NAPLES, Italy — Petty Officer 2nd Class Spencer Clubb thought he was saving about $150 by buying a paper airline ticket instead of going the electronic route.

Then the ticket got lost in the mail.

He ended up having to drive from Naples to Rome, spending about $100 in tolls and gas, then spending another $100 to have the ticket reprinted. His former wife’s trip to the States had to be postponed for a day in the middle of the mess.

“It was an immeasurable amount of stress,” he said of the fiasco. The ticket eventually showed up — four months late “and all crumpled-like in a ball.”

Clubb’s is just one example of the mail woes experienced by sailors and others living in Naples.

Improvements will start this week at the Naples Fleet Mail Center to try to deliver mail with minimal loss due to rifling, weather or damage, said Cmdr. Tony Barger, regional supply officer for Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Sigonella-Naples.

U.S. mail in and out of Naval Support Activity Naples will be mailed in secure containers, sealed with a serialized tag. The containers protect the mail from weather and handling damage, while the tag improves accountability, he said.

Military mail destined for Europe goes through the Defense Department Joint Military Postal Activity at JFK International Airport in New York, and the Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

“These containers will be checked for integrity and their seal numbers will be validated upon receipt at the Rome airport and then again at Naples,” he said. “These containerized units will allow for [Navy postal personnel] to pinpoint where a rifling incident occurs, should the containers be opened in transit.

“Many manufacturers ship their products directly to consumers in easy-to-recognize boxes. Many popular high-value items such as laptop computers and MP3 players are targets of opportunity for thieves, due to their visibility, and can be separated from mail shipments while in staging areas between flights at the airports,” he said. “These sealed containers will add an extra layer of security to ensure that mail is not visible, while also providing protection from the elements.”

So the goodies “Aunt Sarah wrapped in the cardboard box that doesn’t hold up well in the rain” now will arrive in containers — some metal, some canvas, he said.

Mail to and from Naples will be trucked instead of flown in and out of Rome, he said.

“Actually, in some instances, I think it will be faster,” Barger said, since the airline, Alitalia, had weight restrictions on mail it could load into cargo. Too much mail, and it sat at the Rome airport — a term they call “frustrated mail.”

“The trucks offer all the capacity we need,” Barger said. “They will be able to handle anything we’ve got coming.”

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