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.


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

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,

online handle: nilk

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.


Here it is!