February 22, 2007

Name: 1SG Troy Steward
Posting date: 2/22/07
Stationed in: Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Amherst, NY
Milblog url: 

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. Wolfhook 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 9mm 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 w/ x-tra pair of headphones.
14. Enough batteries to last you 30 days.
15. Chapstick.
16. Lotion.
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 port-a-potty 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 16/20 oz 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 multi-tool.
36. Fabreze -- sometimes the laundry opportunities are few and far between.
37. Armor Fresh.
38. Extra boot laces.
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 winter times hanging around.
42. A couple of poncho liners for privacy, cover for nasty mattress, etc.
43. A set of twin sheets with pillow case.
44. Good regular-size pillow.
45. One or two good civilian bath towels.
46. Buy a good set (>$200) of winter desert boots. All they will give you is a regular summer set and a set of Goretex-lined for waterproof needs. Desert is a cold place at these altitudes in the winter time.
47. Bring a laptop. Also may want a PSP or some other handheld gaming device.
48. Get an external USB hard-drive (>60gb). 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 This is how I talk to home 95% 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 $0.021 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 min. of 18ea. M4 mags per person. 9 that are loaded and 9 that rest. Plan to do M4 mag changeover once per month.
53. Bring 8ea 9mm mags, for same reason above. Change these over every two weeks.
54. Order a LULA mag loader/unloader. It will be the best $14 piece of plastic you every 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-110 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 re-chargeable batteries).
56. Dump the IBA tac vest you get issued. Get a Tactical Tailor MAV chest rig (does not matter if you get 1-piece or 2-piece, as you want to keep the front open for laying 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 8” assault boots (non-zipper ones). Oakley, Bates and several others are similar in style and comfort.
58. Bring some good snivel gear for the winter time. Extra poly-pro winter hat, gloves, neck gators, etc.
59. Lock de-icer for the winter time.
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.


You're a mindreader! Although now retired Army, I may be setting up housekeeping in your part of the world as a field volunteer for a few months for a NGO (nongovernmental organization). Even though I would like to carry most of what you list, I think my NGO would frown on it. I do already have a pair of Cole Matterhorn thinsulate & goretex waterproof 11" boots that clothing sales was practically giving away.

What about layered undergarmets? I bought a couple of sets of LLBean for a fraction of the Underarmour price and they did me well at the summit of Whistler and Blackcombe last month.

Laptop: thinking about a Apple 13.3" screen w/webcam rather than a windows-only puter. Comments?

Another Q: seems like the Air Force doesn't want to fly me to Bagram. Do you think Kyrgyzstan is doable? I guess I can always fly into Turkey and go commercial from there.

I don't know why this list bothered me, but reading about the "going to camp stuff" interspersed with body armor and extra mags for the weapons gave me the creeps.

Come home soon and safe. Thanks for doing the most difficult job.

Thanks for the list - not only is it a practical assist for anyone heading your way, but gives the rest of us suggestions on what to put in the care packages.

As for that apple laptop; great idea alphapenguin! Small, shockproof, built in camera, and if you get Parallels you can go ahead and run Windows alongside Mac OSX, if you need to. Use the Mac OS for internet stuff and you won't have to deal with viruses and spyware. Get the superdrive so you can burn DVDs. Pay for the applecare insurance, and bring the restore disks with you. Applecare means you just drop that laptop at an applestore and say "fix it" and they either do, or give you a new one. Might come in seriously handy if things get hosed while you're over there.

One more thing - thank you, to both of you, for your willingness to serve. Stay healthy and come home safe.

So timely. A huge thank you!

I wish that the military looked at some of this equipment and would provide some of the stuff like winter boots. you guys are already over there fighting. you shouldn't have to supply yourself with stuff you should be issued.
thank you for doing what you do.

Dear 1SGT Troy, And who furnishes the Mack truck to take all this stuff with you?

why won't the army give you extra ammo mags, proper boots, gun oil, etc? You guys are sacrificing enough over there, you shouldn't have to pay for vital equipment.

Chalk this up to more Bush lip service about supporting you guys.

Thanks for the list, Top, and for what you're doing. Same suggested list for care packages? Is there anything on the list that can't be mailed?

Excellent pointers on the apple, Mugsy! I'm going to take your advice. Thanks.

Who knows, perhaps in a few months I'll be posting here from the other side with a civilian's perspective!

Wish I'd made a list like this when I was in Vietnam. It certainly wouldn't have included half the stuff you're talking about, since it didn't exist then.

But towels, pillows (in an armored unit, didn't have to carry stuff in a pack), wipes, books/magazines, photos, might add hot sauce, other condiments to add to field food.

Useful post, first sarn't.

Great list 1Sgt!

Folks, if you send "body wipes", do em all a favor...find the ones in anything other than BABY WIPE SCENT! There's OLD SPICE, AXE, whatever... in all reality, unscented works best of all. Temporary "clean" feels so much better than a 5 day option!!

Thanks to all that hang out here. Sandbox is the best forum for a reality check without the politics that I've seen.

Besides, it truly does help the author as well!!
Stay safe and shoot straight guys!

