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Military Postal Service: Keeping morale high one letter at a time

A pile of boxes sit and wait to be sorted in the post office at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

A pile of boxes sit and wait to be sorted in the post office at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Senior Airman Meygan Freeney, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, processes some packages at the post office here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Senior Airman Meygan Freeney, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, processes some packages at the post office here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Senior Airman Meygan Freeney and Staff Sgt. Douglas Reedy, both postal clerks with the 51st Communications Squadron, work together to process and sort some packages here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Senior Airman Meygan Freeney and Staff Sgt. Douglas Reedy, both postal clerks with the 51st Communications Squadron, work together to process and sort some packages here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Douglas Reedy, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, sorts and stacks packages ensuring proper placement to facilitate the pick-up process. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Douglas Reedy, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, sorts and stacks packages ensuring proper placement to facilitate the pick-up process. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

“No mail, no morale” is their slogan and during this time of year mail is more important than ever. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

“No mail, no morale” is their slogan and during this time of year mail is more important than ever. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pompey and Senior Airman Charles Patton, both postal clerks with the 51st Communications Squadron, process some incoming packages Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pompey and Senior Airman Charles Patton, both postal clerks with the 51st Communications Squadron, process some incoming packages Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Bonner, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, processes and sorts some packages here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Bonner, a postal clerk with the 51st Communications Squadron, processes and sorts some packages here Dec. 6, 2011. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into “pitching” mail. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Packages that are being held, which are nearing expiration are stacked on top of the interior of the post office. Everyone here should know that the Osan post office has very limited space and it is important for people to pick up their packages as soon as possible. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Packages that are being held, which are nearing expiration are stacked on top of the interior of the post office. Everyone here should know that the Osan post office has very limited space and it is important for people to pick up their packages as soon as possible. The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Two piranhas that were confiscated in the mail now swim in a fish tank at the post office. Everyone should know there are many items that cannot be sent through the mail to include: weapons, live animals, plants, explosives, perishable foods and alcohol. For any questions regarding restricted items call the post office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

Two piranhas that were confiscated in the mail now swim in a fish tank at the post office. Everyone should know there are many items that cannot be sent through the mail to include: weapons, live animals, plants, explosives, perishable foods and alcohol. For any questions regarding restricted items call the post office. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- "No mail, no morale" is their slogan and during this time of year mail is more important than ever.

The Military Postal Service Agency here processes about 3,000 pieces of mail a day during the holiday season, and there is a lot that goes into "pitching" mail.

Jim Groff, Osan's postmaster, said sorting mail is one of the few jobs in the Air Force that hasn't changed over the years.

"It's a tedious job and very labor intensive -- everything about sorting mail is still done by hand," he said. "The only real change that we have seen in the last 20 years is with tracking...you can basically see exactly where a package is in the air with today's system."

Being able to follow a package from one point to another is great, but when it comes to getting mail the customers still have to pick it up.

Groff said one of the post office's biggest issues is customers not picking up their packages on time.

"A stateside post office has a policy to only hold packages for 15 days," he said. "After that they will return the package to the sender."

Packages may sit in the post office here for weeks before someone picks it up, Groff said. "I understand the tempo and the mission, but everyone needs to know we can't hold onto this mail forever."

Due to the increase of holiday packages and limited space the post office runs out of room quickly, and it's Tech. Sgt. Zekin Taguba's job to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Taguba is the NCO in charge of Osan's Postal Service Center. He ensures all the mail sorting and delivery goes right the first time.

"Basically, my job is making sure every package that arrives on Osan Air Base has been delivered to the right person in a timely manner," he said.

Taguba said customer service is always the staff's top priority, but a customer can't pick up mail if the person isn't here either.

Another issue Groff has seen here are people not filling out the proper forms when they go on leave or temporary duty.

"Everyone needs to know if they are going to depart the base for an extended period, either for leave or a TDY, they should fill out a DD Form 2258 to put a hold on their mail," he said. "That way if they receive a package we know to hold onto it. We do the best we can to reach someone before we return any mail, but we can't do anything if we don't know if the person is here or not."

He said filling out the form takes about five minutes to complete. The only information the form requires is name, address and departure date and return date.

Along with personal mail the post office also deals with the base's official mail.

"It's a lot of mail to process if you think about it," he said. "We process mail for two different zip codes on base -- official and personal mail."

There are a lot of rules and guidelines when it comes to official and personal mail and people should know they can't put just anything in a box and mail it, Groff said.

"There are a lot of people who try to mail unauthorized items," he said. "One of the strangest things we have seen someone try to mail here were two piranhas."

He said the staff could hardly believe what they were seeing on the X-ray machines until they opened the box.

Some other restricted items include: weapons, explosives, perishable foods, alcohol, plants, batteries, aerosol cans and live animals.

There isn't anything fishy about Osan's mailroom because these Airmen and volunteers are doing their best to make sure everyone gets their packages as quickly and safely as possible this holiday season.