Please note:

This website was set up to get parcels to Australian Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen/Airwomen deployed overseas.

You are welcome to cut and paste information and use it to support sending parcels to our service members serving overseas, however, when you do cut and paste please link back to Ocean Sky & Khaki to acknowledge OSK, and so that people can find the blog themselves.

If there are questions one of us will answer if you comment on a post at the blog.

*************

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is the DOD stopping parcels?

Nilk, Boy and I have been sending out feelers to our contacts in the services or close to the military and trying to find out if there was any truth in the information we saw on another blog that the Department of Defence was telling people that the parcels could not be sent.

We need to get to the bottom of who is telling people not to send parcels because we KNOW that recipients appreciate them very much.

Late last Saturday night in the "What to send/What not to send" post we received the following comment:


Kae,

A copy of an email sent from the ADF Public Affairs and the reply form the President of the 4 RAR Association - have excluded email addresses and phone numbers but if you would like them for verification let me know.


With regard to the e-mails circulating, asking people to send care packages to Afghanistan I can provide you with the following information:
******************************************************************************
• Thank you for your consideration and support for ADF members serving overseas over the Christmas period, but for a number of logistic management and security reasons, we would prefer that you do not encourage your readers to send “care packages” to deployment service men and women.
• Mail that is sent via Defence postal arrangements is restricted to official military and personal mail only, and must not be used for any other material.
• Defence postal services utilise the same air transport resources used for the movement of vital stores and equipment in support of ADF operations. The movement of large volumes of mail have the potential to affect the transportation of important stores and equipment needed for the safety, security and continued operational success of our people.
• Humanitarian Aid, which attracts normal international rates of postage, is not authorised to be sent through the Defence Postal Service. There is no entitlement, or requirement for Humanitarian Aid to be sent to Australian Service personnel

kind regards,
Ben
Ben Wickham
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Operations Centre
Department of Defence
The reply:
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 3:28 PM
Subject: Care packages

Dear Mr Wickham,
Reference: Your email shown below my reply. (In this case email number 2)

With the greatest respect, your preferences or the preferences of the Department of Defence, Public Affairs Operations Office really do not matter in this instance. What matters is the welfare and morale of our Aussie Diggers serving overseas in conditions that you or I can only imagine. Have you ever served overseas during Christmas, New Year, Australia day, April Fools Day, your own birthday, your family birthdays and anniversaries and not being able to share them with your families. Have you ever seen the looks on the faces of the Diggers when they receive a parcel from home? Have you ever experienced the joy of opening a parcel from someone not known to you but who has taken the time and effort to show that they care about you and respect you for the terrific task that you are doing on behalf of the Australian people and the Australian Government?

I can only assume from the cold heartedness of your reply that you have not!

Defence postal arrangements are not merely for official mail but have the nominated job and the responsibilty of ensuring that all mail addressed to all soldiers either by name or not, is delivered.

The first essence of mail is to receive news from home so that what you are doing on operations makes sense. The second essence of mail is to ensure that the famllies of soldiers are doing OK under extreme circumstances. The third essence of mail is maintain the morale of soldiers by the receiving and sending of mail. The fourth essence of mail is to ensure that soldiers who do not normally receive mail, do.

Have you forgotten the lessons of Vietnam and the punch a postie campaign and the soldiers who perhaps did not perform as well as expected simply because they did not receive mail and they felt as if they did not belong. Have you considered the experience of the platoon sergeant and section 2ICs whose duty it is to hand out the mail and by their observance of who and who was not receiving mail, were able to identify those that might develop morale problems. Your argument is scary at the least.

The movement of large volumes of mail must be included in the planning, movement and delivery of logistic support. Mail must be considered as logistical stores vital to the war effort and should be the first priority in serving the soldier and just as important as beans and bullets. The normal priority resupply system in the field includes in one package, beans, bullets and mail. If it doesn't then the ADF is in big trouble. If it is considered that mail will adversly affect the stores, security and continued success of our people (I am sure that you meant to say"warriors" here) then consider this. Consider the warrior that does not get mail, that is forgotten at Christmas when all around him are opening up parcels from family and he has to read the letters received from the families of other soldiers to make him feel wanted and appreciated. He will not look after his stores, he will not attend to security and he will not care about success, why should he? He has been deserted by those who swore to look after him, his superiors!

Mail is not humanitarian aid, this is called respecting, thanking and appreciating the warrior, male or female, in whatever service or corps, in whatever rank and in whatever job, for his service to his country and to the people of Australia by ensuring that he is able to receive mail and to send mail and to ensure that he can, by receiving and sending mail ensure that he can gain a sense of normality about his life so far away from home.

My request on behalf of all our members and families is that you stand up, walk over to mirror, forgive yourself for this most inappropriate decision and email and then kick down the door of your immediate superior, any General will do, and demand a different reply; one that applies logic, compassion, respect and adulation for our warriors serving overseas and then ensure through your department that if necessay, more aircraft, ships or carrier pigeons are allocated to delivering of the mail and the intended care packages to our warriors with the utmost speed and consideration.

Yours sincerley but disappointedly,

Alan Price

(Alan Price)
President
4RAR Assoc, Qld
(Tas, NT, Intl)
There have been no orders promulgated regarding this cessation of care packages. We will keep you informed, and we ask if you hear anything like this you let us know and also let us know where you have heard this information so that we can follow it up and check whether it is true or not.

If the DOD has decided that the activities of Australian Citizens sending packages, showing their support of our military personnel who have been sent far from home to carry out their duties in foreign lands, should cease, we will find another way to get the parcels to our diggers. It is my very strong hope that it will not come to that.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Guest post from someone who has been there, done that (sort of)

Hello Kargo here. I have not quite been doing the same job as those fantatsic members of the ADF have been doing but I have recently returned from Western Darfur in the Sudan. There we were confronted with "shortages" of items that could/should and would zest up general existence in a hot and dusty clime.

Now, when thinking about the type of things to send there are a few categories of items. These categories are based on two great needs when you are in the back of beyond, being, to be entertained, hear about the normal shaningans that people get up to and to eat interesting things.
I am going to put a few ideas together on a list that might help people with putting their parcels together, in the meantime, keep up the good work!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

T is for Thank You!

Cpl Fisher in comments below writes:

Hi guy's I am currently serving in Afghanistan and would just like to say thanks a million for what you guy's and girls are doing. I just stumbled across this link on the Townsville bulletin website. It is great to know some people back home are thinking about us and I'm sure all the guy's who have received a parcel are wrapped. Thanks again guy's keep up the good work.

Cpl A Fisher MRTF-2


Corporal Fisher is one of the reasons why we have this blog.

There are several thousand other reasons for this blog out in harm's way.

Words are inadequate when it comes to showing respect and honour for our military, so I won't waffle.

I'm just happy to be able to say Thank You, Cpl Fisher, and your brothers- and sisters- in arms.

Thank you to also to our growing team of care package senderers
carers, whether I know of you or not.

Your efforts are appreciated whether you receive a direct response or not.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

S is for Sacrifice.

Her hair was up in a pony tail,
Her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy's Day at school,
And she couldn't wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,
That she probably should stay home.
Why the kids might not understand,
If she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid;
She knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates
Of why he wasn't there today.

But still her mother worried,
For her to face this day alone.
And that was why once again,
She tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school
Eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees
A dad who never calls.

There were daddies along the wall in back,
For everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently,
Anxious in their seats

One by one the teacher called
A student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
As seconds slowly passed.

At last the teacher called her name,
Every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
A man who wasn't there.

