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KUWAIT CITY — The military is getting 98 percent of letters and packages from home to troops in Iraq and Kuwait and is working on ways to improve on that success rate, the man in charge said Monday.

“If there is one soldier not getting his mail, that’s something we have to work on,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Sean Byrne, who oversees mail delivery to troops involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ten days ago, Byrne said, the military opened a second mail sorting facility in Bahrain, from which the mail is moved via truck to the troops.

The main Joint Mail Terminal remains in Kuwait City, which has seen mail flow jump from 250,000 pounds a day last month to about 450,000 pounds of mail a day now, with a peak at one point of 600,000 pounds a day, Byrne said.

Both deployed troops and their family members have complained about slow and inefficient mail delivery to reporters and in Stars and Stripes’ letters to the editor.

When mail delivery to troops is slow, Byrne said, it is often because a servicemember has been reassigned from his home unit to a forward-deployed unit, and the mail has problems catching up to that person.

Mail service is best to those troops who have remained with their home unit.

On April 11, mail that had been held for several weeks for forward-moving troops was dispatched to camps in Iraq. There are now several central mail facilities in Iraq — primarily at Camp Dogwood and Camp Elm near Baghdad — where letters and parcels are being distributed.

“The system is working pretty good,” said Byrne.

He said 14 trucks carrying more than 100 tons of mail left Kuwait on Monday for points in Iraq and should reach those camps in about two days.

The military took steps to avoid the problems that plagued mail delivery during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when packages and letters were not even flown from the United States to the Middle East.

Still, unforeseen circumstances have caused difficulties in mail flow this time. For example, Byrne said, packages make up 90 percent to 95 percent of the mail.

“Most people are sending letters, but they’re sticking them in a care package,” he said. “The volume has exploded.”

And although the U.S. military won’t deliver the letters and packages addressed to “any soldier,” Byrne said groups that still want to get those parcels to unknown soldiers have bypassed the system. He said groups such as church organizations or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts get the names of individuals and start campaigns of directed support to those troops, he said.

Mail delivery is also being helped by the recent arrival in Kuwait of several military postal units, Byrne said. They are experts at getting letters and packages to troops.

Initially, Byrne relied on some postal specialists, but most of his staff has been regular soldiers or Marines assigned to the Joint Mail Terminal.

Byrne is also expanding his fleet of trucks.

Byrne said the delivery of mail is an important mission that must be accomplished. Any failure is unacceptable.

“If one person doesn’t get their mail,” he said, “I want to find out and fix it.”


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