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Americans in a giving mood might want to hold off on sending donations through the military postal system.

A postal official has asked Operation Care, a group that channels donated goods to Afghans, to stop using the system for its operations. Sending or receiving such donations violate postal regulations, he said.

"Although Operation Care is a noble cause, it is in direct violation of multiple DoD (Department of Defense) Policies listed in the DoD Postal Manual 4525.6-M," wrote Army Col. David Ernst, deputy director of the Military Postal System Agency in an e-mail addressed to members of the group and various civilian and military officials.

"I appreciate your cooperation in helping to end the illegal use of the MPS to operate a business and transport humanitarian items for distribution," he wrote. "Please direct them to seek an alternative means to conduct Operation Care."

Ernst sent the message following a July 11 Stars and Stripes story profiling the group, composed of volunteers at Bagram air base who sort and distribute goods to needy Afghans.

Navy Cmdr. Milton Frazier, the agency’s chief of plans and policy, said the MPS is funded by taxpayers, who shouldn’t have to pay for such packages sent downrange. That mail also could be diverting postal manpower and resources and delaying other material needed by troops, he said.

Army Lt. Col. Geraldine Shutt, vice president of Operation Care, said Tuesday that none of those involved in the organization feel they’ve done anything wrong. And that several military legal experts have backed them up.

"We didn’t ask for the donations," she said. "We’ve never solicited them." Volunteers just sort through the packages that are sent and get goods distributed to those in need, she said. She said probably half of what’s received — goods that aren’t needed by Afghans — goes to troops spread out in far-flung locations.

Frazier said the agency constantly monitors its system to see if people are using it correctly. There have been numerous cases of people trying to use the system to run private businesses from homes. Those caught face loss of mail privileges or harsher punishments.

Frazier said people who want to send goods intended for the local populations downrange should contact the International Red Cross or other charitable organizations.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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