Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Items to send troops overseas

Recently I've been asked by various people for ideas of just what items to send troops overseas. I thought I would pull these lists together and post them online. Hopefully someone gets some better ideas of just what to send troops, items that will actually boost their morale, instead of reminding them that people at home have no idea what they are going through...

First, contrary to most lists that come from Family Readiness Groups, old veteran's organizations, and some unknown REMF somewhere, DO NOT send jerky and DO NOT sent toiletries - unless you know for sure that the guys you are sending it to are on some platoon-sized patrol base on a hilltop in The 'Stan (and believe me, they probably aren't - and if they are, they aren't getting your package...).

Second, don't send junk. Don't send cheap stuff, especially stuff that has 'Discounted!' and 'Reduced for Quick Sale!' stickers on it. That makes guys feel like crap and makes them think that 1. You don't really care that much about them or what they are doing over there and 2. That you are just offloading old stuff on them. Definitely NOT a morale booster (the opposite really).

My specific comments below (from a list that a friend of mine got at their work - a sadly misguided list however):
  • Beef Jerky/Slim Jims – DON'T DO IT! We were gagging at the site of jerky by the second or third month.
  • Flavored Coffee/Creamers – Sure. Better still, send really good coffee. There are also some flavored coffees that come in self-contained, self-heating cans. Those are great if you can find them. Hot chocolate can come in handy for those few non-coffee drinkers over there too (I know, I was one of the few...).
  • Individual Powdered Drink Mixes [Propel, Crystal Light, Etc.] – Yeah, not so much. Generally plenty of this stuff around.
  • BBQ/Tabasco Sauce/Salt & Pepper – This is really a good idea, but send GOOD hot sauces, not Tabasco. Salt & Pepper though is a total NO GO. After all, why? Salt and Pepper (and Tabasco) comes in the MRE's.
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce/Spicy Mustard – Yes, but again: send GOOD stuff, like unique flavored hot or other flavored sauces (my guys from Idaho loved getting 'Some Dude's Fry Sauce' for example, or how about spicy Thai or a curry sauce - something to spice up their usual bland fare).
  • Individual Can Soups/Chili/Tuna – These won’t get eaten. If you are going to send something like this though, find the pouches of tuna (not cans) that are flavored.
  • Individual Can Fruit Snacks – Eh... Most of these guys won't eat 'em.
  • Crackers/Cheese Spread/Velveeta – Sure, why not.
  • Small Bags Peanuts/Sunflower Seeds – SEND LOTS OF SUNFLOWER SEEDS. Some guys are totally addicted to them, and, as always, feel free to get the flavored ones. And nuts are generally a good idea, as they are a great power food, always tasty, and are generally salted to replace electrolytes lost while sweating in the 120+ degree heat. But, as always, get the good stuff: salted, roasted or smoked almonds; toffee covered peanuts; pistachios, etc.
  • Gum/Breath Mints/Non-Melting & Individually Wrapped Candies – Eh, sure. Better still to send some really good stuff though: chocolate covered cashews or Little Debbie snack cakes. Guys are pretty much perpetually depressed so they like to eat good stuff. (Don't send anything chocolate in the summer months though... For obvious reasons.) You can send cheap candies for soldiers/Marines to hand out to kids, if you want, but I'd label it as such so that they don't think the cheap candies are supposed to be for them. Oh, and get heavier candies like Jolly Ranchers or Tootsie Rolls (rather than say Laffy Taffy or something lightweight), because these are easier to throw from trucks and go farther too - so that the kids don't run out into traffic.
  • Since mentioning gum, I have one other thought here: send CAFFINATED GUM like Jolt. Great stuff for guard duty, night mounted patrols, etc.
  • Granola/Power Snack Bars – Eh. Again, lots of these already around.