'Where's her daddy at?'
She heard a boy call out.
'She probably doesn't have one,'
Another student dared to shout.

And from somewhere near the back,
She heard a daddy say,
'Looks like another deadbeat dad,
Too busy to waste his day.'

The words did not offend her,
As she smiled up at her Mom.
And looked back at her teacher,
Who told her to go on.

And with hands behind her back,
Slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
Came words incredibly unique.

'My Daddy couldn't be here,
Because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
Since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know.
All about my daddy,
And how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories
He taught me to ride my bike.
He surprised me with pink roses,
And taught me to fly a kite.

We used to share fudge sundaes,
And ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him.
I'm not standing here alone.

'Cause my daddy's al ways with me,
Even though we are apart
I know because he told me,
He'll forever be in my heart'

With that, her little hand reached up,
And lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
Beneath her favorite dress.

And from somewhere here in the crowd of dads,
Her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
Who was wise beyond her years.

For she stood up for the love
Of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
Doing what was right.

And when she dropped her hand back down,
Staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
But its message clear and loud.

'I love my daddy very much,
he's my shining star.
And if he could, he'd be here,
But heaven's just too far.

You see he is a British soldier
And died just this past year
When a roadside bomb hit his convoy
And taught Britons to fear.

But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it's like he never went away.'
And then she closed her eyes,
And saw him there that day.

And to her mothers amazement,
She witnessed with surprise.
A room full of daddies and children,
All starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them,
Who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
They saw him at her side.

'I know you're with me Daddy,'
To the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
Of those once filled with doubt.

Not one in that room could explain it,
For each of their eyes had been closed.
But there on the desk beside her,
Was a fragrant long-stemmed rose.

And a child was blessed, if only for a moment,
By the love of her shining star.
And given the gift of believing,
That heaven is never too far.


With thanks to Redtail - it's helped me start something I've turning over in my head the last couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks back I got a letter of solicitation from Legacy. I mentioned them back in July and am always happy to give them a shout out.

At this time of the year, we do tend to spend a bit more time on our military than is usual at any other time apart from Anzac Day, and the older I get, the more I appreciate what my father sacrificed.

No, he didn't sacrifice his life, nor does every other soldier, sailor or airman, but there are still sacrifices made that never seem to be acknowledged.

The time spent away from families during training can be hard for all members, then there is a lot of moving from post to post, often from one end of the country to another. I know a former Navy lad from Queensland whose first posting was to Melbourne, for example.

For a youngster with a closeknit family who had never lived away from home it was a big shock to the system.

That's only one example, and there are gazillions of others - every soldier and their family are different, after all.

When it comes to overseas postings in war zones, the difficulties are magnified.

The poem above was sent to us from Redtail, as she found it moving and a timely reminder of the sacrifices that many people make when soldiers deploy.

There are children, husbands and wives who also live with the outcomes of a deployment.

There is a very real risk of death in a warzone, and anything that helps a man or woman bear with that is worthwhile.

It may be only a few things added to the shopping list each week, or fortnight, or month, but we all know how it feels when we learn that someone has thought of us.

For myself, I like to know that my small contributions have helped lighten someone's load.

I hope the whoopie cushions I send over every now and then make someone laugh as much as we laugh here with them!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

M is for motivation

See if this helps.


Monday, November 9, 2009

T is for Tenacity

When I started sending parcels, I had this vague idea in the back of my mind that I would try to send one per month at least.

Well, I think I've averaged one per month, but I'm not terribly consistent. I sent 4 parcels off in one hit back in September, and have not made it to the Post Office again until today. My current work hours and the opening hours of the Post Office don't mix. I put a parcel together weeks ago, and it was has sat by the front door awaiting the day when I could dispatch it.

I'm sure this is a problem for many other people. I leave for work before the local Post Office opens, and I get home after it shuts. You can't just stick a 2kg parcel in a mail box - it has to be presented at the counter. If you commute to work by public transport, lugging a box on the bus is not an attractive option. My local Office Works sells all sorts of envelopes, but no BM boxes, so I have to find an open Post Office in order to buy the empty boxes.

The logistics of such a simple operation can be a nightmare for those of us that toil 9-5 in the city.

However, it can be overcome.

Everyone has days off from time to time. I have decided that for me, the best option is to send a truckload of parcels several times a year rather than trying to send one or more per month. I add a few items to the shopping list each week, and stockpile enough over a month or so to fill 3 or 4 boxes. When I visit the Post Office to send a pile of parcels, I buy an armful of BM boxes for the next round. Everything I am sending is not perishable, so it can sit in a box in the back room for a month until the next posting day.

So if you are finding the process of sending a parcel to be a bit painful, you're not alone. However, whenever I think, "Oh crikey, I need to take 10 minutes and go out of my way to post this - what a pain", I think of the conditions that our troops in the forward areas are living under, and all my annoyances and irritations at the Post Office opening hours and the inconvenience they cause just evaporate.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

X is for Xmas.

Yes, I know we're still in October, but now is the time to start thinking about packing a bit of Christmas care.

It helps that the stores have already started their spruiking, and there are quite a few interesting little goodies on display.

My local Kmart has mini plum puddings at $3.00 each, for example. There are the inevitable tins of shortbread bikkies (yum), including a small tin with Marilyn Monroe on it for just under $6.

The santa stockings full of chocolates and lollies, santa hats, and plenty more. I didn't take a good look, although I did snaffle a couple of the mini puddings. They weigh in at 127g each, which is a nice little mouthful.

I've not looked at tinsels and things yet - I will save that for the next couple of weeks while I scout out the merchandise.

In case you think I'm being premature, I prefer to allow around 3 weeks for a care package to get to its destination.

Feel free to offer suggestions, and we'll start up a post to share them.

Friday, October 2, 2009

E is for East Timor.

If you look in the sidebar, you'll see we've added an address. Since we've also got people in East Timor, I figured it was about time to provide some details for sending to there, too. While we don't hear much about what's happening up there, our Diggers have been there for ages.

Time to send them some love, too!

“An Australian Soldier”
OP ASTUTE
AFPO 5
Australian Defence Force
SYDNEY NSW 2890

As I've discovered, there are a few restrictions on what you can send to East Timor.

According to my information, things not to send include:
Coins, currency, firearms, weapons, ammo (this is a no-brainer, but I guess some people don't have brains), firs, ivory, jewellery, perfume, pornography, drugs, dyes (??), parasites and insect killers, cigarettes, alcohol and most importantly.... cordial*.

My view is that it's basically use your common sense, as with the care packages we're already sending. It is illogical to send a parcel full of stuff that will get our guys into trouble, so don't!


And keep up the great work.


*I have no idea on the reasoning behind the cordial ban, but I will fess up to sending some to Afghanistan.

Friday, September 25, 2009

D is for delivery

The Daily Telegraph recently sent two journalists to Afghanistan for a month. They've posted a series of videos at the Telegraph website. One of them is entitled "Gifts from home", and it shows the troops receiving a fortnightly shipment of parcels, including one clearly marked to "An Australian Soldier" from Mr & Mrs Sparrow in Queensland.


Check out the video, and cheers to the Sparrows.

Since mail is delivered once a fortnight, I guess it can take 3 weeks or more for a parcel to get from Australia to the sharp end.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

L is for "lots of lollies"

The Daily Telegraph ran a story a week back about the struggle to feed some of our troops in Afghanistan.

SOME of Australia's front-line troops in Afghanistan are well fed but many others continue to lose body weight as they struggle for calories.