Top - Wish I'd had some similar advice before my first tour in Vietnam 38 years ago. We certainly didn't have all the electronic paraphrenalia you carry (both from Unc and your personal stuff) or any of the whiz-bang stuff and no one told me that some of the stuff we were given was really quite useless. Second time around tho I brought a lot of wipes (such as they were then) and plastic bags plus good snivel gear. Experience is a great teacher. Hope you passed this list on to the soldiers in your company. Stay safe!

Any suggestions as to who we could send cases of this kind of stuff too? Some of the simple things that you list would be really easy to pick up in bulk and send over to you guys, but I am not sure who/where to send it. I am afraid that if I give it to a local "charity"" that supplies things, it might not reach all of you over there. Any info would be appreciated


Great List TOP. Back in my time, the only folks that knew what we wanted were the kin folks back home. The Sandbox gives us a wonderful tool to post and respond to your CARE PACKAGE items.
Soooo tell me, Where do we send the goodies?

I have a number of additions for your list, which may be of interest depending on your situation.

A suggestion if you have 120 volt power ( or a converter): a combination heater/ fan and extension cord ( heavy duty, as the cord will heat up). This will give up to 1500 watts heat or serve as a cooling fan in summer. It will also provide "white noise" to help you sleep. The power drain can be severe if used in high heat mode, which may limit use.
Fleece socks or gore-tex boot liners are useful in cold situations, and similar gloves.
Consider weight lifter or biking gloves ( bicycle type) to protect your hands from abrasion but retain manual dexterity. Both full finger or fingerless types may be useful. If camoflage is required a felt tip marker can be used.
Food bars or gels as used by distance runners are portable and can be a very nice thing to have in your pocket. They will eventually be used with great appreciation.
Ripstop and/or tent repair tape can fix many things and can substitute for 100MPH tape.
Scissors serve many functions.
Spare batteries (button cells), particularly for watches or similar, can be hard to find. Know your type. They are often not interchangeable.
If you have a computer, store your memory on a spare disc, and kept separate, in case the computer is damaged or lost.
Photocopy your personal papers ( both sides) and keep separate in case your wallet is lost. Copies of these left home are a good idea. If the originals are lost replacement is much easier.
Some cable ties and safety pins can be included. These items have many uses but can be hard to find when needed.

This is obviously a subjective list and you may add or delete as you see fit. Actually making this gives an appreciation of what is expected in the field or post and can make your life better there. Do not hesitate to offer commments. In this situation a group mentality can be better than a single opinion.
All these items are mailable. If you have family or friends there remember: this shows they are not forgotten and is greatly appreciated.

Mike Carey

RJ - go to, select either by branch of service, location serving, state unit is from, etc. You will have PLENTY of platoons, units, etc from which to select and send cases of these items. Believe me - they WILL be shared and will be used.

1SG Steward - I add both my thanks for this list (we civilians NEED to know what you all need and often you are too kind, busy or both to tell us) and my thanks for your service. You guys/gals are THE BEST and never doubt that you ARE appreciated and respected.

this is the first i've seen of the sandbox. my son is now in baghdad and this is great for carepkgs. God bless all of you and thanks for all you do.

Quie a list! I wonder if a shortwave
radio would be added? You can hear the
BBC World Service (a different take on events then Armed Forces Radio)with a simple receiver. I would like to send your troops a 700 watt 12VDC (duce and half output) to 120VAC inverter and some new DVD's. If you can supply an APO, I will ship. Take care.
Former E3 MOS 13A10 "cannon cocker" back when we still used aiming stakes!

Fabreze - Just to be sprayed on clothes, guys, not your armpits! Might be nice to spray on your bunkmate's bunk (again when he's NOT in it!). :-)

Armor Fresh - What's this?

Pardon my ignorance as a civilian. :-)

Good luck, stay safe, come home in one piece.

Thanks for the list. I read it as an interesting account of what day-to-day life is like for you: with elements of the frightning and others of the mundane.

Thanks for your service.

Awesome list. I first read it in Tom Ricks's Inbox in today's Sunday WashPost. It'll be of huge help in the care packages I'm sending. I've got four troops thru the adoptaplatoon program that links troops w/o close family to civilians. So we can penpal, send support, and send a little TLC to the troops who otherwise would find themselves without any mail or any support from home. Hey Sarge, take care, stay safe, & THANK YOU.

Top - send this list to your state SGM (if you didn't already). He can share it with other state SGMs - maybe somebody can go to war properly equipped. Some of that stuff is personal gear, but much ought to be provided.

Great post nicely written. Where can i find more views from you on the net?

the rest of the stuff is good..... batteries, hard case for nvg's, shades, etc.

let's join our hands together to stop this kind of wrong doings. It may risk lives in the future if we just let them continue.

Thanks, I'm going to have nightmares tonight.

I went shopping and found a pair of used .357 Sigs in a gun store, a really nice P229 with what I later learned was a set of beautiful wood Elite grips. And they also had a plain Jane black P226 in .357 Sig. Both were good guns at about the same price, so I decided bigger was better and went for the P226.

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