By 1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#124, October 17, 2001
In the age of satellite communications, cellular
telephones and the Internet, we could assess postal services as
outdated and useless. For the soldier abroad, that is not the
case, just the opposite.
Sarajevo - For service members far from their families,
the mail service is the only way to receive products and delicacies
from his home, things that cant be sent electronically.
Moreover, no e-mail can bring the same emotion as receiving, opening
and discovering, black on white or blue on pink, the words of
a dear one. These will not then get lost or disappear in a maze
of computer circuits. This letter, and the photo that is enclosed,
will find their place on a desk, on a bedside table or in a pocket.
maintain the link with family and friends is fundamental for the
morale of the troops. Every army supplies a dedicated mail service
to its soldiers, and the service follows them everywhere. The
services are alike, but each has its own unique characteristics.
This week the SFOR Informer, indebted to them for the distribution
of the paper, begins a series of articles intended to present
the mail services to you.
Warrant Officer 2 Pedro Pardiñas manages the mail of the
Spanish National Support Element (NSE). Cpl. Enrique Gonzalez,
Cpl. Rebeca Herrero and Pfc. Ruth Herrera assist him. They receive
and send 25 letters and 20 parcels a week and organise the whole
Spanish freight of Butmir. Gonzalez underlines that, Everybody
waits for the mail. It is very important for all.
Every Thursday, they go to Mostar for the arrival of the plane
that flies in once a week from Spain. The main Spanish sorting
office is in Mostar. It ensures the distribution of mail to units
integrated into the Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE).
There, three soldiers, commanded by Staff Sgt. Francisco Posadas,
work. They send about 250 letters and 400 parcels and receive
500 letters and 300 parcels weekly.
Cyril Meyer is Butmirs French vaguemestre (postmaster),
supported by Cpl. Aurélie Charbin. Every day they forward
about 50 letters to France and receive about a hundred, and 300
parcels leave, as 200 arrive every month. Meyer goes twice a day
to the Military Post Office (Bureau postal militaire, BPM) no.
658 of Rajlovac, which is the main sorting office for French in
Sarajevo. It handles mail for the Embassy, the French Air Force
Detachment at Sarajevo Airport (DETAIR), the French Logistic Detachment
in Rajlovac (DETSOUT), Butmir, and the International Police Task
Force (IPTF). Other units assigned in MND-SE are covered by BPM
660 of Mostar.
Warrant Officer 2 Jean-Hugues Clément and 1st Sgt. Patrick
Champenois run BPM 658. They are civilian post-office employees,
but work for and are paid by the Ministry of Defence. They receive
an assimilation rank and can make their entire career within the
military structure. Cpl. David Moulliet helps them. Six
times a week, a commercial air link (Vacation aérienne
commerciale, VAC) arrives with 1,000 letters and 100 parcels from
France and goes back with 2,300 letters and 30 parcels. They are
forwarded to the addressees in four or five days. The Military
Post also performs financial operations (withdrawals and payments
on bankbooks, mandates, or withdrawals on Post Office Girocheque),
sells stamps, and sends registered letters and telegrams. Meyer
insists: Mail influences peoples mood, they are always
in expectation. It seems to us to be Santa Claus.
The German main Military Post Office (Feldpostamt) is also in
Rajlovac. Warrant Officer 2 Helmut Pahl, Warrant Officer 2 Klaus
Fichtenkamm, Staff Sgt. Guenther Juergensen and Cpl. Jochen Himmelreich
run it. They explain: We are reservists, post-office employees
in civilian life [...] Our tour lasts six months. Here, we are
more free [in the work], we have more responsibilities, people
expect more from us.
manage the receipt and sending of 5,000 letters and 600 parcels,
in five rotations a week to Germany. Mail takes from three to
four days to arrive and five to six to be distributed in Germany.
There are two others smaller offices, in Mostar and in Filipovici,
each manned by one person, with which there are several road links
a week. Feldpostamt also conducts banking operations.
We bring certain comfort to people in the theatre, far from
their family, from their friends, from their fiancé(e)
... We are more available than in France, on the spot 24 hours
a day. We are here to help people, Clément says.
Champenois adds: It is a wonderful personal experience.
Post office employees in France do not imagine the relationship
we have with people. Here, we realise the importance of our profession.
It is with pride that we are an element in this chain.
To be continued
Nations of SFOR: Germany,