The commander of Central Command has asked members of Congress to get their constituents to refocus their efforts to support American servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan during the holiday season, when Americans tend to be particularly generous. The military mail system is running at capacity, and the generals are primarily worried about bulk donations overloading the logistical system. He also has had to deal with unsolicited care packages sent to any Servicemember in Iraq or Afghanistan. Unsolicited package programs were stopped in October, 2002, due to the possibility of bioterrorism. Any that are sent usually get returned to the sender or, if the sender cannot be determined, donated to local charities.
To get an idea of the volume of care packages sent , Operation Gratitude, has sent 36,836 care packages as of November 16. In another effort run by Operation Mom, 430 care packages were wrapped over a weekend earlier this summer. These are just two of the 48 groups listed under Other Support at defendamerica.mil. Large numbers of care packages will often displace necessities for combat, like ammunition, fuel, and medical supplies, or end up spoiling while awaiting delivery because the necessities had to be delivered. It can add up quickly:
The First Marine Division delivered the equivalent of 148,000 bags of mail over one six-month period. That comes out to 4,884 tons of mail. Over the same timeframe, the marines delivered 2,000 tons of ammunition, 15,000 tons of food (on the assumption that a pallet of food is roughly 5 tons), 8,000 tons of fuel, 4,000 tons of water, and many more tons of spare parts and equipment. Thus mail accounts for nearly ten percent of the material being shipped.
Some of these groups have taken steps to work within the guidelines set forth by the military. For instance, AnySoldier.com (also known as AnySoldier.us) has listed 708 contacts with deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The soldiers who sign up with that website use the internet to help pass along what they could use. In a report to that website by one of its contacts on November 9, the volume that causes concern for the logistics personnel is again demonstrated: 2,116 Halloween Goody Bags were distributed to soldiers in Iraq. Another soldier who signed up requested soy milk for folks in her unit who were either vegetarians or lactose intolerant.
The Department of Defense is relying on groups like the USO to coordinate support the troops efforts so as to head off a potential logistical train wreck that could have an adverse effect on combat supply. A number of organizations, including the service relief
societies, are accepting donations to put together care packages, and can work with the military. These efforts will help support from home get to the troops in the most efficient manner. Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DefendAmericas Support the Troops page:
Operation Gratitude: http://opgratitude.com/
AnySoldier.com: http://AnySoldier.com or http://Anysoldier.us