29 July 2006

Clothing and gear

Are you preparing to deploy overseas to Iraq anytime soon? Or just curious about the gear we're using? I present to you my take on clothing and gear issue (and some obvious advertising for brands that I've been using)!

For the large part, the Army-issued gear is good quality stuff that should survive your tour. However, over the course of nearly three months in theater, I have found what works and what doesn't (at least for me!), so take my opinion and add it to what you already know. Maybe it will make your stay a little better.

Let's start at the bottom-up. The hot weather boots are very comfortable and do not require "breaking in". I tried on about four different pairs from three different manufacturers before I was happy. Why? If I'm going to be wearing these boots 12, 15, 18 hours a day, I want them to fit and be comfortable! Together with boots are the issue of socks. The green Army-issued socks are long (calf length) and I found that if I doubled them over, they hurt my shins and ankles even worse. Also, they tend to be itchy. Fortunately, I had brought along six pair of Thorlo socks. While they make different types (even one for military boots), I found the PT socks to be perfect. They pull up my leg just an inch or two above the top of the boots. They are well-padded, and don't itch. They are expensive, at about $11 a pair. This is totally worth it.

The Army issued Safariland thigh-holsters for our M9 Beretta's. Most people use them outside the wire, but most people also buy a leather strap shoulder holster to wear their M9 while on the FOB or while in PT gear. I didn't see the need to buy it, so I just use the thigh holster. Besides, it's one less thing to carry around or worry about.

The Army issues almost everything, but not underwear! I'm a boxer-brief kind of guy, so your standard Fruit of the Loom type is what I normally wear. However, for me, this is where Under Armour is clearly the standard. Under Armour boxer briefs are far and above the best underwear in the world as far as I am concerned.

The Army issued a thin, black nylon belt which I suspect wouldn't last me a month. I immediately purchased a khaki Rigger's belt from SpecOps which is much thicker, and sturdier (especially with a thigh holster attached). It also closes with velcro. Again, it's a bit pricey compared to a standard nylon belt, but worth every penny.

T-shirts issued by the Army are either brown (older variety, made of cotton) or cream (newer variety which is designed to go with the digital ACUs, and made of cotton and polyester). The polyester gives the cream-colored shirts a "moisture wicking" quality, not unlike the more expensive Under Armour shirts. Frankly, I am surprised by the quality of these cream-colored t-shirts and didn't expect them to hold up as they have. The Under Armour shirts are nice but the cotton-polyester shirts do an admirable job. It really comes down to personal preference here. I have and will continue to wear both.

We were issued "8 point covers" but most people bought what are known as "boonie hats" or desert sun hats. I wear it faithfully, having no desire to wear the 8 point cover. Again, purely an issue of personal preference.

I also bought a Recon Wrap which is "multi-season, multi-mode headgear." I used it underneath my helmet as a sweat absorber, and I wouldn't go without it. It is absolutely awesome.

What other gear might you need?

I bought two ammo pouches: one that holds four magazines for my M16, and one that holds three magazines for my M9.

I also bought a medium-sized backpack which I take with me anytime we're off to another FOB. I use it frequently, and it will make a good addition to my closet full of backpacks!
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