Sending military mail or receiving packages purchased online when deployed overseas can be costly if you do not know how to use the APO/FPO addressing system that is used by the U.S. military. Basically, the APO/FPO mail system allows people in America to send mail overseas at domestic rates, and there are a few rules when it comes to shipping.
What Is an APO/FPO/DPO Address?
APO stands for Army Post Office, FPO stands for Fleet Post Office, and DPO stands for Diplomatic Post Office. APOs are used by Army and Air Force installations, while FPOs are used by the Navy and DPOs, as the name implies, are for U.S. diplomatic locations. These addresses are further subcategorized by their location—for example, APO AE would be for an APO address at an Armed Forces Europe location.
APO Shipping Cost and Postage Required
You only have to provide standard domestic postage on mail going to an APO or FPO addresses. If you pay $0.47 for a stamp to mail something within the continental United States, it only costs $0.47 to mail it overseas as long as you have an APO/FPO/DPO address and associated ZIP code.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers APO and FPO mail to a military facility, located on the East Coast or West Coast of the United States (depending on where the member is stationed or deployed), and the military takes over from there, transporting the mail via military cargo aircraft to the overseas location or Navy ship.
History of Military and Diplomatic Mail
In the 1980s, the Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) was created to perform the task of delivering mail worldwide to its members. It is a joint military staff headquartered in Washington, D.C.
USPS rules, regulations, and various international laws and agreements apply to the MPSA as it is responsible for the movement of military mail into over 85 countries. Formerly, each branch of the military had its own postal service and ways it operated. Now, the MPSA is the single point of contact with the USPS.
The mission of the MPSA is to "achieve efficient and responsive processing, transportation, and distribution of personal and official mail within the Department of Defense."
There's also the Military and Diplomatic Mailing System, which is a global mailing system for members of the military and foreign service branches of the U.S. government. Every base or diplomatic embassy or consulate will be part of its own zip code.
American Post Offices Worldwide
The military has postal clerks who will sort and deliver mail.
Here is a sample of an APO Address:
GEN John Doe
PSC 4321, Box 54321
APO AE 09345-4321
Here is a sample of an FPO Address:
CAPT Jane Doe
USS Murphy (DDG-112)
FPO AP 96543-4321
Here is a sample of a DPO Address:
Unit 9300, Box 1000
DPO, AE, 09345-0001
Suffixes for APO/FPO
These are the suffixes for an APO/FPO and their region:
AE – Armed Forces Europe
AA – Armed Forces Americas
AP – Armed Forces Pacific
The suffixes designate which U.S. Military Post Office the packages will be delivered to within the United States before overseas transporting occurs. Mail sent to an APO/FPO address will go to California, New York, or Florida, depending upon the suffix.
Once it arrives at one of these locations, the USPS has handled its end of the transaction. Next, it's up to the Military Post Office to get the package to an overseas member.
Online Orders and APO/FPO Mail
If you are ordering something online for an overseas installation, do not add the country the package is going to. The APO/FPO or DPO and suffix/ZIP code are sufficient. Some online shipping fees will increase to foreign shipping if it sees a foreign country in the address.