How do I get this back?

10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office
Courtesy Story

Date: 07.29.2014
Posted: 07.31.2014 07:50
News ID: 137823

The difference between war souvenirs, war trophies

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan ― Customs agents interact with personnel from every branch of service and civilians supporting coalition forces. Some individuals wish to commemorate their service in Afghanistan with various types of war memorabilia. However, depending on the items to be brought back, the perspective owner must ensure they have the proper paperwork.

Soldiers, assigned to the 415th Military Police Detachment, conduct customs operations to prevent the importation of contraband and to ensure all restricted items are properly documented before they are cleared for entry into the U.S.

War souvenirs are items such as expended cast ammunition and shrapnel fragments. Popular items include .50-caliber shell casings that have been converted into bottle openers or 105 mm artillery shell casings. These items are permitted to be transported back to the U.S. so long as the individual possessing the shell casings has them properly demilitarized and itemized on a DD form 603-1.

Once the individual has the paperwork signed by their commander, they then must bring the items and corresponding paperwork to the customs agent for an inspection. If the paperwork and items are in compliance with regulations, the agent will stamp off on the forms allowing for their transport back to the U.S. It’s advised that all of the paperwork be completed well before the individual’s expected departure date.

Sgt. Joshua Trulson, a customs agent assigned to the 415th MP Detachment, said the most common mistake individuals make when carrying shell casings through customs is not having the items properly demilitarized. What this entails is that the integrity of the shell casing must be compromised by either reaming out the primer pocket past factory dimensions or drilling a hole into the side of the casing.

Additionally, bullet tips cannot remain with the casing and must be left in theater.

For those wishing to transport shrapnel, the only stipulation is that the piece cannot be larger than the palm of the hand.

Individuals often inquire about bringing back war trophies such as AK-47’s, used light anti-tank weapon rocket tubes and some foreign military equipment. These items cannot be transported back for individual collection. Units can bring these items back as museum pieces but the necessary paperwork is more intensive and requires an extended period of time for an approval that is anything but guaranteed.

Master Sgt. Dennis Spilman, the customs program manager, said the reason the approval process for war trophies takes longer is that it must be approved by the BAF customs office, the theater commander, possibly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives depending on the item, and then assigned to the unit’s property book.

Even though the process may be cumbersome, Spilman said it is designed to be that way. The intent is to ensure accountability and to prevent individuals from trying to collect government property or items that actually belong to the Afghan people.

If a unit wishes to bring a war trophy home for their unit museum, they may contact a customs agent for example forms. Just be sure to submit the paperwork as soon as possible.