Nutrition is a challenge for the task force and doctors at the Tarin Kowt hospital have expressed serious concerns about malnutrition among troops spending weeks outside the wire. Some Diggers have lost 15kg in a month.
I am pleased to say that I did a small amount to combat this problem last week by sending four boxes packed with lollies to one of the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams, or OMLTs. That's nearly 8 kilos of Minties, Snakes, Licorice, Fruit Sours and other assorted sweet things that won't melt in the heat or crumble during transport.

Nilk came up with the marvelous idea of sending this particular OMLT a "group hug". There are about a dozen members of the team that we decided to "hug", so it was easy to work out that if we sent four boxes each (including Kae), every Digger would get a box.

I decided to concentrate on one thing - lollies - because by packing and sending four boxes at once, there should be enough volume and variety to keep everyone happy and well fed. Sharing one big packet of Minties between 12 doesn't go far - but four packs of Minties will.

The biggest challenge during this operation was hiding several shopping bags of lollies from the kids!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

7SEP09 What to send/What not to send?

Mandie, a veteran care package sender has been looking for where to send packages to Aussies for a long time. I received an email from Mandie who has compiled a list of what to send and what not to send from her experience sending care packages to Marines and to someone she knew in Timor.

We'll start with this list and there'll be a link to this post on the side bar (see "Links to info posts in this blog"). It will have a date when it is updated so that when things are added we'll just change the date.

Suggestions for care package contents for service troops in combat zones

Send a letter with an email address and even a self addressed envelope so the troops can reply.

Ask about their living conditions and if they have fridge or microwave available to them then it is easier to know which food items to send, but do not worry if they do not use something troops have been giving it to the chaplain or another unit to pass out to others that might need it.

NO HOMEMADE Food items unless you know the soldier as they get thrown away.
If sending liquid or food products, place them in a snap lock bag 1st in case of leakage
Food
2 minutes noodles
Biscuits (no nut or choc)
Chewing gum (not sugar coated gum but stick gum for hot climates)
Coffee (individual sachets)
Cup of noodles
Cuppa soup
Disposable forks/spoons
Dried Fruit
Drinking choc (individual sachets)
Easy Mac
Individual Cereal boxes
Individual pull ring Tuna or sachets
Lollies
Long life milk (small packs)
Microwave popcorn
Microwave rice (reject shop $2)
Oatmeal (individual sachets)
Pepper (individual sachets)
Powdered energy drinks
Salt (individual sachets)
Sauces & Condiments like mustard etc (individual sachets are good, ask Macca’s if you can have some and why...)
Spices - to go with lamb/goat for example, rosemary, garlic, thyme, Greek spices
Sugar (individual sachets)
Tea
Trail Mix
Twisties (can also be used as packing in spaces in the box)
Wasabi peas
NO PORK AT ALL TO BE SENT

Hygiene
Aftershave (they complain they smell)
Air Fresher (non aerosol sprays & the cardboard card ones)
Baby wipes (bulk & travel size)
Cotton buds
Deodorant (non aerosol)
Foot powder
Hair Conditioner
Hair Shampoo
Inner soles
Lip Balm (chap sticks)
Moisturiser
Mouthwash
Razors (NOT the real cheap ones like Bic! Personally I use Schick and I’d only send those, we don’t want them cutting slashing themselves to shreds!)
Shaving cream (non aerosol)
Soap (normal & travel size)
Socks (black & white)
Talc
Tissues (medium & travel size)
Toilet paper (one roll in a box)
Toothbrushes (sometimes)
Toothpaste
If female troops then add the following
Female hygiene products
Gel or hair spray (non aerosol)
Hair ties
Hairbrush (only send 1)

Misc & entertainment
Batteries (as in 1st box if they need some)
Blank Cards (for troops to sent home)
Board games
Board games (some marines have a wonderful photo of them playing twister)
Book (try not to sent romance novels)
Cheap DVDs Please write on cover & disc in permanent marker “Aussie troops property” to avoid theft
Drawing Paper
Envelope
Footballs/Basketballs (and a pump)
Magazines (nothing rude)
Music CDs Please write on cover & disc in permanent marker “Aussie troops property” to avoid theft
Other sporting goods
Pen/Pencils
Playing cards
Poker chips
Sport sections of newspapers
Tennis balls (If you have tennis courts nearby you can buy second hand balls cheap – I got some from the University tennis courts $1 each, Slazenger and other brands)
Writing Paper

NO Alcohol
DO NOT SEND CLOTHING except socks

What not to send:

Aside from and in addition to any items prohibited by Australia Post the following are prohibited to be sent to AFPO13 Operation Slipper:

Aerosols
Alcohol
Cigarettes
Clothing other than socks
Pork
Magazines with naked women

If anyone has any more items to add please enter them in comments and they will be added to the compilation above. We will endeavour to find other items in the blog and add them, too.

Thanks again, Mandie!

Monday, August 24, 2009

V is for Viral.

Which is hopefully where we'll go with this.

I do keep an eye on our statcounter off in the sidebar, just to see where our readers and participants come from, and it's also nice to see who is linking to us.

In the interests of privacy, I don't make any of this public, although I've been known to drop an email to Boy and Kae letting them know that we're getting a few hits from an unexpected source.

I'm just an inveterate stickybeak when it comes to stuff like that.

Anyway, I have noticed that we're getting some visitors from fora where you have to be registered. As I'm not registered, then I can't access them to see what's being said about this blog.

I'm presuming it's positive, and I did notice that someone in another forum has a link to us in their sig.

That is a Good Thing. :)

Word is filtering through the blogosphere, with many thanks to Andrew Bolt in particular, and many for those smaller groups who have picked up the ball and run with it.

I'm a big fan of looking after our own, and I'd personally like to see every member of our Forces serving in hostile lands to receive care packages.

The more word gets out, the closer that aim becomes.

For those who read and pass the information on, keep up the great work. Even if you're not in a position to send anything, that's not a problem. As Boy has said below:
We do this on our own. We do not come together at a central location to decide what to pack, or where to buy the ingredients, or to pack a pile of boxes as a group. We rely on self motivation to go and do it, and persistence and tenacity to do it again and again on a regular (or irregular) basis. We offer each other encouragement through our actions.

We have no central committee to keep things running. We elect no board, have no directors, have no Constitution and keep no lists of membership. We do not waste time on meeting and talking and canvassing opinions - we just do.

We pay for this ourselves. We seek no government grants or subsidies (apart from the free postage already on offer), or corporate support, and we seek no individual donations. We get no tax breaks or deductions. The effort to put together a box, and to earn the money to pay for the contents, is entirely ours.

We each choose how much to spend, and make no judgements as to whether a box cost nothing to pack, or a small fortune. You give what you can afford to give, and what you think would be worthwhile to receive.

We encourage others to do the same, but we do not hector, cajole or harass them into joining or complying. You do or you don't. What you choose to do is your business, and yours alone.


For our lurkers, in Oz and all the other countries reading us, keep up the good work.

It's bewdy, mate!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

L is for lollies

Hot on the heels of the Pasta Pack comes the Lolly Pack. After buying this lot, I discovered that a $2 shop that we visit every now and then sells a huge range of lollies like this for less than I paid at a major supermarket chain. Arrgh!


Yes, that is a bottle of Tabasco sauce in the middle. I know that it doesn't quite go with the theme of a lolly pack, but you packs what you can sends.

Lollies are surprisingly heavy, so I filled out the empty spaces in the box with some ANZAC biscuits, a few chewy bars and some 2 minute noodles. There was no room for the bag of Twisties, so the kids ate them.


