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Longtime post-office volunteer Angie Barber stands at the customer service window at Misawa Air Base, Japan, with her husband, Master Sgt. John Barber of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and daughter, Mariah Barber, 14.

Longtime post-office volunteer Angie Barber stands at the customer service window at Misawa Air Base, Japan, with her husband, Master Sgt. John Barber of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and daughter, Mariah Barber, 14. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

`Without volunteers, Misawa Air Base’s post office would be drowning in boxes.

The deluge first hit in early September, when Typhoon Fitow blew into Japan, grounding air flow temporarily, said Master Sgt. Garrick Wimbush, the facility’s postmaster. Then, foot lockers and packages from returning Misawa airmen downrange began arriving by the dozens — then hundreds.

With post office manning at about 50 percent due to air and space expeditionary force rotations, Wimbush asked other Misawa units for help — and so far it’s come.

Staff Sgt. Erica Claus, a fitness specialist with the 35th Services Squadron, has logged 44 volunteer hours in less than a month.

Wimbush said volunteers must be U.S. citizens eligible for a Secret security clearance and have clean military records.

Staff Sgt. Mario Brown and Airman 1st Class Michael Wood, with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, began volunteering this week, freed from work a few hours early on Wednesday by their supervisor.

One volunteer Wimbush keeps talking about is Angie Barber, 39, who treats her volunteer duties at the post office like a job. She shows up Monday through Friday and puts in six to eight hours a day. Her volunteer days at Misawa’s post office hark back to 1992, after Barber separated from the Air Force.

“It was winter time. It was lonely. I saw an advertisement on TV that they needed volunteers,” she said. “I came, and I never stopped.”

Barber volunteered for nine straight years at Misawa, then for three years at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, where her husband, Master Sgt. John Barber, was assigned.

The Misawa staff hopes she continues showing up.

“We’d like to give her a job here,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Goldman, noncommissioned officer in charge of the parcel service center. “Money was the issue, but I’m persistent. I’m going to ask again.”

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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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