Ship early to avoid going postal
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- From mid-November to mid-January, the 35th Communication Squadron's Post Office typically processes 640,000 pounds of mail during the holiday mailing craze.
This weight is equivalent to nearly 30 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons.
"The volume of mail received pretty much quadruples during this time frame, so the post office has extended its time due to the holiday mailing influx," said Staff Sgt. Stephanie Victor, 35th Communication Squadron NCO in charge of customer service. "When we extend our hours, it gives people more time to come in before or after work to get their packages."
In the next two months, the post office will start to implement 24-hour operations, with three shifts of people working to augment the different flights of incoming mail.
Even with 25 military and civilian workers in the post office, there is still not enough help to handle such a volume of mail.
"We have six extra hires to help alleviate the holiday rush, but they are barely enough to cover one shift," said Tech. Sgt. Dalylah Meho, 35 CS assistant post master. "In these next two months, the post office will receive hundreds of thousands of pounds of mail, which is four times the volume of mail on a regular day. We do this with the same amount of workers who help to ensure more than 5,000 pieces of mail are delivered a day."
The reason for the jump in volume of mail delivered is because most people are aware of the mailing time frame and delays during the winter holidays, so they start to send their packages around this time. Most packages are gifts for children.
According to Meho, Misawa is unique in the sense that there is not much of a shopping community off base. House supplies, sport equipment or apparel is usually ordered through the mail. Because of this, delays in delivery can be expected.
The Air Force recently initiated a new contract for mail with Chicago's O'Hare International airport, Miho said. Previously, mail destined for military bases overseas was delivered to the San Francisco or Los Angeles airports. Many of the clothing companies and manufactures are still sending packages to California instead of Illinois, adding upwards of three weeks delay to delivery.
Another reason for delays is the mislabeling of packages to Misawa. Family members sending a gift addressed to Japan instead of APO, AP, will cause the mail to be routed to the local Japanese post office. By the time they figure out where to send it, it could be several days or weeks later, Victor said.
Finally, large packages which are not picked up in a timely manner will cause a delay as there is limited room on the shelves. Because of this, postal workers have to stack these packages to make more room for the incoming mail.
"We want to spread the holiday cheer by ensuring everyone gets their presents on time, but we depend on volunteers to make it happen during the busiest time for postal workers," Meho said.
Volunteers help to cut sorting process times by more than half, and make the transition smoother, allowing customers to get packages sooner. Extra hands are not only need to do some heavy lifting, but also to work the counter. Sometimes more than 40 customers are waiting in line to mail their packages. This could mean the difference of receiving packages on time versus after the New Year, Victor said.
Volunteers are welcomed anytime and will be trained by a staff member. To find out more about mailing deadlines or volunteering, visit the post office or watch the commander's access channel.