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Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie, right, a postal clerk at the Misawa Air Base, Japan, post office, stamps and rings up mail for Tech. Sgt. Jason Peters on Thursday.
Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie, right, a postal clerk at the Misawa Air Base, Japan, post office, stamps and rings up mail for Tech. Sgt. Jason Peters on Thursday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie, right, a postal clerk at the Misawa Air Base, Japan, post office, stamps and rings up mail for Tech. Sgt. Jason Peters on Thursday.
Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie, right, a postal clerk at the Misawa Air Base, Japan, post office, stamps and rings up mail for Tech. Sgt. Jason Peters on Thursday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Capt. Chris Tooman and Maj. Kimberly Tooman wait to hear from postal clerk Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie how much it will cost to mail several packages to the States Thursday from Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Capt. Chris Tooman and Maj. Kimberly Tooman wait to hear from postal clerk Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie how much it will cost to mail several packages to the States Thursday from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — At U.S. military bases across the Pacific, the deadline for mailing packages to the States in time for Christmas is fast approaching.

Customers who want to guarantee their gift will be under the tree Dec. 25 must mail by Monday — Saturday for parcel windows, like at Misawa, which are closed on Monday — and fork out extra bucks for Express service, according to postal officials at Misawa.

Missing that deadline doesn’t necessarily mean a tardy present.

“You can still make it after that,” said Tech. Sgt. Quentin Lucero, 35th Communications Squadron official mail manager at Misawa, but “there’s no guarantee at the other end.”

“If you send it Priority, the standard is seven to 10 days; therefore, it should make it,” postal clerk Staff Sgt. James Strong said, even though the official deadline for Okinawa and Japan was Dec. 11 for Priority Mail and letter and first class.

Some people opt for Express Mail no matter the deadline, “spending a couple hundred dollars just to get it there on time,” Strong said.

Maj. Kimberly Tooman and her husband, Capt. Chris Tooman, who were at the post office Thursday with a stack of boxes and two foot lockers, said Express Mail is worth the extra cost for nieces and nephews in Pennsylvania.

“For adults, we know they understand the difference if it’s a couple days late,” Kimberly Tooman said.

Servicemembers overseas, she said, have to plan in advance “to get everything wrapped and shipped in time.”

Tech. Sgt. Jason Peters rung up a $63.95 bill Thursday on four packages — including two marked Express.

“I’m a slacker,” he quipped, adding that his wife still had a few boxes to send. Peters said he usually ships presents in November, but this year, his stateside relatives were difficult to shop for, offering no suggestions.

“When it gets there, it gets there,” he said.

Not all customers are so carefree during the holiday mailing crunch.

“Oh yeah, people get grumpy,” said postal clerk Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie, 25, of Tomball, Texas, when customers have to wait, “and you can’t guarantee their packages will get there before Christmas.”

Nyulassie tries to wear a smile, all the same.

“It’s hard for them to stay mad when you say ‘thank you’ and ‘have a nice day’ anyway,” he said.

Customers have been known to bang on the locked glass doors after the 5 p.m. closing time.

Lucero said they can’t let stragglers in because packages have to be processed by 6 p.m. to catch the 7 p.m. flight to Tokyo.

Master Sgt. Garrick Wimbush, the Misawa postmaster, expects to see a last-minute crunch — not on Saturday but the weekend before Christmas.

“What they’re going to tell people on the other end (is) ‘I mailed that about a month ago,’ so, people on the other end, check the postmark,” Wimbush said.

Tips for mailing packages

Misawa Air Base postal workers offer some tips on mailing packages during the holiday season:

“Pack it up before you come. We’ll have 15 people in the lobby, and only one person is actually ready,” said Tech. Sgt. Quentin Lucero, official mail manager.

“Pick up customs forms beforehand and you can attach them at home. It saves time at the post office,” Lucero said.

The post office provides paper tape, but it’s not “user-friendly,” Lucero said, another reason to package a box up at home.

Place clear tape over a label to prevent ink from running if it gets wet.

Being specific about a package’s contents ensures it won’t get held up by customs. But it’s still possible to not spoil the surprise, said postal clerk Senior Airman Matt Nyulassie. “‘Toys,’ ‘Japanese souvenirs,’ usually that’s acceptable,” he said.

Mailing alcohol to the States is prohibited.

What else? “Somebody tried to mail some ants; he had an ant farm,” postal clerk Staff Sgt. James Strong said.

Is that allowed? “No ma’am,” Strong said.

— Jennifer Svan

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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