By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 23, 2011) -- If you want to send cookies or crocheted underwear to your Soldier overseas and have it in his hands before Christmas, the time to drop it in the mail is now -- or at the latest, Dec. 17.
There's actually a range of deadlines the Military Postal Service Agency has established to ensure before-Christmas delivery of packages and letters to service members in deployed locations.
To get mail to a service member by Christmas at APO/FPO/DPO AE 090-092, 094-098, 340, or 962-966, the latest a package can be sent to arrive on time is Dec. 17 -- that'll mean senders have to pay for Express Mail. If senders have already got packages ready and they want to send earlier -- and pay less -- they can put them in the mail by Dec. 10 and pay for either 1st Class or Priority mail.
Mail to APO/FPO/DPO AE 093 must be sent by Dec. 3, regardless of the class of mail service used.
Mail sent to deployed service members is handled almost entirely by commercial contractors -- almost. By the time it reaches what the Army calls "the last tactical mile," however, it might also be handled by Soldiers, Marines, Sailors or Airmen.
"Once it gets into Afghanistan the military postal folks will sort it, to get it out to the different combat outposts," said Peter Graeve, with the Military Postal Service Agency. Getting it out to the combat outpost, he said, might involve "a military helicopter or a ground convoy -- or whatever access they have available at that level to get it out to the furthest reach of the spear."
Where it used to take weeks or months to deliver mail to deployed Soldiers, it now can be done in days, Graeve said. That's good for moms, spouses, significant others and Soldiers.
"It's a real morale booster, a touch of home, if you are sitting out there in a combat outpost and getting shot at and you get a card from home," Graeve said. "A little perfume from your wife or girlfriend means a lot to a person that is under a lot of stress out there. Getting some cookies when you're used to eating MREs, that's a good thing. We try to keep that in mind when we are processing the mail out to the folks."
Those sending mail to overseas locations should also consider that customs forms may need to be filled out before items can be sent.