Corps tests hybrid mail service for deployed members;

22 Aug 2003 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Family members and friends of troops deployed to Kuwait with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Maritime Prepositioning Force can, for a limited time, send free letters to their desert-clad loved ones through an Internet-based hybrid mail service called

According to Michael Saunders, assistant Single Marine Program coordinator here, British troops have been using the service for nearly three years. Because of the benefits associated with using the Web site, officials here are testing the service until Sept. 31 and will consider permanent adoption of in order to save service members and their families time and money.

"When a letter is mailed through regular mail to a deployed (member)," said Brooklyn, N.Y., native Saunders, "it could take several weeks to get to (him or her)." helps cut the delivery process from two or three weeks to a matter of days, according to the company's Web site

Major Craig E. Stephens, who helped spearhead this venture, backed the claim, "When we first started testing the service, I sent two letters to two individuals in Kuwait. They got them nearly instantly."

The Woodland, Wash., native described the process as "similar to writing a deployed (troop) an e-mail."

Those who have Internet access can register with Once logged in, a person can type a letter, which the company prints out at one of its computer systems near the recipient, addresses it and enters it into the local mail system for delivery to the deployed individual.

If the Marine Corps adopts this service, the company will provide these systems to deploying units in order to speed up delivery to the service members. Assuming the units have access to the Internet and a post office or postal representative, their troops will be able to send or receive letters via the system within days.

"When the letters are printed off, they are immediately put in envelopes and addressed so no one else can read them," said Stephens.

He also explained why the service would help keep a little more green in users' wallets.

"During the testing period, family and friends can write their (loved ones) letters for free," stated Stephens. "If it is approved by the Marine Corps, the hope is that it continues to be free. If it's not free, then it'll probably be about 20 cents per letter, no matter the length."

Shortly after the test's Sept. 30 cutoff date, representatives will decide whether or not will be implemented within the Corps' ranks.

"The British forces used it during the war in Iraq, and it was highly successful," stated Stephens. "I have no doubt in my mind that the program will be accepted. It's a great program."