Soldiering is incredibly hard work - the guys in the field will be burning an amazing number of calories per day, so getting a face full of lollies is not an issue. If you can show me a soldier who comes back from Afghanistan heavier than when they left, I'll show you a cook. The rest will be so skinny, their pants will be falling down around their ankles.

Now that I know where to buy masses of lollies at a good price, I am going to pay a return visit and buy enough to fill a couple of boxes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

P is for Pasta, Anyone?

So I'm considering a pasta package. Sure, I've still got a couple to post off already, but each time I shop I get more ideas, like Boy on a Bike had his Tea and bikkies package.

I figure I'll throw this out to the reading public for feedback. Here goes:

Pasta - 500g bag of spaghetti, fettucini or spirals. Not sure what's more practical.
Tomato paste - Leggos do a 400g plastic squeeze tube which is truly wonderful.
Onion flakes - by the bag or by the jar.
Mixed italian spices - again, by the bag or by the jar.
Parmesan cheese - Kraft have their little shakers in various sizes, and it was always a staple in the pantry growing up.

Maybe some garlic paste to add to some bread for something a bit different.

It could work...

Thoughts?

Meat can be added to taste at a later stage.

Friday, July 31, 2009

S is for sports stuff

This pack is on its way to a small training team that is embedded with the Afghan Army. I hope that somewhere in that band of merry men, there is a Wallabies supporter. Since I am working down at the Circular Quay end of Sydney, I paid a special visit to David Campese's rugby shop, and bought an appropriate scarf. I'd have preferred a flag, but a scarf is better than nothing.

I didn't have the time to stop and have some of Campo's coffee and cake ($7 for a slice and a coffee), but if the scarf goes down well in the hills of Afghanistan, I might have to pay the shop another visit.


Other notable items are the chapstick, the paw paw ointment (I use a lot of it myself) and the lamb herbs - I figure that if the team ever buys a sheep or goat for dinner, a container of lamb herbs would go well with it. My inspiration for that came from these letters home from Cyrus Thatcher:

Im getting pretty good at making flat bread and we bout a goat of a local for 200 dollars and we slaughtered it. I got a good video. Its either catch it, kill it, or make it out here or else you go hungry LOL!!

Cyrus also had this to say, which should inspire those of us at home to keep on sending these parcels:

A BIG ONE that I NEED you to try do (get started ill help when I get back) is appeal to local charitys, churches, major companys ie Zoo, Cadburys, boots you name it. Write to them and explain my whereabouts and they do send gifts, chocolate, sweets, magazines you name it trust me a lot of the lads parents did it and they've got clothes, the lot. Trust me Red bull, lucazade, fags AND SWEETS are wicked just keep sending them and URGE people to send photos they keep the moral SKY HIGH.

So, get to it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

T is for "thanks"

Thanks firstly to Andrew Bolt for giving us a mention. A big welcome to all of Andrew's readers. You might want to check out these earlier posts that explain the mechanics of what we are doing:

I got a letter of thanks today from a Digger in Afghanistan. He's part of a team of a dozen soldiers who are embedded with Afghan soldiers, and they are based in an outpost that sounds like it is off the beaten track.

I imagine that these small outposts are lacking in most luxuries, like running water, toilets, showers and so on, and the food would be a lot more basic than what you'd get in a base camp equipped with proper messing facilities, full time cooks and good logistics support. It's in outposts like this that a care pack or welfare parcel can go a long way to making life a little more bearable. When in Australia, this particular Digger lives not far from me, and I hope I can buy him a few beers to wash the dust from his throat when he gets home.

But apart from the Twisties and the biscuits and the coffee, and best thing you can pack is a note that says, "thank you".

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Richard Sharpe Guest Post

OK, Kae, Boy on Bike and Nilk have dobbed me in to write a guest post about receiving packages whilst deployed. I will caveat this from the outset by saying I haven’t been to Afghanistan. Each deployment is different, and the availability of various items differs depending on the welfare package for each operation. Boy on a Bike sent me a couple of parcels whilst I was deployed recently, so I’ll try and approach this from my own experience and temper it with what I know from other deployments I’ve done and what I know about Afghanistan from mates who have been there.

Mail sent through the Armed Forces Post Office (AFPO) differs from normal international mail. For small operations, it goes through the usual postal arrangements to the host nation for distribution, usually through a small National Support Element (NSE) who are given what amounts to a “Soldier’s five” on mail before being thrown in the deep end to administer it. On larger operations, the ADF will deploy a uniformed postie. The mail will usually be transported by service aircraft to the postie in-theatre, and will be distributed through the logistic chain from there. What this means for the sender of care packages to “An Australian Soldier” is that it is entirely reliant on both the postie and the chain of command as to who actually receives the package. I have never seen it happen with privately sent packages, but I can speak for what has happened to packages from RSLs and other such organisations. Priority tends to go to those who have been there the longest, and then to those who have either done particularly well of late or who are not getting much in the way of mail. Welfare of subordinates is viewed as a function of leadership, so these things tend to be pushed down the chain of command as far as possible. However they work it out, some deserving digger will end up with your parcel.

What to pack:

In most theatres, welfare facilities have been established in an attempt to lessen the burden of operational service. On Australian-led operations (think Timor, Solomons etc), that facility is run by the ADF. On larger coalition operations, it often ends up being run by the UK, or more often, the US. That means that even in Oruzgan Province, a digger can get his hands on a cold soft-drink and a bag of chips or a chocolate bar. Unfortunately, that chocolate bar is likely to be made by Hershey’s. What you really miss whilst deployed is all things Australian. 39 Personnel Support Battalion, based in Sydney and responsible for the welfare of deployed troops, put together care packages quite regularly. They usually include magazines newspapers and DVDs of popular TV series and sporting fixtures. They do a great job, and I can’t thank them enough for the support they provided while I was away, but they don’t cover everything.

Vegemite, Kraft Peanut Butter, Allen’s lollies, Twisties, Minties, Nobby’s nuts, and Milo are all good things to throw in a package. Good tea and coffee from home are also very welcome. Alcohol is against the rules, so don’t get tempted to decant some Bundaberg rum into a Lipton’s Iced Tea bottle so that from casual inspection the contents look legitimate. It is against the rules, and Australian soldiers are nothing if not sticklers for the rules.

Don’t get too caught up in feeding the soldiers though. Magazines and newspapers from home are always highly prized. When selecting magazines, remember that the bulk of the force is male and in their 20s. Pornography is not a good idea, but magazines like FHM and Ralph are usually OK. Sporting magazines are also sought after, but remember that the ADF represents the Australian population in microcosm, so a mix of League, AFL and Rugby (even Soccer if you are so minded) is necessary, as well as Cricket etc.

Another great idea for a package-filler is Australiana – the sort of things you can pick up at the $2 shop. Anything with an Australian flag, Koalas, Kangaroos or Wombats etc on it is great. I had an Australian flag hanging in my office and on my accommodation, and had a Wallabies flag in our multi-national recreation area. Having little Aussie stick-pins, stubbie coolers, pens, or those little clip-on Koalas on hand to give to soldiers from other countries is great for our image overseas. People remember that kind of thing and will often reciprocate. I came hope with pins, patches, badges, even bits of uniform from all over the world because I made a habit of carrying little bits of kitschy Australiana to give away.

Every soldier is different. Every operation is different. Don’t get too caught up in the idea of creating the “perfect package”. When it gets to the other end, the thing that the recipient will remember long after they have eaten, read, or given away everything that was in it, is that someone from home cared enough to send it in the first place.
Read Mr Sharpe's blog here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

L is for "little platoons"

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.” ~ Edmund Burke

If you have sent a care pack, or thought about sending one, then may I welcome you to our "little platoon".

