FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq -- For the vast majority of Marines and sailors in the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), e-mail and internet access is a rare luxury few can enjoy, especially as the unit begins conducting combat operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.
Therefore, it is still the hand-written letter, often dog-eared and stained by constant reading and rereading, that links deployed Marines and sailors to their lives outside a combat zone. Unfortunately, the time it takes for mail to travel from the United States to Iraq often means that the information in letters, notes, and cards is a bit dated by the time it reaches its addressee.
To combat this problem and provide a much-appreciated morale boost for deployed Marines and sailors, MotoMail, short for ‘Motivational Mail,’ was introduced.
“MotoMail provides a direct link to the service member,” said Sgt. Timothy J. Bell, postal chief for MEU Service Support Group 22, the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s combat service support element. “The idea originated from the postal operations at Headquarters Marine Corps, and is still in the developmental stage.”
Although hosted on a commercial web domain, MotoMail is a Marine Corps-sponsored, internet-based letter writing system that often puts letters and notes of encouragement in the hands of Marines and sailors within 24 hours.
“The turn-around [for MotoMail delivery] is usually 24 hours,” said Bell, a Chicago native. “There have been incidents where the timing was such that a mother wrote a letter in the morning and the Marine in Iraq had it in hand that afternoon.”
The system itself is relatively straightforward. A letter writer simply registers online at http://www.motomail.us and follows the instructions provided. Information required on the letter writer’s part includes only the recipient’s name and unit address (all units participating in the program are available in a drop-down menu). After entering this information and their return address, they simply fill out the letter portion and click ‘send.’ The letter is then sent to the MotoMail server and automatically forwarded to the designated postal unit.
It is here that Bell and his Marines, Cpl. Juan J. Magdaleno II, of Salinas, Calif., and Lance Cpl. Agustin Zapata, of Dodge City, Kan., go to work. Equipped with a laptop computer and a printer, the Marines download the MotoMails sent to 22nd MEU (SOC) Marines and sailors and distribute them at the next mail call.
As for privacy, the printed letters are automatically run through a machine that folds the letters and seals them with a perforated tab similar in format to telegrams and personal identification number (PIN) notification letters. This same machine prints the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses on the outside of the folder letter.
In addition to the timeliness of the letter delivery, First Lt. Lindsey C. Seaborn, the MSSG-22 adjutant, says the MotoMail system has several other distinct advantages over other forms of ‘instant’ communication.
“Not all deployed Marines have access to e-mail,” said Seaborn, a Seattle, Wash. native, “and with MotoMail, there’s no computer necessary, and no waiting in lines or paying at internet cafes.
“Also, the families don’t have to worry about paper, envelopes, or postage.”
The completely free system allows individual registered users to send up to five, one-page letters a day provided they have internet access.
While the system is currently ‘one-way’ and doesn’t provide the deployed Marines and sailors the same rapid communication back home, it does enable them to keep abreast of what’s going on in their loved ones’ lives and have a letter in hand they can read over and over again.
In addition to MSSG-22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The MEU is currently deployed in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.