Sgt. Michael Selvage
10th Sustainment Brigade Journalist
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Have you ever met or known people who can lift the spirits of those around them every day? A Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Special Troops Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, has the privilege of doing just that.
Spc. Mason Schlabs, HHC mail clerk, arrives at work at 7:30 a.m. to jump-start his daily tasks, giving him an opportunity to encourage Soldiers across the Muleskinner Brigade to smile each day.
One of the first things he does is collect outgoing mail in the brigade’s letter drop box, which is a designated location where Muleskinners can place outgoing letters and packages weighing less than 13 ounces. He takes the outgoing mail to the Bagram Main Post Office shortly thereafter.
The main post office, run by the 376th Human Resources Company, 10th STB, is where he receives all of the unit’s incoming mail.
“I like to go pick up mail early so I don’t have to wait in line so long,” said Schlabs.
He said he normally receives two crates of mail a day, which can weigh anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds.
“The bulk of the mail received are care packages from friends and Family Members,” said Schlabs.
After he loads mail into the truck, he heads back to the mail room where it is downloaded and sorted.
Schlabs said it’s the letters that take the longest to sort.
Soldiers see Schlabs downloading the incoming mail, and they are more than willing to help. Some may help in hopes of seeing a box or letter addressed to them.
“Every day I’m around, I help Schlabs download that day’s mail,” said Sgt. Nick Bozzi, battalion retention NCO assigned to HHC, 10th STB. “At times, he can get a ton of mail. The faster he can get the mail in, the faster he can get the list out and the faster Soldiers can get their mail.”
Schlabs constructs a list of the names of the Muleskinners who have mail for pickup. The updated list is sent out via email and posted around the brigade building for all to see.
The total process from start to finish takes approximately four hours, depending on the amount of mail received.
Schlabs said he was selected by his senior leaders to become the unit mail clerk shortly after arriving in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Before being deployed, he worked in the brigade personnel shop, where he ensured reports were completed on time and assisted in processing awards.
Schlabs said it’s different from working in the personnel shop where some people may need something completed immediately and may get upset if it is something that requires time to complete. With the mail room, people get their mail, and they are happy.
“We felt as though he was ready to take on additional responsibility,” said Staff Sgt. Frank Chaney, a brigade human resources NCO. “And once he was informed of his duties, he took charge.”
Chaney said he can see that Schlabs takes a lot of pride in what he is doing.
Schlabs spends the afternoon passing out mail to the members of the Muleskinner Brigade.
“The most exciting part of my job is making people smile,” he said. “And I get to see my own mail first, and that’s always a plus.”
He said being the unit mail clerk is a very rewarding duty position.
“I like to make people happy, and they are happiest when they are getting their mail,” Schlabs said. “It’s a pretty easy job, but I get to make people smile, and that’s really the bottom line. I’ve had people say ‘This literally makes my day’ when they get pictures of their Family and letters and care packages from back home.”
Most Soldiers would say that getting something in the mail is one of the highlights while deployed.
“Mail is definitely one of the things I look forward to each day,” said Bozzi. “It’s definitely a morale booster. It’s always a good feeling when you get something in the mail, regardless of who it’s from.”
The Army says in Field Manual 6-22, Army Leadership, that mail is one of the Soldiers’ basic human needs.
“This is my first deployment, and when I get my mail, it makes me feel good,” Schlabs said. “It’s different from getting mail back in the rear. It still builds your morale, but over here, it is a whole other ballgame.
“It’s a bigger deal here.”