Good news! Mailing a package to your soldier using an APO/FPO address is very simple. It does, however, require different steps than sending packages to US addresses. Take pride in your country and support your soldier by using these simple steps to send a piece of home to them.
Use a Priority Mail Flat Rate Box
You can order Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes directly from the United States Postal Service at, USPS.com (search flat rate or military kit), or by phone, 1-800-610-8734, press option “1” and ask for the military kit. The boxes and shipping are free. I don’t know if the USPS still does this, but when I would order military kits over the phone back in 2006 and 2007 they would include address labels, custom forms, and tape with the boxes; all free of charge. If you run out of boxes between orders, your local post office keeps flat rate boxes and supplies in stock.
Flat rate boxes were designed with military members in mind. There is no weighing involved; the package will ship anywhere in the world for one low rate. Shipping prices and box sizes can be found at USPS.com.
Don’t over pack or under pack
Make sure you grab the right size box for your items. You don’t want the box to be bulging from the seams; yet, you don’t want loose items rolling around inside. Make sure you use newspaper or bubble wrap for fragile items. If you are packing food, make sure it won’t melt or spoil during shipment; always pack homemade goods in air tight containers. Keep in mind, due to safety measures, soldiers are not allowed to accept homemade goods from strangers. For other prohibited items, check out www.bootsonground.com.
Address the box with large, neat handwriting
You want to make sure the box reaches your soldier, so write legibly so it doesn’t end up returned or in the wrong hands. For good measure, I always include my soldier’s rank, full first name (not shorten nickname), and middle initial. My soldier has a pretty common name (first and last) so I want to make sure I include distinguishing facts. Including your return address is also important in ensuring it ends up in the right hands.
Fill out a Custom’s Form
These will come in your military kit if you order one. If not, you can find them at the post office. The Custom’s Form asks for senders name and address, addressee’s name and address, a description of contents, quantity, and dollar value, and a signature and date.
You want to make sure you also check ‘gift’ so your solider doesn’t have to pay a custom’s fee.
When filling out the custom’s form; APO/FPO is the city and AA/AE/AP is the state.
As far as the description goes, you can be vague, considering there are only four lines on the form. For example you can list: Shirt (2) $20.00 (meaning there are two shirts with a total value of $20.00).
Skip on the extras
When you take your package to the post office, they will ask you if you want insurance or tracking. I always decline these offers. Once the package is out of the hands of the USPS, it is no longer covered or tracked. The USPS delivers the mail to an APO (Army/Air Post Office) or a FPO (Fleet Post Office); it is sorted then delivered to your solider from the military post office. Your package cannot be tracked once it is in the hands of the military post office; and likewise, insurance will not cover loss or damage once its reaches the military post office.
Pay and wait
Now, your end of the deal is done; it is up to the post offices to deliver. I have personally shipped packages to Kuwait, Iraq, and Cuba and in most cases it takes a week for the packages to arrive. Granted, the package may end up there sooner, but the ‘designated mail checker’ only checks for mail twice a week on average; sometimes less depending on their activities and training. Make sure to notify your soldier a package has been shipped so he/she can be on the lookout. After a week or two, confirm with your soldier that the package has been delivered.
Now that the USPS has made mailing a package to your soldier much easier and cost effective, you will be able to send packages with confidence and ease. Sending packages to your soldier is a great way to keep in touch and send a piece of home to them. If you plan on sending packages for holidays or birthdays make sure you send the package two to three weeks in advance to ensure your soldier gets it on time. If you do not currently have a soldier deployed but would like to support the troops, you can adopt a soldier by visiting, www.anysoldier.com, www.adoptaussoldier.org, or www.operationshoebox.com.