MCB CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In the heart of Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, an often-forgotten group of Marines stands ready to bridge the gap between the frontlines and home, as across the base, mailrooms buzz with activity as postal clerks process and deliver packages, letters, and tokens of home. Yet, it's the personal touch that sets this group apart.
"The best part about our job is delivering mail to that single service member, especially those living in the barracks, and most importantly Marines that are forward deployed in those austere locations," Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven McGahee, postal operations officer at the Base Post Office, Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune explained. "When we’re able to deliver a package to that junior Marine who hasn't seen mom or dad or seen family members in a while, we're able to give them that taste of home. That is what makes this job worth it.”
While the postal branch of Marine Occupational Specialties (MOS) continues to be dedicated to providing critical services day-by-day, it has also come to face its own challenges with adapting to a rapidly evolving landscape within today’s military climate.
"Postal itself is scheduled to lose 60 Marines and one officer throughout the next couple Fiscal Years into Fiscal Year 30, so innovation here is very important," McGahee noted. "Technology has been only 50% of the answer. With the prospect of losing those 60 Marines, we have to use programs and innovation tools to save on manpower and funding. This ensures resources can be reallocated to other projects, enhancing innovation further."
While senior leaders have begun working to iron out processes in the background, Lance Cpl. Jenniffer Ramirez, a finance clerk with the Camp Johnson Post Office, has caught some attention.
“One thing that is very uncommon for what Lance Cpl. Ramirez did that we don’t typically see within our junior Marines is that she showed us a problem, being that she began to notice that the price for mailing our drug testing samples had doubled, tripled and quadrupled,” said McGahee. “She then presented a solution.”
With the United States Postal Service (USPS) raising prices on the original shipping boxes that postal clerks would normally pack drug test samples into, Ramirez realized that there was a solution hidden in plain sight and acted on it by simply securely taping the small packages that the individual tests came in together.
“If it’s so much work and it’s not even saving us money, then why are we doing it,” Ramirez thought to herself. “That’s when I started experimenting, because I saw my Marines putting in unnecessary work that wasn’t doing anything for us in the long run.”
Since adopting Ramirez’s new packaging process, the Base Post Office has saved over $17,000 a year, garnering her a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and inspiring other Marines in her section to find new ways to innovate as well.
“Some of the best ideas that have come to the Marine Corps are from those Marines that are on the frontlines, those Marines that are doing the manual work every day,” said McGahee. “If we foster that, we listen, see what they’re saying and give them the opportunity and empower them to make these kinds of innovative decisions, we will continue to be the best fighting force in the world.”
While postal sections from base to base continue to foster innovation, processing thousands of packages each year, they share a similarity rarely mentioned within other supporting establishment jobs who enable the success of our warfighters behind the scenes.
"I think that postal is a lot of times a forgotten MOS, from commanders to everyday Marines,” McGahee said, reflecting on a sentiment that has resonated deeply within the postal community. "It's a very common thing and people don't understand that they need postal until, like they have to have postal... I think a lot of times we're forgotten until we're needed."
Despite often being overlooked, the Postal Marines of MCB Camp Lejeune maintain a steadfast presence, devoted to serving those who serve.
"There's a lot of misconceptions that the United States Postal Service is a dying service, although I can confidently say that it is here to stay," McGahee emphasized. "We are here to serve Marines and to make sure that they have the services that they rate. Anytime that they're not getting that service, or something's inhibiting them from getting their mail services, it's as simple as just letting us know because we want to make sure that they know we can help them and help them achieve those mail services that they deserve."
Among the intricate tapestries of military operations, it's often the unsung heroes who ensure that threads of connection remain unbroken.