To ship or not to ship'
July 27, 2009
BAGHDAD - It's almost inevitable that during a year-long deployment, a Soldier will acquire more items, souvenirs and other things that won't fit in his duffel bag when it comes time to redeploy. That leaves the Soldier with one option: shipping the items back home.
Soldiers are allowed to mail items back home as long as they follow a few simple guidelines.
Any cardboard box will do for shipping purposes, but any addresses and barcodes on them need to be blacked out, according to Russell Henning, the postal supervisor for Liberty Post Office, which services an average of 260 customers per day.
"Look at [the box] and if it's confusing to you, it will be confusing to anybody," said the Enid, Okla. native. "Just make it so you can look at it and tell where it needs to go. It could be kicked out to the wrong address otherwise."
Footlockers purchased at the Post Exchange are authorized for shipping, according to Sgt. L.J. Willis, a mail clerk from Joanna, S.C., assigned to Company C, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. "The footlockers from the PX, the [tactical] boxes you get from supply, usually those are the biggest things we ship," he said.
The most a package can weigh is 70 lbs, Henning added. "That is absolutely the most you can mail," he said. "No matter what it is, if it's over 70 lbs, it's not going anywhere."
Being able to mail a large box doesn't mean that anything put in it can be mailed, however. There are a number of items that are prohibited.
Anything to do with a weapon: ammunition; brass; parts; accessories, are all unauthorized to mail. "A lot of people try to ship weapons parts; they don't know they're not supposed to ship them," said Willis. "We can't even ship a bipod - practically nothing that has to do with a weapon can be mailed."
One exception to the weapons policy is a knife, though it cannot be more than six inches in length, Willis added. "You can't mail home a sword or any of those big knives that you can buy at the bazaar," he said.
Anything that contains alcohol cannot be mailed, Henning explained. "This includes things like Nyquil, aftershave, cologne, perfume and mouthwash," he said.
Anything containing any kind of powder, to include protein shakes and the like, must have an unbroken seal to be shipped. "If something happens and that powder gets loose, it causes a big scare," Henning explained. "Basically, nothing can go if it's in danger of spilling all over everything."
Animals or animal products cannot be shipped due to U.S. Customs regulations, according to Henning. "A lot of people buy those little scorpions under glass; even that can't go," he added.
In addition to the aforementioned items, there are many other things that cannot be mailed. The mail clerks at the post office will be happy to help sort out what is unauthorized - it's their job, Henning added.
"Don't try to sneak unauthorized items through," Henning urged. "If it gets out of the post office, you are not the only one who could get in trouble. The mail clerk who helped you could get fired."
The Post Office allows Soldiers the opportunity to get excess property back home without the hassle of having to take it on the plane. Keep that in mind when gathering your items in a box to send back to the states.