Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Advice to the Iraq Traveler

Words of advice to a Senior Officer traveling in Iraq.

1.  Pack light.  You don't need everything when you hit the ground.  A month without your stuff is not that big a deal.  You may be living out of your bags for that long, so the less bags you have, the less you have to pull apart to look for stuff.

2.  Pack in stages.  Pack what you immediately need for one night in a backpack along with your computer.  I would put one pair of socks, one t-shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant in your back-pack.  Also, pack a travel razor, a micro-fiber towel, and a washcloth (and zip-lock bag), and all the medicine you need for a week.  Next, pack what you need for staying in one place in your large ruck-sack.  Your shower-shoes, small travel soap and shampoo, PT Clothes, running shoes, change of uniform, a sleeping bag, your fleece jacket, a poncho liner, small camping pillow, wet weather top, and another 2 t-shirts and socks.  After that, pack what you absolutely need to live for two weeks in a duffle bag.  All the rest of your t-shirts and socks, extra towels, linen, extra medicine, major toiletries, stuff that you would like to get at if you are in temporary living conditions for more than a couple of days, and the rest of your uniforms.  In your second Duffle bag, pack your Chemical gear, the parts of your body armor that you will never use (shoulder stuff), your knee pads, elbow pads, some civilian clothes, cold-weather gear, cold-weather gloves, and anything else, but leave room for another duffle bag.  In your third duffle bag, pack your Body Armor, Helmet, Gloves, Goggles, Sunglasses, anything that you will need to get to quickly once arriving in theater.  After you arrive in Kuwait, empty that duffle and place it in Duffle #2.  You will wear the Body Armor from that point forward when traveling.  If you have to stay over night somewhere, you can always find someplace to store a dufflebag or two so you don't have to drag it to your hooch, so packing this way will help you not have to drag stuff you don't need pretty great distances if you don't need to.

3.  Things that I consider a "Must" have:
     a.  Micro-fiber towel.   This has been my most used item in theater.  It is light, drys quickly, and folds up into a very small area.  Plus, it drys you extremely well.
     b.  Personal Computer.  You will go crazy without a personal computer that can play the cheap DVDs that you can pick up.  The smaller the computer the better, but your computer doesn't count for the size of your backpack as a carry-on.  Plus, you will most likely be given a camera that you need to download pictures from that connects via USB...something you can't do on a Govt. laptop...hmm.
     c.  Gold Bond Medicated Powder.  You will be hurting without it, trust me.
     d.  Crocs.  I hate these things...nevertheless, they are absolutely necessary here in theater.  You will have to inevitably walk thru all kinds of crap to get to the latrine/shower in this place, and normal shower shoes just won't do.  If you already like them, great, if not...get used to wearing them, they will save your feet from all kinds of stuff.
     e.  Hand Lotion and Hand Sanitizer.  Get the hand sanitizer with Aloe, and then use the lotion.  You will wash your hands ALL the time.  Your hands WILL dry out, and they will hurt when they crack.
     f.  iPod Touch or iPhone, or something small that has WiFi capability.  You wouldn't believe where there are hotspots, so take advantage of them to send an email home.  A netbook DOES NOT serve this purpose, trust me.

4.  Don't count on anything.  If they tell you that you will be in an office, you will probably end up working in the field.  If they tell you that you have a Wet CHU, you will not.  If they tell you that there will be Free Internet, you will have to pay for it.  If they say that you have AFN, they mean somewhere that you can never get to.  If they tell you to train for one job, you will get another.  Plan for not getting anything, and be happy with what you get.  Its a job AND an adventure.  So enjoy it.

5.  This really only applies if you are an individual augmentee...if you are deploying with a unit that is a Battalion or Higher, your mission will probably be what you trained for.

Oh, and wear sunscreen.


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