Grunts give advice on what gear should, should not go to desert

21 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

The II Marine Expeditionary Force is noticeably in a condition of constant readiness, partly because Marines are equipped with unparalleled, government-issued military gear. Warriors across the world fighting adversaries to protect freedom on the home front sometimes elect to purchase additional gear in hopes of making deployments a little less difficult.

Many Marines and sailors opt to buy a few handy tools that assist in operations and daily life in Iraq and Afghanistan, which complement gear received at the expense of the government.

“The stuff we get at (the Consolidated Issue Facility) is nice, probably better than any other military in the world,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Burke, Injured Support Unit, II MEF, who served as an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II MEF in Iraq. “I just knew that this other gear would make my life easier.”

The pieces of equipment that made Burke’s time in Iraq a bit more comfortable were an extra tactical vest and a harness for each leg that allowed him to carry more ammunition pouches. He purchased both at a military exchange at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

“It allowed me to carry more ammo and it fit better over my flak (jacket),” Burke said about his gear. “I liked to carry extra rounds.”

However, when Burke had to choose whether to strap on the leg harnesses or use the government-issue pack, called a rucksack, he ran into a unique issue.

“I could hold more, but I couldn’t run as fast,” he said. “I chose to carry more bullets.”

Besides the extra 5.56 mm rounds Burke crammed into his harnesses, he also found room for a nifty, non-issued flashlight.

“You need a bright light in the desert,” Burke said. “They’re good for stopping vehicles and clearing rooms.”

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Silvernale, ISU, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a mortarman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, also suggested buying an intense flashlight, but recommended the type with light-emitting diode bulbs.

“(LED flashlights) take AA batteries, which are easier to come by,” he said. “They never break or burn out. I had mine with me when I got blown up and it still worked.”

Silvernale also recommends two types of knives, a fixed blade and a pocket knife.

“The fixed blade can be used as a tool to open aluminum cans or pry open doors and windows,” he said. “A smaller knife is good to have just in case, as a backup.”

Silvernale kept both knives on him during his deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and each time, both returned home with him.

“I only paid about $50 for each knife,” said Silvernale. “You don’t need some huge machete.”

Both Marines agreed on one item in particular; a pocket-size multitool, such as a Gerber or a Leatherman.

“The multitool comes in real handy,” said Burke. “It’s small and does a lot.”

Marines looking to beef up their gear list will not have to break the bank, as some extra items, including knives, holsters and sunglasses, are available upon request at each unit’s supply warehouse.  For Marines who choose to spend their own dollars, smart shopping pays off.

“You can find a lot of this stuff online,” Burke said. “You’ll usually find better deals (on the Internet).”

Whether a devil dog wishes to purchase supplementary gear to carry extra ammunition or believes the latest, trendy tool will assist in a mission’s success, his best avenue for advice is those who have gone before and conquered the challenges of war.

“My section leader gave me a lot of advice before I deployed the first time,” said Silvernale. “By my second tour, I already knew what, and what not, to take. It’s not good when you’re in a situation and you’re like, ‘Man, I wish I had a …’.”