A beloved blade and other everyday carry items of America’s former top first responder

"I’m generally averse to wearing a coat and tie."

Welcome to The Things I Carry, a semi-regular series from Task & Purpose that examines the everyday carry of notable veterans. This installment features Peter Gaynor, a Marine veteran who served as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and, briefly, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump.

Below, Gaynor details his everyday carry plus a few recommendations for what Americans should keep in their bug-out bags.

A beloved blade and other everyday carry items of America’s former top first responder

Peter Gaynor as FEMA administrator (FEMA)

Task & Purpose: What gear did you rely on most during your time in the U.S. military?

Peter Gaynor: I’ve been retired for a few years now, but the one piece of gear that I carried throughout my 26-year career as both a Marine enlisted infantryman and commissioned infantry officer was my Randall Made Knife Model 15 – Airman.  I purchased the knife in 1977 when I was a PFC machine-gunner in 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I think it cost me $75 – which was half a month’s pay!

As a grunt, I think my other investment was in boots. Before the transition to brown boots, I owned a pair of Danner Fort Lewis boots for cold weather and a pair of Danner Acadias for all-season wear. Both were one of the greatest investments a grunt could make at the time — they were the true “black Cadillacs”!

What does your everyday carry look like today? Do you wear a watch or carry sunglasses? How about your wallet, keyring, belt, and shoes? Were any of those items chosen for a particular reason? 

As the FEMA administrator, my everyday carry was pretty light.  Traveling in and out of Washington, D.C. federal buildings, the White House, and the Pentagon makes carrying anything out of the ordinary a problem – too many magnetometers and security guys and gals carrying guns. 

I’m generally averse to wearing a coat and tie, so when I can, I wear what we call FEMA Gear: blue 5.11 short-sleeve shirt with the FEMA logo and Kuhl cargo pants. I usually have on my Snake Eater Tactical Riggers Belt, CRKT KISS folding blade, and Danner Light II boots

For a watch, I wear my Breitling Colt Skyracer.  To keep my phones charged, I carry an Anker PowerCore portable charger in my backpack. Lastly, I always have my Rustico Field Notebook and Schon Design Classic Machined Pen nearby.

Can you describe everything that’s in your ideal bug-out bag in the event of an emergency? What should every American include in their bug-out bag? 

Every American should be prepared for disasters big and small.  Disasters range from a water leak that floods your home resulting in a hotel stay, to a wildfire that destroys your home or business.  The best preparedness resource of all is at www.ready.gov  At ready.gov you can find out how to make a plan and build a kit

During our continuing battle with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we all should have additional items such as masks, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.  We all have to ask ourselves some hard questions.  Do you have access to cash if there is no power to ATMs or vendors can’t process credit cards? 

Lastly, we all need a way to stay informed.  Whether it’s your cell phone, TV, or AM/FM radio they all need two things – power and a way to receive a signal.  Do you have a way to recharge your cell phone if you are without power?  Are you able to receive a TV signal if your cable or internet is cut?  Do you have an AM/FM radio to receive a signal if you don’t own a portable radio or own an automobile? 

I ask every American to do one simple act today to make you, your family, and your business more prepared.  You can do that right now by downloading the FEMA Mobile App today.

Related: 9 pieces of gear military veterans never leave home without

Jared Keller

Jared Kelleris the executive editor of Task & Purpose. His writing has appeared in Aeon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Contact the author here.

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