Keeping in Touch
During deployment, communication is more important than ever. Find the method that works best for you and your loved ones.
The postal addresses should be obtained from your serving person and it should include:
Number, Rank, Name
Section or Department
Also known as ‘Blueys’, these are a way of sending letters and messages FREE to serving personnel and are available from HIVE as well as Post Offices. It is a good idea to number or date your blueys, so that you will both know if any have gone astray. Please note that you should never put anything inside a bluey, or it will be treated as surface mail and take ages to arrive! Normal delivery time is 4-6 days. Ask in your local Post Office or unit for a supply of blueys for you and any children to use. Blueys can be obtained free from post offices and can be posted free of charge.
Sending an e-bluey is usually much faster than using normal mail. Once you have registered, it’s an easy way to stay in touch.
• E-bluey is a means of sending a letter, composed on a computer, to someone overseas. It is much quicker than sending a hand-written bluey, and is completely private, arriving in theatre in a sealed envelope. You will need a computer that connects to the internet and an email address. (If you do not have your own email address, you have the option to register for a free Yahoo email account during the set-up procedure). You can register at www.gov.uk/british-forces-post-office-services
• The e-bluey combines speed and privacy because of the integrated mail printer in the overseas theatre. It prints, folds and seals all e-blueys without anyone seeing the content. E-blueys sent from overseas to the UK or other BFPO addressees are downloaded and printed, then posted first class.
Worried About Internet Costs? Letters can be composed off-line using MS Word or a similar word processing package, then copied and pasted into the system. Alternatively, you can download the Offline Composer from the E-bluey website, so you only need to connect to the internet when you are ready to send your letter.
Don’t Have a Computer with Internet Access? Most local libraries have internet computers that can be used either free or at minimal cost. You could also seek assistance from your local HIVE which provides free internet access or your unit may have an internet café.
Letters are inexpensive, and always eagerly received. Send local newspaper articles of interest. Number your letters because delivery can be irregular. Most of all write often. Letters and packets up to 2 Kg in weight can be sent at the Forces special rate. Other letters and parcels sent to BFPO addresses may attract a postal charge depending on size – check with your local post office or at www.gov.uk/british-forces-post-office-services
These are like sending a little bit of home to your loved one. Use sturdy containers and be careful about sending perishable goods - mail can take longer than expected. Safeguard your privacy - packages are often opened in front of others. Don't send anything that would embarrass you or your loved one in front of others. Items such as alcohol, tobacco, toxic or flammable items and aerosols/pressurised containers should not be sent, and note that all packages are x-rayed as a safeguard. Remember to ensure the package does not exceed 2Kg, which is the maximum weight permitted. Visit www.gov.uk/british-forces-post-office-services for further information.
There is a web-based businesses out there which caters specifically for those wishing to order and send gifts, either to a deployment area or from one. The beauty here is that there is not the BFPO faff that often accompanies ordering items for despatch. The companies is run by Service related individuals, so they do understand the system and what is required. TheForcesStore
Your serving partner will normally get a welfare phone allowance of 30 mins per week during the operation. Additional top up cards can be brought in theatre or topped up by you by ringing the Paradigm contact centre Tel: 01438 282121 (You will need a credit/debit card and your serving family member’s Paradigm and Service number). Please remember that it is unlikely that you will be able to phone directly whilst they are away on operations. So write down the key points you want to discuss and organise, wherever possible, a time for calls to be received by you, ensuring that the children are not outside playing, making the most of the time available.
CDs/DVDs/Audio and Video Cassettes
Children and loved ones want to see where the serving person is, what things look like ‘over there’. The serving person wants to know that everyone is happy and healthy. CDs/DVDs/Audio and Video Cassettes are a great way to share thoughts and feelings, and can be replayed over and over again.
Children’s Artwork and Photos
Children's artwork is a great way for serving family member to maintain contact with a child’s development. It can be easily carried and proudly displayed. Photographs of family members doing everyday chores and activities can lessen the miles between you.
E-mail facilities may be available for serving personnel in theatre.
BFBS, Radio and TV.
The Services Sound and Vision Corporation
SSVC provide a radio and TV service in some operational theatres. Requests can be made and messages passed by going on www.ssvc.com
Airspace is a secure website that RAF personnel and their family members can register to use. It contains a huge amount of useful information and is a means of keeping up to date with immediate news.
The serving RAF member will need to register first, before any other member of the family can be given a guest login. Ask your partner to arrange for you to be registered before they depart.
The serving person needs to give their name and other personal details to register and obtain a username and password. They can then ‘sponsor’ family members to use the site, and guests will be issued with their own username and password. Anyone logging on will also need to answer questions about a pre saved memorable word as additional security.
Other RAF internet sites containing useful information are the RAF Community Support pages on the RAF site, the MOD website and RAF website or individual Stn sites.
It may be better not to rely on mobiles for keeping in touch because their use can be restricted because of security in certain areas. In addition, it may be difficult to get a signal and connections can not be guaranteed. Any calls and texts are likely to be expensive. If you do use a mobile, remember they are not secure so be careful what you discuss. If you experience any unusual, anonymous or nuisance phone calls always call the Unit or the police. Remember this may be the work of a foreign intelligence agency.
Deployment Welfare Package
This provides serving personnel on some operations with a few ‘home comforts’, such as TV, video, leisure and fitness equipment and retail facilities. On a six-month tour, it normally provides for Service personnel to have:
• Access to telephones for private use
• Welfare telephone allowance of 30 minutes per week
• SKY TV
• DVD and videos
• BFBS TV & SSVC Radio
• Rest and Recuperation (R&R)
• Post Operational Tour Leave (20 days for a 6 month tour)
• Concessionary Travel For Families (Two trips per 6 month tour)
• Internet facilities
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