By Cmdr. Shane Dietrich, Site Director, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics
Center Jacksonville, Guantanamo Bay
At U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB), mail call is a celebrated event for all hands.
Established in 1903, NSGB is the oldest overseas military installation and the only one located in a communist country.
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Various military and civilian staff sort incoming mail in support of all base residents at the Mail Post Office. –photo by MC1 John Philip Wagner, Jr.
Approximately 400 air miles from Miami, Florida, this isolated base has no neighbors to borrow from, relying solely on shipments from the U.S. for sustainment. A cornerstone of joint U.S. military and governmental operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations, NSGB’s serves as a strategic logistics base for the Navy’s Atlantic fleet, allied, and partner navies, supporting counternarcotic operations in the Caribbean, providing contingency logistics, and supporting migrant operations. NSGB’s unique location also optimizes U.S. response to catastrophic regional events such as earthquakes and hurricanes. The Fleet Post Office (FPO) on Guantanamo Bay plays a vital part of the naval station’s mission.
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Sailors sort mail during a replenishment-at-sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). –photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Molina
During WWII an old horse stable was converted into a post office to serve the U.S. 4th Fleet ships stationed on NSGB. Although this location was intended to be temporary, the FPO still operates there today. The old wooden structure has been feasted upon by the local termites, and has required multiple repairs to keep it operational over the past 73 years.
Today, it provides a full range of mail services supporting 64 tenant commands, various major units, and agencies to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps Security Force Company, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast (NAVFACSE), Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District, Office of Military Commissions (OMC), and U.S. Naval Hospital, which covers approximately 6,000 military and civilian personnel and their family members. The FPO’s close relationship with these tenant commands is the key to ensuring their staff and families receive their mail as expeditiously as possible.
Mail call is extremely popular at NSGB. It is the link back to families and friends, providing an opportunity to receive care packages, and obtain items that are not available on base. If Sailors need car parts to work on their vehicle, they order them for mail delivery. If families want that special cooking product for their kitchen, online ordering and mail delivery is their key to satisfaction. And yes, even in the world of electronic messaging, our military families still send and receive gifts to their families using the military postal service.
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Logistics Specialist Third Class Christopher Springer places incoming mail on designated shelves ensuring packages are ready for “Mail Call”.
The FPO is managed by a staff of 14 military and civilian members. The FPO operates Monday through Friday, processing two cargo flights per week of prograde and retrograde mail. In Fiscal Year 2017, they processed 851,440 pounds of incoming mail, and 371, 232 pounds of outgoing mail. Thanks to the great relationships developed with the Defense Logistics Agency and Air Mobility Command, they are able to ensure the delivery of incoming and outgoing mail through hurricanes, holiday high volume periods, and hot humid summers where temperatures reach triple digits. Maintaining control of such a large amount of mail is an enormous task for such a small staff, which in addition to operating the main post office, functions as the postal advisor for the Joint Task Force, Camp America post office on behalf of U.S. Army South. Through all the challenges faced, the NSGB’s post office team continuously performs their duties with excellent customer service.
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Darrell Evans, Jr., Material Handler for NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville NSGB Site scans incoming mail prior to Mail Call.
Recently the FPO did receive a remodel, featuring new lobby counters that are more customer friendly and ergonomic for front desk operations. NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville is currently working with Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast (NAVFACSE) on a new 6,000 square foot postal facility, to be located in the downtown area of the installation. Additionally, with the help of the Military Postal Service Agency, the NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville team was able to secure funding and procurement for over 3,200 post boxes, and have a project in place to install them before June 2018. This will ensure compliance with USPS address management requirements.
While smooth operation of mail services is important, the post office also runs several programs throughout the year to keep spirits high for their community. One such example is “Operation Santa’s Mailbag,” a program that encourages children to write and drop off letters to Santa in a special holiday wrapped mailbox located in the NEX. Children’s letters are addressed to Santa Claus, 1 Santa Claus Lane, North Pole, Alaska. Each child receives a personal response from Santa and a gift in the mail.
The FPO at NSGB remains busy processing mail on and off the island year round. They provide a value added, morale boosting service that gives residents the closeness of friends and family at their fingertips. It is hard to describe the joy residents feel when they hear those two words repeated over the intercom: “Mail Call! Mail Call!”