January 11, 2018

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The submarine community is pretty small. As a result, I haven’t found many blog posts written about submarine deployments and the unique things that come with that. On the other hand, I have so many friends who are married to or dating submariners. We all know each other and we kind of just stick together because we bond over things that no one else can understand.

So, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge that I should write down and pass on through my blog. I know that most of my readers won’t really be able to relate to these posts, but I hope that by putting them out there and sharing them, other submarine spouses will be able to find them.

On submarine deployments, we can’t send care packages through the mail. Well, you can, but most likely, it will never reach the submarine. I don’t send mail.

In addition, you have to think of all of the holidays that your sailor will be missing. If they are going to be gone on their birthday and their birthday is 5 months from now, you probably want them to have a birthday card to open up on their birthday. So, you have to give them their birthday card 5 months in advance and hope they don’t open it. I want to do another post on other care packages for submariners, but I’m going to focus on halfway boxes today.

Halfway boxes are the big care package that each submariner receives. Halfway night is a big deal for both the boat and the families. The submarine will have a party and sailors will open up their boxes. Back home, the families will get together to have their own party to celebrate being halfway done with deployment. You have to make the halfway box before the boat leaves for deployment. Usually, the FRG collects the halfway boxes and then someone on board will distribute them on halfway night. All of this takes a lot of planning!

Basically, all of the care packages/cards/letters that you want your sailor to receive, you have to get together before they even leave for deployment!

Since we can’t send mail, and since space is limited, a halfway box will be one of the few care packages that a submariner will receive (if not the only care package). Single sailors usually receive halfway boxes from the FRG and spouses/partners do their sailor’s.

I put out a call to my friends, asking them what their submariner’s favorite things have been. All of the things on this list are things either I have sent myself or things that have been recommended to me. My strategy is to mainly put in practical things that I know Nick will use, along with photos, cards, food, and one silly thing just to make them smile. Space on the boat is limited, so I try to choose my items carefully.

  • Handwritten cards and/or letters. I love to find funny cards on Etsy.
  • Photo cards. I like to order them online. On the outside, I put a photo of us. Inside, I write about the memory of when we took the picture.
  • Have their family and friends write letters or cards. That way they will have a bunch of different cards to open up. Sometimes I feel like I write the same things on each card so this helps to give them something different. Plus, it’s nice to know that people from home are thinking about them.
  • Photos or a small photo album. Nick usually only asks for cards and photos.
  • Starbucks Via packets
  • I love these fill in the black journals that Knock Knock makes. I really like Why You're So Awesome and What I Love About Us.I love these because they are only 4.5 × 3.25-inches, so they don’t take up much space, but they are super sweet.
  • Gum
  • Their favorite candy and snacks. Individually wrapped is best so that things don’t go bad.
  • Print out funny memes and put them in cards.
  • Sometimes I go to Reddit and search for funny jokes. I copy them into cards. They don’t have internet
  • Healthy snack bars. My husband’s favorite is Cliff bars.
  • Individual packages of trail mix. They can open.
  • Chapstick
  • Hand lotion. I’ve heard that since the submarine smells so awful, things like hand lotion and scented hand sanitizer are especially appreciated.
  • Their favorite pens. Nick only uses a specific kind of pen and I imagine they start to disappear over several months
  • Beef jerky
  • A book
  • Crossword or Sudoku book
  • Headphones. These may or may not be used, but I can’t imagine being stuck on a submarine with broken headphones. They don’t take up much space, so I think it’s worth it to have a backup pair.
  • A small game, like a deck of cards or a brain puzzle. I’m pretty sure Nick’s favorite gift ever was a Rubix cube, so I am sending him with one of these on his next deployment.
  • Stationery and envelopes so they can write home. Sometimes you have something you want to say that you can’t or don’t want to put into email since email is censored. When they get to a port call, they can mail it.
  • Small journal.
  • New socks or underwear. I hear that laundry tends to slowly disappear over time. Also, who doesn’t love fresh new socks? Nick specifically requested that I send him a fresh pair of socks on his next deployment.
  • One of my friends sent her husband with a fresh new towel that she put in a ziplock bag with dryer sheets. Her husband loved the smell of the fresh towel so much that he never used the towel. He just opened up the bag every now and then to smell it.
  • Decorating your box
    I love all of the themed care packages that I see floating around Pinterest, but when you are only sending one big care package, it’s hard to stick to a theme like nuts or coffee. In the past, I did a sunshine theme where everything was yellow and orange since they never see the sun when they are deployed. I also did a Hawaii themed box when we found out we were moving there.

    This is a great blog post that I found on Pinterest about how to decorate the inside of your halfway box.

    I also have a Pinterest Board full of halfway box ideas that you can find here.

    Halfway box tips:
    Find out the size that is allowed.  You don’t want to get turned away for sending a box that is too big. Your FRG will tell you exactly how big the box can be. They will also tell you if any items are restricted. CDs and thumb drives are usually not allowed.

    Keep trash to a minimum. Remove whatever packaging and plastic wrap that you can. 

    Don’t put in anything breakable.

    Don’t put scented things with food. This has been my husband’s biggest request because he has heard that scented hand lotions can make your food smell like that scent. Which is kinda gross.

    Do you have any care package tips? Comment below or send me your posts!

    4 responses to “Halfway box ideas for submariners”

    1. Audrey says:

      This is a very complete and comprehensive list, Carolann. I had NO idea that halfway boxes or celebrations were a thing! It’s not really something you think about when you don’t have any submariners in your life. What a unique idea and celebration! I bet Nick LOVES getting his package from you because you’re so thoughtful and creative with it. This is a really neat resource for others going through this for maybe the first or second time! (Or long-time wives and girlfriends that need some inspiration!)

    2. Jen says:

      I absolutely love this! Obviously since Kyle is Army I have no idea about other branch traditions. This is so special.

    3. Teri says:

      Always appreciate someone sharing some inspiration. My husband made these out to be no big deal his first deployment, but then asked me to make him one for this deployment without any real guidelines, so thanks for the hel!

    4. Carrie says:

      Thank you so much for posting this helpful info. My son will deploy for the first time in a month and we are putting together a box.

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