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The Strength Behind The Strong was founded by Christine Hofmann-Bourque, who is proud to have a husband in the Army, three brothers in the Navy and Army, and a sister-in-law in the Army. Christine is also a professional journalist. Read our first post to find out why this website is so close to her heart. More >>

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Going Postal: Make sense of military mail addresses

To this civilian, military postal addresses look as if they are written in top-secret code. APO? AE? Ay yi yi! But deciphering the acronyms and abbreviations is actually quite simple and logical. Just as mail sent within the United States needs a city, state, and zip code, military mail requires three similar components: APO/FPO, AE/AP/AA, and a zip code. These are the basics.

#1. APO or FPO. These abbreviations indicate to which branch of the military the mail is being sent. Write it in the place you would normally put a city’s name.

  • APO is short for Army/Air Force Post Office. As its name suggests, it delivers to members of the Army and Air Force. 
  • FPO stands for Fleet Post Office. It delivers mail to Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps personnel.

Image of an American flag envelope with a military mail address on the front. From military mail must be addressed to a specific serviceperson. (We blacked out the name on this letter, which has an obsolete address.) For security reasons, mail addressed to "Any Soldier" won't be delivered.

#2. AE, AP, or AA. These codes indicate the region of the world where a military member is serving. They take the place of a state abbreviation.

  • AE stands for Armed Forces Europe, but delivers mail to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and more. This is the code you would use if you send military mail to Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, or Bahrain.
  • AP stands for Armed Forces Pacific. Mail to South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines, for example, will have an “AP” address.
  • AA stands for Armed Forces Americas, which includes military mail to Central and South America. 

#3. Zip code. Military mail uses zip codes, which are written in the same place as domestic zip codes. The first two digits of a five-digit military zip code tells you where the military mail is processed before heading out of the United States; the next three digits are specific to your serviceperson’s military unit.

  • AE zip codes always starts with 09. AE mail is processed in New York.
  • AP zip codes always start with 96. AP mail is processed in San Francisco.
  • AA zip codes always start with 34. AA mail is processed in Miami.

The wrap up. So let’s use a fictitious Army battalion that is serving in Iraq as an example. These soldiers’ addresses would be APO (because they are Army) and AE (because they are in the Middle East) and have zip codes starting with 09 (because all AE addresses start with 09). Any mail you send them will be processed through New York before heading overseas. 

Keep in mind that when calculating postage, military mail is treated as domestic mail. In other words, you only pay the cost to ship a letter or package to its appropriate U.S. processing center for military mail; Uncle Sam takes care of getting the package delivered the rest of the way around the world.

OPSEC (Operations Security) reminder: Protect your deployed loved ones — and their units — by safeguarding their complete names and ranks, full addresses, and specific locations. Don’t post contact information online.  


Reader Comments (4)

A question on Zip codes... I've occassionally sent off goodies to service people that have a double Zip code (5 digits dash 5 more digits). I've had one of my USA based suppliers advise that their local post office wouldn't allow one parcel to go as the "Zip was invalid". (same parcel sent via courier group made it just fine)

So is the 2nd zip grouping a purely military thing? (GPS code perhaps??)

Pax [just being curious]

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMari

Hi Pax,

You Australians ask tough questions! Here’s the scoop on U.S. ZIP codes. Back in the 1980s, the U.S. Postal Service created an expanded ZIP code it calls “ZIP+4.” It includes the five-digit ZIP Code you are familiar with plus a four-digit “add-on” code. The four-digit number refers to specific locations within the five-digit delivery area, such as a city block or a big office building.

These ZIP+4 codes must be written with a hyphen, like this: 12345-9876.

You do not have to use the 4-digit add-on; your mail will make it to its destination just fine with just a five-digit ZIP code.

Why were you told your ZIP code wasn’t valid? It looks like you had an extra number somewhere — you had five numbers plus five numbers (not four). You can get the correct ZIP code for any U.S. street address with the Postal Service’s ZIP Code Lookup. Of course, it doesn’t work for military addresses.

Just got back from the Post Office where I tried to send a care package to APO AE 09309. The clerk at the PO told me that that zip code was not accepting any packages. He said to go home and try again in a week or so in case something changes. Does anyone know why this should be? I was so disappointed that I couldn't send my goodies box to the great guys out in the Middle East!

June 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersj.sandy

Hi Sandy,

There could be a few reasons you ran into this problem. If your servicemember has moved locations while deployed, then the address could have been changed. Or did the person you're sending the package to recently arrive at his or her location? Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks at the beginning of a deployment for the military Zip code to become active. Keep us updated!

Christine Hofmann-Bourque,

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