“Going Postal”

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Any soldier’ll tell you that mail from home – even in this day of cell phones and email – is a real morale-booster for troops on the front lines.

Army Major Peter Perzel pulled postal duty during his assignment in Iraq in 2008-09, before a second tour in Afghanistan in 2009-10. He shared some of what he learned in a recently-posted April interview with the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A highlight:

There was a reason why I actually deployed to be the postal commander downrange. I didn’t deploy with my unit, I joined my unit while they were downrange. The reason being, the postal leadership pretty much got relieved…The reason being was that there were many incidents of postal theft that were going on in the company downrange and some other issues, so I was asked to come in a replace this commander…

I believe there were about 12 Soldiers who were caught stealing mail. That had a huge impact on the mission and even on the morale of the customers that we serviced. People are finding out that people are stealing their mail, so mom, dad, wife, girlfriend or whoever it is, is sending you care packages or you bought a laptop.

They were even stealing from Army and Air Force Exchange Service in terms that AAFES would ship stuff and they would steal those items. They were stealing from their own guys, their own Soldiers. It was horrible…

The first sergeant and I were in the dining facility and we could overhear a table sitting next to us — they had heard about the theft ring of postal thieves. “You know, if we catch those guys we’re going to cut their arms or hands off. Those bastards at the postal company.” This is our first week on Bagram Air Field where the headquarters was for the postal company…

They were pulled out of the post office because once you do that kind of thing, you can’t be around any mail. They weren’t charged with anything yet; they didn’t have their day in court, so to speak. They had to be put in jobs where they couldn’t be around the mail and those jobs were easy in comparison to the postal mission.

The postal mission was very grueling in terms of the physical nature of it. You get up early, weird hours on a shift, you have to process so many pounds of mail and then have to stress to get all of that mail out; there are all of these things and it is physically grueling. It’s a process and these guys looked at it like, “Okay, I am going to go over here and work on this easy job,” and they pretty much had to be babysat.

At the end though, they had their day in court. I specifically remember, I would sit in with the court martial and before the Soldiers went in they were shackled. The whole time before that they weren’t shackled, living in our environment. “Oh, this is great. I am deployed.”

All of the sudden, when you saw them get shackled their whole mindset just changed and some of them even cried. It all hit at once of what was going on. All of them were discharged, I believe, from the service, dishonorably.

Ironically, I found out that a couple of them got jobs with the United States Postal Service.