|THE NO-BULL LIST: What You Need in Iraq |
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There's tons of gear and technology out there, but when it comes down to it, what do you really need when you're in the field? Here's a comprehensive list of must-have items, compiled by an Army servicemember. If you or someone you know is deploying, ignore this article at your peril.
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Today's Soldiers have a choice of what to carry with them to the battlefield -- it's critical to make the right decision.
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By SFC Dillard J. Johnson
Soldier of Fortune Magazine
It is the second year after my unit, 3/7th CAV of the 3rd ID, fought its way from Kuwait to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and major fighting was declared over.
OIF may be over, but the war in Iraq has merely changed faces and is going as strong as ever. Army and Marine units who spearheaded OIF have either returned to, or have been given a heads-up for redeployment to, Iraq.
I will be heading back over to Iraq shortly. The following is a critique of what equipment worked for us there that we will be sure to take back, and what gear we could have put to good use, had it been available, that we will take with us this time, for sure. Old friends from Iraqi Freedom and I tested and talked up a lot of new items on the market for the fighting GI -- the good, the bad, the ugly. We will only mention the good stuff here -- the items that we would need to take back with us this time to help accomplish the mission and return home to our families. We salute the many fine manufacturers who serve the GI, and to them we award our No Bull War Prize.
SSG John Williams, a fellow soldier in OIF, suggested that we add items that the first-timers would need, as well. If you have a loved one heading over to Iraq for the first time, here are some bits of gear you may want to consider. If you are in the armed forces, Uncle Sam has issued almost everything that you will need, but not everything.
Be sure you check all your issued equipment. If it has the smallest damage, turn it back in to CIF. Your equipment will have to last you. You do not want to start off in the hole. There are many more things to buy on your own that will help ensure a safe return back home to your loved ones.
The No-Bull List: What You Will Need in Iraq
|CQC Tactical Goggle |
The best in shatterproof eye protection, this full lensframe tactical goggle has a low profile that permits wear with tactical helmets and NVGs.
Armor: If you only buy one thing to take with you, make it body armor. It can cost up to $1,500 for the best, which is made by Point Blank, the same company that makes the Interceptor for the U.S. Army. You can also choose to buy a small, concealable vest for around $250, but remember you get what you pay for. You can get your vest online, and don't forget to tell them your chest size. You will need a good fit for your vest to work right.
Headgear: I know, the Kevlar helmet is heavy and not as comfortable as a ball cap but if you don't want to have a hole in your head the size of a golf ball, spend the money. Better to have and not need then need and not have. You can get your police or Army style Kevlar helmet on line at Tamiami Armor (see the Supply Store for the link).
Gloves: You will need a good pair of gloves. Most gloves that are military issued won't stand up to the conditions in Iraq. My issued Nomex gloves didn't make it past day three of the war. Luckily, I had packed away in my rucksack two pairs of gloves: One pair of Craftsman mechanic's gloves and one pair of Hellstorm Assault Gloves. The Craftsman gloves worked very well for the price of around $19 a pair, but after two months of everyday use they started to fail, so I pulled out my Hellstorm Assault gloves by Blackhawk. I used my Hellstorm gloves every day and they held up to everything I put them through. Then when I was Medivaced to Walter Reed, I gave them to my gunner SPC Sullivan, who gave them to his replacements in August and just like the pink bunny, the Hellstorm gloves just kept going and going. Hellstorm gloves can be ordered through the Supply Store. Your hands will thank you.
Boots: There is no substitute for a good pair of boots. Nike doesn't make boots for Iraq. Military issued, Bates and Original Duty boots are about the best you can get for Iraq. However you will want to have the soles replaced on your military issue boots with ripple soles. Ripple sole are softer on your feet and will give long life to your boots. You can buy Original Duty boots with the ripple sole already on them for around $60. They have triple layer insole for long lasting comfort, come in half and wide sizes and are $25 cheaper then military issued ones, at the Armed Forces Merchandise Outlet (AFMO). I ordered a pair of the Original Duty from AFMO to see if they would live up to their promise of quick response. My boots arrived less then 48 hours later. You can order Original Duty boots online or call 800-82-3327. A good deal anyway you look at it. If you're a civilian, you will want to get the Enforcer by Bates. They have been in the boot-making business for years and stand behind their boots. Bates are as closest you can get to running shoes and still be boots. And don't go cheap on your socks. Fox River makes probably the best socks on the market. There is extra cushion built in and they even make PT socks. For these and other footwear, see the Supply Store.
The Altama boot with Coolmax inner lining is known as the "Schwarzkopf" Desert Boot, and approved by the general himself. Buy a pair.
Eye protection: Don't leave home without it. Wiley X has a national stock number for the SG-1, our workhorse for the military during OIF-1. They also make the CQC tactical goggle, which has a low profile and a one-year warranty. The CQC fits under your Kevlar. They also come with a headband so you can wear them with your CVC. I'm taking them back to Iraq with me this time. Wiley X is a soldier-friendly company that takes their product's reliability seriously. I highly recommend them for any job. Eye Shield System (ESS) and Blackhawk special operation tactical goggles are all a good investment also. You can order all three of these quality products at the Gear Store.
The Wiley X tactical goggle offers the best in eye protection. Buy a set.
Packs: On your way over to Iraq or moving around inside Iraq you will need a good backpack to carry your gear. I took with me to Iraq a three-day assault back pack that I had purchased for about $100 at Ft. Bragg N.C. years ago. The backpack was made by Blackhawk Industries. Blackhawk makes some of the best soldier gear on the market. My backpack still works like new. It will be making its second trip to Iraq with me. I checked the price of my assault pack with Blackhawk and in eight years the price has only gone up $20. You can get your Assault backpack/gear online. If you've ever had to dump your gear out to find something small, then the Spec-Ops Pack-Rat drop-in organizer is for you: It will hold all your small gear where you can get at it. Spec-Ops also makes great backpacks with their multiple platform system: You can mount anything on them. Get yours online or call 866-773-2677.
