The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the U.S. Armed Forces began using a numbered system for military mail during World War I that began in Prussia in the 1870s. The purpose of the system is to provide the USPS with a method for handling military mail as efficiently as it does domestic mail. It also can use the same machinery it uses to process domestic mail. The USPS receives military mail first. It is then forwarded to the proper military postal servicing center, where it is processed and forwarded to the recipient.
Understanding Military Addresses
The USPS includes three military states: AA for "Armed Forces the Americas," AE for "Armed Forces Europe" and AP for "Armed Forces Pacific." It also includes two military city equivalents: APO for "Army Post Office," and FPO for "Fleet Post Office." The military state acronyms AA, AE and AP designate the U.S. cities Miami, Fla.; New York, N.Y.; and San Francisco, Calif., respectively. Once a letter or package reaches one of these three destinations, it is further sorted according to APO or FPO, and forwarded to the appropriate military mail service outside the U.S.
The USPS is the first to receive military mail, and offers the following APO and FPO examples to help you address your military mail so it reaches its intended destination as quickly as possible:
SGT Robert Smith
PSC 802 Box 74
APO AE 09499-0074
Seaman Joseph Doe
FPO AP 96667-3931
Packages sent to overseas military personnel are treated a little differently than letters. While the address remains the same, you must print on only one side of the package. Additionally, the USPS offers a number of tips to help the package and its contents reach its destination in good condition. Consider temperature: determine what to send by whether the item can withstand the heat or cold of its final destination. Remove batteries from battery-operated items and wrap them separately; they sometimes get turned on during shipment. Seal your package with 2-inch-wide tape; do not use cord, string or twine.
The military restricts obscene articles (print, film, video, etc.), pornographic materials (nude, seminude, sexual content), bulk religious materials, unauthorized political materials and pork or pork byproducts.
Occasionally, packages fall apart. Military postal service workers will do what they can to resolve the problem, but it is helpful to include (inside the package) a card including the name and address for both sender and recipient and a list of the contents of the package. Packages for which the sender or recipient cannot be determined are forwarded to a local charity.
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