Tuesday, October 30, 2007

shipping stuff to troops

this is a post i've been meaning to write for awhile, and everytime i check my sitemeter i'm reminded of it. one of the searches people do that finds me is about things to send to soldiers in iraq.

when i got into afghanistan there was pretty much nothing. you had to stand in line for hours to get into the px and by the time you got in you were lucky if they had anything left on the shelves you wanted to buy. so we definately lived off of care packages. and what sucked was mail was taking 4-6 weeks at that time to get to you, so if you had a craving today, and sent an email home, by the time it got to you, you'd open the box and have a hard time figuring out why people sent you what they sent you.

in iraq things were significantly better. it was three and four years into the war, supply channels were well established, we were on bigger bases and so much of what showed up in care packages ended up not being used. we'd get huge boxes from the red cross and from different volunteer organizations filled with soap and toothpaste and gatorade powder and whatever else and it'd just sit there, or we'd hand it out to the locals. the px's were bigger and more established on alot of the bases, and if you were on a smaller base, you could usually get someone to pick something up for you when they went to a bigger base for business. and mail was much quicker. 2-3 weeks instead of over a month. so it was a shame to see so much of what was being sent over not being used and collecting dust because alot of money and energy went into sending things that weren't really used.

so there's alot of lists out there, about sending foot powder, batteries, beef jerky, etc to the troops. i'd just like to augment those.

first, if you're sending to someone specific you need to try to get a feel for their job and their location. they might try to sugar coat things though, so that you won't worry. you've got to go with your gut on that. if they're on a tiny little base in the middle of nowhere, they've probably got a dinky little px and would appreciate alot of the staples. (baby wipes, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, foot powder, batteries, insoles, etc...) otherwise?....

the soaps/shampoo/snacks/powders? not needed as much, unless there is a particular craving or product that's not the norm. we had some guys who would be considered "metrosexuals" and liked face masks and high-dollar hair care products that they couldn't get over there. same with some of the feminine hygiene products. they are there, but there isn't always as big a selection and sometimes it's generic stuff.

books and magazines are good if you know there is a favorite author or mag, but to be honest kids aren't reading alot today. and they get those over there. the soft "skin" magazines are always appreciated (maxim, stuff, etc). but there's electricity over there and it seems everyone has a laptop and alot of people plunk money down on tv's and dvd players. and those get handed off to the new guy when the old guy flies home. so "classic" dvd's are always good. the stuff on the $9.99 and less racks at wal-mart. old buddy cop flicks, action movies, comedies. cd's are good as well. if you're buying for someone in particular and know their music tastes, great. if not, grab a selection of the classic rock, rap, country stuff and send it over. it'll find it's way into the right hands. however, don't think that because we're a captive audience we want to listen to cd's of "up and coming" bands. we've had alot of those samplers sent over and they were junked pretty quickly. video games are good, there's alot of psp's, playstations and xboxes in country now or pc games work as well.

gift cards are excellent. they don't have to be for much. a $5 dollar gift card is great. places like wal-mart, target, amazon are good. you can also get them from the tactical places like brigade quartermasters, blackhawk and even some of the outdoor sporting goods places have things that guys can use over there. if the soldier has a good internet connection you can even think of an itunes or similar gift card. altrec is also a good site as well as rei. i have a personal fondness for giftcards at any time, but they really, really make sense for folks who are deployed. if you know the person you're getting one for, you don't even have to waste the time of mailing them the card. just email them the website and the number and let them get what they need. but they're smaller, cost alot less to ship (and frequently letters will arrive quicker than big boxes) and you know then that the soldier can get what the specifically want or need. one store that really needs to be pushed into offering giftcards is netgrocer.com. let's start a phone campaign to convince them of the goodness of that.

if your guys are infantry or going out and doing stuff, they might appreciate otis weapons cleaning kits, premium gun cleaning solvents and lubrication (militech springs to mind), bore-snakes are wonderful devices and so are good-old-fashioned shaving brushes. if you know someone who works for a dentist's office and can get you old sets of dental probes and picks those are invaluable for cleaning weapons. mechanix style gloves are great, just make sure they're all black or desert/coyote tan. none of the crazy colors. there are cooling vests if your guys are complaining about how hot it is over there. these come in several types, the cheapest being inserts that you soak or fill with water and freeze, and then wear under your shirt and body armor. knives are a personal preference item, and chances are your soldier already has their favorite and uses it regularly, but if you're looking for a more expensive Christmas present you can't ever go too wrong with a folding knife by benchmade or spyderco. leathermans are always nice and appreciated as well.

