CandiO boxes are a much-anticipated aspect of the Navy OCS experience, where at times you think your family couldn’t possibly send you enough chocolate to ease your addiction withdrawals. Although everyone quickly becomes familiar with what they are when they arrive at Newport, it was made clear to me that parents and loved ones back home aren’t provided a ton of guidance on the topic. In this Q&A-type post, myself and Unidentified Female provide some insight into our thoughts on the subject.
EE: What is a CandiO box?
UF: A CandiO box is a package, usually from family and friends, commonly mailed in a USPS Large Flat Rate Box. Opened during Candidate Officer phase, you will get to pick them up in the last week of Officer Candidate phase, so about week 9. It is up to the class team’s discretion regarding when you may open the CandiO boxes, what you can keep from them, where they will be stored (possible extreme hot/cold temperatures), and when you can access the contents. Most often they are filled with snack foods, pictures of family, letters of congratulations on the final phase, and other small treats.
UF: Tell me about opening the CandiO boxes.
EE: We had to open our CandiO boxes in front of our RDCs so although it was exciting it was also nerve-wracking—worrying if your friends made good on their threat to send you something as a practical joke. Knowing that staff will be looking through the boxes, if you plan to send your candidate something, don’t send anything too personal or embarrassing as there’s not much privacy during the opening process. My CandiO box had pictures of loved ones and inspirational messages that reminded me of how rewarding the career I was about to begin would be.
EE: What were the coolest things you saw received in a CandiO box?
UF: I thought some of the CandiO boxes were really nicely decorated on the inside with pictures of families or pets. I was jealous of people who got homemade baked goods, even if they were a little stale. Someone had cheese sent to them, while another had freeze-dried broccoli (a nice change from the chow hall’s supersaturated style). Generally, it was just a lot of snack foods, most of which you can get at the DoD’s equivalent to a supermarket on base—the NEX. Anything from a nicer or specific grocery store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods was of high bartering value.
UF: Did the CandiO box experience live up to the hype?
EE: Yeah, I’d say my CandiO box spiked my insulin more than enough times to get my money’s worth. Seeing pictures of my family and friends and what they’ve been up to and swapping treats with friends was also a good memory.
EE: What would you recommend NOT to be sent?
UF: Anything that spoils quickly or needs to be refrigerated. While some baked goods did last, many were stale. You receive the CandiO boxes in the 9th week, but you may not be able to eat what is inside of them until the 10th week or even later depending on your class team. I saw one class team remove all items that had peanuts from their class’s boxes, as well as all snacks before they changed their mind to allow some snacks to stay. Anything that is on the banned list in the OCR would be strongly advised against.
UF: Knowing what you do now, with what’s available on base as a Candidate Officer would you have wanted anything different in the box?
EE: Food and desserts certainly seem to be the most commonly sent items in a CandiO box as most people have been dreaming about chocolate or Sour Patch Kids for the last two months. All this can be bought at the NEX during liberty and, honestly, the amount of junk food that gets sent to Newport is over the top since you’re leaving in three weeks.
So what should you consider sending? The NEX’s book selection is abysmal and doesn’t have much outside of memoirs of Admiral Rickover so a fun little board game to play with friends or a book to read on liberty would probably be my preference in hindsight.
EE: Did they need to be opened in front of staff or could I include something more personal/intimate?
UF: CandiO boxes are opened in front of staff. However, it seems to be up to the class team on how closely the contents are examined. If the item is not on the banned list, the worst-case scenario is that the item is confiscated, or at least that was my experience. Be prepared to be ridiculed by an RDC with a good sense of humor if he finds your Significant Other’s love notes.
UF: Was anything taken away by staff from your CandiO box?
EE: I can’t remember any specific examples of contraband being taken but just keep in mind all rules regarding drugs (to include OTC), alcohol, etc still apply so it’s not a free-for-all.
EE: In retrospect, what would be the number one thing sent in your box that you would have appreciated?
UF: I would have appreciated some reading material. Technically only approved books are allowed—think navy or leadership related. There’s a chance anything sent may be confiscated but a good book, board game, cards, or newspaper/magazine hidden at the bottom of the box could have easily been missed.
Everything I received in my CandiO box was from Trader Joe’s which was a nice change of pace snack-wise. A few family photos would have been a nice surprise, but we also got our phones back (for professional use only) which had any photographic mementos I would have wanted.
UF: How many CandiO boxes did you receive and what was your favorite item in them?
EE: Most people received one or two boxes but I remember seeing one candidate who must have been extremely-missed, receive so many boxes they needed to make multiple trips from the mailroom. As much as you may miss your favorite treats and snacks, you’ve got about four weeks left and probably don’t need to recreate The Last Supper with the snack section from Trader Joe’s.
CandiO Box Suggestions
Below I’ve included some specifics that I received or saw others open in their CandiO box. These can likely be bought anywhere but the Amazon links I’ve included below help support the blog through commissions earned.
- Admiral McRaven’s Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations – a very popular book which made its way to many hands in our company. An awesome read giving insight into the career field we were about to enter.
- Any of the Jocko Willink publications – he’s pretty well known by now but this was another author commonly delivered in the mail.
- David Goggins’s Can’t Hurt Me – another military book written by a former Navy Seal which many found highly motivating.
- Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life – this book didn’t have anything to do with the military specifically but was very popular as well and one of my personal favorites.
- The board game “Catan” was also super popular and frequently played whenever there was liberty.