Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, of the Colorado Army National Guard, unload mail from a vehicle filled with many packages and letters from home Sept. 10, 2009, at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.

FORT KNOX, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2010) -- Packages to troops and civilians stationed outside the continental United States need to be mailed soon in order to make it there by the holidays, according to Peter Graeve, a plans and policy management analyst with the Military Postal Service Agency in Alexandria, Va.

Hanukkah, for example, begins Dec. 1 this year, so he said gifts should be in the mail by Oct. 19.

Christmas mailing deadlines include:

Packages going to Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world through the U.S. Postal Service should be mailed by Nov. 12.

<b>SAM</b>

Packages sent by Space Available Mail, or SAM, should be sent by Nov. 20 to contingency locations, such as Army and Air Force Post Offices known as APOs, Fleet Post Offices or FPOs, Diplomatic Post Offices known as DPOs serving embassies or consulates, and certain country codes with ZIP codes beginning with 093XX.

The SAM deadline for all other overseas military locations is Nov. 26.

<b>Priority mail</b>

The priority mail deadline is Dec. 4 to contingency locations. The deadline for all other locations is Dec. 10.

<b>Express mail</b>

Although express mail military services aren't available to contingency locations, express mail military services are available to other locations if mailed by Dec. 18. Always check with the local post office to determine if this service is available for a particular APO/FPO/DPO address, officials warn.

"Usually the mail deadlines run about the same every year, especially to Southwest Asia," Graeve said. "Only so many flights go there, and there's only so much air capacity to make sure [packages] get there as soon as possible. The two gateway airports from the states are JFK (Queens, N.Y.) and San Francisco, which services most of the Pacific theater.

<b>Restrictions</b>

"The only real difference from year to year is that the dates may vary by a day or two based on the calendar," he said. "The list of restricted items going to Southwest Asia hasn't changed, but in Europe they've started cracking down at the Customs offices. Every country has different restrictions, but the basic guideline of (a parcel) not weighing more than 70 pounds and the girth not being more than 130 inches in most cases still apply.

Graeve encouraged anyone interested in mailing gifts overseas to always check their local post office for that country's restrictions.

Deadlines and restrictions depend upon world locations and vary from each other, said Faye Slater, MPSA's other deputy director. For a complete list of deadlines and banned items from the U.S. mail system, visit the U.S. Postal Service web site at <a href="http://www.usps.com">http://www.usps.com</a>. For a list of restricted items that cannot be mailed to APO/FPOs/DPOs and certain country codes, see the FAQ link at <a href="http://hqdainet.army.mil/mpsa/faqweb.pdf">http://hqdainet.army.mil/mpsa/faqweb.pdf</a>.

<b>Free packing materials</b>

The U.S. Postal Service is also offering a package of free packing materials, including 10 boxes, 10 customs forms with envelopes, 10 "Mili-Pac" shipping envelopes, which are specially printed to reflect the complexities of military mailing addresses, and a roll of Priority Mail tape.

Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said by calling a toll-free number (800) 610-8734, anyone can request free shipping materials.

Brennan said the Postal Service was getting deluged with requests from military families -- about 1,000 calls a day since late September. In response, it came up with a special kit of the most-popular items ordered to send care packages to the troops, she said.

To order the special kit, call (800) 610-8734 and request Care Kit 4. Brennan said the Postal Service will ship it by Priority Mail, with delivery generally within a couple of days.

Although the packing materials are free, shippers must still pay normal postage costs.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16