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Tech. Sgt. Will Smith, Rhein-Main Air Base postmaster, sorts incoming packages at the Rhein-Main Post Office on Friday.

Tech. Sgt. Will Smith, Rhein-Main Air Base postmaster, sorts incoming packages at the Rhein-Main Post Office on Friday. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

Tech. Sgt. Will Smith, Rhein-Main Air Base postmaster, sorts incoming packages at the Rhein-Main Post Office on Friday.

Tech. Sgt. Will Smith, Rhein-Main Air Base postmaster, sorts incoming packages at the Rhein-Main Post Office on Friday. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

Tech. Sgt. Will Smith loads packages onto a truck at the Rhein-Main Post Office.

Tech. Sgt. Will Smith loads packages onto a truck at the Rhein-Main Post Office. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

“Mail call!” “Mail call!” “Mail call!”

The Christmas holiday period is the busiest time of year for military postal officials across Europe. Earlier this week, the last deadline passed for those stationed in Europe to send their packages and letters back to the States in time for Christmas.

Now, military and civilian postal workers are handling the stuff coming the other way — as well as a good amount that’s still going out.

“Incoming is what’s killing us right now,” said Matt Stanley, station manager at the 510th Postal Company’s office in Vicenza, Italy. “The outgoing is dead.”

Stanley said the change has been dramatic this week. On Monday, it took 12 carts to handle the mail going out from Vicenza. On Friday, it took less than four.

At the same time, the amount of mail coming in is pretty heavy. It took four trucks to receive the mail on Tuesday. Stanley said it would take three on Friday.

Mail for those stationed in northern Italy comes in through Marco Polo Airport in Venice. For those in Germany, the mail comes in through Frankfurt International Airport. In England, mail is flown into London’s Heathrow Airport, then sorted at RAF Alconbury.

Master Sgt. Thomas Finkle, the postmaster for the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, said the current mail load is between 400 and 500 bags a day, about twice the normal load. Each bag can contain several boxes or many letters.

He said the base is still seeing a decent amount of mail going out, even though most people realize it won’t get to its destination in time for Christmas.

The good news for procrastinators?

“We’ve noticed, and a lot of customers have told us, that the mail is moving pretty fast,” he said.

Many post offices around Europe are staying open longer and opening on days they’re normally closed. The post office in Vicenza will be open on Saturday to hand out mail. At Mildenhall, the post office will be open Saturday and Sunday.

“We really bend over backwards to make sure people have time to pick up their mail,” Finkle said.

“We’re busy,” Stanley said. “And people should come and pick up their mail.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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