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Time to Mail Holiday Packages
Stars and Stripes  |  By Cindy Fisher  |  November 13, 2007
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa -- Holiday shoppers, start your engines -- and get your packages to military post offices soon to make shipping deadlines if you want them in the States by Christmas Eve.

'Tis the season also to think about proper packaging and know what cannot be sent through the mail.

The deadlines for mailing cards and packages to stateside friends and family by Christmas are fast approaching, said Staff Sgt. Jamie Sisson, the Camp Foster post office noncommissioned officer in charge.
 
 
Some items cannot be mailed regardless of the season, Sisson said.

Alcohol and, of course, controlled substances can't go -- and all outgoing military mail is X-rayed to look for such items. Incoming mail also is screened by customs agents.

Lithium batteries cannot be shipped, which means customers need to check toys, laptop computers and other electronic gadgets that might use them.

Aerosol cans are allowed only through ground mail, Sisson said. And sharp objects, such as a knife, must be sheathed or in some other type of covering.

Anything that uses flammable materials, such as cigarette lighters, must be drained before being packaged for shipment, she said.

Improper packaging, in fact, is the biggest problem postal workers encounter on the job, said Gunnery Sgt. Regina Waymon, Camp Foster's postal finance officer.

Take liquid-filled items such as snow globes, for example. If they are packaged incorrectly, they can burst from the weight of other packages laid upon them, she said.

Packages are either stacked on top of each other or loaded in mail bags, which means a package needs to be able to withstand 70 pounds of weight on it, Waymon said.

Boxed items, such as plate sets bought at exchanges, probably shouldn't be mailed in the box in which they were bought, Waymon said. Most times they should be repackaged in a sturdier container.

Items also are handled several times before reaching their destination.

"It's like getting on the Greyhound bus when mailing something out of the area," she said. "There are a lot of stops."

Sisson said all box seams should be sealed with tape.

Senders must also use U.S. Customs forms provided at post offices for each package, Sisson said. To speed lines, forms can be obtained and filled out before coming to the post office with packages.

Sisson offers two considerations to get to the postal finish line early: The closer it gets to Christmas, the busier post offices become and the longer the lines will be, said Sisson. And, "the longer you wait to mail it, if you want it there by Christmas, it will be more expensive."

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