Hydration system: You will need a hydration system. There are only two on the market that I know of -- Hydrastorm and Camelbak. They cost about the same and both have Gas mask adapter kits. Hydrastorm has a larger drinking tube but harder bite-valve then Camelbak. Camelbak drinking tube is smaller but the bite valve is softer. Just make sure you have one or the other. One thing you will need to get is the hydration utility multiple platform (HUMP) by Spec-Ops Brands (above). It will fit any Hydration system and attaches to your LBV or interceptor vest -- a great idea that works. You can order all three of these at the Gear Store.
The Hydrastorm Predator, a top-of-the-line hydration pack. Buy now.
Watch: Everyone will need a good watch. Chase-Durer makes some of the toughest watch-cases in the world. 1SG Broadhead still has his hand thanks to his Chase-Durer watch. Casio G Shocks and Timex are always a good choice also. Make sure you take a back up watch.
Multi-Tools: A good Multi-tool can save your life and make the difference between a good day and a bad day. They range from $35 to $170 in price. In this case, you get more than what you paid for, as the Gerber Multi-Plier 600 costs around $35. It is an easy, one-handed-opening unit and Gerber stands behind their product. You can order these at the Gear Store. If you break it, send it back and Gerber will fix it or send you another one.
Good Gear to Have
Now that we have the what-you-need list, here is the stuff that is nice to have. First, the GPS Magellan Sportrak; not only will it let you know where you are, you can also download city maps like Baghdad or other Iraqi towns. Magellan is the best GPS on the market. I have the old 2000XL model and it still works like a new one. Don't forget to get a good case. Spec-Ops Brands makes a case to fit them all.
Flashlight: There is only one name. SureFire and the G2 model -- it only costs about $30. If you already have a loved one in Iraq, send them a SureFire light -- it will make their day. SureFire lights have even survived mortar attacks.
Knife: Gerber has teamed up with Blackhawk and together they have come out with the toughest knife/sheath combo on the market: the Silver Trident and Blackhawk's double-locking sheath, which can be positioned anywhere, thanks to their new and clever design. The Silver Trident is a knife you will love from the first time you pick it up. I don't recommend you do this, but I put my Trident through a car hood. Other than the paint being scratched, the Silver Trident still looks and works as good as new. Buck knives are still as dependable as ever. I have carried the Buck T-119 for years -- two combat tours -- and from deer hunting to self-defense, it has never let me down. Smaller knives will be needed for everyday use. You will want to get an inexpensive knife that keeps a good edge on it, like Gerber's Ridge Knife for $24 or Bucks Ecco 2.25 for $28. You can get all your knife needs at the Gear Store and the One Stop Knife Shop.
The Gerber multi-plier crimper tool is designed for all-purpose use as well as the specialized needs of Ordnance Techs. Buy now.
Holsters, Mags, Slings: If you are a GI, there is something you will need that Uncle Sam didn't issue you: If you have an M9 9mm, you will want to get a drop-leg holster from Blackhawk. I still have the one I took to war in OIF. They are very comfortable and heavy-duty. Even though you were issued magazines, go out and find some original pre-ban mags that won't get you killed by failing to feed your ammo, like mine did. You should be able to find them at any gun show. For your M4 or M16, you will want to get a good sling and no one makes them better than Spec-Ops Brand. I have tried them all and the Mamba fits the bill. The Mamba is comfortable, quiet and allows you freedom of your hands. Spec-Ops also makes a great butt pack for your LBV. I used one during OIF and it is still working today. If you are going to be in a Forward Operations Base (FOB) or air base where you will be able to downgrade your uniform, you will want to get their buttstock magazine pouch. It fits right on your M4 or M16 stock and keeps one magazine of ammo with you at all times. Everything that Spec-Ops makes is made in the U.S.A. You can order by calling 866-773-2677 or online.
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|Load Bearing Gear at a Discount|
Cleaning kits: You will want to put together a good one to last you the year you will be there. Gerber and Otis have put together a good one that has an NSN so your unit can order it for you. They come from 5.56mm to 12 gauge. If you have to pay out of pocket, purchase them online. Gerber & Otis will give you a good price, around $25, and a great product. Guys, clean your weapons every day. It will keep you and your buddies alive.
|Search & Rescue Strobe Light |
Meets all military specs, plus extra features. Long-lasting 250,000-lumen light, an IR night vision filter, and a range of 6 miles. Get it now.
You will need to get a good sleeping bag; one that will compress to a very small size, is comfortable and light-weight. I recommend the Coleman Crescent Sleeping bag. It only cost $41, it is light weight, comfortable and a very good product for the price. For entertainment you will want to get a Game Boy Advance. If you have a little more money to spend, buy yourself a Lap Top computer. HP makes a good, reliable PC. SSG John Williams took one with him during OIF, and the only thing he did to protect his laptop was place it inside a pelican waterproof case --and he still uses them to this day.
If you have been reading this for ideas of what to send a loved one in a care package, you can always send pre-sweetened Kool-aid, Gummy Bears and a DVD of their favorite movie. War is hell, but you do not have to be totally miserable while you are there.
I hope that this has given you some ideas for worthwhile kit, and that you come home safe. Remember, "if you are willing to do what your enemy is not, you will be victorious!" Troops, thank you for your service to this great country.