Monday, 4 May 2009

Support the troops

ANZAC Day has been and gone, and I did not post a thing about it. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I have arisen from my comfortable couch and slouched off to the post office to send another care package to an Australian soldier serving overseas. He's not in Afghanistan or Iraq, but he's still somewhere unpleasant and dangerous and he is in his own way looking after you and me.

Once he rotates home, I'll either start sending packages to those who are still out there (if he thinks it appropriate to pass on their names), or I'll start sending the odd pack to Afghanistan. The address is:

"An Australian Soldier"
Op Slipper
Australian Defence Force

Here's the deal.

Postage is free.

Yes, that's right - free. You don't have to pay a cent. You do occasionally have to remind the postie behind the counter that it's free. They sometimes fail to read the address and try to charge you for it.

You need to fill out a form at the post office before sending it, and they want to see ID. Take a drivers licence.

What you do is one of two things - find a shoebox lying around the house, or go to your local post office and buy a BM sized box - they cost $2, and are the size of a shoebox.

You only get to send 2kg of stuff. This is where a set of electronic scales at home come in handy.

How do you make use of the space alloted within that shoebox, and the 2kg weight limit?

You need to do a mix of light and heavy. It also helps to know what the troops can get their hands on locally, and what they can't. I'm not sure about Afghanistan, but for the secret location that I have been sending to, they can't get their hands on peanut butter. So I have sent a few jars of that, along with ANZAC biscuits, twisties, minties and a good supply of magazines. These might seem like simple and trite things, but if you are a fan of the mintie, imagine trying to procure some in Afghanistan - and then going without for a whole tour.

Magazines should be of the blokey variety. I think anything that covers sport, cars, women and fishing would be acceptable - so long as it is not too naughty. It doesn't matter if they are pre-loved. By the time they have been passed around the base, they'll have been read about a thousand times, so you reading it first will not make a difference.

Things to avoid are things that will melt - like chocolate.

Now, get off your bum and add a few things to your next shopping list. You don't need to make a special trip to buy this stuff - just get it next time you are at the supermarket. Then visit the post office.

It's almost as good as giving someone a Christmas present.


kae said...

Great idea to post that, Boy.

I know parcels from home are prized, even if not necessarily from the particular home the soldier is from!

Thanks for the tips on goodies to send...

Put your email addy in the parcel, you may get a message from the recipient, and get to know them.

I'll link to this.

kae said...

I'd also add that speaking to our mate OS, there are women there, and blokes don't mind reading Women's Weekly...

Aus_Autarch said...

I posted two boxes after your last post on this topic - but even with your advice, I was unsure as to what to pack.

I put in a few magazines (science & gaming) - a friend recommended "skin" mags - but my SO definitely did not approve of that idea. Are these mags of any interest - (discover, scientific american, popular science, white dwarf, pcgamer)? Or should I save that space/weight for more edible goodies?

I found another source that said that the Robert Timms instant coffee bags were a highly desired commodity, so I included a box of each of those.

Other things I packed were the non-melting goodies - things like jerky, kool-mints.

I also included a short letter which asked the soldier who received it to send an email to tell me what would have been better - no response, so I guess it was good as was.

I've got a few australia post boxes - I guess I'll send off another set.

Only thing that worries me - I addressed it to "An Active Service Soldier" - I wanted it to go to someone on the frontlines. How do I know that it makes it through, and some "REMF" (to use the vernacular) didn't open it en-route and take it for themselves?

Boy on a bike said...

You've both hit on important points. Yes, when I send my next one, I will include a letter telling whomever gets it to tell me what to pack next time.

Magazines - I actually packed a stack of Spectators, because I reckon they are a great read even when they are 3-4 months old.

Coffee - that's a good idea. The stuff in rat packs was always powdery rubbish.

Aus_Autarch said...


The coffee bags are apparently popular, because as separately sealed and thus good as barter items.

Did you ever see one of these anonymous care packages come through? I would hate to think that they are being intercepted before they leave australia to supplement someone's lunch.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, BOAB, I'm surprised it isn't publicised more widely.

Aus Autarch, hopefully these packages will get to their destination intact, unlike some of the ones my husband & his mates received in Vietnam, empty of most contents and carrying a nice little note wishing a fast bullet and a slow death.

I expect there are better security safeguards these days.

Anonymous said...

Good post Boy
I have it on good advice that little packages of baby wipes are always in high demand for the lads in the field so they can clean themselves. These are surprisingly not supplied by the Army.

Boy on a bike said...

I hadn't considered wipes. At the location I am sending to, the guys have access to an American PX which carries a lot of that sort of stuff, so there is no point in me sending it. However, Afghanisation might be totally different.

The best depiction of the use of wipes is in the series "Generation Kill", where they show early on why they are very, very handy. Wish they had been invented when I was a scrawny grunt.