Pa. Reserve soldiers keep packages, letters flowing to troops

By RACHEL WEAVER | The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/MCT | Published: December 21, 2012

Several native Pittsburgh soldiers are ensuring that none of their peers go without holiday tidings.

Army Reserve members of the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and 444th Human Resources Company from Coraopolis helped set up an Army post office two months before Christmas for soldiers with the 2nd Field Artillery Battalion, 18th FA Regiment deployed in southwest Asia.

Because of operational security, the Army cannot disclose the country or base where the soldiers are located.

“During this time of year, we like to try to work longer hours to make more pickups and deliveries,” said Sgt. Antione Council, 37, a Perrysville native who works at the post office.

“We also tend to be more flexible by being available to open up for some of the soldiers that may be out on missions late and not able to come to the military post office during normal operating hours.”

The team has delivered more than 24,500 pounds worth of mail since Thanksgiving.

Mail from home can take up to two weeks to reach soldiers. During an average week, the haul at a military post office is about 40 percent packages and 60 percent letters. That percentage shifts during the holidays, Army officials say.

Council called mail day “a really big event.” He said although most soldiers use Skype or Yahoo! to communicate with loved ones, mail and packages can mean even more.

“There is nothing like a letter or care package from our loved ones in the mail,” Council said. “It has more of personal touch to it. Email just takes a few buttons on your computer, but a letter or care package involves more thought.”

Hygiene items, snacks and stationery material are staples of care packages, Council said.

Spc. Leslie Royster, 39, of the Hill District said everyone notices when mail arrives.

“It becomes the talk of the camp, and it is not uncommon for soldiers to approach you in passing and ask if there is mail today or when the next mail pickup is scheduled,” she said.

The soldiers assist with removing mail from trucks, separating it by unit and logging the names so the office can track who receives mail and how much. Then Council and Royster establish mail call times for each unit so designated clerks can distribute the mail.

Royster said her mother prefers to write letters.

“What makes this special is that it is personal and someone took the time to sit down and write a traditional letter,” she said. “It‘s also something that you can use as a source of motivation and inspiration, and it also lets soldiers know that someone is thinking about them while they are away.”

Sgt. 1st Class Adam Stone, 34, of Forth Worth, a military spokesman, called packages “little reminders of home.”

Mail has the biggest impact on soldiers‘ morale, he said.

“When my name is on the mail list, I know my wife was thinking about me and loves me,” Stone said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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