Sailors go the ‘Extra Mile’ to give iconic vessel the final mail call …
Sailors and United States Civil Service (USCS) employees stationed at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka conducted postal operations aboard USNS Observation Island (T-AGM-23) Jan. 8 at North Dock Yokohama, within Japan’s Tokyo Bay.
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LSSN Javier Esparzait (right), NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Postal Clerk, conducts auxiliary postal operations in support of the civilian mariner crew aboard USNS Observation Island adjacent to Yokohama North Dock Jan. 8. The ship is slated to decommission April 1, 2014.
NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka provides around-the-clock postal services to a wide variety of supported commands, ensuring the timely delivery of mail within the region. However, the mail they carried off of Observation Island is likely to be the last leaving the storied vessel. After more than 60 years of service, the ship will decommission Apr. 1, according to Naval Administrative (NAVADMIN) message 175/13.
Observation Island operates worldwide, monitoring compliance with strategic arms treaties and supporting U.S. military weapons test programs. Observation Island carries an Air Force ship-borne phased-array radar system for collecting data on missile tests. The ship is operated by Military Sealift Command for the U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
“The history of this ship and her crews over the years is simply astounding,” said Capt. Marty Fields, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Commanding Officer. “This is the ship that was critical during the successful operations in connection with the first Poseidon Fleet Ballistic Missile ever successfully deployed from a vessel at sea in 1969, earning the ship and crew the Meritorious Unit Commendation.”
“We take care of ships and their crews, that’s what we are in the business of doing, whether its mail, fuel, provisions or anything else that is needed, we are forward deployed alongside these Sailors and mariners to support them,” Capt. Fields explained. “I’m proud of our postal team, who once they received the request jumped into action and created an auxiliary post office afloat, from the deckplate up.”
The need was for postal services to be provided aboard the ship so that the mariners had the opportunity to mail their personal items out prior to the ship being decommissioned, said Otilio Santos, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Regional Postal Manager.
“I felt really excited being picked by my chain of command on this important assignment to give postal support to the crew of the USNS Observation Island,” said LSSN Javier Esparzait, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Postal Clerk. “It also gave me a strong feeling of pride.”
LSSN Esparzait said that the one thing he liked most about his job was giving his customers 110 percent, the best service possible.
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USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23) operates worldwide, monitoring compliance with strategic arms treaties and supporting U.S. military weapons test programs. Observation Island carries an Air Force ship-borne phased-array radar system for collecting data on missile tests. The ship is operated by Military Sealift Command for the U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Navy photo)
“The customers are intrusting me to make sure their mail gets to the right location in good condition,” he said. “That makes me feel very good inside.”
Morale is vital to shipboard life. The words "Mail Call" brings anxiety to everyone as all Sailors hope to receive a letter or package from a family member, Santos said, adding “The feeling is totally different than receiving an email.”
“The service that your department provided us was outstanding, and will be remembered by the entire ship's company,” said John Kern, Purser for USNS Observation Island. “From the entire crew, we thank you.”
At the end of a cold afternoon on Tokyo Bay, the mariners aboard the iconic ship received first class service, which was fitting for a vessel that has served her country well, and although its days of plying the western Pacific will come to a close, the mission continues and the men and women of NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka stand ready to deliver superior support to her relief.
Story and Photos by Sky Laron; NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Director of Corporate Communications