A Deployment Checklist

After seven months on the ground, I feel a need to help those packing for their first trip to Iraq. To anyone who is or has been here: Feel free to add to my list.


An iPod can help pass several hours of the Army's (or your service branch's) "hurry-up-and-wait" drills. You can fill your it with music, audio books, podcasts and videos. I love my Nano and am very grateful to those who had the foresight to send me over here with it. Thank you!

A Reading List

If you are not a reader, consider becoming one. Eventually your iPod's entertainment value will wane, particularly since Internet cafes here lack the bandwidth necessary to upload new material. I suggest giving your reading list to family and friends so they can send books on an as-needed basis. They will have the satisfaction of sending things you need and want, and your vocabulary will improve during those hours of "hurry up and wait." Don't forget to include periodicals. Once finished with your books and magazines, pass them along to others in your unit. We currently have quite a book circle going on ... I'm now about 15 books behind.

Pictures of Friends and Family

This goes with out saying, but if, like me, you don't take leave, pictures will be the only tie you have to family for a while. You cannot count on downloading pictures sent via e-mail. The connection at Internet cafes is slow and you will waste your 30 minutes on trying to download a photo, only to have the download not finish. The proof? Most of the computers are missing keys after a dramatic outburst when time is called.

Thumb Drive / Memory Stick

You should buy a USB thumb drive or memory stick, at least one gigabyte in size. They take up very little room in your pocket and allow you to save pictures from friends on deployment, pre-composed e-mails and journal entries. That way, you can write e-mails at your leisure before heading to the Internet cafe. Once there (and under the 30-minute time crunch), you simply copy and paste the text into the body of an e-mail and send.


I rarely recommend laptops because they generally cost three times as much as a desktop for the same functionality. But in this case I would buying the smallest laptop you can. You may not get to use it much, but you will be able to compose e-mails to store on a thumb drive. It will save time. You will also be prepared in the case your unit gets a commercial Internet connection. You can also document your deployment, keeping Operational Security in mind. Your friends and family will enjoy the end-product.

Coffee Press

I only thought of packing a coffee press late in the game, but it's nice to brew a cup with relative ease. The only thing that I needed to go along with it was an electric kettle, the type available at most Post or Marine Corps Exchanges.

Favorite Coffee

For use with your coffee press -- it takes very little room in your bag. It is also something your family and friends can send for a taste of home.

Electric Kettle

While in the Exchange, we ran across a plastic pitcher that contains a heating element. It boils water in just a few minutes for that favorite coffee, tea or even things like oatmeal. Since it is plastic it's pretty durable. It, too, is small but provides a little luxury during your initial set-up.

Civilian Clothes

Bring two days worth of plain, conservative, civilian clothes. I packed two pairs of jeans and two collared shirts. I also have a pair of athletic shorts and a sport shirt. When you go on pass, you will thank me for the suggestion. You can wear civilian clothes until you get on the plane to return to duty. Wearing civilian clothes really helped keep my mind off of Iraq when I was in Qatar.

Head Lamp

In the aviation business, we need bright-white lights to inspect aircraft at night, ensuring there are no loose tools in the engine cowlings or other gear laying around where it can become ingested into the turbine engines. Almost all of us have small LED headlamps which can be found at Wal-Mart or a mountain sports stores. I also use the hands-free lights daily walking around the installation on the roads at night, running at night, fixing things for which I need both hands. These are not tactical in any way shape or form, but they do have their purpose.

Digital Camera

If you are sensitive to operational security, you should not have a problem with recording your deployment in photos or video. This is another peripheral device that will get lots of use with your laptop. Your family will enjoy the show when you return home.

A Good Pair of Sandals

Do not waste your time on $2 flip-flops they sell at the Exchange for use as shower shoes. Buy a good pair of sandals or flip-flops that will not puncture when walking across gravel. There is nothing more aggravating than having to walk back from the showers across dust or gravel after a cheap plastic flip-flops has broken.

By Bert Stover |  September 19, 2006; 7:20 AM ET  | Category:  Misc.
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I've been to SWA twice as a civilan. I can't speak to military needs. The following, however, may benefit everyone going.

1)In your travels in the Middle East you you may be using your credit card(s)or ATM card. let the companies invovled know you will be in SWA. Otherwise, they may refuse to pay as a security measure.
2)Bring a list of URLs and E-mail addresses.
3) Yes, bring a digital camera. You may want to consider gettting free space on a photographic website (Kodak has something like this.)

