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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.

Having homosexuals in the army has become a subject of debate. Those for and against it have come up with their own arguments for the side they’ve chosen. We’ll look into some of those arguments about this controversy here.

The reasons why some people are not eager to welcome homosexuals in the army are mostly based on opinions and interpretations that may or may not be accurate. Those on the negative would argue that the solidarity among soldiers will decline as soldiers’ knowledge of their comrades’ sexual preference increases. Some would feel comfortable with the idea and some won’t be. It is the latter that poses potential problems, the argument goes. Additionally, the naysayers believe that common knowledge of each soldier’s sexual orientation might kindle a romantic involvement within the troop, consequently causing impartiality during judgment calls.

The only pragmatic point raised by the con side is that of the foundation for the Army’s existence. The military, they contend, was established to protect the country, first and foremost and above all. Thus it (the military) is exempted from providing equal opportunities to all, as mandated by the constitution.

Supporters of having gays in the military assert that their movement stems from a historical standpoint; thus holds water. Some of those who are for the cause also counters that gays have naturally creative minds that will prove to be invaluable in the army in terms of tactical planning and weapons logistics, to name a few. They maintain that the skills and qualifications required of a soldier are not exclusively possessed by a certain gender; therefore, recruitment for the service should never be based on gender. If gender preference becomes a non-criterion in enlistment, the service will be able to address the low number of applicants it has been experiencing.

As mentioned before, the important qualities required of a soldier like loyalty and patriotism can be found across genders. Therefore, excluding non-males in the military prove to be very impractical. The Army should then focus instead on enhancing its recruitment or selection process. The methods they employ should precisely determine which individuals are wholly and unwaveringly committed to serving their country and their countrymen from those who are not. Moreover, superiors who are gender-biased and who use their power to put their subordinates in a disadvantageous position should never be tolerated.

The military should be a breeding ground for resilient individuals who are exceptional physically, emotionally and mentally. Anyone from any gender that fits the bill deserves the opportunity to serve their country. The question is: Should their sexual preference be a basis on whether these individual get to serve?

Air travel rules have become more stringent over time and this is mostly felt at airport security checkpoints.

There are currently three checkpoints travelers have to go through when flying. The first checkpoint takes place when you register for your flight and pick your seat. At this stage, before you are presented with your boarding pass, you have to present a valid ID (e.g. driver’s license or government-issued ID) along with your ticket and the luggage you would like checked-in. All pieces of luggage are hand checked for prohibited items. These are usually quick run-throughs. Random extensive searches are sometimes implemented. These searches include checking all compartments of bags and wiping cloth on surfaces of your items to check for prohibited substances. These extensive searches rarely happen and are nevertheless still part of standard procedure required by aviation authorities. When you happen to be on the receiving end of these searches, remember to keep your cool.

After you get your boarding passes, you must then proceed to the main security checkpoint. Here you will be asked to walk through a metal detector, sans footwear. Your footwear will have to go through an x-ray machine along with your carry-on luggage (if you have any). Everyone has to go through this security check except those who are physically unable to do so. Some ordinary items might be prohibited on board. If you happen to be carrying any, you will have the option of returning it to your car, mailing it to your home, turning it over to airport security, or simply discarding it.

Your last checkpoint will be upon boarding the plane. You will have to show your boarding passes during this time. Occasionally you may be asked to show an ID, but once it is not usually required.

These security checks are standard operating procedures; everyone currently has to abide by these. Make sure to keep your calm during the checkpoints so you will avoid embarrassing confrontations with authorities. Security is always on the lookout for suspicious-looking individuals or those who draw attention to themselves and you don’t want to give officials any reason to be wary.

It is also wise to update yourself on items prohibited aboard an aircraft or even those exclusively banned from carry-ons. Doing so will help you avoid delays or missing your flight altogether. Your flight should be hassle-free if you keep all of these pointers in mind.

Service Members Save Money On Groceries

Cutting down on costs at your Commissary is one way of managing your money well. Here are a few ideas you can employ to save money on your next run.

• Come up with a budget that is just at part with or if possible below what you can actually afford. Build a list of grocery items within that budget.

• Check out the coupon collection that most people ignore in the front of the Commissary .

• Have a list ready before your next trip to the Commissary, making sure to include common kitchen items such as coffee, milk, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, onion and garlic.

• Keep tabs on item prices, especially items you frequently use, so you can come up with a workable budget on your next grocery run.

• Limit your Commissary visits to once or twice a month. You can save on travel costs and decrease your chances of overspending.

• Plan your meals ahead of time. This helps you avoid missing an ingredient and saves you money if you choose meals that have common ingredients. Mayonnaise, for example, allows you to make both sandwiches and macaroni salads.

• Branded goods and choice-cut meats have cheaper substitutes that do not have to do away with quality. Go for those substitutes.

• Purchase goods in cash and save yourself the trouble of going over your budget.

• Buy snacks for your travels. 24/7 mini stores are usually more expensive, especially if you live in Europe. Bringing food in your travels eases hungers pangs without hurting your wallet.

• It pays to be inventive in the kitchen: You can make something special out of leftovers which can potentially maximize your savings.

Follow these tips and you will be in for a good surprise once you have tallied up your expenses for the month.

Avoiding Impulse Spending

One of the easiest habbits to develop while overseas is impulse spending. Impulse spending is never a good thing. It drains your chances of getting worthwhile items for yourself (e.g. car, house, vacation or retirement) and it will wreck your relationships. Not sure if you’re an impulse buyer? Answer the following questions with true or false to find out.

1. Your spouse or partner complains about your spending.
2. Your credit card never fails to surprise you with a larger amount than you expected.
3. There are not enough number of days to wear all the clothes and shoes you own.
4. You own the latest gadgets even if your old ones are not in the least bit obsolete.
5. You buy items you never thought you wanted until you saw them on a shelf.

If you answered true to any of the statements, chances are you are an impulse spender.

Here are a few tricks that can help put your impulsiveness in check: Make a list of the things you want to buy before hitting the stores and take only enough cash for your list. Leave your credit cards at home to avoid overspending. Ads and the media oftentimes dictate our needs. Distinguishing your needs from your wants will keep you from falling into the dictates of the media. Give yourself time to cool off when you see something you want (or something you think you need) that you haven’t planned on buying. Two weeks should be enough to help you figure out whether an item is something you can live without or not.

Taking heed of these simple steps and in no time you would be back on track with your loved ones and finally save up for important investments.

June 30th Relaunch

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