In summer 2006, Slate's partners at Doonesbury.com, Doonesbury creator G.B. Trudeau and editor David Stanford, launched a milblog called the Sandbox. Publishing dispatches from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, returning troops, and home-front wives and parents, the Sandbox very quickly became a home for some of the best war writing on the Web, or anywhere else. This week, we are publishing excerpts from a new collection, Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox: Dispatches From Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, edited by David Stanford.
Today's excerpt includes two pieces: "List of Gear for Sandbox Deployment," by 1st Sgt. Troy Steward, and "Man Food," by C. Maloney.
"List of Gear for Sandbox Deployment"
By 1st Sgt. Troy Steward
Stationed in: Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Amherst, N.Y.
Milblog URL: Bouhammer.com
Many people reading this blog are getting ready to come over here in the near future or have loved ones already over here. I have put together a list of good-to-have equipment, based on my experience here in Afghanistan and that of friends in Iraq. Some of these items won't be needed until you get in-country, so you may want to set those off to the side and have them sent once you get settled.
1. Any extra Class VIII you can bring from HS is good to have.
2. Wolf Hook Single Point Slings.
3. Desert Tan spray paint.
4. Space blanket(s).
5. 100 mph tape, 550 cord, TP, other expendables you think would come in handy.
6. Drop Leg Holster (BlackHawk or SERPA) and Uncle Mike's Holster for wearing around every day (Drop Leg will wear a hole in ACUs over time). I also have one for my IBA so I can have my 9 mm handy when in the gun hatch going through towns.
7. Weapons lube that doesn't attract sand (Miltech or Remington Dry Lube).
8. Two copies of addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, etc.
9. Two pairs of good boot insoles.
10. A good tactical flashlight (SureFire, even though you will get issued one with M4).
11. Red/white light headlamp.
12. Spare pair of running shoes.
13. MP3 player with extra pair of headphones.
14. Enough batteries to last you 30 days.
17. 30 SPF or higher sunblock.
18. Bar soap—for some reason it's almost always in short supply.
19. Small, compact rolls of TP. A lot of places make travel size. Half the time you get to a Porta-Potti and the jackA$s before you yanked the TP.
20. Baby wipes—30 days' worth. Expect that the power and water will either go out, or the water will be contaminated, at least once a month.
21. Gold Bond Foot and Body Powder.
22. Small clip-on LED light. Clip it to your IBA. It will come in handy—quite often.
23. Drink mix for 16- and 20-ounce bottles of water.
24. Weightlifting supplies.
25. Small photo album with pics from home.
26. Hand sanitizer (small bottles to put in ankle pockets).
27. More books/magazines than you think you will need.
28. DVDs, for you and to loan out for swapping purposes.
29. Tactical gloves—military gloves are sort of clumsy. (I love the $9.95 Whitewater brand gloves from the clothing sales.) Also standard flight Nomex are good.
30. Lens anti-fog agent. Shaving cream works in a pinch, but you have to apply it every other day or so.
31. Good pair of shower shoes/sandals. I recommend the black Adidas—lasted me all year.
32. Small pillow (air inflatable).
33. Cheap digital camera (at least 2.1 mp).
34. Boot knife.
35. Gerber multitool.
36. Febreze—sometimes the laundry opportunities are few and far between.
37. Armor Fresh.
38. Extra bootlaces.
39. Stainless steel coffee cup with screw-on lid.
40. Soccer shorts/normal T-shirt to sleep in, hang out in your room in.
41. Sweatshirts for wintertime hanging around.
42. A couple of poncho liners for privacy, cover for nasty mattress, etc.
43. A set of twin sheets with pillowcase.
44. Good regular-size pillow.
45. One or two good civilian bath towels.
46. Buy a good set (more than $200) of winter desert boots. All they will give you is a regular summer set and a set of Gore-Tex-lined for waterproof needs. Desert is a cold place at these altitudes in the wintertime.
47. Bring a laptop. Also may want a PSP or some other handheld gaming device.
48. Get an external USB hard drive (greater than 60 GB). You will need this to back up data to and to store movies and MP3s that you will fall in on from previous teams.
