Saturday, August 06, 2005


Tips for Deployment to Iraq

Austin Bay has posted a very helpful piece, Advice For A Troop Deploying To Iraq, and our friend Mustang 23 encouraged those of us here already to drop by and add any comments we felt would be helpful.

I've had COL Bay's post up on my laptop for the past 24 hours or so. I just spent two days out on convoy to and from a M2 and M240B range, and was too beat to even finish posting comments over at COL Bay's. Now rested, and with Mustang's helpful prod, here's my take.

I echo Mustang, if you are being activated or mobilizing or deploying with a unit, find out what you'll get from them before you invest major funds for stuff you'll get anyway. We have a ground surveillance team that is really hardcore, combat ready for the s***, and they each put in $2-3,000 of their own money getting a bunch of stuff. We none of us knew for sure what we would get, but in the end they received about 75% issue for what they had already spent. Some works for backup and replacement, but some of those E4s could have saved that money for when they got home.

Goggles, camelback, nomex (aviator, summer and winter) gloves, a set of underarmor, some heavier (green) cotton socks that are too warm for summer but fine for winter months, all issued items. We got a fleece suit, which was very helpful for winter at Fort Drum (Adirondacks), and surprisingly, the top was great (and necessary) for winter evenings and mornings in Iraq and even Kuwait.

Your unit will specify what else of the CIF you need to bring and what can be stored along with your BDU and woodland stuff.

Like Mustang, I would recommend to forego the fancy Camelback accessories and expansion kits unless you are a scout or will do foot patrols. On top of the IBA, you might as well be standing in the vehicle you either won't be able to bend (or even fit through the door). Everybody carries and has at hand the 1.5 liter water bottles, into which you can pour the poweraid, gatorade, Crystal Light mixes for whatever you prefer.

We bring coolers (unit acquired, stored, shipped) along on convoys; our LSA has big freezers (left behind from OIF I and II), we keep 3-4 freezers full, they turn to block ice, we throw those in the cooler a few bottles of water poured in to help melt them. You pull a frozen one out, leave it on the dash or out in the sun, within 10 minutes it is starting to melt, and within 20 you can often have it half done. You have a few in rotation, you always have ice cold water. The coolers, with the frozen water, can hold gatorade, and sodas (not recommended in the heat).

For me, the underarmor feels too constricting somehow, the tight feel didn't suit me, but the wicking effect is definitely worth it. I find I am happier with the cheaper version that is issued (two sets I think we got), and I notice in the PX they are somewhat less than half the price of the underarmor, and they wick pretty well but without the spandex feel. May be personal preference, but try one of each type during trainup if you can and see which suits you before shelling out the Underarmor price.

Bring a digital camera, one with an automatic lens cover, maglite, and as one of the commenters on COL Bay's blog said, get a couple of carabiners for your IBA to hold helmet or whatever else when your hands are occupied -- our trainers advised putting some 5/50 cord on the bottom of magazines, and as you empty them, you can hook them on the carabiner. (If you put them back in your pouches, you may be fumbling with empties when you want one full.)

No doubt you will have some down time, and with current MNC policies and the isolation from any host nation opportunities, entertainments will be limited. DVD and or laptop is a must if you have any LSA beyond tents (and even most all of those will have power).

As all the commenters have noted, soldier care and R&R items have improved greatly, the PX has most everything, and local Bazaars on most of the FOBs will have additional items (and the latest bootleg DVDs). With FOB consolidation, this will improve even more. Speicher and Anaconda have great services, Internet Cafes, phones, PX, fast food, bazaars, gyms, even pools (Anaconda).

You will likely be inundated with care packages, both from families and friends but also from Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches, service organizations and community groups (especially if you encourage them!).

Departing soldiers always want to unload the stuff they won't need back home: 220 volt appliances, transformers, furniture, and comfort items. You can probably risk waiting to you get in country and know your living arrangements, and get whatever you end up needing that wasn't left or available to you on arrival.

The point both COL Bay and Mustang make about getting in shape is very sound advice. Ignore at your peril. And when you get here, keep it up the whole time you're here. Use the gyms when it's too hot for running. Use early morning or late evening if you can. The DFACs know no portion control here, you need to police yourself. Watch your intact, eat lightly, limit ice cream and cakes and pies and cookies and pastries (you really have NO idea until you get here how crazy these DFACs get).

Lastly, set up a blog and join MILBLOGS before you go. Your voice is important, and there's an audience back home that needs to hear what you see and think and experience. Otherwise, they'd have no idea at all.

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