By Donna Miles; American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 -- With so many military families scrambling to ship holiday care packages to their loved ones deployed around the world, the U.S. Postal Service is stepping in to make things a bit easier.
It's offering a package of free packing materials, including 10 boxes, 10 customs forms with envelopes, 10 "Mili-Pac" shipping envelopes, which are specially printed to reflect the complexities of military mailing addresses, and a roll of Priority Mail tape.
Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said USPS started the service Oct. 25 as an extension of an offer the Postal Service provides all mailers. By calling a toll-free number, anyone can request free shipping materials.
Brennan said the Postal Service was getting deluged with requests from military families -- about 1,000 calls a day since late September. In response, it came up with a special kit of the most-popular items ordered to send care packages to the troops, she said. To order the special kit, call (800) 610-8734 and request Care Kit 4. Brennan said the Postal Service will ship it by Priority Mail, with delivery generally within a couple of days. Although the packing materials are free, shippers must still pay normal postage costs, Brennan said. The U.S. Postal Service and Military Postal Service work hand in hand to support troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Brennan said mail centers in New York, San Francisco and Miami have processed more than 100 million pounds of mail for deployed troops since early 2003. At its high point, mail volume to the Persian Gulf region reached 400,000 pounds a day, she said. Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 650 dedicated contract flights have carried mail to the region, and the Postal Service continues to send a 747-series freighter of military mail to Southwest Asia every day, Brennan said. The number of contract flights carrying mail to the region more than doubled in mid-November, Brennan said, and is expected to remain at that level through late December.