female soldiers can use all of the stuff males can use, but having said that sometimes it's nice for them to get little things that help them indulge a little. a couple friends of mine got those gift baskets that included all sorts of fancier shampoos, candles, scents, lotions, etc... and really got a kick out of letting their hair down and pampering themselves. and it was kinda a present to the guys as well, because after 6 months of blandness all of a sudden this great smelling girl walked buy and just kinda reminded you of things...

memory cards for cameras are always good. we had guys complaining about how long it was taking to email stuff and how when they tried to burn discs the cd's would get cracked on the way home. i suggested just buying a 2nd or third memory card, filling it and mailing it home. then the loved ones at home could suck the photos off, add ones from home and send it back. the exchange worked fairly well for most of them.

baked goods. cookies in a vaccuum sealed bag are wonderful.

i'm sure there's more and as i think of things i'll add them, but i really wanted to get this posted with the holidays approaching. things probably need to be on their way before thanksgiving to make it there in time for christmas.

additions i forgot on the first post:
-cr123a batteries. troopies SHOULD be able to get these over there, but many don't realize that or their chain sucks. and they're amazingly expensive over there vs. what you can get them for in the states from some generic place like batteries plus

-metal bodied l.e.d. flashlights and headlamps. i love the tactikka plus because it's got white lights, a red lense and uses fairly standard batteries. a friend just got the E+lite and is pretty happy with it, but batteries go faster and are expensive. both are made by petzl. gerber makes some great little l.e.d. lights. try to stay with ones that can be powered by AA batteries vs. the lithium cr123a. (see above). that lithium battery is a great battery, generally provides longer run-time and can power brighter lights but it's expensive and can be hard to find. another good brand is innova.

-bedsheets and pillowcases. as we all know men are pigs. so many of the young guys i've been over there with will spend the entire year sleeping in the same sleeping bag without really airing it out or washing it. it's not pretty. they kinda need to be reminded to put clean sheets on, clean pillow cases on, and wash stuff from time to time. moms, be honest, you know whether or not your son falls into this category. if he's really bad, you might need to send a blanket too.

-if your soldier is on one of the middle of nowhere bases tobacco products are always good, whether he smokes/dips or not. and you really need to put judgement aside on this one. if you know your soldier smokes or dips and don't approve, now isn't the time to try and change it. if that calms and steadies his nerves then it keeps him alert and alive. do the preaching after they get home. but there's nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere, far the hell away from home in a dangerous situation and to be nic-fitting. send them a carton of smokes or a log of dip. if you know they're out there in the middle of nowhere and they're complaining about how hard it is to get stuff and they don't smoke consider sending a carton of malboro lights or reds and/or a log of skoal or cope dip. i didn't smoke or dip, but i always had packs of smokes or a tin with me. when someone i worked with closely really needed them, it definately made life easier than to deal with a smoker who hadn't had a cigarette in three days.

-soft sided coolers with the mylar lining. the ones that have a shiny silver inside when you open them are awesome.

-(i'm not sure how legal this is, i'm not saying to ship anything bad) but alot of times you can buy the boxes of individually wrapped over the counter drugs at places. advil, tylenol, pepto bismal, benedryl... all of that little stuff comes in handy. not to be crude, but anti-diahhrea, upset stomach remedies, etc are definately good. the other thing that can be hard to find over there is the travel sized dramamine, and since alot of guys have to travel via helicopter...

-christmas tree lights and decorations at the holidays


Blogger courtney said...

I've been wondering about this.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Secretmom said...

This is great, thanks!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Gnightgirl said...

Whoo, boy, I'm going to be linking to THIS post! Invaluable for me. Thanks!

8:06 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This is a great list! I know a kid in Iraq right now. You just reminded me that I should send him something.

1:05 PM  
Blogger One Scrappy Gal said...

How do we send goodies to you once you start your tour of duty?

5:47 PM  
Blogger Gator said...

Damn...last time I sent baby wipes, cd's, hard candy, gum, shaving cream and playing cards. Just thought maybe they get bored...PS2??? I was way off. I'll have to send a game next time and I never thought a gift card would do them any good. Thanks for the suggestions...I'll definitely use them next time

8:07 PM  
Blogger TC said...

Thanks for the list. This is a great idea.

8:21 PM  

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