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, 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..........

Where On Earth Are We Now?

Currently, Australian troops are scattered around the world.

We know they're in Iraq and Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Perhaps a few of us have heard that we've got a few guys over in other places in the Middle East, but how many know that we're helping out in the Sinai Peninsula and Darfur?

That doesn't get a whole lot of airplay, which is a shame, because our Military Forces are amongst the best in the world.

Yes, I'll admit to a touch of bias, but I've also got mates from overseas who serve their countries, and they just love our Diggers. So much so, that one of them has been nagging me for a fair while to do something to show some support.

This blog is for our troops.

I posted over at my blog recently about sending care packages to Aussies in Afghanistan, and the feedback I received was that it was great to know that there is a facility to show practical support.

It's information that is not easy to find on the net, and the Dept of Defence website isn't really the most user-friendly if you're not accustomed to it.

Neither Boy on a Bike, Kae, nor myself are currently in the military, although they both served. I'm just an Army brat who has always admired our armed forces.

Over the next few weeks, the plan is to put together a bit of a data base for those in the civilian world who always wondered how they could show a bit of support.

Please bear with our teething pangs.

Do you want to send a postcard or an email? How about care packages?

Where to send and what to include, how much and at what cost?

We are not interested in politics here. There are plenty of other places on teh interwebs for that.

This is purely for our Forces.

Ocean, Sky and Khaki.