With the rise of email, and mail carrier competition, the USPS has had a rough few years. It seems that people are always complaining about the Postal Service. But, as I sit hear eating the sun dried tomatoes my mother sent to me 5 days ago from south Florida, I cannot help but marvel. It is nothing short of amazing that for $12.50, my family can send a 20lb package 7,000 miles in less than a week's time. Even if the USPS has strategic disadvantages to UPS and FedEx in the states or in the civilian world, their service to APO has been worth my tax dollars.
Mailing things from here is a little more complicated, belabored, and certainly not as quick and efficient. The prices are the same, and altogether reasonable. I have to trapse to the post office about a mile away from where I stay. (This usually involves borrowing someone's dolly or the squadron van, during the daylight hours-my sleep time-that the base post office remains open). All parcels are inspected carefully prior to mailing, a fact I find interesting in its own right. One could easily mail uninspected contraband into this place, but not so easily get it out. What are they searching for, one might ask? The list of prohibited items is tiresomely long and includes the usual suspects (porn, food, knives, guns, relics, etc). Mainly though: war trophies, and flammable objects. The latter is clear, the former less so. I am sure no one was frisking Vietnam veterans as they left theater for Vietkong daggers or ordinance shells. Maybe they should have been; however, and now, they aim to prevent such loot hoarding. Some of this is clearly ridiculous, and you can see why they have the rule. For example, there was one guy who tried to send home an aerated cage with a pet scorpion he found in the desert. Alternatively, there are a few other things which seem more innocuous. One of the surgeons has a 3 inch piece of shrapnel he took out of someone's back that he wants to bring home and use for teaching purposes. That seems reasonable enough, to me, anyway.
When I arrived here in February I came through Qatar (the hottest place on earth) where we remained after our charter flight from Ireland for 5 days. It was 90 degrees Farenheit, and from that point forward during this transit, I was a real beast of burden carrying 130lbs of gear, while wearing a 20lb helmet and 40lb IBA vest - all with the thick USAF ABUs. My current plan is to leave here during the end of summer when temperatures in Qatar approach 140 degrees Farenheit with humidity of near 90% given the surrounding Persian Gulf. My goal is shed as much gear as I can prior to this, even if it is at my personal expense via the USPS. Once I am on the charter plane out of Qatar, I can rest easy with my satchel and trust in baggage handlers. Until then, I am my own mule, so the goal is to keep it light. Thank you, USPS.