Army and Navy personnel, from front to back, Staff Sgt. Lynda Park, 909th AG Postal, SK2 Louis Brinson, and Pvt. Maria Phelps, COMNAVELSF Forward Alpha, and Pvt. Maria Tylor MMC ELSF, work together to keep the mail moving at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 3rd Class Eric L. Beauregard)(Released), Official Photo by: JO3 ERIC L. BEAUREGARD, ATLANTIC FLEET COMBAT CAMERA 293 , CAMP ARIFJAN, , Kuwait
 

1. How long does it take for letters or packages to get to a service member? How does it get there?

2. How is mail routed to Navy ships and Marine Corps units?

3. Have Zips been given out to units?
4. Are there mail restrictions for deployed service member?
5. What is permissible and not permissible to be mailed to servicemembers of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom?
6. Are there plans to censor mail to and from the theater?
7. Is there “Free Mail” from the theater?
8. Is there “Any Servicemember Mail”?
9. How can I send a care package to the men and women of OIF/OEF OPS?
10. What are the different classes of outbound and inbound military mail?
11. What special military mail services are generally available?
 
1. How long does it take for letters or packages to get to a service member? How does it get there?
Standard Transit Times (days)      
  Priority SAM  Surface  
  Letters  Parcels Parcels
Iraq 11-13  11-15 N/A
Kuwait 11-13  11-15  N/A
Afghanistan 11-13 11-15  N/A
Africa 15-18 45-60  N/A
Germany 7-9 9-12 30-45
Japan  8-10 9-12 30-45
Korea 8-10 9-12 30-45
Listed transit times (from the chart above) are measured from the local post office (Anywhere, USA) to arrival at a military postal unit overseas. This transit time includes three to four days to go from the local post office to the U. S. Postal Service "gateway" (New York or San Francisco). Parcel post, however, can take 7 to 10 days to reach the gateways. At the gateway mail is sorted, bagged, and tagged to arrive at a military postal unit overseas. While commercial aircraft are very consistent, there could be a large variation in transit times due to military aircraft schedules, weather, transportation and military operations in theater, or movement of a service member's unit.
 
2. How is mail routed to Navy ships and Marine Corps units?
After processing at the Military Gateway, mail for Navy and Marine forces on board ships is flown to a Fleet Mail Center such as the one in Bahrain or Sigonella (Italy). FPO mail is sorted and transported to the individual ships by various means (often by small aircraft called Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD), to an aircraft carrier), often in conjunction with a supply mission. Vessels other than aircraft carriers normally get their mail during port visits or by re-supply ship if remaining at sea for longer periods of time.
 
3. Have Zips been given out to units?
Contingency ZIP Codes have been issued, and activated to units for all Services (Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additional contingency ZIP Codes will be issued if later warranted. 
 
4. Are there mail restrictions for deployed service member?
Yes, each country has customs regulations that apply to all mail (including U.S. military mail) coming into that country. These may include prohibitions on certain kinds of food or entertainment products. Also, some military units may have additional restrictions imposed by the theater commander, such as size and weight restrictions, to ensure logistics support can handle the mail without delays. Military ZIP Code restrictions may change as military units move to different locations. All applicable restrictions for approximately 3,000 overseas military ZIP Codes are entered into the U. S. Postal Service computer terminals and published in the Postal Bulletin. The general public may review details of all applicable restrictions by going to any branch post office or the USPS public web page www.usps.com. Here's how to access this file:

a. The customer should click on the USPS web site.

b. Type “Postal Bulletin” in the search engine, this will bring up the page for the bulletins.

c. Click on Bulletin, On this screen the customer will see “VIEW ISSUES.”

d. At “VIEW ISSUES” click current issue and this will bring you to the PDF file.

e. Click on PDF file and this will bring up the Postal Bulletin.

f. At this point the customer can navigate to the Postal Bulletin page that contain the Military ZIP Code information.

 
5. What is permissible and not permissible to be mailed to servicemembers of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom?
Conditions Applied to Military Post Offices Overseas restriction code -E-2 restricts “Any matter depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials is prohibited. Although religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith are prohibited in bulk quantities, items for the personal use of the addressee are permissible.”

Host country customs regulations mostly prohibit the entry of alcoholic beverages of any kind, narcotics, munitions, pork and pork by-products, pornography, and material contrary to the Islamic religion. Letter mail is not being opened unless it appears unusually bulky, in which case it may be examined to see if it contains contraband, such as drugs. Parcel mail is being examined on a spot check basis to determine conformity with host country customs regulations and for terrorist type mailing.

 
6. Are there plans to censor mail to and from the theater?
The DOD does not, nor have any plans to censor mail. Current laws protect the privacy of mail once it is placed within the postal system. Custom officials under customs laws may open packages.
 
7. Is there “Free Mail” from the theater?
Yes, most areas of the Middle East have been authorized Free Mail for personal correspondence being sent from the service member overseas back to the U.S. Family members sending mail to service members in a free mail zone must pay for postage. Service members are briefed on the Free Mail procedures when they are deployed to a Free Mail area. A current list of Free Mail areas is attached. However, this list should not be made available to the public.
 
8. Is there “Any Servicemember Mail”?
No. With large numbers of servicemembers deployed overseas this year, family members, friends and other Americans who want to support the military are asking about military mail service. A Department of Defense (DOD) News Release highlighted the cancellation of mail programs that allowed the general public to send mail addressed to “Any Service Member”. While these programs were very popular with the public, security concerns and transportation constraints with military mail led to their cancellation. As an alternative, the DOD News Release noted web sites that will post messages of encouragement and highlighted opportunities to support veterans and military families.  (Click here to read the news release)
 
9. How can I send a care package to the men and women of OIF/OEF OPS?
The general public can’t send care packages to deployed service members as they did during past conflicts. Families and friends may still send packages to servicemembers if they have a name and address however, they may not use appropriated funds. MPSA can’t provide names and addresses of service members. The USDA publishes guidance on food items recommended for care packages. Also, care packages must comply with customs regulations for the country in which the service member is located.
 
10. What are the different classes of outbound and inbound military mail?
a. Outbound (US to foreign) mail is called "Prograde" mail and is divided into seven (7) categories.
(1) Express Mail Military Service (5) Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL)
(2) First Class letter, flats, and sound recordings (6) Space-Available Mail (SAM)
(3) Priority Mail (7) Surface, second-class, third-class, and fourth-class mail
(4) Military Ordinary Mail (MOM) parcels  
   
b. Inbound (foreign to US) mail is called "retrograde" mail and is divided into five (5) categories.
(1) Express Mail Military Service (EMMS) (4) Space-Available Mail (SAM)
(2) Priority/First-Class Letters & Flats (5) Military Ordinary Mail (MOM) parcels
(3) Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL)  
 
11. What special military mail services are generally available?
Most USPS special services, such as certified mail, registered mail, insured mail, certificate of mailing, return receipt, restricted delivery and return receipt for merchandise are available in the military postal service. Collect on Delivery (COD) and Signature Confirmation are not available.