16 June, 2007

Walter Reed and the Mail

Sadly this bit of news shouldn't shock anyone. But the way it's being dealt with is a refreshing change from the recent past...

The Army said Friday that it has opened an investigation into the recent discovery of 4,500 letters and parcels — some dating to May 2006 — at Walter Reed that were never delivered to soldiers.

And it fired the contract employee who ran the mailroom.

Hats off to MG Schoomaker, who I'm sure is still digging his way through the problems at Walter Reed. He obviously knows the importance of mail to a soldier. And shame, shame, shame on the contract employee who let a situation like that develop.

Sadly, it's not surprising to discover another case of mail-related incompetence at Walter Reed. As has been widely reported among the milblogs, around the time the living-conditions scandal at Walter Reed erupted last February and March, "Any Wounded Soldier" mail to the hospital was being restricted and returned to sender because there was "too much of it to deliver." In a despicable bit of irony, wounded-but-mobile outpatients were tasked with writing "return to sender" on cards, letters and packages.

But it sounds like the newly-installed MG Schoomaker is on top of things, with the right priorities and a willingness to do what needs to be done. Here's how he's dealing with the 4,500-piece mail backlog:
[He] said he ordered a team of 20 to 40 soldiers and civilians to launch an around-the-clock operation to screen, survey and forward all the letters and parcels. Items addressed to soldiers still at Walter Reed were being hand-delivered Friday night, he said.

"This delay is completely and absolutely unsatisfactory," Schoomaker said.

In some ways it's a "small" thing, but it's another indicator of proper, soldier-focused priorities. Glad you're there, Sir.