By Colin

Sending care packages to the troops is a wonderful way to support the men and women that are separated from their friends and families while serving the country. Any tokens of home, snacks, and little conveniences (like shaving cream) are appreciated. When I went to send my first care package to say I was overwhelmed and confused by the process would be a total understatement. There are so many boxes to choose from and options for paper work to fill out…and then once you found the right box & set of paper work who in the world do you go about filling it out? To help you out, I’ve put together what I’ve learned so far in the process:

Getting Started

Here is a blank copy of the 2976-A form you’ll need for sending over a care package.
  • Use the “if it fits, it ships” boxes (aka, the Priority Mail, Flat Rate boxes)
  • Pick up boxes and customs forms (the 2976-A form) BEFORE you arrive at the post office…they take a while to fill out
  • Fill boxes completely–even if it is just crumpled paper to keep items from moving around
  • Put extra tape on the bottom of the box when you assemble it to keep it from busting open
Filling Out the 2976-A
**You can do this online, but the hard copy I find to be easier:
Filling out your information on the top of the form is straight forward…it’s when you get to the second section where you are putting in the service member’s information where things don’t quite match up. The name part is easy and you don’t need rank for it. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the rest that I created because I can’t keep this straight in my head for anything:
  • Business=Company or Unit Name
  • Address= Unit number or address identifier
  • Postcode= Zip code 
  • City = APO or FPO
  • State = AE/AP/AA
  • Country= LEAVE BLANK

The next section you fill out are all of the descriptions. YOU NEED TO BE SPECIFIC! Putting “snacks” or “toiletries” will get your form rejected. You have to put, “cookies, packaged nuts, tooth paste, toothbrush” in the blanks. You may have to attach another form if you run out of space. This is tedious, but it is a requirement! I don’t bother with putting individual values & weights on the items…I just do it for the whole box and they accept it without question.

The next thing you need to do is put an X next to GIFT! Always put gift. Now you’ll see boxes 8 & 9 where you need to put the weight and total value. I let the post office clerk put the precise weight and I just guess on the value. Lastly, just make sure you sign the bottom and date it!

When filling out the address ON the actual box, you’ll want to include the service member’s rank when filling out the name.

For more or specific information, visit your local post office or search online. SkipCares also has a good tutorial on filling out the customs forms.

If you are sending out care packages, THANK YOU! If you are a service member, THANK YOU! Filling out the customs forms and going the post office routine gets easier the more you do it. So if you are like me and found it hectic at first, it should get better for you!

If you have other tips, please share!