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Mail call for U.S. sailors and families stationed on the island of Sardinia, recently reduced to twice a week, will increase Monday to five days a week.

But there’s a hitch: The mail will be late because it will be traveling by sea rather than air, officials said.

When the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land left La Maddalena two weeks ago, it took with it most of the Navy base’s population. Therefore, Navy officials saw no need to continue daily airmail deliveries, said Lt. Christian Booth, spokesman for Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Sigonella, the Navy’s logistical hub at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily.

Mail service dropped to two days a week on existing supply routes through Sigonella as an interim plan while officials worked out a new delivery contract, he said.

The final plan is to have mail flown from Rome to Catania, Sicily, and trucked to NAS Sigonella, where it will link up with existing Navy supply truck runs to Sardinia via ferries, he said.

Before the drawdown, mail was flown from Rome to the Sardinian city of Olbia in the northeast, then trucked to La Maddalena. When the Land left on Sept. 29, that frequency of service no longer was needed, base spokeswoman Lt. Rachael Gosnell said.

The tender sailed with a crew of about 850 sailors, and its departure shrunk the base’s population by about 1,600, including sailors and their families. For the roughly 215 remaining sailors and dependents, mail had been arriving on Mondays and Thursdays, Gosnell said.

She said so far her office has heard no complaints.

The mail delivery shift is another step in the Navy’s gradual end of more than three decades on the pristine island of Santo Stefano in the archipelago. The base is slated to close for good Feb. 28.

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