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Deadlines Set For Holiday Mailings

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2003 – If you want make sure your holiday packages arrive to service members overseas on time, mail them by Nov. 13.

Otherwise, your package could very well be on the proverbial "slow boat to China," said Mark DeDomenic, chief of postal operations for the Military Postal Service Agency.

Military postal operations employees ship about 250,000 pounds of mail each day to Iraq. That number is expected to go up to about 325,000 pounds each day during the year-end holiday season, which is why DeDomenic suggests that people mail holiday packages early.

"Mailing early is the best way to ensure that mail gets through the pipeline and to its destination on time," he said.

The Military Postal Service Agency has set the following deadlines for holiday mail:

Parcel Post, Nov. 13; Space Available, Nov. 28; Parcel-Airlift Mail, Dec. 4; Priority and First-Class Letters or Cards, Dec. 11.

Those dates also should be observed when sending mail from most overseas locations to the United States as well, DeDomenic said. The Army's 1st Armored Division has a pop-up window that appears on its Web site, linking to an electronic information sheet with specific guidance for people sending mail to and from Germany.

Other tips for faster delivery include mailing smaller packages. "The smaller the package, the easier it is to handle, the quicker we can move it," DeDomenic said. "Shoe box-sized packages are perfect."

Because packages going to an APO or FPO address will require a U.S. Customs label, DeDomenic said, senders should be specific about what is inside the package. "People tend to like to put on the customs label 'Gifts,'" he said. "This is very vague and that is the type of thing that will slow mail down. We must know exactly what is in those boxes to ensure that they are mailable items."

Although some service members move from place to place, DeDomenic said customers should mail packages to the recipient's most recent known address. Although in most places mail will reach its destination in a timely manner, troops on the move often mean that mail will have to be forwarded. "The packages will catch up, but sometimes it may take a little longer," he said.

It's a good idea to place a copy of the address inside the package, just in case the address label or package gets damaged. "That way, the package can be rewrapped and sent to the correct address," he said.

To ensure packages arrive safely, DeDomenic suggested using strong, sturdy boxes with lots of wrapping. He said boxes should be packed tightly, using packing materials such as popcorn or newspapers, to keep contents from moving. He also recommended that senders use good tape, because the humidity in the desert tends to destroy tape's adhesive qualities.

"Masking tape is a definite 'no' when it comes to mailing, and (light-duty transparent tape) is terrible," he said. "Reinforced nylon tape works very well."

It's also important to remember what can't be mailed, DeDomenic said.

Hazardous materials, firearms and flammable liquids are prohibited inside packages. This includes alcoholic beverages and even some perfumes that may have a high alcohol content, he said.

Also he advises not to install batteries inside the electronic items that require them. "Things tend to get turned on (from jostling during shipping), and that causes security concerns," he said.

Because of security restrictions, mass-mailing operations such as "Operation Dear Abby" or "Any Service Member" cannot be supported by the agency this year using traditional mail, DeDomenic said.

"We ask that the American public use electronic Web sites or send greeting cards via e-mail" as alternatives, he said.

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