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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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