Mail workers prepare for holiday onslaught

Spc. Leeanne McCoy
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***It’s that time of year again – time to write the family newsletter, get the Christmas cards ready and wrap all those presents to send on their way to loved ones around the world. And with all this activity, the mailrooms in the area will face about double the volume of their usual mail load.

“There’re a lot of families back in the States who want to send their stuff over,” said 21st Theater Support Battalion Mail Room Supervisor Steven Hooks. “There’s also a higher volume because when people go to the States, they ship their stuff back over here.

“Everybody wants to say, ‘Hi,’ so there’s a lot of Christmas cards and postcards. I try to make sure I really watch out for things like that, especially personal boxes,” Mr. Hooks said.

More letters and packages mean a lot more work for the mail clerks. At the 21st TSB mailroom, plans are to increase the number of mail pick-up runs from the main mail depot at Daenner Kaserne, from twice a day, to three times a day.

They’ll also get more Soldiers to help put the packages and cards into the right mail slots. But even with the upgraded measures, some packages may be late.
“A lot of times, it takes 30 days to get a package over here,” said Mr. Hooks. “Now if it’s still not here after 30 days, then you might want to look into what’s wrong.”
Mr. Hooks, who has worked in the postal system since 1992, said he knows that parcels can be misplaced.

Sometimes they’re on the wrong truck; sometimes they’ve been mislabeled. But there are things the sender can do to make sure their package isn’t lost, he said.
“When people send something through here that they really care about, and they send it just Space Available Mail or Parcel Air Lift or something, you can’t track it. Anybody could take it anywhere on that route,” Mr. Hooks said. “It needs to be certified, or insured. Just spend the little bit of extra money – it’s worth it.”
Pvt. Nicole Davis is a two-year veteran of the postal service and knows how hectic holidays can get.

“During the Christmas season, the volume of mail gets really high, people are sending more stuff, and then it’s late, and people get mad,” Private Davis said. “We try to answer their questions about why it’s late, but we don’t know because it hasn’t gotten to us.”

Sometimes the hold-ups are minor mistakes – people get in a hurry and don’t pay attention to details, she said.

“I had to hold a guy’s package the other day until I saw him again, because he put his own ZIP code on the ‘to’ address,” Mr. Hooks said.
“I could’ve just sent it on, and it would’ve gone all over the place before it finally came back here. Then a month later, he’d still have the same package. But I try to catch little things like that.”

There is an upside to working in the mailroom, even when it’s busy.
“The people are really nice to you because you have something they want,” said Private Davis. “And it deals with the morale. It makes people smile all the time when they come down here. That’s what I like about it.”

As for the holiday season, the mailroom has issued a few tips: Write legibly, double check addresses (both to and from) and follow proper mailing procedures. All packages must be in plain brown boxes or wrapped in the brown paper provided at area post offices.

Also, items should be sent before the following mailing deadlines, so that they arrive on time:
Nov. 20 Space Available Mail Parcels
Dec. 4 Parcel Air Lift Parcels
Dec. 11 Priority Parcels
Dec. 11 First Class Letters/Cards
Dec. 18 Express Mail