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Mail flowing to the ice

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Shane Cuomo
  • Air Force Print News
 With winter flights to Antarctica beginning less then a week ago Detachment 4, Pacific Air Forces Air Postal Squadron has been busy with Operation Deep Freeze 2007-08.

For more then five months they have collected 14,000 pounds of in-coming mail for personnel who have wintered over and who are heading down to the frozen continent.

With winter fly-in flights ending the isolation mail is flowing again. Loaded into tri-wall containers the mail is palletized eight containers at a time and loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III for a five hour flight to its destination on the ice.

We have three pallets ready to go right now and by the end of the season we will have one more," said Master Sgt. Al Coe, Det. 4 postmaster. "We have 14,000 pounds with only 100 people on the ice; but the C-17 is taking a lot of people down there so we have their mail too," he said.

Collecting a sorting mail is not the only mission for Det. 4. The postmaster has to make two trips a year to inspect and audit the postal operations on Antarctica. Spending about a week on Antarctica the postmaster will travel to McMurdo and the South Pole to make sure the operations are running smoothly.

"We make sure they have the right forms and right procedure in place to process the mail," said Sergeant Coe. "We make sure things are well," he said.

Service members know mail is a great moral booster. Like any military member deployed throughout the world expecting mail, Antarctica personnel are no different.

"They are excited to get their mail. They live off the mail," said Sergeant Coe.

"We catch a little flack because mail doesn't always go down on the first flight," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Hartley in-coming postmaster. "It's like being in a deployed location and waiting for mail; they have been waiting all winter for it," he said.

Det. 4 is a unique one Airman, two civilian post office. The air mail terminal is not a Department of Defense operation but a National Science Foundation one. In a given year the post office can handle up to 240,000 pounds of mail for Operation Deep Freeze.

"Basically the NSF borrows me. They reimburse the DoD for all the weights of the mail coming in and going out from Antarctica," said Sergeant Coe.