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Florida man's mail service speeds letters to troops

FLAGLER BEACH — As legions of warriors have before her, Marine Cpl. Brigitte Ratzlaff relied on word from home to lift her spirits when she was fighting in Afghanistan.

The trouble was, letters were slow to arrive and long lines made Internet e-mail frustrating. Phone calls were hard to come by. came to the rescue.

Ratzlaff was able to get letters and photos from home, often within 24 hours, through the system developed several years ago by Flagler Beach retiree Christopher J. Schultheiss.

The service brings a touch of home to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and is being expanded to the U.S. Army this month.

"I really came to love the MotoMail," Ratzlaff said in a recent phone interview from Camp Lejeune, N.C. "Written letters are really nice, but they take so long to get over. The MotoMail is just a day ago, with pictures. Most of them I saved and could take them out and reread them and look at the pictures."

The Army is launching a similar service — — in Afghanistan. The pilot program is under contract with Schultheiss' company, SuperLetter.Com.

The service allows letter writers to send encoded e-mail to servers at strategic bases. Uniquely designed equipment prints, folds and seals decoded information for total privacy. Military postal workers then deliver the documents to most locations within a day, although some remote locations might take an extra day or two.

A version of Schultheiss' service, called e-bluey, is used by the British military in numerous locations.

Schultheiss is hot on the heels of Navy officials, hoping to get them aboard.

The 63-year-old, a lifelong entrepreneur, developed the e-mail-delivery idea after selling a satellite TV magazine he co-founded for "multimillions" of dollars in the early 1990s.

After his company sold, Schultheiss took off for the Caribbean. Getting mail from his family and friends in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom became a problem and was the catalyst for his idea.

Just before Christmas in 1999, Schultheiss connected with the British Forces Post Office and launched the "e-bluey" operation in the Persian Gulf. The Marines began using MotoMail in Iraq. By the end of 2004, more than half-a-million deliveries were logged. MotoMail service in Afghanistan was added. Marine Chief Warrant Officer Deborah Staub said the $300,000 budgeted for MotoMail pays for more than mail service. "It buys that intangible morale for service members, that contact from home you can't put a dollar amount on," Staub said.

Schultheiss said his intensity isn't all about business. "I don't do this to get rich. This isn't going to be a Microsoft," he said. "And I say this in all sincerity, I have never done anything that has been so personally rewarding."

Florida man's mail service speeds letters to troops 12/12/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:30pm]
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