with the Joint Task Force Horn of Africa Postal Center in Djibouti.
"I am a former Marine, and am a soldier now, and there has never been a time during my military career where getting a letter from someone didn't help. I know we're in the electronic age, and e-mail helps tremendously, but every one of these letters and boxes that go to soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will literally change their day," added Jones.
More than 1,500 military and civilians from every service make up JTF Horn of Africa, and support medical, nation-building and humanitarian assistance missions such as building schools, clinics and hospitals, and providing adequate drinking water and security training to help provide long-term stability within the region.
Logistics can be a challenge with servicemembers spread out over such a large area, and getting the mail to men and women in remote locations can be just as difficult.
"Even in the tremendous heat, we work hard to make sure every piece of mail is sorted. One thing you don't mess with is a soldier's mail. The other is their money. I get great satisfaction knowing that, at the end of the day we are going to see a lot of smiling faces around here. It lets us know that our mission has been accomplished and we can sleep easy at night."