  • Cards/Dice/Checkers/Water Balloons/Etc. – NO. Water balloons? WTF? No cards, no dice. This isn't 1952. Guys play linked games of Blackhawk Down and HALO on their laptops. They don't play cards unless their eyes are aching from the 12-hour straight HALO marathon they just got done with. This one is a NO GO.
  • Pretzel Rods/Can Potato Chips – Eh. Again, better to send GOOD STUFF (peanut butter filled pretzel bites, spicy Pringles, other good chips that are flavored, etc.). You have to pack them carefully of course...
  • A good idea is whey protein powders (don't get soy protein, get whey protein). Guys love this stuff. And often things like MetRx meal replacement packets might just be a life-saver when a guy just can't grab a real meal (convoy duty, stuck guarding a munitions cache all night, etc.).
  • Recent Magazines like Sports/Cars/Hunting/other, gently used OK – YES. Good one. Get trashy: hot rod, motorcycle, & truck magazines, Maxim, all that crap. Bodybuilding magazines are good too, as are general interest magazines like Men's Journal. But, DO NOT, I say again, DO NOT send ‘used’ magazines. That just makes guys mad and makes them feel like you are sending them your trash. Spend the $4 on a new magazine.
  • DVDs and Magazines [no Violence/no Pornography], gently used OK – As above, YES and NO. Do not send 'gently used'. Send NEW stuff. It's SUCH a buzz kill when you get someone's old DVD that they obviously don't want any more. Just because I'm stuck in the Sandbox, doesn't mean I want to actually watch 'Harry and the Henderson's'.... Send comedies, GOOD ONES!!!! Lots of Will Farrell movies, for example. (And, well, anything with a hot girl as the main character - hey, just being honest here.)
  • Another idea: send good computer games. Again, don’t go shopping in the $2 bin for crappy old games. That’s worse than sending nothing at all, frankly. Tactical, racing, or sims type games are usually pretty popular and sometimes more benign stuff like Monopoly or card games like Poker guys can get into as well.
  • Lip Balm/Skin Lotion/Band-Aids/Floss/Toothpicks/Sunscreen – Don't do it. Just don't. Most guys have access to mad PX's. And those that don't already have piles of care packages with this crap in it.
  • Toothpaste/Mouthwash/Eye-Drops/Tylenol/Aleve/Advil [pocket size preferred] – Ibid. See above.
  • One idea though for those serving at higher altitudes (like the mountains of Afghanistan): nasal spray, which helps keep soldier's noses from drying out (and bleeding) in the high, dry air. Better still: nasal gels like Ayr brand.
  • Local/favorite Teams Sports Items, NASCAR drivers, etc. – Yes! Good one! If you are sending to someone you know and know his/her favorites, then send posters for them to put on their crappy concrete and plywood walls.
  • Duct Tape/Bungee Cords – WTF? Why? Like they didn't bring enough, get enough supplied by the Army, or can't buy enough at the PX already?
  • AA Batteries – Good one. Better still, send AAA too.
  • Holiday Decorations – Oh, F--- NO. What, you want to remind them that you are at home for the holidays and they are stuck in a bunker? Don't do it. Send a nice handwritten card thanking them, kids art, and all that nice stuff, but DO NOT send holiday stuff. Geez no. This would be nearly as bad as sending a pamphlet on 'How to Commit Suicide in a Combat Zone' - which is all too easy...
  • My last note, building off the bullet point above, – send sincere thanks. A note, a picture from your kid, something you made, needlepoint, whatever - whatever you can do to truly convey your thanks and honest appreciation is always, always a good thing to send (especially if you DIDN'T just burden some poor SPC with another box of jerky and toiletries...)
Now, if you are serious about the 'Support the Troops' magnetic on your gas-guzzlin' SUV, and REALLY want to support a troop? Send them something like these tasty items:
If you send one of these truly necessary items, the 'troop' you are supporting will TRULY be jazzed and appreciative. And who knows, that piece of gear might really get him/her out of a bind some day...

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Comments:
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