Military Postal Services
Authorized personnel outside the United States are served by a special military mail service (MPSA - Military Postal Service Agency) that provides:
- Mail service to and from distant locations (in approximately 85 countries) via transfer points inside the U.S.
- Mail service to servicemen and women at domestic rates, no matter where stationed
- A flexible process to keep mail flowing to mobile military units
- A level of security, obscuring the actual location of the military addressee
All mail going to a service member and other authorized patrons is directed to an APO/FPO address. This funnels the mail to a small number of gateway cities where a military mail processing facility is set up to direct it from there.
In 2009, U.S. diplomatic mail was separated from military mail. A new designation of DPO was established for diplomatic mail
The Military Post Offices (APOs, FPOs) and the MPSA operate as an extension of the United States Postal Service (USPS), consistent with public law and Federal regulations. APOs and FPOs provide efficient and responsive postal services to authorized personnel and activities overseas during both normal and contingency operations. The APO (Army Post Office) serves the US Army and US Air Force. The FPO (Fleet Post Office) serves the US Navy on ships at sea and on bases.
Authorized Patrons are service members, DoD civilian employees and DoD contractor employees assigned to overseas posts. The service is not available to personnel visiting Europe. Mail is processed, dispatched and collected from collection boxes, a minimum of five days a week. Inbound mail flows into the theater seven days per week.
Postage stamps are available at more than just your local post office. AAFES PXs and shoppettes also sell them. Consolidated Mail Rooms (CMR) and Unit Mail Rooms (UMR) provide mail collection boxes (identifiable by their brown color) for articles with the correct postage applied.
Mail to a German Address
Letters mailed to a local German address can use US postage stamps at the same rate as mail to the Continental United States (CONUS). However, the letters must 1) have a military APO return address, and 2) be mailed from an APO in Germany (not authorized from APOs in other countries). NOTE: Parcels may also be sent at the U.S. domestic postage rate, but a customs declaration is required.
Customs forms are required for all packages entered into the MPS and must be itemized. Mailing packages stateside from abroad involves many prohibitions, restrictions and import duty rules. Avoid the pitfalls by getting the "International Mail Imports" pamphlet from a military customs office. Many people do not know that the Department of Agriculture could fine you anywhere from $100 to $500 and sometimes even more if you mail any meat or meat by-products to CONUS. A customs declaration has to be on every parcel going to the States and falsifying it is a federal offense.
Some things cannot be mailed through the Military Postal System or are prohibited entry into the United States. There are also prohibitions on certain items being shipped from the USA to military destinations.
Items that cannot be mailed to the USA from overseas include, but are not limited to: alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor-filled candies), flammable materials (cigarette lighter fluid, matches, oil), explosives (fireworks, ammunition), compressed gases (aerosol containers, butane, propane), most weapons (handguns, switchblade knives, spent ammunition, shells or similar "war trophies"), foreign meat products (fresh or dried meat, canned meat, meat in soups or sauces), fresh fruits, plants and Cuban cigars.
Individuals who deliberately use the Military Postal Service to send or attempt to send non-mailable or prohibited items may be subject to prosecution and hefty fines.
Some items that cannot be mailed from the USA include, but are not limited to: mobile phones, GPS hardware and software, major appliances and oversized products, obscene articles, Family Radio Service (FRS) radios, any matter depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, non-authorized political materials, cordless phones and FM transmitters.
If your sponsor is deployed, ensure that you check for and take delivery of mail from your supporting Consolidated Mail Room or Unit Mail Room as often as possible. Due to limited mailroom facility space, some mailrooms are becoming overburdened with mail that is ready and available for delivery and this creates staging area problems for new mail that arrives daily.
Planning on taking an extended vacation? It is advisable to stop by your mail room and let them know you are going to be away for awhile. You can fill out temporary mail instructions to hold mail, forward it or have someone pick it up for you.
Links and Downloads
The website of the MPSA (Military Postal Service) Agency is here.
You can download a condensed FAQ brochure from the MPSA here.
The USPS website page for Military and Diplomatic Mail is here.
A download with faq about military mail from the USPS is here.
Stamps.com offers a Military Mail Guide download in pdf format from November 2014 at this link.
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