By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dakota Rayburn
SOUTH CHINA SEA – Every day underway, Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hope for an announcement over the 1MC telling them their mail has been delivered.
Mail is one way Sailors can stay connected with home and get anything they need underway. The postal clerks from supply department’s S-1P division facilitate that need.
According to Logistics Specialist Seaman Devan Rodriguez, from Quanah, Texas, the mail must change hands many times before reaching Stennis.
First, all military mail is screened in Chicago. If Stennis is underway, a mail routing instruction is used to fly the mail aboard or a fast combat support ship delivers it during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS).
Foreign civilian post offices not associated with the U.S. military often handle the mail while Stennis is away from homeport.
“We use kilograms instead of pounds because the mail is going to go to a lot of different foreign places,” said Rodriguez. “The ports that we’ll be in, for instance … won’t actually use a military postal service.”
Once the mail gets to Stennis, Rodriguez said processing it out to the crew can be difficult. Sailors sometimes order items online such as exercise equipment and their families often send care packages. This usually leads to heavy mailbags that can be physically demanding to move and process, but the postal clerks don’t lack for helping hands. The rest of supply and Sailors from other departments pitch in during working parties.
“It comes together in an all hands effort,” said Rodriguez. “We usually do pretty well getting about 80 people from all over the ship to come help us with that. It’s a really good morale booster; we’ve even had the XO and CMC in there a couple of times humping one or two bags before they pass by.”
According to Chief Logistics Specialist Marquest Tillery, S-1P’s leading chief petty officer, from Knoxville, Tenn., the postal clerks in Stennis’ main post office will handle approximately 175 customer transactions per week. A recent RAS included approximately 2,000 pounds of outgoing mail and 25,000 pounds of incoming mail. Tillery expects that to be the average for the rest of deployment.
“We’ve got three guys who work down here and that’s it,” said Tillery. “These guys work hard, and they don’t complain. They keep their heads down and keep going.”
To an outsider looking in, having a small division may seem like a disadvantage due to the amount of mail they need to process. According to Rodriguez, a smaller shop does have its advantages. The postal clerks have developed good unit cohesion and have gotten to know each other quite well.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie, it’s kind of like a little family down here,” said Rodriguez. “It’s like home.”
Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.