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Improperly packaged mail, like this, can become damaged before it is delivered.
Improperly packaged mail, like this, can become damaged before it is delivered. (Photo by Cindy Fisher/S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The holiday season is fast approaching and with it, military post office deadlines for sending packages back to the States by Christmas Eve.

If you want it home by Christmas without spending a fortune and waiting in long lines, it’s better to mail sooner than later.

The faster the shipping method, the more it costs, said Gunnery Sgt. Frank Kulovitz, Camp Foster’s postal finance officer.

Express is the fastest mail class, but even a simple letter sent express costs about $16.50, said Gunnery Sgt. Regina J. Waymon, the post office’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

"So, you can imagine what a box up to 70 pounds would cost," Waymon said.

And if items fit, try the flat rate boxes, she said.

The boxes are 12-by-12 inches and 5½ inches tall. No matter the weight, it costs $12.95 to ship.

People can also save time by not having to wait in long lines, Waylon said. A post office’s busiest time is the 10 days before Christmas Eve, she said.

To minimize your wait at the post office, it’s best to visit shortly after it opens in the morning or after the lunch-hour rush, Waylon said.

Another key, she said, is being prepared before arriving. Addresses should be written legibly, in either permanent marker or non-smearing ink. And double-check each address.

"If one thing is wrong, it could delay the package’s arrival," Waylon said, adding that if shipping by express or other time-guaranteed method, the delay would be non-refundable since the delay was the fault of the sender.

Packing is important, too.

"One of the biggest misconceptions, is that we furnish packaging material." Waylon said. "We do not."

Don’t leave empty space inside boxes, Kulovitz said. The contents can be damaged by shifting during its journey, he said.

As mail is stacked together for transportation, parcels should be packaged to withstand up to 70 pounds of weight, he said.

Some items just cannot be mailed, Waylon said.

Alcohol, batteries, aerosol cans, any combustibles and controlled items are banned, she said. Pornographic material also cannot be mailed at military post offices.

She also pointed out that outgoing mail is X-rayed and incoming mail is inspected by customs agents to look for such items.

Mailing deadlines

Following are deadlines for mailing packages for stateside arrival by Christmas Eve:

From Okinawa to the U.S.:

Space Available Mail: Nov. 24

Parcel Airlift: Nov. 29

Priority: Dec. 4

First Class: Dec. 4

Express: Dec. 11

Source: Camp Foster Post Office

From Korea to the U.S.:

Space Available Mail: Dec. 1

Parcel Airlift: Dec. 1

Priority: Dec. 8

First Class: Dec. 8

Express: Dec. 19

Source: Military Postal Service in South Korea

From Japan to the U.S.:

Space Available Mail: Nov. 28

Parcel Airlift: Dec. 1

Priority: Dec. 8

First Class: Dec. 8

Express: Dec. 15

Source: Yokota Post Office, 374th Communications Squadron

The deadline for sending holiday mail to APO/FPO addresses in Iraq and Afghanistan by first class and priority mail is Dec. 4, according to the U.S. Postal Service. For deadlines to send mail from the States to military APO/FPOs, visit www.usps.com/supportingourtroops.

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