Mail troubles keep Persian Gulf troops, loved ones from staying connected
March 9, 2003
CAMP UDAIRI, Kuwait — The old saying about mail being delivered through rain, sleet and dark of night is conspicuous for the absence of another obstacle: war.
As more than 200,000 U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf ready themselves for a possible invasion of Iraq, movement of forces and operational concerns are conspiring to keep most mail from reaching its destination.
In an austere environment such as Kuwait, getting a care package from home is a sure-fire morale boost for soldiers. But most troops and families say nothing is getting through.
“We all know when war is declared, mail will be stopped … we understand this,” said Melissa Loskota, whose father, Lt. Col. John Loskota, was deployed to Kuwait with the 19th Corps Materiel Management Center.
“My father and his troops haven’t received any mail since they arrived in late January,” she said. “What we want is our loved ones to have something to remind them of home and their families while they are protecting us so far away.”
Military officials say deliveries should be stepped up for units such as the 19th CMMC and others at Camp New York. According to postal units in Kuwait, decentralizing how the mail is processed will lead to speedier delivery across the theater.
Previously, all mail was brought to Camp Doha for sorting. Then, representatives from each of the desert camps would send a convoy to pick up the mail. Once a week, “rodeos” would be set up at the smaller, outlying camps so soldiers and Marines could buy stamps and send off packages.
But as mail volume topped 1,600 bags a day, officials decided to try and open postal units at other camps. The only places that had enough space were Camp Udairi and Camp New York.
“We had mountainsful, higher than this tent, sticking up before we’d get it unloaded,” said Spc. Jesus Durand, 22, of Newark, N.J., chief postal clerk for the 129th Postal Company from Fort Bragg, N.C.
At larger bases such as Camp Arifjan and Camp Virginia, MPS mail has been fairly regular.
“I send Colin and our guys about 10 boxes total a week. So far he has gotten all of them within a couple of days,” said Noel Coogan, whose husband, Sgt. Colin Coogan, is deployed to Kuwait with the 17th Signal Battalion from Kitzingen, Germany.
Noel Coogan also has adopted many of the single soldiers in the unit, sending care packages of essentials and small treats.
“I think it is the difference between a good day and a bad one. Colin tells me, ‘my guys look forward to and appreciate everything,’” she said. “I think it is the best way for them to feel connected to and appreciated by the ones they love.”
But at outlying camps – such as those occupied for weeks by Marine Corps units – mail is a relatively unheard-of luxury. Marines say they are not receiving mail from home; family members say mail is not making it out of the camps.
“The forward troops are not receiving care packages, very few letters, little food and little sleep,” said Stephanie Hildy, whose son is deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.
“One of the boys in a forward troop was given a cell phone by a reporter and he called his family to let them know he was OK. He had never heard of morale calls and had not received any care packages.”
More important than the care packages, Hildy said, was the fact that the mail is carrying important messages that might not be delivered.
“I could never forgive myself for not trying if I never get the chance to say ‘I love you,’ one last time,” she said.