Here is my personal philosophy on this matter - I don't claim to speak for Nilk or Kae or any other member of our little platoon; this is simply how I feel about what we are doing.

We do this on our own. We do not come together at a central location to decide what to pack, or where to buy the ingredients, or to pack a pile of boxes as a group. We rely on self motivation to go and do it, and persistence and tenacity to do it again and again on a regular (or irregular) basis. We offer each other encouragement through our actions.

We have no central committee to keep things running. We elect no board, have no directors, have no Constitution and keep no lists of membership. We do not waste time on meeting and talking and canvassing opinions - we just do.

We pay for this ourselves. We seek no government grants or subsidies (apart from the free postage already on offer), or corporate support, and we seek no individual donations. We get no tax breaks or deductions. The effort to put together a box, and to earn the money to pay for the contents, is entirely ours.

We each choose how much to spend, and make no judgements as to whether a box cost nothing to pack, or a small fortune. You give what you can afford to give, and what you think would be worthwhile to receive.

We encourage others to do the same, but we do not hector, cajole or harass them into joining or complying. You do or you don't. What you choose to do is your business, and yours alone.

We send our packs with no expectation of response or reward. If these things happen, they happen, and we rejoice. If they don't, we understand that the Digger on the receiving end may have more important things to do than pen a response. We trust that someone on the other side of the world is smiling, and leave it at that.

We operate under pseudonyms, seeking no publicity for ourselves - but that does not preclude us from seeking publicity for our program. We spread the word where possible, in private and in public, but we do it in a low key and unassuming manner. Those that see the value in what we do tend to grasp it instantly and intuitively; for those that don't, we don't waste time trying to explain ourselves.

We seek one thing and one thing alone - more care packs being sent to our troops in the field. That is the only result that matters.

That's how I view this little platoon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

C is for C-17

This just in:

ADF's C-17 joins Diggers in Afghanistan
AAP July 14, 2009, 9:03 pm


It's longer than an Olympic pool and could help save Australian lives in one of the world's most dangerous places.

The C-17 heavy air lift aircraft has joined the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan, marking the biggest technological advancement since troops were deployed to the war-stricken nation in 2001.

The 51-metre-long aircraft can carry four times the cargo of existing C-130 Hercules aircraft, yet travel at up to 800km/h.

With a 50-metre wingspan, it is slightly smaller than a civilian double-decker Airbus A380 aeroplane.

But compared with the existing fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft, which date back to the 1950s, it's a heavier duty machine.

Where the C-130 can carry one armoured vehicle, the Boeing C-17 is able to transport five of the Bushmasters.

The new kid in the fleet made its first ever landing and take-off in a war zone this week as it delivered vital supplies to a remote air strip at Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan.

This also was the first time the aircraft had been deployed to Afghanistan since Australia took delivery of them in 2006.

Captain Gary Martin, the air component commander of the joint Australian task force in the Middle East, said fewer trips would help save lives on the frontline.

"It's a dangerous environment. In the line of work, we only have to visit the place once rather than make two, three, four flights," Captain Martin told AAP from an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

"We're reducing the risk to Australian men and women and the ADF.

"We're offered a larger capacity to handle difficult types of loads, to get the right equipment there at the right time."

The defence force's No.36 squadron has four C-17s, based at the Amberley RAAF base southwest of Brisbane.

By comparison, the air force has two dozen C-130s.


As Boy on a Bike just emailed:[W]ith that big boy flying stuff in, there should be no reason why the parcel limit can’t be raised to 20kg!


I second the motion!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

N is for No Reply.

What happens if you send a care package and you don't hear back from the recipient? What does it mean? Would the package have been intercepted on the way to Afghanistan or is it just that whomever received it didn't care enough to reply to your note inside?

I heard from someone who is getting a bit disheartened because they've sent a few care packages over to Afghanistan, but have never received any sort of acknowlegdement that the parcels have arrived.

My policy with correspondence in care packages is that if I hear back, I hear back. If I don't, I don't.

I'm not very good at writing cover letters, but one thing I always conclude it with is that any replies are welcomed, but not necessary.

Sometimes I get a response, sometimes I don't.

Don't get me wrong, it's a buzz getting a reply, and knowing that a soldier has gotten himself a small piece of home out of the blue, but I don't have to have one.

The conditions over there are nothing like home, so internet access, and the ability to actually utilise it aren't exactly what I have here (Bigpond adsl - mine works a treat and I couldn't live without it).

Another point is that a lot of military folk aren't really that into the internet, so sending an email is just a bit much. Especially when composing a letter to someone you wouldn't know if you tripped over them.

One of the reasons I've not posted any replies from Afghanistan is that I don't post private correspondence without permission. When I do get permission, I'll be happy to show that yes, the care packages do get to where we send them.

We're just used to the instant gratification of today's communications, I suspect, and as a result our expectations may be a bit higher than we realise.

Basically, don't feel disheartened if you don't get a response straight away. You'll just open your inbox one day and find a few lines from someone you've never heard of, reminding you of a care package you sent and forgot about.

That's what's happened to me.

Keep up the good work.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

T is for tea and biscuits

I did a themed pack this week, based on tea and biscuits. Or coffee and biscuits. Whether in base or on operations, troops just love to have a brew and a biscuit and a moment to relax. The Army caters for that, providing the basics in every ration pack. However, my memory of rat pack coffee is less than pleasant - think the cheapest Maxwell House coffee that money can buy - and the biscuit is a cross between a big weetbix and shortbread. Those of you who may be used to a daily snack of Tim Tams and a soy milk latte with a twist of lemon would be sorely disappointed with what the troops are provided with.

Hence my desire to provide a small luxury - the best quality instant coffee that I could find, and some tea bags that are not too shabby either. The Robert Timms box ended up being too big to fit into the BM box, so I emptied all 28 sachets straight into the care pack. Due to weight restrictions, I could only send half the tea bags too.


Some types of biscuits just won't travel at all well to a hot country far, far away. Chocolate coated biscuits will melt - Army chocolate has whey powder added to stop it from melting even at high temperatures - and fragile biscuits will end the journey as crumbs dancing around inside the packet. I stick to tough biscuits, such as ANZAC biscuits and gingernuts.


There are half a dozen magazines on the bottom of this pack - to provide some reading material during a tea break, and a small container of long life milk. Again, the rat packs contain a tube of condensed milk (which I used to suck straight out of the tube), but it's not the best for mixing with premium tea and coffee. I wanted to include a second container of milk, but the weight restrictions held me back.

I know this might sound like a trite package, but for soldiers used to a daily dose of Starbucks (or its equivalent) when at home, a tour without a decent coffee must seem like a very long tour. Sometimes its just about the little luxuries.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

O is for Overseas Packages.

We recently received a query regarding how to send care packages from another country. In this case, the UK.

My first answer is: I have no idea.

My next answer is: I've emailed the Dept of Defence about this. My email is below, but I can't be sure of any response, because the only address I could find that had any sort of remote relationship to what we're asking is the media contact form, and we're not exactly a media outfit.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As I noted in my email, when sending care packages to foreign troops, I've had to send via the USA, which has added a couple of extra weeks to the process. Don't do this if you're in a hurry!

The contact form has a field for a media deadline, so with luck I'll have a response by the end of the week.


Dear Sir or Madam,

I have a bit of a strange request. I have been unable to find an appropriate contact email address, so I'm writing here.

