It's the dreaded last step in clearing out of a unit to either PCS to another duty station or ETS back into the civilian world — turning gear into the Central Issuing Facility.

We get it. Nobody wants to stand around for six hours to have a grouchy civilian give you hell for having a tiny bit of Afghanistan dust stuck to your rucksack, but it's just one of those things that needs to be done. Uncle Sam gave you a bunch of high-priced gear and he expects it back — even if the gear is well past its issuing date.

You likely won't ever have a fantastic, enjoyable time at CIF, but it doesn't have to be terrible. Here're a few tips that many troops and vets before you have used to breeze through.


1. Clean. Everything. Spotlessly. 

This is a no-brainer. CIF wants their gear clean and they'll kick it right back if they see dirt. If you know that you've used your gear at least once since getting it, give it a wash. Your more well-used stuff is going to require a lot more extra attention. Give yourself a week to get it all done. It might take all manners of cleaning products to get that one friggin' stain out of the knee pads you know you barely used, but it's got to be done.

There's nothing a little elbow grease and a bit of "f*ck you" can't solve.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sean McCallon, 91st Training Division public affairs)

2. Sweet talk your supply NCO.

Everyone takes for granted how much the supply NCO can really help with missing, broken, or un-returnable gear. They have connexes upon connexes of gear that isn't really accounted for that could easily help you out.

Depending on what the supply room has to offer, you could save a lot of money by simply asking nicely. Sure, they probably can't swing you an entire sleeping bag system without doing a bunch of paperwork — but they could probably take yours and swap it out with another... Maybe.

It helps to volunteer for working parties that involves the supply room. Stay on their good side.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dominick A. Cremeans)

3. Buy what you're missing off-post.

But the supply NCO can't help you with everything — and you're not going to want to take that hit from the Statement of Charges that says you owe the government $300 for a single missing ammo pouch. Thankfully, there's an entire market dedicated to selling used military gear just outside the main gate.

First of, it's best to simply not consider the legality of how the place received all that gear — there's a non-zero chance it was pilfered from some poor sap's wall locker at reception and sold by some grade-A blue falcon. Just pay the $30, get your replacement gear, and tell yourself that it was probably surplus — or it "fell off some truck somewhere."

Some times those "tacticool" retirees know what's up.

(Photo by Anna Frodesiak)

4. Bring any and all paperwork from previous visits to CIF.

Don't just show up with your clearing paperwork and the slip of what your supply NCO says you were issued. Bring any document that may even remotely have anything to do with your gear.

Best case scenario: Everything goes without a hitch and you can jam that paperwork back into the plastic box you keep in the closet. Worst case scenario: They say that you were issued something that you clearly never were and you have proof that there was some kind of mistake.

Plus, that moment when you correct them and say, "as you can clearly see" while pointing to the relevant document is priceless.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. Brianna Saville / 416th Theater Engineer Command)

5. Don't give the workers a hard time.

This one should be basic human knowledge — or at least ingrained in military customs and courtesies. Don't be a dick to the civilians who work at CIF. The reason the lines are so long is because they're constantly helping loads of troops, each and every day.

Rank and position don't mean the same thing to them because you're in their world, they're not in yours. They will help each and every troop, from private to general, when their number is called. It doesn't matter if they're as pleasant to be around as that slug lady from Monster's Inc., don't give them any extra incentive to kick your stuff back — even if that means swallowing your pride.

This goes double if the CIF is using troops to help with the workload. Just don't be an asshole.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. Brianna Saville/ 416th Theater Engineer Command)