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.
#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.