It’s a real pain in the butt getting ready to go to Iraq. I found out that, contrary to my orders, I’ll be shipping out a week earlier. Because of how my orders were printed, it looked like I had a week of processing followed by a week of uniform and equipment issue. However, they combined these two things together so the first two days were briefs and medical evaluations and the rest of the week is getting everything together. That really hurts because I planned on having at least half a week to buy gear that’s not issued.
Another problem is that I don’t know exactly what I will be issued. At this command, I will receive my uniform; at my Army training I will receive more gear, like sunglasses and Camelbacks, but I don’t know exactly what my final loadout will be. I found a list of suggested items to bring to Iraq but it’s from 2004 and some of the items are now standard issue. Because we are sent off with 3+ duffel bags of issued gear, plus any personal bags like laptops, traveling as light as possible is critical.
Luckily friends and family can mail any necessary items to the troops after we arrive, assuming we can’t purchase them at one of the post exchanges. Many people are planning on only taking critical items like toiletries and having the rest shipped over later.
For anyone who will be deploying and is curious what additional items to bring, here is a list of what I’ve bought so far:
- Headlamp-Obviously the desert doesn’t have a lot of streetlights available and many military places have a blackout policy at night. Of course, this also means that anyone moving around a lot at night with a light is a target but sometimes you just have to make a trip to the toilet. The light I purchased has 3 colored inserts for use at night so you don’t spoil your night vision or mess up night-vision goggles.
- Multitool-There’s an amazing variety of these tools available but realistically they all do the same things. I got one that comes with a belt holster so I don’t have to worry about finding a place to put it. I recommend getting one of the larger sets; the pocket knife-sized ones don’t have the tools or size to be truly multi-useful.
- Parachute cord-Recommended by others, this is your generic tie-down cord. If you get the right type, you can pull out the inner strings and use them for things like fishing lines, snares, and other survival needs. You can also substitute thin climbing ropes but they have a lot of elasticity, which you may not want.
- Mesh laundry bags-You don’t get any issued to you and you probably don’t have the ones from boot camp anymore. I bought two so one is available while the other is at the laundry, plus it can be used for holding wet clothes while they dry.
- Gel insoles-I don’t know what the ground is like there but I’ve never had any problems with gel insoles. I’ve been told that just walking from the bunkhouse to the “office” can be a 10 minute walk, so good foot support is vital.
- Fleece watch cap-Though I still have my wool watch cap from boot camp, I also bought a desert-colored fleece one. It gets cold in the desert at night and computer rooms are notorious for being heavily air-conditioned.
- Extra undershirts and underwear-You only get 6 undershirts issued to you but no underwear. You can wear polyester “wicking” clothing but only inside the wire. When outside the wire, you must wear cotton clothing; the polyester will melt to you if you are caught in a fire and the medics hate that. There are choices that are cheaper than Under Armour on the Internet but do the same job so look around.
- Sunscreen-You can never have enough in the desert. I bought SPF 60 though I don’t know if there’s a recommended level; I burn easily so figured the higher the better.
- Bugspray-Sand flies, mosquitoes, and other insects are supposed to be pretty bad at times. DEET bugspray is supposed to last for most of the day.
- Bandana-Desert camo, naturally. Very useful for sandstorms, wiping your forehead, cleaning sunglasses, and putting soaking wet around your neck.
There are other items that have been recommended for me to buy but I will wait to see what I’m issued. As I said, the less you take over, the better. Supposedly the Camelback-style canteens they issue aren’t the highest quality, plus it’s good to have a spare so the other one can air out for a while. The dust goggles are also supposed to be typical government issue, lowest bidder quality so name-brand ones are also recommended.
Since I’m not supposed to be engaging in patrols and other combat-style operations, I’m not planning on getting any serious tactical gear like extended holsters, radio bags, etc. However, since everyone will be doing convoy duty, that may change when I get there. The training at the Army fort will probably help clarify what extra items to get.
So, that’s my current, recommended list for now. Remember, travel light when going over there. You’re responsible for carrying everything you bring so just take the essentials and have the rest mailed to you.