Sunday, April 10, 2016

Deployment Care Packages 101


  When Brandon first deployed I had no idea what the heck to send or how to send it. After hours of google searches and incorrectly filled out customs forms, I have decided to share what I've learned...so no one else holds up the line at the post office.

1. What is NOT okay to send?
  Your significant other should be able to let you know what is allowed and not allowed to ship overseas. What is okay to ship will depend upon where they are deployed.  You will have to keep cultural sensitivities in mind. For example, it is not a good decision to ship pork products if they are in Afghanistan due to the religious and cultural climate.

   Other things you shouldn't ship include pornographic material, alcohol, firearms and ammo the list goes on and is pretty self explanatory. You should also check what is already available on base such as deodorant, certain snacks etc. This will vary if they are on a remote FOB (forward operating base) or a major base like Kandahar Airfield.

2. Customs Forms........
   I had never filled out a customs form in my life. I probably messed up five different forms when I sent him his first care package.

Here is an example of a US Customs form:


Most of the form is self explanatory, the most confusing part is filling out the address properly. You will see that form reflects an international address but not an APO address which is organized differently.

An example of an APO address:
SGT Michael Wallace
123RD ENG 2ND PLT - B CO
APO AE 09398-9998

There is a section of the form that asks you to list individually what is in the package, the quantity of the item, the item's weight and value. You will probably not have room to list everything and you will most likely not the weight either. A best "guesstimate" is the way to go. This is more to make sure you are shipping high value items like a diamond encrusted watch.

You will check the box that says "Gift" when asked to determine what kind of package it is.

3.  Keep Their Safety and Security in Mind
 Some deployments are in more hostile parts of the world than others but it is your job to make sure you don't give away too much information. How do you make sure the package gets to the address its supposed to while keeping their safety in mind?

   While filling out customs forms or writing the address on the box DO NOT include the city and country that they are located. This is a security risk and the APO address will guarantee that the package is delivered to the proper address without the city or country.

These packages are scanned and are subject to inspection. If there is anything you would send to them that you aren't comfortable with others seeing, then you might want to wait to give that to them when they return.

You will not be able to track the package either....just be patient!

Your safety is important as well. Once the package is delivered, the shipping label will be destroyed to prevent anyone from getting the return address.

4. Pack Properly
   Packages can take weeks to arrive to your loved one depending on where they are, they also pass through a lot of hands on the way there. Invest in some heavy duty packing tape and use at least three layers on all sides and openings on the box.

   Packing peanuts aren't a terrible idea, but they can end up all over the place and be a pain. I rolled up newspapers when I was shipping more fragile items which prevented damage. Water damage is not uncommon for packages either. I put any magazine, book, or other paper product in double ziplock bags. I also sealed any liquids as well to prevent leaking.

5. What Do I Send?

It is important to ask what your loved one might like to have in their care package, but here are some ideas of what myself and other people have sent:

  • DVDs (TV series are a popular pick)
  • Snacks not available on post (ex. Doritos, Cheddar Popcorn, etc)
  • Microwaveable or Canned Goods (ex. canned peaches, minute rice etc.)
  • Drink Powders 
  • Small Hygiene Products (ex. foot powder, sunblock, toothpaste) 
  • Decks of cards
  • Baby wipes
  • Pictures of family and friends
  • "Open when.." Letters
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Handwritten Note
  • Condiments (ex. hot sauce, Taco Bell packets)
  • Magazines, Newspapers, and Books

Remember, don't stress too much about creating perfect care packages. They will be overjoyed to receive a package from you no matter what!

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