A couple of friends and I run a small blog providing information on how to send care packages to Australian troops overseas. This blog is at http://oceanskykhaki.blogspot.com.

We have had an enquiry from Britain asking for information on how to send care packages to Australian troops overseas from the UK.

I'm aware of the policy here, where parcels up to 2kg are posted for free, but what is the situation for posting from elsewhere?

Would a person wanting to support our own have to mail their package to Australia first, or is there some sort of agreement with other countries?

I have sent care packages to friends in the US forces who have been deployed, and those had to be sent to America first. Is it the same in this case?

I thank you for your time and attention to this, and hope to receive a response.

I will post this correspondence on our blog, and any further information you can provide.

Yours sincerely,

[redacted]
online handle: nilk
http://oceanskykhaki.blogspot.com


update:Well, I got a reply from the Dept of Defence regarding my email today. Unfortunately, there's no official policy regarding sending care packages to our serving troops from overseas locations.

That's a bummer, but there are considerations of costs and space and how long it takes to get there, I believe.

Mind you, considering that we have embassies in a lot of countries, if I were overseas I might just send via the local little bit of Oz over there. It couldn't hurt to give it a go.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

L is for Legacy.

A thought from the comments in the below thread.

Legacy is a remarkable organisation. They are one of the few charities I am happy to tell people they should support, since they support our defence families.

Legacy is a voluntary organisation providing services to Australian families suffering financially or socially after the death of a spouse or parent during or after their defence force service. We currently care for 115,000 widows and 1,900 children and dependants throughout Australia.


While I have never had any personal dealings with them, I do know that after the death of my granddad back in the 60s, Legacy helped my nana and her children.

For that alone, they have my gratitude.

Feel free to visit their site and donate if you have a few bucks spare and also the inclination.

It's supporting a worthy cause.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

B is for Brekky Time.

Sometimes it's difficult trying to decide what to send in each pack. While you can put together all sorts of good things, occasionally you look for something a bit different.

I know that Boy on a Bike has thought about making up care packages with a tea break theme, and I have been wracking my brain along the same lines.

Now, what could I send that'll give the guys something to really enjoy? I don't have a whole lot of mass to play with, nor do I have much in the way of space. Unfortunately, in this situation, space is most definitely not the final frontier.

Well, since breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day (unless you're like me and find it's usually a nuisance that interferes with getting self and offspring ready for the day), I figured that a brekky pack would be good.

So........

Here it is!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I for Is it OK to take stuff out of packets?

Well, I dunno. Guess we'll have to find out.

I've bought some long life milk in packs of six by 200ml tetra packs to go with coffee bags. I reckon it'd be OK to pack say, two per box, or three. That same shop also had some long life thickened cream which will probably go nicely with the bottled fruit I found.... and if it's not able to be cooled down they can maybe cook with it.

Then there's things like packet soups... cuppa soup things. I'd probably take off most of the box, even though it is only a few grams it adds up when you're talking only two kilograms.

What kinds of cooking additives would be handy?

I've found some toothbrushes for a buck each in packs of two, I think I'd send them in the two packs... they are toothbrushes! I'd like to find some small packs of toothpaste, too, just to go with the toothbrushes.

I just look out for specials and buy them, like a packrat... I've become a packrat. No, wait. I was always a packrat.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

F is for found furry animals

Completely by chance, I happened to find a $2 shop today in Lane Cove today that sells just what I have been looking for - a pack of small, clip-on furry animals. A dozen for five bucks.


Finding them just took a bit of perseverance, and a bit of luck. I was actually searching for a cake rack (which I failed to find). I'm going to use four furry animals per pack until I run out of them. Or the kids find them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

F is also for furry animals

I have a question for the blogsphere.

I'm told that Australiana is a good thing to include in a care pack, as it can be used for trading with troops from other countries, or for giving to the locals as gifts.

I paid a visit to a tourist-oriented gift shop in The Rocks this week to have a look at what was on offer - I can't find anything that looks applicable in our local shops. I couldn't find anything that I thought was useful and appropriate. That might just be a function of my taste in stuff!

At the non-fragile, small end of the spectrum (as in stuff that would not take up too much space in a BM box), they had things like playing cards, key chains, stuffed furry animals, baseball caps, bucket hats and so on.

What would you recommend buying? I'll be down that way again next week, and need some suggestions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When Soldiers Come Home

they find it hard....

...to be forgiving when someone says how hard it is to have a new baby in the house.

From Nancy Sinatra's site... go there, read the post.

Thanks to Splice

(cross posted at Bloodnut)

Monday, June 8, 2009

F is for Furriner.

While we're all about looking after our diggers, there are still other countries out there who have troops in harm's way.

The Americans have a lot of support for their guys with groups like Soldiers' Angels and Any Soldier, but they're not the only ones in the world.

Last week I stumbled across Sending Kindness in Packages, for example.

For those readers in the UK who might want to do something for their own troops, you could always start at Support Our Soldiers, and an organisation for the Canucks*, courtesy of Mini Capt (from around the blogging traps is Chosen Soldier.

Now the Canadians and the Poms (and of course the Americans) aren't the only other countries with forces fighting over in the Middle East, but they are probably the best known.

Israeli forces might like a package, and over in the archives at Winds of Change there is a post with links for other countries. I can't testify as to the usefulness of the links yet, though, since I've not had a chance to go through them.

That's a project for the near future.

In the meantime, feel free to keep posting and showing our serving personnel that they're not forgotten.



*That'll be the Canadians. :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why send a Care Package?

Hey Aunty K!!

Big news from me... I only have a week left in this job. I'll be on leave for a couple of weeks, then "Force Preparation" as I am deploying to the ME in July. I'm heading to the censored as a censored, and will be there for 6 months (at this stage scheduled to return to Oz in late January). On return I'll be take a couple of months leave as I have accrued a ridiculous amount (70 days) already, and will have even more when I get back.
I think they will send me back to sea after that, on a frigate based in Sydney.

So my upcoming deployment is a big focus for me at the moment, and I just had a look at your blog and to be honest it put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It's a really nice feeling when you learn that there are a lot of caring people out there who are who are donating their thoughts, time and money to make the life of our diggers a bit more bearable whilst on deployment. My first couple of deployments (Kuwait and the Solomon Islands) went by without receiving a single care package, and I can tell you that it's an awfully lonely place when you are away from your family with limited phone and email contact. Even though you're usually surrounded by people, you often feel like you're out there on your own. (Rest assured, I have since educated Mum on what a care package is, and she now sends them to me regularly even though I am based interstate. At 26 years of age, I receive Express Post parcels through the Defence mail system with Aussie Flag and butterfly stickers all over them, with the return address marked as "Mum" with love hearts and kisses... much to the amusement of the staff who work in the mail room).
With the advent of email and skype, snail mail has been dying a terrible death, and personally I get a buzz from receiving "real mail" from family and friends at home. I always keep my letters, and throughout a lengthy deployment if you're feeling a bit homesick you can crawl into your sleeping bag (or bunk bed... depending where you are) and re-read them. Likewise, care packages make a huge difference to morale, and not only of the individual addressee. I always share my goodies with my mates and most people I know do the same.

I guess what I'm saying is, I really appreciate what you and your friends are doing for our deployed troops. I'll make sure I pass the link to my friends. Please pass on my thanks to your mates as well!

Because they are very much appreciated, especially by people who don't for any reason have regular contact with home.

I went to school with this member's Mum 37 years ago.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I is for ID

Don't forget to take some photo ID to the post office, or they won't accept your package. You also have to fill out a customs declaration, so no fibbing about the contents!

