Updated on July 14, 2011
Supporting The Troops
I’ve talked with a lot of people both in person and through email who have asked me about what I think about them shipping this or that. They’ve asked if soldiers like a certain cookie more than another. What about snacks? Seasonings? Etc. Well, I’m going to give you a “soldier’s perspective” about what happens to the care package once you pass it off to the Post Office. I’ll give you a few pointers about how to ensure your package gets where you want it to go.
First of all, something as simple as adding the name of the destination country to an address can delay the delivery of mail to service members overseas. By placing the zip code on your package, you’re telling the postal system where the package is going. Do not place Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany or any other country at the end of the address. The system has gotten exponentially faster, but this will delay it more than necessary. This is attributable to the sorting machineâ€™s inability to discern whether or not the letter is intended to reach an Army or Fleet Post Office address.
“From the local town post office, the mail is transferred to the stateâ€™s general mail facility, in which the mail is consequently processed at one of USPSâ€™ international gateways,” said Capt. Faye Slater, Third Army and Coalition Forces Land Component Command chief of theater postal operations.
The facilities of the USPS not only handle international mail but also all of the international mail of the armed services.
“A small military contingent operates with USPS at these gateways to assist USPS in routing mail to overseas points,” she said. “They are called Joint Military Postal Activities. JMPAs work to assure that USPS arranges, assembles and consolidates the letters and parcels to the correct locations, then dispatches correctly on commercial airlines. Both military personnel and USPS civilian employees work hard to get the mail to its proper destinations.”
At this point, the mail is loaded onto the aircraft for delivery to the Southwest Asia area of operations. Those letters are sent on connecting flights that average less than 29 hours from takeoff to delivery at the first offload point in the Middle East.
From there, they are kicked, thrown, crushed, twisted, beaten, stomped on, juggled, and wrestled to the floor. This is to ensure that my package arrives in a completely separate shape than it was sent. But, I don’t care what the package looks like. It’s what’s inside that’s important.
Let’s get to the important stuff: the food. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Malogne House visiting Steve and the Girl Scouts were giving away pictures to the soldiers (for those wondering what happened to that post, I removed the picture until I can get permission from the kids’ parents to publish it). One of the volunteers from Operation Pinecone asked me which cookies were the best to send to soldiers. She was told not to send the chocolate one because they melt and stick together.
That’s true. But, we don’t care. My favorite GS cookies are the Thin Mints. I remember getting my boxes of Thin Mints and each roll of cookies was fused into a Thin Mint Log. Do you think that bothered me? Heck NO!! I just ate the log!! Don’t worry about sending cookies you’re not sure your soldier will like either. We watch each other’s backs. There’s nothing you can send that EVERYONE will hate. Even if your soldier hates it, he’ll find someone that likes it. Guess how many smoked salmon I got while I was there. I think I was the token guy that eats those things.
Sausage and cheese baskets are big hits. We’re gonna love it AND we get to share with our buddies. Popcorn is also great, but be sure you send the right kind. Not everyone has access to power and/or a microwave. It’s best to send a little of pre-popped and kernels just in case. We easily pass off anything we can’t use.
Candy is good too. Personally, I ALMOST got tired of all the Tootsie Rolls I was sent when I mentioned what a huge fan I am of the chewy, chocolately, fudge-like, rolled goodies. *drool* I said almost. I’ll never tire of Tootsie Rolls (trolls). Anyway, I literally had an entire tuffbox FULL of Trolls. The Iraqi kids loved them. They’d never even heard of Trolls. I became a local celebrity. Every time I went into the neighborhood kids would ask for Trolls. Don’t be afraid to send candy either. Your soldier will become a star passing out candy to kids or their fellow soldiers.
Some other things that people don’t think about: Pop-Tarts, Saltines, Crystal Light, flavored cappuccino powder, bean dip…look, the simple truth is that anything you can think of will be enjoyed by someone. I gave away much more than I ever ate. If you’re worried about chocolate melting, don’t worry about it. Make sure that whatever you send won’t leak though.
Consider yourself warned: Never, I repeat, NEVER mix any personal hygiene product with an edible product. When you’re so desperate for anything sweet, you’ll eat Tide-flavored licorice. The aftertaste is pretty bad though. I’d rather just have regular licorice. I’m sure your soldier would too. Also not a good idea: Old Spice flavored Snickers (my favorite candy bar minus the Old Spice).
This post is getting long, so I’ll close it. If you ever have any questions about something you’d like to ship, just email me. The bottom line is that we’re like Mikey – we’ll eat anything. I think combat does something to our tastebuds.