CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea— Receiving mail and packages can often be a morale booster for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District employees while serving overseas. The COVID 19 pandemic continues to change operations almost daily, however, the district consolidated mailroom has continued its mission throughout this challenging period.
As the Health Protection Condition (HPCON) continued to rise due to more confirmed cases of COVID 19, the postal operations within the district had to take a short halt and developed a plan to place new mitigation efforts into effect, in an effort to ensure the safety of mail clerks and employees receiving mail.
Edward Stayton, district postal officer, admits that when the HPCON level rose from C to C+ that it was challenging as there was no precedence to fall back on as a reference.
“Initially we were told that only mission essential personnel could come on base, which meant that neither of our primary mail clerks could be used to pick up mail,” said Stayton. “Additionally, we were unsure that the Camp Humphreys main post office was safe for our personnel to access. With this in mind we made the decision to limit trips to the post office to pick up mail and to open the mail room to distribute mail to three times a week.”
Stayton stated that in order to continue mail operations during this heightened period, mission essential personnel who were designated as alternate mail clerks continued mail distribution until he later discovered that the primary mail clerks could still conduct postal operations.
As of recent the HPCON level has been reduced to C, and the mail clerks have resumed daily pickups. Stayton stated that through this pandemic, safety of personnel has a new meaning. Previously,training centered on manmade threats, such as package bombs, threatening letters and biological contaminants like anthrax. However, now the safety plans and training include lessons learned from COVID 19.
“If we go back to C+ or even to D, we will be better prepared due to our experience this time,” said Stayton. “We now have processes in place for picking up mail and for manning the mail room that we hadn't anticipated previously.”
Stayton also stated that the mail clerks, Gaya Gamage and Samantha Schwoerer, really stepped up to the plate during the crisis. He went on to mention that they did not want to limit mail room hours and they never hesitated to pick up mail from the post office or to interact with customers.
Gamage explained the measures the mail clerks have put into place to protect themselves while dealing with mail distribution.
“We make sure to wear facemask and protective gloves when handling mail at the Mail Distribution Center and at the unit mailroom,” said Gamage. “We ask that everyone who visits the mailroom wears a facemask as well. We also ask our customers to bring their own pen to complete forms in order to avoid cross contamination.”
According to Gamage, mail is an essential service and they want to continue to provide this morale boosting service to the district.
“Because of the restrictions in place, our team members can’t go to the local stores to buy what they need as they used to,” said Gamage. “Now, they can order something online and have that available to pick up at our mailroom. It could be essential items like masks, hand sanitizer, a new device or exercise equipment, or books and supplies for kids stuck at home. Most importantly, we make sure that all letter mail we get, like a greeting card from family back in the stateside or tax refund or the economic relief assistance checks are available as soon as we pick it up. Hopefully what we do makes a difference and makes people happy.”