The postie will type your drivers licence number into the computer when you lodge the package and form, and check that your address matches that on the form and the return address on the package. No ID, no return address - no package sent for you!

I was hoping I could take the lazy way out and have the kids walk the packages down to the post office, but they won't accept anything unless the person lodging the package can show photo ID.

Drats.

Ponder

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace.

We ask not your counsels or your arms.

Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
Samuel Adams

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tour of Duty - 60 Minutes - may be of interest

On nine now.

Why it might take a while to sort out the ME.

video

DVDs are good to send, too. And can be passed around to build up a library.
Books you have read, music cds.

The modern soldier has access to facilities to enjoy all these simple things. And be assured that in a base camp they will be passed around and and enjoyed by many members.

H is for How Many?

So how many care packages should you send?

As many as you wish. If you want to send a few, that's fine. If you only want to send one, that's also fine.

It's your decision.

This is not about competing.

It's about showing some support and care for our diggers.

If you're worried about cost, then stop worrying now.

Again, it's free to post. You'll probably get sick of reading that, and we may get sick of reminding you, but sod it - we all love free stuff, and this really is free.

Besides, as you've seen in previous posts, there are ways to keep costs down. If you set yourself a goal of spending a couple of extra dollars only each week or fortnight when you shop, you'll just build up a stash in the cupboard that you can pick and choose from when you're ready to post.

And don't all post at once!

If I'm sending one this week, Kae's got another in two weeks' time, Sandi in comments posted last week, then those will go to three of our guys in Afghanistan.

It's not about money, it's about care and support.

As my parents told me innumerable times, it's the thought that counts, and even one package can make a difference to someone's time out of Australia and away from loved ones.

G is for Greeting

Don't forget to enclose a note.

You could write a short letter about who you are and why you want to support our forces. Especially if you are a child, these letters are always appreciated.

If you don't have time for a note (many of us don't), you could enclose your general email address and I'm sure that someone will say thanks, and you'll get feedback - you could share it with OSK so that we can tell everyone what the troops want/need wherever they are.

Remember, too, that packages are shared amongst troops if there is enough to go around.

Some personnel may not have anyone to communicate with at home, or not have writers/communicators among their family or friends. You can make a difference by writing a little bit about yourself, don't be a stranger!

G is also for Gum, chewing gum. Here's another tip, steer clear of the candy-coated chewing gum in hot climates. Stick gum is best. In Darwin many years ago I had candy-coated gum and the inside melted and was disgusting, and a problem if the candy was cracked.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

F is for forms


When you take your care pack to the post office, you'll be asked to fill in a customs declaration. You can't just stick the BM parcel in a mail box - you have to front up at a post office and send it in person.

You also need to show ID when presenting your parcel, so don't forget to take a drivers licence with you.

After sending a few parcels over a period of time, my postie gave me a stack of these forms to take home. That way, I can fill them out at home before taking the care pack to the post office. If you are intent on sending a care pack regularly, ask them for half a dozen forms. I'm sure they will oblige.

D is for despatch

One BM box, filled to the brim with goodies. The box looks nicely full.


Oops, don't forget a note of thanks.


A final weigh-in before sealing - 1933 grams. Nicely under the 2kg limit.


A final application of packing tape to all the open edges - remember to seal all of them tightly. If you forget to do this, the nice person at the post office may do it for you - then again, they might not. Make sure you have some sort of packing tape handy.


One care pack, ready for addressing. That address again:

“An Australian Soldier”
Op Slipper
AFPO 13
Australian Defence Force
SYDNEY NSW 2890


On three occasions to date, the postie has failed to read the address properly, and has tried to charge me $7 postage. If that happens to you, just politely point out that it is going to an "AFPO". They should understand what that means, and they'll rapidly backtrack and take it for free. They're busy people, and at the end of a long day, I can understand them not reading the address properly.

If your postie doesn't know the rules, you might have to explain that postage to an AFPO is free if it is under 2kg. That happened in one post office I visited - there were three posties on duty, and only one of them knew that rule - he backed me up and explained it to the others. They looked puzzled when they were told about it.

In a way, that is a sad indication of how few packs are being posted to our troops.

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Keeping Costs Down



So how much did this cost?

$00.00 Pre-loved box.
$00.00 Pre-loved Empire Mag.
$00.50 Cheese twisties on special at 2 for $1.00
$00.00 1 box of 10 earl grey tea bags (we have heaps of tea at home although we never drink it. It's for visitors, but few of our friends drink tea)
$00.00 4 x Robert Timms mocha kenya coffee bags. (as above)
$00.00 1 x pears soap. (I like to buy in bulk and have heaps of these here)
$01.99 1 x mini listerine
$01.99 1 x hand sanitiser
$01.00 1 x tennis ball
$02.00 1 x dinosaurs 200g (on special at 2 for $4.00)
$01.85 1 x 100g tuna in springwater
$01.99 1 x pasta dinner pack
$01.99 1 x chapstick (on special at 2 for $3.99)

$13.31

If you just throw in one little extra item each time you go shopping, and you keep an eye out at your supermarket, it's amazing what you can find.

If you look around your cupboards, you can likewise find all sorts of things; tea and coffee sachets, for example. I can't drink coffee - I use instant coffee for baking with, and usually have the sachets hanging about in the cupboard for anyone who drops in to help themselves.

We occasionally drink a bit of herbal tea here, and there are also teabags of different kinds for people who drink "normal" tea.

2 x 170g bags of twisties for $1.00? How can you go past that? One for home and one for sending away. Cheap and easy, and it's also a good size for sharing.

If you're a bit of a supermarket tramp like me, you tend to shop around. Whether I go Coles, Safeway or Aldi depends on where I am and what the time is. In any case, they don't all have the same specials on at the same time, so if you keep your eyes open, you can find all sorts of treats.

Kae's idea about the newsagent is a great one, and rather than turf magazines, it costs nothing to pass them on. I don't buy mags very often, but every now and then is something a bit different to reading online or books.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

C is for contents

Since you are battling against a 2kg weight limit, and the BM sized box weighs 175 grams, you need to know with some precision what each item weighs in order to maximise the value of each box. Due to packaging, most items weigh 10-20% more than the stated weight on the outside. Here are some examples:

No pack is complete with ANZAC biscuits. I prefer sending the UNIBIC biscuits in the blue packet. 356 grams actual weight, 300 grams nominal weight.


A smorgasbord of energy and protein bars. 65grams each. They actually weigh what they claim to weigh.


Kae Nuts. 263 grams, as against 250 grams on the packet. Very little packaging here.

2 minute noodles - 443 grams for a packet of 5 - nominal weight of 425 grams. I pack these into the space left in the box, so sometimes I might send 5 packets, and sometimes zip.


Wasabi Peas - it might say 220 grams on the lid, but they weigh 244 grams. I heard it said that these are all the rage at present.


This handy pack of baby wipes weighs 126 grams, and no weight is listed on the packaging. The coffee sachets weigh 78 grams, whilst the box says they weigh 45 grams.


Evidence of the Twistie tax in action - I have to buy three packets, because if the kids see them, they will tax the shopping one bag. A 90 gram packet weighs 95 grams.


Other items:

  • Six pack boxes of sultanas - actual weight of 265 grams, listed as 222 grams on the packet
  • Minties - actual weight 217 grams, nominal 200 grams
  • Peanut butter - 413 grams vs 375 grams on the jar
My next pack will look like this:

  • BM Box from the Post Office - 175 grams
  • ANZAC biscuits - 356 grams
  • Lip Eze - 17 grams
  • Robert Timms Coffee sachets, packet of 8 - 78 grams
  • Wipes - 126 grams
  • Minties - 217 grams
  • Twisties - 95 grams
  • 6 pack of Sultanas - 264 grams
  • Energy bars x 3 - 195 grams
  • 375gm Kraft peanut butter - 413 grams
Total - 1936 grams. Total cost $33.84, plus $2 for the box.