Posted by: bob kennedy | September 19, 2006 09:23 AM

Another reason to buy a cheap small laptop is to watch DVDs. More than likely where ever you go you'll have access to some cheap DVDs, if not most soldiers share their DVD library. Extra laundry bags come in handy too. Expect to have at least one tied up with the laundry service and two there if they lose the first one you turned in...

Posted by: Dan | September 19, 2006 09:59 AM

Buy one or two of those inexpensive zippered vinyl pipe tobacco bags that are probably still available in the BX. They are great substitutes for wallets off base. They'll hold your ID card, any amount of cash that you'll think you need, and other incidentals. They don't produce the classic shape of a wallet in your back pocket, making you a less inviting target for off-base pick-pockets or muggers. This keeps your wallet and its non-essential but important contents safe back at the Q.

Posted by: John Hermann | September 19, 2006 10:23 AM

I have several questions that I trust you can answer.

What sort of helicopter do you fly?
Do you have the same maintenance crew all the time?
Do you have a co-pilot and other crew members aboard when you fly?

thank you

Posted by: pcampbel@mac.com | September 19, 2006 02:33 PM

commercial GPS - comes in real handy on convoys, etc..especially if your unit only has a handful to issue out.

A leatherman - a superb tool for all MOS's.

A good digital watch with multiple time-zone capability.

Extra green logbooks - its the simple things the supply system runs out of so bring a few extra.

Maps - track down your S-2 and get them before you deploy.

Batteries - bring extra AAA and AA batteries.

Ziplock baggies - great for weatherproofing documents and all other sorts of things.

550 cord - has a million uses.

This is going to sound stupid, but it works - have your wife/girlfriend wear a t-shirt for a day. Then put it in a baggie and take it with you. After a bad day in the field, take a whif of the t-shirt. Small things like this helped me stay motivated.

Posted by: Ford | September 20, 2006 10:58 AM

I like your comments. Sounds handy for your part of the world. I am an english teacher living inChina and understand a few things about living in another world especially if you cannot get everything you need. Family tells me to get lost and they do not want to help with things so must depend on others if possible.

Stay safe good luck and enjoy your time in Iraq.

Posted by: norm | September 22, 2006 02:30 AM

I would never go anywhere without my poncho liner. It's useful as a blanket, sheet, curtain, rug, pillow and in many other ways.

In Iraq it was also great to have a back-pack.

Posted by: MAJ D | September 22, 2006 11:53 AM

I would insist on some type of journal with thick leather binding-there's nothing like opening a worn and faded personal tour-book
of memories from deployment.

Posted by: rio | September 25, 2006 12:10 PM

DH recommends some small containers, Gladware for example, for leftover snacks. Snacks in their original packaging attract mice and mice attract venomous snakes.

Posted by: Dusty | September 25, 2006 07:32 PM

And don't forget your mittens. Meow

Posted by: barbi | September 25, 2006 10:16 PM

Digital camera - buy one that has sound recording if you can afford it -

For Women - bring along at least two months worth of the items you use personally like shampoo, soap, feminine products, lotion. The PX has these items but VERY limited selection. 1 set of twin sized sheets, a plastic bucket to wash personals (the laundry is not a good place for personals) and some clothes pins/chord to hang your items to dry. You can also use the bucket to haul your cleaning items back and forth to the shower. Your family can send you what you need after the initial set up and keep in mind it takes about 14 days for packages to reach you once they are mailed in the states. Tell your family not to pay for express postage of any kind. The mail/packages will not get there any quicker and they will have wasted their money.

Posted by: Lynne | September 27, 2006 11:43 AM

ATM's are great. Before you go, get a card that is ATM only (not Debit). We used the ATM cards only at banks in Jordan and in Turkey only to find mysterious charges of about $700/each. Could only have happend at the bank. Also, let your bank know that you're going.

Posted by: SLumbard | September 27, 2006 02:41 PM

I would like to help the troops.How?

Posted by: JimJoker33@aol.com | October 3, 2006 09:36 AM

Can you send money out from iraq western union?

Posted by: marie | October 16, 2006 06:36 PM

Any advice about the organizations that send "care packages" e.g. Anysoldier.com, etc. Do you guys get these packages, are the appreciated/necessary/appropriate? Are any of the organizations doing a really good/bad job?

Posted by: W Swift | October 17, 2006 01:09 PM

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