Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Packing boxes for soldiers

I stumbled across this great list of items to send to soldiers overseas. Having been there myself I have to give a seal of approval to the list that was constructed here…I added a note or two for extra ideas. I can also tell you that it is a big deal for a soldier to get a package from folks back home…reminds them that someone is remembering them and took the time to personally thank them by taking the time to mail. I will tell you it beats any verbal expression of support because it is tangible and genuine. So whether you’re a rookie at putting together care packages or trying to create your first one, this list has some great suggestions for the soldier you care for.
What to include in a care package
- Jelly beans
- Rice Krispie treats
- Altoids/mints
- Beef jerky (can be turkey, etc…)
- Snack mixes (any kind of canned nuts, raisons, etc)
- Sunflower seeds, pistachios
- Chewing gum
- Candy ( non melting – so no chocolate…perhaps licorice, mike and Ike, etc)
- Little Debbie’s or other brand snacks
-Coffee and creamer/sugar…. Small Equal tablets are great too.
- Gatorade (My experience was this was very available in dining facilities so may not be needed)
-Jaw breakers
-Cookies in individual packages
- Pasta and sauce
-Canned food items
- Spices, salt, pepper (small bottles of unique hot sauces are treasured)
-Smoked oysters and sardines
-Squeeze butter (this item surprised me – again usually available via dining facilities)
-Pringles chips
-Individual items – cheap stuff that would appeal to young kids that a typical 20 year old would laugh at here, will be the talk of buddies over there… the more unusual and stupid the better – imagine a group of soldiers playing with little parachutist plastic soldiers if you will.
-Microwave popcorn
-Ramen noodles
-Macaroni & cheese
-Olives, pickles, peppers (careful that plastic containers are used)
-Cereal bars/granola bars
-Hot cocoa mix
-Soup mix
-Koozies to keep water bottles and cans cool

Health/Personal Hygiene
-Body powder
-Foot powder
-Icy/hot patches
-Air activated heat wraps for muscle pain
-Foot massager
-Hand warmers
-Stress relief squeeze balls
-Toothbrushes & toothpaste
-Sewing kit
-Hand & face wipes
-Disposable shower towels

-Disposable camera
-Ink pens
-Word Puzzle books
- Poker game
-Playing cards
- Dice
- Music CD’s
-Poker chips
-Board games
-Paperback books (read them and forward)
- DVD’s
- Newspapers – (weeklies, sports, etc… even a few pages of Wall Street Journal will get read by soldiers)
- Magazines (a great idea is take last month of your subscription magazines and put them in the package after you read them …especially gender oriented to your soldier)
- posters, stuff from gag store, catalogs from gender oriented stores with gift cards (check to see if they will mail to APO, many will)
- Cigars, chewing tobacco, lighters
- Some locations/units have lots of interaction with kids – my group always was looking for pencils, erasers, basic simple school supplies and hard candy to foster a friendship. True story – I gave some kids as a remote site a bunch of beanie babies sent to me (note picture) and they led my group to a cache of hand grenades laying on the ground.

Other Useful Items
-AA batteries
-D batteries
-Shoe laces for gym shoes and boots
-Tan or Brown t-shirts
-Boot socks
-Long-distance phone cards
-Air fresheners
-Canned air
-Inflatable seat cushions
-Microwaveable plates, bowls, paper plates
-Inflatable pillow
-Ziploc bags

Getting a box that is personalized or silly is great… if you have the time, personalize the box for your solider. Cut out clippings from magazines, paint a design or, if you have kids, have them decorate the box with crayons and markers. Not only will this make the receipient smile, it will make their box easier to spot in a sea of brown boxes!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Guns or butter budgeting for the military

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s Todd Harrison has a new paper out warning that DOD is fast approaching a difficult choice: either fund the people or the weapons they operate, it will soon reach the point where it can’t do both.

Read more:

This article lays out what is the perennial “guns versus butter” debate. The butter includes pay and benefit increases that have what economists call “stickiness”: they are almost impossible to rollback. The increase in pay and benefits that congress allots DOD each year will crowd out investment in research and new weapons.

The issue with the costs that are being felt by the military are exacerbated by the myriad of deployments to non-hostile locations doing the work of other agencies and that which is not born by the United Nations. At the moment we have costly military contingents in Japan, Korea (ok, still not quite settled), Germany, Italy, South America, Haiti, Cuba, and other places. We also still use soldiers to recruit, liaison with congress, at embassies throughout the world, and train at college campuses. The mission workload at these non-critical locations drains manpower and resources from the focal point of our effort. I would suggest that a real serious adjustment of the missions and tasks which are not critical to the effort should be pared down. Congress and the executive branch have become too accustomed to asking the military to do State Department, USAID, UN, contract security, personnel acquisition, humanitarian, disaster relief and other tasks without regard to the costs.

That is not to say that some costly DoD items (healthcare at the top of the list) could not be considered for adjustment. I could see a plan to increase co-pays for senior Officers, Senior Enlisted members reflecting the normal healthcare costs for most Americans. The offset for the increases gradually imposed on service members and with sufficient alternatives. Military healthcare is far better and less costly to military retirees than equivalent civilian healthcare plans. I base this on my own observations as I pay for a civilian healthcare plan because as a grey area reserve Retiree I’m not eligible for military healthcare. Trust me, the Tricare plan costs are very reasonable (absolutely cheap!) and some more costs could be shouldered by those that use it.