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Combat truckers fill mail call void in Southwest Asia

by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Maurice
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/16/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- The 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's 70th Medium Truck Detachment Airmen took on the mission to ensure thousands of servicemembers received their mail Dec. 28, when a Department of Defense contract with a transport company was abruptly halted within Southwest Asia.

"This is an important morale mission and we're proud to be a part of it," said Master Sgt. Charles Mann, the 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)," he said.

In the interim of a new contract being awarded, Airmen from the 586th ELRS delivered 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 "combat 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," Sergeant Mann said. "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 at an air base in Southwest Asia. 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, the 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."

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, Sergeant Mann said.

"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," said Staff Sgt. Chris Poole, 70th MTD alternate convoy commander deployed from Pope AFB, N.C. "It's a major morale booster. 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."

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