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“It will provide state-of-the-art postal services to the customers of Guantanamo Bay,” said Otilio Santos, director of postal operations for Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center (NAVSUP FLC) Jacksonville’s 17 sites, including Guantanamo Bay.
“The main benefit is that postal services will be provided in a facility that allows the utilization of technology -- a modern facility that allows for 24/7 customer service,” Santos said.
A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 23. The new mail site was built by renovating a base warehouse.
For customers, the new post office will offer a new lobby and service counters and the ability to receive electronic alerts about waiting mail. Soon, officials expect to add “smart” lockers that allow contactless mail pickup around the clock.
For postal workers, the site provides upgraded technology – including a conveyer belt and mail “dumper” -- that should make unloading and sorting the mail faster and less labor-intensive.
Mail service is vital to this unique island community, where military transport a few times a week is the only means of travel to the United States.
“Mail is sort of the lifeblood of the base,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Edge, Guantanamo Bay site director for FLC Jacksonville, which is responsible for the base’s postal operations and other logistics needs.
“Unlike any other forward base, there is no out-in-town option. If you want something, and they don’t have it at the Navy Exchange, you go on Amazon or Target.com or wherever,” Edge said.
Base postal workers handle about 1.4 million pounds of mail per year. At the holidays, volume is so high that volunteers from across the base – including dependent family members – pitch in to help sort packages.
“We have definitely run out of space,” Edge added. “People are bumping into each other.”
At 8,000 square feet, the new post office is about three times larger than the prior site. It’s also closer to the center of base and farther away from the tidal basin, which was a threat during storm surges. The prior building would occasionally flood during heavy rains, and in 2014 the roof partially collapsed thanks to subterranean termites. Also, the electrical system was operating at the top of its capacity, which meant no new equipment could be added without possibly blowing the power.
Funding for construction came from Commander, Naval Installations Command, and Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Project completion was delayed a year when the contract was modified to add fiber optic cable required to connect the post office to base servers.
The converted horse stable was always meant as a temporary solution for the base’s post office, officials said. Finding a good location was the largest obstacle in the long effort to provide a new one, Santos said. For example, the new site had to provide room for large vehicles to enter, maneuver and unload.
“The biggest challenge was location, a location that met the requirements of a modern-day postal facility that incorporated technology, transportation and customer service,” Santos said.
He credited a long list of Navy civilian and active-duty workers at Guantanamo for keeping the effort going -- despite employee rotation off the island over the years -- by meeting monthly, and even weekly, with Navy public works officials until the project was approved.
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