One of the biggest barriers of being in the submarine force is, of course, outside communication. As spouses and family members, this is not news to us. But did you know that mail can sometimes get to a submarine? Read on to learn more about mail drops.
There are two ways to deliver mail.
One way is to a Fleet Post Office (FPO) address, which you could send mail to without any idea of if or when it would get to anyone. There are also usually mail drops for each port call, which would be taken by hand by someone who was meeting the sub in port. I have had success in getting mail to my husband by both methods during all his deployments.
Your ombudsman will notify you of the opportunity.
Tuesday 4pm: I receive an e-mail from the ombudsman reading, “MAIL DROP! Please have letters to my house by 9AM on Thursday!!” This is not too hard to throw a quick card and some photos together if the delivery is nearby, but if you live away from the homeport during deployment, it can present an extra challenge. I am finally living at the sub’s homeport for my husband’s 4th deployment.
Tuesday 11:45pm: I am bouncing back and forth between the computer and kitchen table, writing cards, clipping photos, and stuffing envelopes, while sipping a delicious Malbec. I check the USPS website to see what kind of express mail guarantees they have. It can be guaranteed by noon on Thursday. The ombudsman needs the letters by 9am. I check UPS. They can do a super duper overnight by 8am for the same price I could get for selling my left arm. FedEx would like my left leg as well for the 8am guarantee. I e-mail the ombudsman, “Can I get it to you by noon??” thankfully, she replies promptly, “sure that’s fine!” Phew. I do not need another glass of Malbec. 🙂
Wednesday 8am: I’m telling the lady at the post office, “This needs to get to California by TOMORROW.” She clicks about 16 buttons, “okay let me check and see if that’s possible.” [clicks 10 more buttons] “Okay I can have it guaranteed by noon.” I already knew this, but am reassured by her telling me. I take my receipt and leave the post office, praying that my package will not get lost.
Prepare with cards ahead of time.
Writing out cards ahead of time for my husband to open on specific dates was the number one piece of deployment advice I received from the seasoned Navy wives before his first deployment. I brushed it off at first thinking, “He hates cards!” He has always preferred face to face communication over writing. It turns out, when cards are his only connection to the outside world, he likes cards. Mail drops are usually extremely limited on space, often only the size of 1 birthday card. So writing out a few with pre-set dates to open is a great way to plan ahead.