49. Get a Skype account and download the software from skype.com. This is how I talk to home 95 percent of the time. If you call computer-to-computer, it is totally free. You can also Skype out from your computer to a regular phone for 2.1 cents a minute. There is nothing cheaper than that.
50. Decent headset with mic for computer (Skype).
51. Webcam for video calls back home.
52. Bring a minimum of 18 each M4 magazines per person. Nine that are loaded and nine that rest. Plan to do M4 mag changeover once per month.
53. Bring eight each 9-mm mags, for same reason above. Change these over every two weeks.
54. Order a LULA Magazine Loader & Unloader. It will be the best $14 piece of plastic you ever bought. I have 12 mags loaded at all times, and when I do change over, it will do it in a fraction of the time and save your hands and save the ammo.
55. Try to get your state to get, or purchase yourself, one 12V DC to 110V AC inverter per man for your trucks. They are crucial on mission for charging personal items, cell phone, ICOMs, and especially ANA radios (they only have rechargeable batteries).
56. Dump the IBA tactical vest you get issued. Get a Tactical Tailor MAV chest rig. (Does not matter if you get one-piece or twopiece, as you want to keep the front open for lying in the prone. You don't want mags pushing into your chest making it hard to breathe.) I wish I had bought mine at the start. It makes a huge difference on the back and shoulders when carrying a loaded rig.
57. Get a comfortable pair of desert boots. I wear only the Converse eight-inch assault boots (non-zipper ones). Oakley, Bates, and several others are similar in style and comfort.
58. Bring some good snivel gear for the wintertime. Extra polypro winter hat, gloves, neck gators, etc.
59. Lock de-icer for the wintertime.
60. Disposable hand and feet warmers.
61. Canned air, lots of it for electronics, weapons, etc.
62. Lens wipes for optics.
63. Screen wipes for computers.
There are probably many other things that could go on this list, but a lot of that is personal preference. The purpose of this list is to provide some insight into things that could make anyone's tour easier.
By C. Maloney
Husband stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Milblog URL: Corpsdjour.blogspot.com
"If you can't eat it, or you can't wear it, we probably don't need it." That's the directive from the CO. So, what does my husband get this year at Christmas for being a good boy? Well, let's look at the environmental requirements (not an easy task, may I add, considering I have talked to him once, for 10 minutes, in the last month):
It's the desert, and it's cold. You know, when you think about it, a nice lump of coal might not be such a bad idea! It could help keep him warm, at least. I fret, however, that such efforts might be misconstrued and seen as not in the spirit of Christmas, so I guess I'll pass.
Hmm …. something he can wear. Well, it must be green. And not Army green, but Marine green, because believe it or not, even their T-shirts have their own distinct shade of drab. I'd send Under Armour or some kind of long underwear, but it can't be made from polyester or other synthetic fabrics that melt when exposed to flames. I don't want anything melting on his skin—he's too young to need any sort of skin peel just yet. Maybe once he's a real "leatherneck." What options does that leave me? A nice pair of socks. Good thing I live on base and have access to the right kind, in the right shade. Look out, cutie—you got a sweet pair of socks coming your way!
Now, something he can eat. Wherever he is, I know he's eating MREs at least once a day. My husband doesn't have a big sweet tooth (disappointing, I know!), but he does like Sour Patch Kids—so those are in. My mom sent him some canned oysters out of the pantry last time he was in Iraq, and he raved about that. I am firmly against sending him booze; I hear weapons and alcohol don't mix, so that's out. My man likes man food, but pork is a no-go in the country, which means Slim Jims are out. So what's he getting? Oily, stinky canned fish, all-beef summer sausages, and a can of Cheez Whiz. Sounds terrible to me but it might just beat having to eat another unsavory MRE.
And that's about it. My baby has socks and man food coming his way. A few pictures of our house with the lights I put up, a note to say "I love you," and a promise to celebrate whenever he gets home. Don't worry, sweetheart, Santa will find you, and we'll make sure that this Christmas is as merry as it can be.