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Postal agency sets overseas holiday mailing dates, policies

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2004) -- The dates for mailing items to and from overseas locations in time for the holidays are fast approaching, and officials at the Military Postal Service Agency here have suggestions for ensuring packages and letters arrive on time.

"If packages are mailed earlier, it may be possible to use space-available mail or parcel post service, which would result in less expensive postage rates," said Mark J. DeDomenic, the agency’s chief of operations.

As the holidays approach, mail volumes get higher, and it takes longer for packages to get through the system, Mr. DeDomenic said.

The recommended deadlines for sending mail from the United States to all overseas military mailing addressees for the holidays are listed below.

• Parcel post: Nov. 13.

• Space-available mail: Nov. 27.

• Parcel airlift mail: Dec. 4.

• Priority and first-class letters/cards: Dec. 11 (Dec. 6 for APO 093).

• Express mail military service: Dec. 20 (Not applicable for APO 093).

Mr. DeDomenic said these dates can also be observed by customers sending mail from overseas locations to the United States, and that all dates may vary depending on location.

"Customers should contact their local military post office overseas get exact dates," Mr. DeDomenic said.

People mailing packages need to be aware that customs forms are required on all international mail, and that shipments should be properly packaged before sending them overseas, Mr. DeDomenic said.

"Always use strong boxes with plenty of packing material, such as newspaper or popcorn," he said. "Strapping or reinforced tape is strongly recommended. Ensure fragile items are packed tightly and individually wrapped in bubble wrap."

Postal services in the United States and foreign nations have restrictions on what can be mailed in or out of the country. Mr. DeDomenic said postal customers need to consider these restrictions and also the length of the journey when mailing items overseas.

"Generally speaking, anything that would cause harm to other mail, equipment or mail handlers, or anything that is hazardous to an aircraft in-flight is nonmailable," Mr. DeDomenic said. "Customers should check with their local military post office for specific regulations. In general, plants, some food items such as meats, alcohol, hazardous materials and flammable goods may not be mailed."

Also critical to getting packages overseas on time is ensuring they have the correct mailing address.

The No. 1 reason for delayed delivery of mail is improper or incomplete addresses, Mr. DeDomenic said.

He said people sending mail to an overseas APO or FPO, should not use the geographical location. For example, do not use Baghdad, Iraq, on the address. This will cause the mail to be placed into the international mail system and may cause severe delays.

Because of security restrictions, mass-mailing operations such as Operation Dear Abby or the "Any Servicemember" mailing programs are not being supported by the agency, Mr. DeDomenic said.

Agency officials encourage servicemembers to support the publicly available Web sites that allow the American public to write supportive letters to them.