BY BRIAN J. DAVIS OFFICE OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
NAVSUP FLC PUGET SOUND
A mail center supervisor at NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Puget Sound provided annual mail security training to the crew of Military Sealift Command (MSC) cargo ship USNS Brittin (T-AKR 305) at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard December 9.
Bracing himself against the cold Pacific Northwest autumn wind and rain, John Wakefield carefully made his way through the busy industrial area along the waterfront to the pier where Brittin was moored. He was paying the ship's crew his yearly visit to conduct training under a voluntary program the NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound postal department initiated to make sure civilian mariners in the area are up-to-speed regarding the security of their mail system, and that they know how to identify and deal with suspicious packages.
"We were contacted about five years ago by the master of one of the USNS ships to see if we had any up-to-date information regarding suspicious mail," said Wakefield. "We offered to give them our most current guidance and told them we were even willing to conduct training and answer questions to the best of our abilities. The ship accepted our offer, and ever since we have been doing this training annually for ships on the waterfront."
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USNS Brittin (T-AKR 305)
While many units have self-sufficient postal operations, some do not, and by necessity, are operated by designated crew members as a collateral duty. The NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound Consolidated Mail Facility (CMF) provides training and technical assistance to help them become more proficient. The training package that Wakefield and the CMF staff use is the Mail Center Security and Suspicious Mail Training, originally developed and provided to them by the U.S. Postal Inspections Service within the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The CMF passes this training on to the civilian mariners that have assumed mail handling responsibilities for their ships, to give them more in-depth knowledge of postal rules and regulations, and how to ensure mail security to keep their vessels and crews safe.
The presentation, attended by Brittin's entire crew, included signs and indicators for identifying suspicious packages and protocol for handling prohibited, restricted, and illegal items, and common postal scams. "Of course this training makes the inspectors happy during internal security audits, but the information is also good for the entire crew to know," said Robert Adolfi, Brittin's officer in charge.
NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound CMF supports homeported and visiting vessels in the Bremerton area. Along with training for shipboard postal operations, the facility's staff provides general mail delivery and accepts outgoing official mail for dispatch through USPS or a private mail carrier. According to Wakefield, the CMF offers mail services and technical support to any MSC or active U.S. Navy vessel in the area upon request.
The CMF also helps the ships prepare for deployments and ensures mail delivery, essential to the quality of life for crews at sea. "Some of the MSC ships get underway on an infrequent basis, so we help them navigate the process for arranging to have their mail forwarded during overseas deployments," said Wakefield. According to CMF officials, the services they provide to ships in the region not only provide support to make life more convenient for crews, but also ensure that mail carrying parts, official correspondence, and of course, vital communications with loved ones, continues to flow smoothly.