Army Gives GIs Gear Many Had Been Buying Themselves

Army Now Equipping GIs With Gear Many Had Been Buying For Themselves (Stars and Stripes)

About 3,700 soldiers in Europe have walked out of a green warehouse building at a remote Army depot this month and come away with savings. Those savings aren̢۪t necessarily green, but desert camouflage. To keep troops from spending what the Army found was an average of $300 per year on equipment, the service is now issuing troops everything from improved helmets to seasonal boots. The service plans to issue the gear to every soldier headed to Afghanistan, and to as many troops as possible serving in Iraq.

“When we initially went down we didn’t have any fielding like this,†said Sgt. Carl Johnson with the 29th Support Group, based in Kaiserslautern. Johnson was on his way to Afghanistan but had previously served in Iraq. He said he could have used both cold-weather and hot-weather boots there, despite the region’s reputation as a hotbox. It rains and gets muddy in winter.
“So that definitely helps,†Johnson said of the winter-issue boots. “They’re Gore-Tex.â€

The troops who lined up for gear and to get quick lessons on how to wear the new-style helmets were on the business end of the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Army̢۪s plan to give soldiers the gear they generally tended to buy themselves or that the Army has determined the troops need downrange. All troops would get better helmets and boots. Troops with brigade combat teams would get the extra kit, such as grappling hooks, door rams, battle axes and fiber-optic viewers.
“None of this is rocket science, but I’ve had soldiers say to me, ‘If my feet are cold, I’m not combat effective,’†said Chuck Fick, spokesman for the Army Materiel Command Field Support Brigade-Europe.

This is obviously good news. Bureaucracies are generally very slow to adapt and large bureaucracies, like the Army, are even slower.

I would note, though, that soldiers purchasing their own nice-to-have gear has been the norm for generations. When I was in, I purchased Gore-Tex boots, gloves, and raingear, polypropelene long underwear, and other commercial gear to enhance my own comfort and various gadgets such as Leatherman’s tools, Ironman watches, and wrist compasses to make my life a bit easier. Special Forces soldiers have been buying their own lighter/warmer-than-issue sleeping bags since time immemorial. Enterprising soldiers have long bought duplicate sets of their TA-50 so that they have a pretty set for inspections and guard duty and a regular set for field use.

That the Army is issuing this gear faster now is great. My guess, though, is that soldiers will continue to figure out a way to spend $300 a year on nice-to-have supplements to their issued gear. That’s not a sign of malfeasance on the part of their superiors, just an indication that soldiering is tough duty and that troops are perfectly willing to spend a few bucks to make it just a wee bit more comfortable.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. BigFire says:

    Somehow I don’t see US Army forking out money for the high-tech tomahawk that some troops still uses.

  2. Beth says:

    You raise a good point about buying stuff that isn’t issued–I did the same thing, as does practically everyone regardless of peace/war status. Sometimes quite a bit more than $300, I might add.

  3. LJD says:

    I want to make a pre-emptive strike on the “troops don’t have the proper gear” complaint we may soon hear from this story.

    I’ve been out of active duty for about 30 months now. In that time the Army has gotten new PT uniforms, new BDUs, new helmets, new flak vests, new boots, new SDW goggles (the type the troops buy for themselves), under-armor gear and a number of other items I’m probably not aware of. Soldiers will also be able to exchange their BDUs and boots for new ones, in addition to their annual clothing allowance.

    Yes, there will always be something the troops will buy for themselves: drop holsters, magazine pouches, weapon-mounted lights and sights, etc. You see the stuff on the news, but it’s not issue gear. Things can always be better, but what I’ve heard is that the Army has come a long way in a short time, by listening to what the soldiers want.

    For some perspective, I found another blog where a soldier was complaining about internet access, showers, laundry, and the PX. If that’s the extent of the complaints, I’d say the Army is doing a good job supplying the troops. Not to diminish his commendable efforts overseas, but these “necessities” pale in comparison to having enough food and ammunition, proper clothing, immunizations, etc.

  4. Stephen W. Stanton says:

    Howzabout a picture of or link to them cool-sounding battle-axes?

  5. Paul says:

    My guess, though, is that soldiers will continue to figure out a way to spend $300 a year on nice-to-have supplements to their issued gear.

    OD camo IPod Shuffles.