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A Theater-Wide Impact
By Maj. Michael Bobinis, 50PSB
TAG at Operation Jump Start

The 50th Personnel Services Battalion (PSB) returned from Afghanistan in early March from a challenging but extremely successful 14-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VII.

The Battalion deployed to Afghanistan at the end of
February 2006. After nineteen hours of flight time and a week’s worth of waiting for flights, the 50th arrived at Bagram Airfield, the biggest base in Afghanistan. The PSB linked up with its seven-Soldier advance party and started relief in place opera- tions. Soldiers were immediately deployed throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area in order to provide human resource and postal support to the Warfighters and area support elements.

Afghanistan is an extremely mountainous land-locked
country located between Iran and Pakistan. The road system is limited and driving to many locations in the country is impractical. Helicopters and planes were the 50th’s primary means of transportation throughout the country although we conducted several dozen combat logistics patrols between Bagram Airfield and Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

The 50th’s mission was to provide human resources and postal support to the Combined Joint Task Force 76 in the Afghanistan Combined Joint Operating Area. It was decided early on to totally revamp human resources and postal service operations. The Battalion was solely responsible for the delivery of inbound and outbound United States Postal Service in Afghanistan. The 50th operated five-Army Post Offices (APO) and several more mini APOs. We designed the operation to push services as far as operationally possible. Postal finance clerks were permanently assigned to 11 major FOBs. Air assets were leveraged to the point where we placed mail in sling-loaded vehicles to maximize the available space on aircraft.

The changes implemented in the way postal operations were conducted were massive and had an immediate theater-wide impact. Upon our arrival, mail delivery schedules were haphazard at best and congressional complaints involving mail were a common occurrence. Higher headquarters tasked the 50th to fix the system. Rotary wing routes were adjusted to hit every FOB at least once a week and 2,000 pounds of mail were allocated per aircraft. Sorting procedures were stream¬lined to eliminate the double-handling of mail. A Mail Move¬ment Team (MMT) was established with the sole purpose of maximizing the use of space on aircraft and ground vehicles. Team members were tireless and our success in postal operations was a direct result of their actions. The MMT was responsible for coordinating with the movement control battal¬ion and Air Force and coordinating and synchronizing all mail deliveries to the FOBs. An extensive customer service plan was also developed and implemented. Commanders at remote sites were constantly kept in the loop on the status of mail destined to go to their FOB. Commanders were imme¬diately notified of delays and were told when the next delivery attempt would be made.

With all the great planning the Battalion was still at the mercy of the unpredictable weather. Since most mail was delivered by air, a few days of bad weather could cause tremendous backlogs. Despite all the challenges we faced, 13 million pounds of mail was delivered during our tour. In short, the 50th totally re-wrote postal doctrine.

While postal operations was the 50th’s primary focus, the Battalion provided several other critical services to include personnel strength accounting, casualty reporting, personnel records management, promotions, personnel evaluations, personnel information systems management, ID cards, pass¬ports, and R5 (Reception, Replacement, Return-to-Duty, R&R, and Redeployment) support. Although non-postal operations were not as visible, they were just as important and our Soldiers ensured all customers received first-class support.

On March 1, 2007, our operations in Afghanistan came full circle with the Transfer of Authority to the 147th PSB from the Minnesota National Guard. We coordinated with our replace¬ments for months prior to their arrival and ensured they were well-positioned to succeed.

Training, support from the home front, two-way communi¬cation, and teamwork were the key factors in our successful deployment and return. All Soldiers returned safely without any serious injuries. I am incredibly proud of the men and women that I served with during our tour in Afghanistan. They are all great Americans.

Table of Contents
Volume 33 Number 2 Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs