Before any troop deploys or goes on a training mission, their chain of command will send down a list of items that they're required to bring — or at least highly encouraged. Some things make absolute sense: Sleeping bags, changes of uniform, and a hygiene kit are all essentials.
Sometimes, however, the commander insists that the unit bring things that either nobody will use or are so worthless that they might as well be dumbbells.
Each individual unit decides what is and isn't going to make the list, so each pack is different. What may be useful one day might not be the next, but these outliers almost always go unwanted.
1. Very specific hygiene items
Hygiene kits are essential. Don't be that nasty-ass motherf*cker who makes everyone ponder the legality of throwing you out of the tent for the duration of the field exercise.
That being said, we should all be capable of exercising some common sense. Your packing list shouldn't have to itemize little things, like nail clippers or deodorant. But at the same time, NCOs shouldn't have to double check to see if you're bringing the requisite number of razor heads.
I'd like to say common sense is common... but... you know...
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathaniel C. Cray)
2. Civilian clothes
Does your unit have the word "special" anywhere inside its name? No? Well, you better not unfold that pair of blue jeans while in-country because you're never going to get a shot at wearing them.
The reason for bringing a single change of civilian clothes is for the troops to swap clothes for R&R or emergency leave while on deployment, but no one ever changes into them because they need to be in uniform while in Kuwait — and they're probably not going to bother changing out of their uniform while on the plane.
Besides, you get extra "TYFYS" points if you come back home in uniform.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Alexa Culbert)
3. Extra boots
Ounces make pounds and an extra set of boots actually weighs quite a bit, given their size. As long as you've got a good pair on you and you (hopefully) don't destroy them while in the field, that extra set will probably just take up space — and make your duffel bag smell like feet.
Just use the pair that you're currently wearing in uniform. That'll do just fine.
It may be a personal thing, but I toss all of my old, nasty boots the moment I get new ones. Or donate them. Just a thought.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)
4. Unworn snivel gear
If it's summer time, you probably won't need that set of winter thermals and the additional layers that go over it. Yeah, it might get chilly at nights, but not that chilly.
This one's all about using your head and taking what you may realistically need, even on some off chance. Does the forecast say there's a slight chance of rain? Take your rain gear. If it says it'll be sunny or partly cloudy, take some of your rain gear (it's a field op. It always rains). Is it the dead of July and there's absolutely zero chance of snowfall? Don't bother except with anything but the lighter stuff for nighttime.
All you need is a woobie and you'll be set for life.
(U.S. Army photo)
5. MOPP gear
If your supervisor specifically tells you to pack your MOPP gear for a training exercise, it's probably because there's going to be a lesson while you're out there. If it's on a hold-over from a copy-and-pasted spreadsheet, it's dead weight.
Make an educated decision here. If you're unsure, ask your team leader if it's really necessary.
If they do tell you to bring it... prepare for a world of suck.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Unwin)
6. Laundry stuff
Obviously you'll need laundry stuff for a deployment — you're going to be gone for many months and your few changes of uniform won't last. If it's just for a weekend field op, however, you're not even going to find a laundromat in the Back 40 of Fort Campbell. Sure, you might want to bring a waterproof bag to hold your smelly clothes and wet socks, but bringing laundry detergent? Not so important.
Again, this falls under the "if your command says it's a thing, it's a thing" category.
(U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Spc. John Russell)
7. Most "tacticool" crap
It's not a terrible idea to swap some of the more, uh, "lowest-bidder" stuff that the military gives you for an equivalent of better quality. If you do, though, run it by your chain of command to make sure that it's authorized. If it's not, you're wasting money, space, and weight.
Save yourself a buck or two and think.
(Department of Defense photo by Julie Mitchell)
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