This is the sort of stuff that is available at most supermarkets - except perhaps the likes of Aldi.

The energy bars were the most expensive item, with 3 small bars costing almost $9. I need to find a discount health food store that sells them cheaply in bulk. As I buy these semi-regularly for taking on long rides, I have no qualms about buying a few extra for a digger who might be humping up and down some nasty hills in Afghanistan.

The same goes for the coffee sachets - they cost a bit for a small amount, but I like the idea of whoever gets this pack sitting down to enjoy a little bit of luxury with their morning brew. If you've ever brewed up ration pack coffee over a hexi stove, you'd understand.

Note the lack of chocolate - most commercial varieties will melt in transit. The same goes for chocolate biscuits, which is why I send Bloodnut or ANZAC biscuits.

A short note of thanks and some packing tape around the outside won't add much weight.

There's not a huge amount of room in one of these boxes, so you need to combine a mix of small dense items and lightweight bulky items. Ideally, the box should be full to the brim and weigh just under 2kg. It should look full, and not just contain a few weighty things rattling around in the bottom.

With my most recent box, I strayed too far towards the bulky items, and ended up having to cram the lid onto the box, followed by taping it up tightly. Getting it right is part art, part science.

The one thing this pack is lacking is reading material. As even a very lightweight magazine (Economist, Spectator) can weigh 250 grams, you have to be careful that you don't burn the bulk of your 2kg allowance with paper. Having a set of digital scales is very handy.

As for the wipes, I find the best place to buy them is at a discount Chemist.

So there you have it - 9 items that you can find at your local supermarket that will nicely fill a 2kg BM box.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ocean, Sky and Khaki? Why?

A few bloggers get together and suddenly a new blog is born. I didn't even know we were expecting!

Ocean, Sky and Khaki is a blog set up to help support Australian military forces serving away from home, particularly those overseas, with things like care parcels, postcards, letters and to provide information on what to put in the parcels and where to send the parcels, postcards and letters.

Nilk, Boy and I want OSK to be a point of reference and meeting for those who wish to support Australia's Military and for members to contact us to let us know what to put in those care packages to make their lives a little easier.

If anyone has any links or ideas for the blog please let us know at OSK. Any serving military members are welcome to help us with their input.

Why Ocean, Sky and Khaki?

Khaki seemed like a good name for the blog. Khaki was taken and the military isn't just khaki. It's the White (RAN - Navy) and the Blue (RAAF -Air Force), too. And it's the blue beret, the green beret and the red beret.

This is not a political blog, however, after reading what the Canuks can be sent in their GINORMOUS parcels, I wonder if the DOD might consider increasing embiggening their size limit for parcels to our service personnel.

Please, help spread the word. It's people who will make this idea work.

Update:
Shamelessly ripped from Kae and ... oh wait...

B is for Box

Sending a parcel to a digger overseas is a piece of cake. It's even easier than buying a birthday present for your mother-in-law.

Here's step 1:

Go to a post office. If you have no idea how to find one, try this post office locator. Most are only open 9am to 5pm, Mon to Fri, so if you are a wage slave, I suggest you find one near work.

Look around the walls of the post office until you see some shelves stacked with poster tubes, CD envelopes and shipping boxes. Go to those shelves.

Choose a BM sized box. If you think you will have trouble remembering the size, think BUM - as in BuM. Alternatively, a BM box is about the size of a shoebox. Think shoes and BuMs - you can't go wrong.

Pay the nice man or lady at the counter $2. That's for the BuM box. You can save time later by asking them for a customs slip - but if you forget, don't worry. You'll just have to fill one out when you bring the box back.

Now take the BuM box home and leave it somewhere where you'll trip over it - that will remind you to fill it with goodies and then return it to the post office for sending.

That's all you need to do for starters. Get a $2 box. Take it home. We'll take it a step at a time from there.

A is for Operation Slipper.


Image borrowed from here. I haven't read the site - I like the map. It tells us where Afghanistan is.


“An Australian Soldier”
Op Slipper
AFPO 13
Australian Defence Force
SYDNEY NSW 2890


If you're looking to send some lerv and attention to our people, we've a fair few over in Afghanistan.

Just over a thousand, according to the Dept of Defence.

Not all of those personnel will have people thinking of them, or praying for them, or sending them notes just to say hi.

This can be for a variety of reasons - maybe they're in special ops and are cut off from the base camp.

Sounds good, but more likely it's possible that they don't have a family or friends that do things like this. After all, in this digital age the fine art of letter writing has gone somewhat out of vogue, and sometimes we just don't know how to ask someone to write sometimes.

It's just not a habit that people seem to be into.

Email's soo much quicker.

If the thought of sending a small box of goodies (for FREE!! if it's under 2kg) to a member of our Forces overseas is a bit discomforting, that's okay.

You can still drop a postcard into a postbox. Address it to:

Messages to the Troops
R1-5-A056
Russell Offices
Department of Defence.


This is for postcards only, please remember. Not letters, personal correspondence or parcels. Just a postcard to say, "G'day, keep up the good work and we're still thinking of you back home. Hope you're safe and well."

And if that's a bit daunting, you'll remember all those positive thinking, motivational courses you've done at work and school.

Baby steps....

Email's good, too.

messagestothetroops@defence.gov.au

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Six degrees of separation

If you've never served in the military, you're probably thinking that you don't know anyone serving overseas. For a while, I thought that was the case with me.

Then I got a call from my parents one day. They'd bumped into a couple they knew, and the other couple mentioned that their son and I had served together in the Army Reserve many years ago. When my parents asked where he was now, they said, "Afghanistan, with the SAS". When we served together, I knew that he had been getting ready to attempt selection, but I went overseas and we lost touch. A chance encounter in the street brought home the notion that many of us are connected in some way to someone serving overseas.

That's number one.

That was followed by the wife of a workmate being posted to Afghanistan for a few months in order to build facilities for the troops.

That's two.

Another bloke I met through Uni friends then took a posting with the UN in Sudan, in Darfur. He's just returned, about 15 kilos lighter.

That's three.

We've just found out that a bloke my partner went to school with is going back to Afghanistan for his second tour.

That's four.

There's another bloke I have become acquainted with who is still serving with the UN in a nasty troublespot.

That's five, and I didn't have to look too hard. I've only worked on two degrees of separation, and I've found a handful of diggers who have served or are serving us in less than pleasant places.

Every time I've heard of someone else going overseas or coming back, I've kicked myself for not sending them something - a note of support, a letter with news, or a care pack stuffed full of treats and small luxuries that are not often available where they are.

A few months ago, I decided enough was enough - I'd get off my comfortable backside and actually do something. I'd put together a care pack, and I'd send it. Not long afterwards, I got a note back saying that the pack had been recieved, and the boys were gathering that night to share it around.

For that's what mates do - we share what we have. We, who are living in the land of hot water and clean sheets and peace and security, should stop every now and then and give thanks and support to those that voluntarily serve in places where these things are absent.... for they serve to bring those things that we take for granted to those that do not have them. They serve to bring peace and security to where there is strife, to bring justice to where there is injustice, to provide light and clean water to where there is darkess and disease, and to bring hope to where there is despair.

It all starts with a box..........