MARINE BARRACKS, WASHINGTON -- Operations at the Brentwood mail processing center here in Washington was recently suspended due to the nationwide threat of Anthrax contamination, and the flow of mail into the Marine Corps Institute (MCI) was shut off.
However, Marines who might be relying on the extra points that completed MCI courses can bring them (for promotion) can overcome the mailing delays.
"Our mail room tested 'clean' for Anthrax, so we can operate normally," said Robert Cornell, MCI assistant postal chief. "But we are dependent on the U.S. Postal Service (to receive mail). We normally receive around 1,500 to 2,000 pieces of commercial mail a day, but now we aren't receiving any."
All mail that is sent to MCI is considered "official mail." Mail that would normally be handled at the Brentwood facility is now being sent to Capital Heights, Md., and from there to the hub-and-spoke processing center. From there it is shipped to Ohio for decontamination.
After the precautionary cleaning it will be returned to the Capital Heights facility and then redirected to the Calvert (Md.) sorting facility. The "official mail" will then be trucked back to Washington, separated in large tents that have been set up outside a local Postal Service facility. When all this is complete the mail will finally make its way back to MCI.
"When (Brentwood) was shut down, we had about two-days worth of outgoing mail locked inside the building that we couldn't get to," said Capt. Spencer L. Padgett, MCI logistics officer. "So far, the other mail hasn't made it back from the facility in Ohio yet, so we aren't exactly sure when we will be getting mail here again."
The biggest problem has been incoming mail, but sending out mail was also a challenge. Every effort has been made by MCI to ensure that courses are getting to every Marine who requests them.
"We've tried to maintain a positive flow on our outgoing mail," said Cornell. "At first we were shipping out our own mail, but now the (Postal Service) is picking it up again.
"We actually have the second largest mail room in the Marine Corps, so those Marines operating in there are used to the large workloads," said Gunnery Sgt. Teresa L. Hoffman, MCI operation chief. "They will figure out a way to get the job done."
For the time being, MCI is shipping out all mail first-class, instead of at the normal fourth-class rate. This will cost more, but it will ensure that the mail will be treated with more urgency.
Operating by strict, time-consuming guidelines for health precautions, MCI's focus turns to the Marines out in the fleet who are trying to get their courses turned in and graded.
"If they are in a bind and they need to get an MCI turned in, they should send it by certified mail or an express service," said Padgett. "And if a unit wanted to, they could bunch up 20 or 30 courses and send them all together."
For Marines who are stationed within the national capital region, the best bet to make sure their course get to MCI is to bring it in themselves.
"They can walk right up to the second-floor of Lejeune Hall (Building 220) on the Washington Navy Yard and hand deliver their MCI if they want," said Padgett. "Then they know it will get graded on time."
As long as the threat of contamination keeps the U.S. Postal Service on alert, the frustration of not receiving mail as quickly as before will exist. However, MCI Marines will "adapt and overcome" to find alternative ways to support Marines around the globe.
The latest news concerning MCI can be found on the Internet (www.mci.usmc.mil), or by phoning MCI Student Services at 800-MCI-USMC, or (DSN) 325-7438.