What APO Box?
APO Box™ is a private company that ships packages sent via FedEx™, UPS™, and DHL™ to military APO FPO addresses overseas. We started the company because we were active duty military posted overseas and found it frustrating that major companies like Apple and Target do not ship to APO FPO addresses. Most large online companies have bulk shipping contracts with UPS, FedEx, and DHL. In order to get the best rates an online company solely contracts with one shipping company.
The exclusive shipping contract excludes shipping via the United States Post Office (USPS). USPS is the only method that can be used to send to military APO and FPO addresses. To solve this, we issue anyone with an APO or FPO address a valid US address to ship any package to. We then forward your mail via the US postal service.
The concept of getting mail overseas to and from military personnel stationed overseas dates back many years. In formalizing this activity, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) negotiated an agreement called Overseas Military Mail, which exists to this day. In this agreement addressing schemes, delivery mechanisms, and nomenclature were hammered out. Here is how Overseas Military Mail really works.
The USPS has formalized a standard addressing scheme for all domestic mail. In order to make Military Mail conform to this scheme, several things were created. These were:
Three Military "States":
- AA, which stands for Armed Forces (the) Americas
- AE, which stands for Armed Forces Europe
- AP, which stands for Armed Forces Pacific
Two "City" equivalents:
- APO, which stands for Army Post Office
- FPO, which stands for Fleet Post Office
Based on these constructs, a typical Overseas Military Mail address looks like this:
Postal Service Center + Identifier
APO, AP ZIP
Postal Service Center + Identifier
FPO, AP ZIP
By having all Overseas Military Mail conform to the domestic mailing addressing scheme, the USPS could easily sort and manage it using their sophisticated sorting and distribution machines, just like regular mail.
But there is more to these constructs than addressing schemes. The Military State designators mean more than "phantom" states. They represent the USPS mail processing facilities that handle the mail traffic to and from each Military State. In an analogous form, they represent the neck part of an hourglass. Picture mail flowing into a "neck" location from all parts of the continental United States, then from this "neck" out to all the Military bases and U.S. Embassies in the region of the world represented by the specific Military State.
These "neck" locations, the USPS mail processing facilities themselves, are located in cities that are conducive to getting mail to and from the overseas region of the respective Military State. These Military State/City pairs are:
AA : Miami, FL
AE : New York, NY
AP : San Francisco. CA
Since these cities already had ZIP codes assigned to them, it was decided to have the ZIP codes of the respective Military states be numerically close to the ZIP code of the city where the mail processing facility is located. This allowed the USPS automated sorting equipment to funnel the Military Mail to the proper city where the respective mail processing facility is located.
Once the Military Mail arrives at the respective mail processing facility, it is further sorted by Postal Service Center, APO/FPO, and ZIP code. After that, the USPS "hands it off" to their Military equivalent in a branch of the Armed Forces after transport via contract air carrier and delivery to the overseas APOs and FPOs. For APOs, either the Army or Air Force provides personnel. For FPOs, the Navy does the job.
At each APO or FPO, there is an equivalent to "a-real-honest-to-goodness-Post Office" staffed by members of the respective branch of service. While the layout of each APO/FPO varies by location, suffice it to say they look and operate just like a "real" Post Office. In fact, they have to, since we are talking about U.S. Mail. Each APO/FPO address holder has a mail lock box in which their mail is slotted. Since parcels can't fit in these boxes, delivery or notification slips, just like "real" ones, are put in the boxes whenever a parcel arrives.
Outbound mail from APOs/FPOs flows in the reverse of the process described above, with the mail passing through the "neck", the mail processing facility for the respective Military State, to enter into the normal USPS sorting and delivery system.
As can be seen, APOs and FPOs are just like the Post Office (P.O.) boxes one can rent at the local Post Office. The only real difference being is that they are located overseas on Military bases or in U.S. Embassies. So simply put, while valid domestic mailing addresses, APO/FPO addresses are not street or physical addresses; they never were and never will be.
So, with the establishment of the Overseas Military Mail program, three Military States (AA,AE, AP) and two city equivalents (APO, FPO) were created, along with a specific set of ZIP codes for each Military State. Once these constructs are understood, as well as the flow of packages to and through the mail processing facilities (located in Miami, New York, and San Francisco) which represent the Military States, it is easy to see how confusing all of this can be.
But now that Military Mail has been explained, it's no longer a mystery. Better yet, now that you understand it, you can get it working for you.