Getting ready to send a care package to your Plebe? Here is some helpful information.
Although I cover this in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, available at the Midstore, on Kindle, Apple Books, and in print, here is some additional information that is not included in my book. YES, THE BOX SIZE DOES MATTER! Mail and care package boxes are typically carried by hand – the larger and heavier the box, the greater the chance that it has to be left behind until the next time.
Bancroft Hall is huge! It is actually the largest dormitory in the world and houses all 4,400 Midshipmen. It is divided into eight wings that can be tricky to navigate. Lots of stairs and long hallways that don’t always ideally connect. Detailers are responsible for carving time out of their incredibly busy days to go get the mail, which may be at the opposite side of Bancroft. Depending on where their company is located, Detailers as busy as they are, have to make time to go to the post office to get the mail and packages, and they have to hand carry all of the packages back to their company area, sort through it, and distribute. It may sound easy, but with everything else on the schedule it is not. Overly large and/or heavy boxes make it more difficult and tend to stay behind, and rightly so. And not all of the mail for a given day makes it back to the company area. They can only carry so much.
To make it a bit easier, your best bet is to use a USPS medium flat rate boxes. Flat rate boxes offer tracking and you pay a flat fee regardless of weight – the medium flat rate “shirt” size box is great and fits more that enough snacks and supplies. There is also a shoe box size shipping box that is convenient. You can also order USPS flat rate boxes to have on hand – there is no cost for the boxes or for delivery directly to your home. USPS also offers a Military kit that includes flat boxes, labels, and tape. You can order at USPS.com.
Your box may make it to the Yard, but by the time they are sorted, picked up, and actually delivered to your Plebes, it may take much longer. It is also good to understand that part of the logistics includes the USNA Post Office itself – although located in Bancroft, not always easy to get to and is pretty small. Packages get stacked so yesterday’s packages may get buried under today’s arrivals and so on, until the Detailers can begin to get the packages delivered and cleared out.
Also, the USNA post office is usually staffed by only two people and especially right now, as well as throughout Plebe Summer, they will be slammed with mail and boxes, so don’t expect your mail/boxes to be delivered in two or three days. Imagine it: thousands of boxes from parents, family, friends, for about 1,200 Plebes, plus all of the letters. I am sure it can be a bit overwhelming for the postal personnel and the Detailers. This also explains why packages arrive out of order (you can number the packages so that you can keep track of which one has not arrived) and why they may take longer to arrive than expected. This can be very frustrating but please be patient! Detailers have their hands full taking good care of your Plebes and are running on 2-3 hours of sleep per night.
When my oldest was a Detailer he told us that he finally understood his Detailers and was able to see things from their point of view. Detailers are responsible for everything during Plebe Summer. He was the Company Ops Detailer and was responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing anything and everything having to do with staffing, locations, times, evolutions, equipment, and every other moving part. He would go to sleep around 2:00 a.m. and would wake up at 4:30 a.m., before everyone else, to double check and make sure everything was in place and ready.
Something else to keep in mind is that storage for your Plebe is at a premium. The closets and lockers are not very big and may be very full about now with issued uniforms and items so there is not a lot of room to store things. Keeping the box on the smaller side may helps as well. I would send no more that one small package per week or even every two weeks. DO send lots of letters!
Plebes should be issued plastic boxes, but just in case they don’t have one for snacks, you can send a plastic shoe box sized container with your first care package only. The supplies that you are sending should fit inside the plastic box and the container should fit perfectly into the shoe size mailing box, or in a medium or large flat rate box. Your Plebe can then use that plastic container to store their food snacks. Yes, there are critters that share living area with the Mids at Bancroft, so that helps to keep them out of the food. Speaking of crittters, now may be a good time to read Chester Midshipmouse by Susan Weisberg, which tells all about what is going on behind the walls at Mother B. It is a great read and may help to keep you busy.
Also, it is important not to send too much – and there is such a thing as too much – trust me! To illustrate, here is a story. As a Firstie, our oldest was not spending as much time staying at his sponsor’s on the weekends, so our second Mid inherited her older brother’s room. I was helping her to organize the shared room at her sponsor’s and as we were going through boxes in the closet we found TWO plastic containers completely FILLED with snacks. As a matter of fact, they looked completely unopened! Most snacks were expired and had to be thrown away and it broke my heart to think of the waste. I asked my oldest about it and he apologized and said that he just could not eat it all, and although he shared, it was just too much, that eventually the boxes got buried at the bottom of his storage lockers in his quarters and ended up in the back of his closet at his sponsor’s house after move out – out of sight, out of mind. We definitely adjusted for my second Mid, and although opinions vary between what is too much to send and what is enough, finding the right balance is key.
It is also good to avoid too many sugary snacks. Between the Gatorade, fruit chews, fruit leather, etc. the incidence of cavities does increase during Plebe Summer. Just a thought so that you can manage the frequency of packages, amounts, and types of snacks.
And for more information and seasoned advice on care packages, you can listen to my Podcast, with special guest Julie Haller, “Two-thirds of the USNA Journey: I-Day and Plebe Summer” | Episode 2.
As always, I am here to help. Please reach out with any questions that you may have. GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!