WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - When it comes to sending mail, most people immediately think of the U.S. Postal Service. That’s who we see every day when those little trucks place bills and personal mail in your home’s mailbox.
However, when it comes to mail on base, who takes care of that?
There may not be any little mail trucks, or personnel dressed in blue uniforms with a mail satchel on their side, but Wright-Patterson AFB’s Official Mail Center, which falls under the 88th Force Support Squadron, has just as important a mission.
“Our main mission is to support the 88th Air Base Wing and its various partners around the installation by taking care of their organizations’ official mail,” said Melvin Graham, the Official Mail Center manager. “Official mail is considered anything that comes from your organization and is being sent out for official reasons to include classified correspondence.”
Each morning, the Official Mail Center receives the daily base mail from the Postal Service, and mail clerks get to work sorting it into each organization’s mail slot or bin. From there, the clerks move the collection into a larger bin for one of their routes, and that larger bin is finally pushed onto a truck and taken for delivery throughout the base.
“In fiscal year 2020, the Official Mail Center processed over 95,000 pieces of official mail, which weighed more than 491,000 pounds,” Graham said.
At full capacity, the mail center has approximately 130 delivery stops each week. However, when COVID-19 hit, that number dropped to 30 due to increased telework. Today, it’s back up to around 90 stops weekly.
Except for a couple of offices on base, most organizations get pickup and delivery service twice a week, according to Graham.
Graham said the Official Mail Center often has people stopping into its location on Cooper Street in Area A to try and send out personal mail. However, the base facility can’t accept any personal mail coming from a specific individual, such as bills or personal correspondence.
“Those wanting to send personal mail should use one of the blue boxes located around the installation or visit one of the three USPS offices on base,” he said.
Another common mistake is people putting personal mail in the outbox of their organization’s official mail-drop location, thinking it will be picked up and sent out for them.
“Our mail clerks are trained to look for personal mail when they deliver and pick up from offices around the base,” Graham said. “If they see anything that resembles personal mail, they will leave it behind and an email will be sent to the organization’s mail handlers with an explanation as to why it was left behind. … If it is indeed official mail, the error on the mail’s markings can be corrected.”
However, Graham said there is an exception to the office’s rule regarding official mail only.
“The only time the Official Mail Center will touch personal mail is if it’s going to an Airman living in the dorms,” he said. “If a package or piece of mail comes in for a dorm resident, we will take that mail over to the Postal Service Center, which will then sort it and ensure the letter or package gets to the proper resident.”
Who can send mail and how
Graham said only individuals designated by an organization’s leadership can drop off official mail at the base center. They must also complete annual training by April 15 and be listed on the unit’s AF Form 4332 (Accountable Communications Receipt Authorization) before they will be allowed to mail items out.
By regulation, when an office sends official correspondence, it must be sent via Postal Service First-Class mail if it weighs 13 ounces or less. FedEx or UPS are options for anything over that, with special discounted rates available to the base.
“Something that would cost an organization $30 to send in the community may only cost us $5 or $6 due to the rates we’ve been given,” Graham said.
However, for an organization to send mail via FedEx or UPS, it must have a Miscellaneous Obligation Reimbursement Document, or MORD, already established with the 88th Comptroller Squadron and funds loaded on it for the postage cost to be taken out.
For more information about official mail, call the mail center at 937-257-7208.
The Postal Service has offices located on Area B inside Bldg. 16 and Area A inside Wright-Patterson Medical Center, as well as the Kittyhawk area next to the Consolidated Hobby Complex.