RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Icelandic volcanic ash spewing into the atmosphere over central and northern European airports continues to impact military mail coming into and leaving Europe since the temporary ban on flights April 15.
No military mail has flown in or out of commercial airports in Benelux, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, or the United Kingdom. Commercial airports in Europe are essential hubs for moving military mail in and out of countries where U.S. service members and their families are stationed.
A temporary flight restriction remains in effect until Eurocontrol, the European Union's version of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, lifts the ban, according to Tech. Sgt. Lee Swan, 2nd Air Postal Squadron (AIRPS) Mail transportation manager.
Military Post Office managers at Ramstein, Kapaun and Sembach notified personnel April 19 that they will no longer accept packages temporarily for delivery outside Germany.
The 2nd AIRPS manages and tracks military mail transportation for U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Squadron officials said Frankfurt International Airport is dealing with a backlog of 26 tons of outbound mail for worldwide destinations.
Another critical mail control activity, London Heathrow Airport, which receives all mail for air bases in the UK, has a back log of 1.5 tons. The U.S. Postal Service has a backlog of 91 tons and 12 tons waiting to be dispatched from stateside hubs to Frankfurt and London, respectively.
Military mail hubs in Madrid, Spain, and Istanbul, Turkey, remain unaffected by the volcanic ash.
Air Force Post Office patrons will see very little, if any, mail delivered for at least the next week, Sergeant Swann said. However, surface mail, mail transported via truck or ship, is unaffected by airport closures and will continue to flow normally.
According to officials familiar with postal operations at Ramstein, postal staffs throughout the Army Post Office (APO) system make every effort to ensure mail is delivered as quickly as possible. The mail backlog could take four to five days to process once airport commercial flights and the air mail transportation network resume. Storage capacity at APOs and the supporting aerial mail terminals dictate ability to accept outgoing mail.
Military officials apologize for any inconvenience this natural event is causing and request that customers continue to monitor local communication channels and servicing APOs for updates.