History of America's Military Mail

The Field Post Office

Is About Service

Aboard a ship or in the back of a truck, military post offices abroad strive to provide the same services found at home. Facilities are often cramped, but can handle a huge amount of mail.

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A soldier sorts mail during disaster relief operations in Haiti, 2010.
U.S. Army photo by Sergeant 1st Class Dave McClain

Today, military personnel who handle mail must be authorized and trained to do so in accordance with Postal Service and Department of Defense regulations. Working in a war zone and screening for hazardous contents in parcels can be dangerous, but workers get to see the positive effect that mail has on their comrades.

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Airman checks shipment in Southwest Asia, 2005.
U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Mark Getsy

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Marines wait at mail call at Camp Rhino, Afghanistan, 2011.
U.S. Navy photo by Master Chief Photographer’s Mate Terry Cosgrove


Field Post Office in Iraq

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An interview with Specialist Sergio Tobias as he describes his responsibilities with the U.S. Army, Detachment 3, 394th Postal Company in Kirkuk, Iraq on January 10, 2006.
Video by U.S. Army 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

U.S. Army video by 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Interview: Spc. Sergio Tobias, U.S. Army, Det. 3, 394th Postal Company;  Kirkuk, Iraq;

January 10, 2006

Sergio Tobias:  Specialist Tobias, first name is Sergio, S-E-R-G-I-O, Tobias, T-OB-I-A-S.  And I’m with the 3rd Detachment behind the port AG Postal Company and I am from Orange County, California or Westminster, California.  Right now I’m the alternate registered clerk.  I handle the registered mail given out to all the mailpersons who come to pick it up, and that is the most secure mail that we have here at the post office.   Besides that, I’m operations.  I deal with everything, redirecting.  So we’re in the fore here as you see and that’s about it.

Interviewer:  Tell me a little bit about what's going on behind you.

Sergio Tobias:  Behind me right now we’re breaking down mail.  What we’re doing is all the mail that comes in from the flight, we have to break them down by unit.  We've got to make sure if there are insured, registered, certified or whatnot.  If it does, then we just go ahead and put them on this car right here and me or my NCOIC, Sgt. Mejia, will take it back to the cardboard [sounds like] room and lock it up, so we are ready to work on it, and in the meantime just bring down every box we have here.

Interviewer:  Okay.  Tell me about how you feel about this job.

Sergio Tobias:  About this job, postal.  Well, I’ll never look at my postman the same way again.  It’s a tough job.  You’ve got to learn lots of different aspects of the job, and you see how it all comes together.

Interviewer:  What’s the greatest part about this job?

Sergio Tobias:  The greatest part about this job is, I guess, when you see a package for people, you know who it’s for and you know that you can get a great satisfaction bringing that to them because you’re out here for a very long time, and it’s a great feeling when you have a package mailed to you.  So I get to see some people when they see their packages, their eyes just light up or whatnot.

Interviewer:  What do you think about all these people that come here to give help?

Sergio Tobias:  I thank them because it is a lot of work and we feel sometimes, like for us personally, it’s overwhelming, but when everyone just chips in and gets the job done everything just goes smoothly, and it’s great teamwork.  I love working with the Air Force because the Air Force often helps us out and all the units of the Army come out and help so it’s a great -- and everyone comes along for the mail because it’s our little piece from home.

Interviewer:  Is there anything that you’d like to say or add anything?

Sergio Tobias:  Yeah.  Hi to the rest of the 304th AG Company and the rest of the 806 AG company back home, and see you when you get here.

[End of file & transcript]

Specialist Sergio Tobias, Iraq, 2006

An interview with Specialist Sergio Tobias as he describes his responsibilities with the U.S. Army, Detachment 3, 394th Postal Company in Kirkuk, Iraq on January 10, 2006.
Video by U.S. Army 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

U.S. Army video by 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Interview: Spc. Sergio Tobias, U.S. Army, Det. 3, 394th Postal Company;  Kirkuk, Iraq;

January 10, 2006

Sergio Tobias:  Specialist Tobias, first name is Sergio, S-E-R-G-I-O, Tobias, T-OB-I-A-S.  And I’m with the 3rd Detachment behind the port AG Postal Company and I am from Orange County, California or Westminster, California.  Right now I’m the alternate registered clerk.  I handle the registered mail given out to all the mailpersons who come to pick it up, and that is the most secure mail that we have here at the post office.   Besides that, I’m operations.  I deal with everything, redirecting.  So we’re in the fore here as you see and that’s about it.

Interviewer:  Tell me a little bit about what's going on behind you.

Sergio Tobias:  Behind me right now we’re breaking down mail.  What we’re doing is all the mail that comes in from the flight, we have to break them down by unit.  We've got to make sure if there are insured, registered, certified or whatnot.  If it does, then we just go ahead and put them on this car right here and me or my NCOIC, Sgt. Mejia, will take it back to the cardboard [sounds like] room and lock it up, so we are ready to work on it, and in the meantime just bring down every box we have here.

Interviewer:  Okay.  Tell me about how you feel about this job.

Sergio Tobias:  About this job, postal.  Well, I’ll never look at my postman the same way again.  It’s a tough job.  You’ve got to learn lots of different aspects of the job, and you see how it all comes together.

Interviewer:  What’s the greatest part about this job?

Sergio Tobias:  The greatest part about this job is, I guess, when you see a package for people, you know who it’s for and you know that you can get a great satisfaction bringing that to them because you’re out here for a very long time, and it’s a great feeling when you have a package mailed to you.  So I get to see some people when they see their packages, their eyes just light up or whatnot.

Interviewer:  What do you think about all these people that come here to give help?

Sergio Tobias:  I thank them because it is a lot of work and we feel sometimes, like for us personally, it’s overwhelming, but when everyone just chips in and gets the job done everything just goes smoothly, and it’s great teamwork.  I love working with the Air Force because the Air Force often helps us out and all the units of the Army come out and help so it’s a great -- and everyone comes along for the mail because it’s our little piece from home.

Interviewer:  Is there anything that you’d like to say or add anything?

Sergio Tobias:  Yeah.  Hi to the rest of the 304th AG Company and the rest of the 806 AG company back home, and see you when you get here.

[End of file & transcript]


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Army Post Office tent during the Korean War.
Courtesy National Archives

At Sea

Money orders available at field or shipboard post offices were a convenient means of sending funds, and sometimes the only financial service available to transfer money securely. This unused money order was aboard the USS Kanawha when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircrafts and sank on April 7, 1943. This artifact was recovered by divers and presented to surviving crew members on the fiftieth anniversary of the attack.

“With over seven million persons in the files, there were thousands of name duplications. At one point we knew we had more than 7,500 Robert Smiths.”
—Major Charity Adams Earley, 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

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Postal money order from USS Kanawha.

Read more about the money order »


Who Can Tackle a Mountain of Mail?

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only unit of African-American women, in the still segregated U.S. Army, to serve overseas during World War II. The women found mail stacked to the ceiling of the postal facility when they arrived in England in early 1945. The battalion worked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to provide mail to military personnel in Europe, making a valuable contribution to victory.

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Members of 6888th Battalion, Women's Army Corps, work along French civilians to clear the backlog of American military mail in Europe, 1945.
Courtesy U.S. Army Women's Museum Archives