TONAWANDA, N.Y. –
The red, blue, green, and yellow lights twinkled on the Christmas tree behind Sgt. Emma James as she sat quietly on the floor. While her friends were out drinking eggnog and eating holiday fudge, she was diligently working on her task—meticulously cleaning her rifle. She was not alone. The room was filled with a buzz of energy and excitement. Yet, a solemn mood persisted as approximately two dozen Soldiers of the 77th Human Resources Company, 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), prepared for their impending deployment to several locations in the Middle East.
There are hundreds of jobs in the U.S. Army, ranging from combat engineers to nurses. These Soldiers of the 77th HR Company are members of a military postal service unit, and they take their jobs as mail clerks very seriously. On the final days before the small group of Soldiers left for war, they were not filled with dread or anxiety about missing Christmas and New Year’s holidays at home. On the contrary, they were focused on their mission. After a short and intimate deployment ceremony at their unit’s headquarters in Tonawanda, NY, Dec. 14, four soldiers shared their Warrior Stories.
Each Soldier was unexpectedly optimistic about the deployment and eagerly shared the reasons behind his or her enthusiasm. “Because it gets me out of jail,” spouted Spc. Emma James. James is a corrections officer who works 16-hour shifts at Rikers Island, a complex of jails and prisons in New York City. This is the second deployment for the graduate of John J. College of Criminal Justice in New York City, who recently returned in 2018 from the Middle East. When she completes this deployment, she is looking forward to taking a vacation in Jamaica, she said.
Spc. Michael Nicot has been in the Army Reserve for nearly three years. Originally from Puerto Rico, he has lived in Buffalo for 10 years. As a graduate of Leonardo DaVinci High School and Erie Community College, this 22-year-old never imagined deploying so soon, so he rushed to finish his criminal justice degree before leaving. He said he felt prepared for this first deployment. He recently completed advanced postal service training at Fort Bragg, where he was immersed in mock mail scenarios and intense physical exercise. When he returns from deployment, he is looking forward to getting a car and spending time with his family.
Spc. Chul Lim, a native of Queens in New York, has served in the Army Reserve for approximately 10 years and recently joined the unit in June 2019. His law enforcement job with the federal government made it easy to transition into this deployment. His co-workers have helped him mentally prepare for his first time overseas by offering personal advice and helping him plan for his return to his civilian career after the nine-month deployment. He is looking forward to attending instructor school when he returns from the Middle East.
Spc. Jerome Barnes is excited about seeing new cultures, getting out of his comfort zone, and traveling the world during this deployment. A technician for Charter Communications in Rochester, NY, his civilian job involves climbing poles and completing communications installations. Spc. Barnes said he values the traditional kind of communications that his role in the Army Reserve offers Soldiers and likens it to the service he provides people with a cable television installation. “Mail keeps you going. Just a letter from your mom can raise morale and helps you get through everything smoothly.” Upon return from deployment, Spc. Barnes hopes to travel and transition to active duty military.
While their civilian backgrounds and military futures are very different, all the Soldiers in the 77th HR Company are working together on their shared mission. These Soldiers share an optimism for their roles in the Army Reserve while serving their country during this deployment.
During their deployment ceremony, the unit’s company commander and senior enlisted leaders offered the group encouraging points that highlighted their unselfish contributions to their fellow U.S. military service members. While deployed overseas, these Soldiers will help people of all branches of service stay connected to the world they temporarily left behind with reliable mail delivery of the care packages, Christmas cards, and letters from loved ones back home.