The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) was created in 1980 to facilitate efficient and economical delivery of mail to all DOD employees—military and civilian– stationed abroad. It is the meeting point between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the Department of Defense. By law, the MPSA must abide by USPS regulations, federal laws, and laws and postal agreements of other countries with which it interacts.

The two systems are similar, with the goal of the MPSA being to deliver mail service to its clients abroad comparable to mail service in the United States. Mail classifications are the same, and most USPS postal services are also offered by MPSA. COD and delivery confirmation service are not offered by MPSA.

Overseas military addresses include either APO, which stands for Army or Air Force Post Office, or FPO, Fleet Post Office, which is used for the Navy and Marines. After the APO or FPO will be the further designation of AA (Armed Forces America), AE (Armed Forces Europe) which also applies to Africa, the Middle East, and Canada, or AP (Armed Forces Pacific). The military address will also include a zip code.

Mail to the military abroad is not addressed the same as domestic mail. Pieces of mail should be addressed with the name of the individual, the name of the unit, APO or FPO with AA, AE, or AP and the appropriate zip code. A return address should always be used.

When overseas military mail enters the postal system, it is handled by USPS personnel. It is sorted and routed to either the Joint Military Postal Activity (JMPA) Atlantic in New York, or the JMPA Pacific in San Francisco. There it enters the MPSA system and is sent, by air or by ship, on its way toward its final destination.

Retrograde mail, from abroad to domestic destinations, reverses the process, beginning in the MPSA system and ending in the USPS system for delivery.

Mail going to the European, Central/South American, or Pacific theaters that is sent by air usually has a transit time of 7 days. There is a 10-13 day transit time for the Southwest Asia theater. The MPSA has a 30 day goal for surface transit mail to the European or Pacific theaters.

Just as in domestic mail service, during holiday periods, delivery times can be longer. To assure timely delivery during these periods, check a local post office or the USPS website (usps.com) for suggested mailing deadlines.

Mail destined for military post offices overseas must comply with all USPS regulations imposed on domestic and international mail. These include restrictions on firearms, dangerous materials, foodstuffs, pornography, etc.

In addition, mailings destined for destinations in Afghanistan (OEF-Operation Enduring Freedom) and in Iraq (OIF-Operation Iraqi Freedom) may carry additional restrictions. These include no pork or pork products, religious products contrary to the Muslim faith in bulk, etc. There is no Express Mail Military Service from any origin.

Mail destined for any overseas destination must generally carry a custom declaration listing the items included in the parcel or packet. All mail must conform to the custom laws of the country to which it is destined. Retrograde mail must conform to U.S. custom laws as it enters the United States.

In the past, mail was accepted that was addressed to “Any Service Member.” Americans with no specific friend or family used this to send letters and parcels to express support for our troops. This practice has been discontinued because of security concerns as well as transportation issues. Mail addressed generically is no longer accepted. Mail must be addressed to a specific individual.

There are, however, several organizations that can provide specific names and addresses of service members to registered individuals. Other organizations send care packages and letters directly to service members. For a complete list of organizations sending care packages, go to APOShoppers.com for its free Deployment Guide—Unrestricted booklet.

Don't forget to visit the APO Shipping Stores Page

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