What to Bring
Date Published: 11 July 2004
Most of the people I came over with brought most of what they thought they would need to the CRC in Ft Bliss. And most of these people bought a few more things at the Ft Bliss PX, or local shops. After getting a ton of gear issued to us at Ft Bliss, including 3 sets of long underwear and a pair of cold weather boots (on top of 2 pair of regular desert boots), most folks also ended up shipping at least one duffel bag worth of stuff home via FedEx (provided free of charge on one of the last days before shipping out). It was also a surprise to many that they could only take 3 duffels and a carry-on, not 4 duffels, which was a change in June, I believe.
Upon arriving in Kuwait, 20+ hours after getting on the plane in El Paso, we were informed by an army Major that the army had been surveying soldiers to find out what they were buying for their time in Iraq, and that the army had decided to issue most of these items. It's a lot of good stuff -- too bad they didn't let anybody know they would be doing so, since most folks already had most of these items by the time they arrived in Kuwait. Now, with this said, you really should buy anything you think is *critical* rather than hoping you'll get it in Kuwait or Iraq. But if it isn't *critical* and it's on this list, you can save yourself some extra weight and expense and just pick it up here. Also, the PX in Doha is well-stocked with army gear, as is the PX at LSA Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. So if you don't buy it and bring it, and you don't get it given to you in Kuwait, you can probably pick it up here easily enough.
At Doha, we received (and do not have to return) another duffel bag, a no-frills green camelbak (you may want to buy a nicer desert one), a black rigger bdu pants belt, several pair of nomex and cold weather gloves, a set of Wiley-X sunglass-goggles, a set of full coverage goggles (like you would wear on convoy ops with a kevlar), 2 pair of nicer boots, both desert style, one cold weather one normal, made by Belleville and much more comfortable than the Altamas and other brands we were issued at Bliss, several no-name wicking polyester brown t-shirts (similar to UnderArmour but not quite as nice in my opinion -- but way cheaper (free)), several black silk cold weather t-shirts (for layering -- hiking gear -- good stuff), black polyester fleece jacket and pants (name brand hiking apparel - much better than field jacket). That's about it. We were also fitted for the new Kevlar helmets that are coming but which are on backorder at the moment. At Doha we also received our protective vests and inserts.
Since being on the ground in Iraq, I've learned that cotton t-shirts are worthless. They will be soaking wet in about 5 minutes if you are outside or in a hot tent. Once they're wet, they don't dry quickly and they're quite uncomfortable. I have 2 underarmour loosegear brown shirts I picked up at Fort LeonardWood for (ouch) $20 each and they are fantastic by comparison. I have about 10 cotton t-shirts and I'm probably going to throw them away or something. The wicking polyester shirts issued at Doha I haven't really put to the test yet. I'm wearing one today but the sun has only just come out and I've been indoors since it has - I'll review its performance relative to the expensive UA shirt in a later post. I see a lot of people wearing the UA shirts, though, and they're definitely worth it in my opinion. They dry very quickly and, although I know this sounds gross, they can really be worn several days at a time without being washed if need be (laundry services being somewhat hard to come by here at the moment). My cotton shirt I wore yesterday was done after just a few hours of the heat.
I wrote earlier about the heat but I don't think I used the two most common analogies I've heard or come up with since being here. Walking outside during the day invariably feels like the blast of hot air that comes with opening up an oven to check on dinner. Except that the blast of hot air doesn't dissipate - that's just how it is once you're out in the heat. With the wind blowing, rather than feeling particularly cool, it feels pretty much just like having a hot blow dryer blowing in your face, but nonstop and across your whole body. On the plus side, if you spill some water on yourself, it dries within a couple of minutes...
In closing, with regard to what to bring, truly try to bring as little as you can. You're going to have to lug the stuff quite a ways before you finally get somewhere where you can unpack, so the less weight you have to contend with, the better. Oh, and luggage carts -- I have mixed feelings about them. I picked one up in Bliss but the only time it was really worthwhile was the first night in Doha. Otherwise, the terrain has usually been too rocky (or involved stairs and/or buses to get on/off) to make its use worthwhile. I'd probably skip it if given the chance to buy it again.
Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.