Getting those gifts in the mail


Getting those gifts in the mail

by: Tetsuo Nakahara | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: December 03, 2014

The holiday season is nearly upon us and postal officials are urging military postal service users to mail cards and presents as early as possible due to an expected increase in volume during the peak end-of-year season.

To assist customers in ensuring that packages are delivered in time, the Military Postal Service Agency has released its annual recommended mail-by dates for theaters around the world.

These dates are just guidelines, however, and people should carefully consider which type of mail service to use when they arrange shipments.

For example, space-available mail is a useful and cheap way to send packages, but there is no guarantee they will get to the desired destination in time.

“If you planning on shopping on Black Friday (Nov. 28), it is highly recommended to send your gifts priority mail to ensure the package will get there in time,” said Master Sgt. Scott Corey, postmaster at Kadena Air Base.

According to Shawn Burney, postal officer at Camp Walker., ensuring that every card, letter, and package reaches its destination in time, will require both customer support and planning.

“Mail early for Christmas, ensure high value items, and gifts are packaged properly in order to prevent damage to the parcel you are sending,” said Burney. “As a reminder, since we have limited space here at the post office, help us by checking your mail daily.”

The most important thing is how you pack your package. Make sure packages aren’t so big that the items jostle around inside and get damaged during transport. Also, ensure there is enough packing material so items aren’t crushed when other packages are stacked.

“You may individually wrap up all items inside your parcel, but do not wrap the outside of the parcel with Holiday paper,” Corey said. “Holiday paper has the potential to rip off or be torn while in transit. This also increases the chance of addresses and postage being torn off.”

If you’re sending a package to another APO, make sure you do not list the country the item is going to – otherwise it might enter the international mail system, causing delay. Just list the correct APO address.

Make sure the customs form is filled out correctly. Simply listing the contents as “gifts” or “merchandise” is not sufficient. Specific contents must be listed. Customs can open and search packages if they deem it necessary, which can delay delivery.

If you’re concerned about things getting broken and if they are of significant value, insure them and do so for the amount you paid for them.

If you send perishables, make sure they are properly packed. Also, make sure the country you are sending them to accepts that type of food.

Alcohol CANNOT be sent through the military postal service.

Make sure your packages are all taped beforehand. Post offices no longer provide packing tape. It might be good to bring some extra tape just in case.

Have the mailing labels and customs forms filled out before coming to the PO so that you don’t hold up the other people in line. And don’t use the customs form as an address label. Have a separate address label on the package in case the customs form is defaced or falls off.

Lithium batteries can be mailed only if the battery is installed in the equipment such as with iPods and iPads.

For toys with batteries pre-installed, batteries must be removed from toys prior to mailing. Toys that make sounds or move around during transit could flag the box as suspicious and may result in your mail being delayed or returned to the sender.

Mailing liquids are not ideal, because they could leak on other items, both in your package and on others. If you must send liquids, be especially careful when packing them.

The U.S. Postal Service delivers letters and packages to more than 500 military post offices worldwide. Many of them will extend their business hours or open for additional days during the holiday season, including remaining open later on Christmas Eve to make sure that everyone can receive the cards and packages that have arrived. Check with the post office on your base for information on holiday hours.

How to send it

  • Space-Available (SAM) – The cheapest service because packages take longer to reach a destination. It offers air transport of parcels on a space-available basis to or from military post offices outside the U.S and surface transport within the U.S. There is a weight limit of 70 pounds and a combined length and girth limit of 130 inches.
  • Parcel Airlift (PAL) – Uses air transport on a space-available basis similar to SAM plus air transport to the destination city or the city nearest to it inside the U.S. There is a weight limit of 30 pounds and a combined length and girth limit of 60 inches.
  • First Class – Handles items weighing up to 13 ounces. Flat-rate packaging available.
  • Priority – Same as First-Class mail but for items weighing over 13 ounces to 70 pounds. Combined length and girth limit of 108 inches. Flat-rate packaging available.
  • Express Mail Military Service (EMMS) – Offers preferred and/or expedited service. Not available from all USAFE APOs.

Extra services

  • Insurance – Offers coverage against loss or damage up to $5,000, with the price based on the declared value of the item(s).
  • Registered – Offers maximum security, insuring items up to $25,000, with the price based on the declared value of the item(s). Tracks movement of mail from beginning to end.
  • Certified – Provides evidence of mailing as well as the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Requires the recipient to sign upon delivery.
  • Delivery Confirmation – Shows when an item was delivered or when delivery was attempted using a Track and Confirm tool you can use on your computer.
  • Certificate of Mailing – Offers evidence of the date your mail was accepted by the post office.
  • Return Receipt – Provides proof that an item was delivered, through a postcard or email showing the signature of the recipient.
  • Restricted Delivery – Specifies who can sign for and receive your mail
  • Special Handling – Offers preferential handling if you’re sending something that needs extra care.

Mailing tips

  • Print names and addresses of both shipper and recipient clearly on packages with a pen or permanent marker. Put an extra label with the addresses inside the package in case the original one is defaced. Also include an itemized list of contents.
  • Select a box strong enough to protect the contents and appropriate for the amount and size of items inside.
  • Leave space for cushioning inside the carton, using bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, or newspaper to protect the contents.
  • Use tape designed for shipping, using enough to secure the opening and seams of the box.
  • Put newspaper or packing material in hollow items to avoid damage during transport.
  • Write “fragile” or “perishable” on packages when shipping such items.
  • Use boxes, envelopes and tubes the post office provides for Express Mail and Priority Mail.

– Military Postal Service Agency

Holiday mailing deadlines from the Pacific to CONUS
Beat the last-minute rush and take your mail to your military Post Office by dates below to ensure delivery of your mail prior to Dec 25. If available, upgrade all holiday shipments from stateside vendors to Priority Mail Service to ensure on-time delivery.


  • Space-Available (SAM) – Dec. 3
  • Parcel Airlift (PAL) – Dec. 3
  • First Class/Priority – Dec. 10
  • Express (EMMS) – Dec. 17

Mainland Japan

  • Space-Available (SAM) –Nov.26
  • Parcel Airlift (PAL) – Dec. 3
  • First Class/Priority – Dec. 10
  • Express (EMMS) – Dec. 17


  • Space-Available (SAM) – Nov. 22
  • Parcel Airlift (PAL) – Nov. 22
  • First Class/Priority Mail – Dec. 3
  • Express (EMMS) – Dec. 17


  • Space-Available (SAM) –Nov.26
  • Parcel Airlift (PAL) – Dec. 3
  • First Class/Priority – Dec. 10
  • Express (EMMS) – Dec. 17