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As a Marine veteran who served in Helmand province, Afghanistan, during the surge, seeing it pop back up in the headlines provides a strange and bitter sort of nostalgia. Especially after the announcement that the U.S. military will be sending additional troops to the beleaguered south in an attempt to help the Afghan military hold ground against the Taliban advance.
For thetroops who are heading there now, and especially those who have not yet to serve in that arid, occasionally beautiful and often unforgiving province, I’ve got a few suggested additions to your packing list.
When I was packing for my first deployment, I didn’t realize until too late how much of a difference a few creature comforts can make, and since most of the gear on here won’t be shipped to you by chance, I suggest you bring it yourself.
While none of this is life saving, these items can certainly improve your quality of life and maybe let you forget you’re stuck on an endless beach with no water. At least for a short while.
Collapsable camping stool
Being able to rest your weary and sore ass is important. Life saving? Hell no, but it makes playing a game of spades on an overturned MRE box easier. Tripod camping stools break down easily and take up minimal space. When packed up, they’re about a foot long and the width of a poster tube. They offer good stability, but the seat is a rounded triangle, which can put your junk in a bit of a pinch. There are also square foldout camping stools, but those don’t break down as well, that are roughly the same dimensions as a binder and just as thick. Find one that works for your needs, whether it’s packing space or stability.
Plastic french press
Look, I’m an addict. I go ape shit for caffeine and I know I’m not alone. If you’re like me, consider a plastic french press. If you have a decent brew — ask friends and family to send pre-ground coffee — then you just need a way to heat your water. You can usually pick up a rusty, and likely unsafe, though still useable, propane tank from a local shop or vendor for under $20, if your terp doesn’t stiff you. If a french press is too snobby, get a plastic drip coffee maker, though you’ll probably end up using MRE napkins, or worse, toilet paper, for filters.
You may be out in the boonies, but it doesn’t mean you have to live like a caveman if you don’t want to. While most solar chargers won’t have enough juice to power a laptop, they can run a tablet, for a bit, and fully charge an iPod, or a Zune if anyone even uses those anymore. This means means your movies, music, or your 500 gigs of porn don’t have to go unappreciated. They range in price from the questionably affordable, to the outrageous. In my experience, the ones that fold out to a one to two foot long rectangle work best, and you can tack it to the side of a hesco wall, or hang it on a nail while standing post. Might as well get some use out of the blazing sun.
I lucked out on my first deployment and got a pair of USB-powered speakers in a care package. The sound was mediocre, but they were great because I could charge them on a computer — even one on a secure network, since it wasn’t a storage device — and they plugged into a headphone jack. This meant they could be used with an MP3 player, a laptop, a tablet, and anything else with a audio plug-in.
A multi-tool is what you’d get if the Terminator and a Swiss Army knife had a kid. It has everything. The good ones have a great set of pliers; a half dozen different kinds of knives; a screwdriver, phillips and flathead; a can opener; and probably something else I’ve forgotten. It’s just generally useful. You can crimp leftover hesco wire into hooks to hang things on, pry open cans of food that you got in a care package, and stab the hell out of a veggie burger MRE if you’re having a bad day.
There are a few downsides. They can get pretty expensive as they go up in quality, especially the Leatherman multi-tools, and to make matters worse, it’s a high theft item, meaning if you leave it on top of your flak or your rack, someone’s liable to jack it. Finally, unlike a Swiss Army knife, it doesn’t come with a toothpick.
13 Marines at Camp Pendleton charged with crimes related to smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Mexico
Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."
That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.
When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.
"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.
According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.
"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."
Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."
Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."
The Army thinks China will surpass Russia by 2028. Here is how the service is planning to take them on.
If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.
The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.
But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.
In leaked documents, Army family reports waiting weeks to have gas line and roof leaks fixed in on-base housing
As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.
And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.