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Old 08-11-2008, 09:45   #1
volsbear
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Gift for Deployed Soldier

I have two friends (who are brothers actually) that are both being deployed to Afghanistan within the next 3 weeks. I was thinking of getting them a going-away/good-luck gift. Problem is - I have no idea what a soldier would want or need overseas.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions you might have. Someone here at work suggested a nice multi-tool, but I thought I'd seek advice here as well.

Thank you.
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:50   #2
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It may not be the way you want to do it but get them to hint at things they'd like. It depends on the unit but RFI for some include multi-tool's, but that is a good idea. I can't speak for what Afghanistan bases have since I was in Iraq so maybe those who have been there could shed some light. I think entertainment items are always a good thing to have when deployed.
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Old 08-11-2008, 09:53   #3
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Could you define, "entertainment items?"

Thanks a lot for your input. I do appreciate it.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:00   #4
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Ipods, mini tvs, dvds, and similar things are what I enjoyed when I could in Iraq.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:04   #5
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My nephew wanted pre-paid phone cards.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:52   #6
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I hooked up a friend on his way to Baghdad with all sorts of stuff (a custom sheath knife, a pocketknife, monocular, etc) from donations here on GT.

Every guy is different and depending on service, mission, where he's going....he'll want different stuff.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:55   #7
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All of these are good ideas. Here's another. When I was in Iraq, I wanted those powdered drink mixes that you add to water for flavoring. I drank huge amounts of water every day and it was nice to have a little variety in flavors.
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Old 08-11-2008, 11:47   #8
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Originally Posted by GJ1981 View Post
It may not be the way you want to do it but get them to hint at things they'd like. It depends on the unit but RFI for some include multi-tool's, but that is a good idea. I can't speak for what Afghanistan bases have since I was in Iraq so maybe those who have been there could shed some light. I think entertainment items are always a good thing to have when deployed.
Unless they are going to KAF or Bagram, they will have very little on the FOBs/COBs....




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Old 08-15-2008, 01:33   #9
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Here's some ideas that might help, with some estimated prices thrown in... Before getting ANYTHING, talk to the soldiers and find out what they want.

??? Oakley tinted glasses (usstandardissue.com)
??? Oakley clear lenses (usstandardissue.com)
??? Oakley tinted lenses (usstandardissue.com)
??? Shooting gloves with knuckle protection (Hatch is $15, Wiley-X is $90)
$10 Uvex XC tinted glasses
$5 Uvex clear replacement lenses
$5 Uvex tinted relacement lenses
$20 Hatch knee pads
$20 Hatch elbow pads
$60 Ops-Core Head-Loc helmet harness
$20 Inova AA flashlight
$15 expandable roll-up Molle pouches
$15 5.56mm boresnake
$15 7.62mm boresnake
$80 Redi-mag mag-holder or $20 buttstock mag holder
$15 Black caribiner
$20+ Pocketknife with clip
$25-80 Multitool
$20-40ea Moisture-wicking tan T-shirts
$3ea Military-style bootsocks
??? rifle sling (1, 2, or 3-point, depending on preference)
??? GPS - Garmin Forerunner, E-trex, and Rhino series are popular (though the Rhino is banned by some units). Get something that takes regular batteries.
??? Image-Stabilized Binoculars - great for gunners but expensive unless you catch a sale
$1000 ACOG TA01NSN

$25 Reading lamp (battery powered, LED, magnetic)
$10 travel-weight fleece blanket
$20 travel-sized memory foam pillow
??? Digital camera
??? Laptop
??? external hard drive
??? memory stick
??? portable game system
??? Ipod
??? portable DVD player
??? console system
??? computer/portable/console games
$10 deck of cards and poker chips
??? miniature chess/checkers set
$20-50 12v or 24v car power inverter (depending on vehicle type)
??? small fans (battery or dual-110/220 voltage)

Last edited by Biscuitsjam; 08-15-2008 at 02:19..
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Old 08-15-2008, 01:37   #10
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And, some ideas for care packages:

Really, what you ought to send depends on the kind of base that your soldiers are in. Older bases typically have libraries of donated books, while newer bases have virtually no reading material. Big bases have PXs with american food and good chow halls, while smaller bases have neither. Bases in safer areas typically have access to hajji markets, where pirated DVD movies can be cheaply purchased, while dangerous areas (and especially remote areas) do not have them.

The key to a successful care package, I think, is to make it memorable. Include things that no one else has. I was in Iraq in 2005/2006, so some of this information may be a little dated.


Support:
<strong>Personal letters</strong> are a big deal. Some soldiers have a whole lot on their mind, so don't be offended if you don't receive a letter back. The letter you sent still made a big difference.

<strong>Photographs of home</strong> - kids, pets, spouse, friends, memories, etc. It helps to remember what you're fighting for.

<strong>Prayers</strong> can't hurt. We had a lot of people praying for us, and we came back with far fewer casualties than we could have hoped for. Thank you.


Entertainment:
Most soldiers have <strong>laptop computers</strong>, but a handful don't. We had one guy ask his office for their old laptops, which he then sent to us. The recipients were excited beyond belief. For soldiers, I recommend buying a laptop with a name-brand video card, but if you have ANY old laptops that you can donate, please send them. Soldiers keep journals, play games, organize music collections, view digital photos, edit home movies to send home, watch DVD movies, and much more.

<strong>DVD movies</strong> are one of the primary sources of entertainment. HOWEVER, most soldiers have access to the local "hajimarts" where they can buy pirated movies for ridiculously-low costs. I wouldn't recommend sending them unless they are asked for.

<strong>Computer games</strong> are in very high demand but were not available for purchase anywhere while I was over there. Almost everybody has a laptop and we all played lots of video games, but the only way to ever get new ones was to have someone ship them to us. I'd recommend asking for recommendations out of the bargain bin. You can get good games that are a couple years old for $10-20, instead of the $40-50 for brand-new games. Since most of the laptops aren't top-of-the-line, the older games are ideal anyway.

<strong>Playstation, Nintendo, and Xbox games and controllers</strong> are also popular. Unlike computer games, console games are usually carried in military shoppettes (at full price). Many "hajimarts" also have pirated versions of these games at steep discounts. I'd ask before sending any type of console game, mostly because there are so many types of consoles out there. Computer games are cheaper, more popular and accessible for more soldiers.

Most everybody does a lot of reading over there, even soldiers that have never read a <strong>book</strong> for fun before. Over time, established bases usually end up with a room somewhere full of donated books. Unfortunately, the best books are usually held onto and only the least-desired stuff makes it onto the shelves. Romance novels, murder mysteries, and lawyer stories are very plentiful, but fantasy, war fiction, history, biographies, classics, horror, historical fiction, and science fiction are almost entirely unavailable.

<strong>Magazines</strong> are also very popular. Since the majority of people sending care packages are women and they usually send what they have lying around the house, that means that we all got to keep up with the celebrity gossip. EVERY magazine got read and usually multiple times. The magazines like Maxim, Stuff, and FHM were the most popular, but I'd also recommend Reader's Digest and Guideposts. Those contain numerous short stories that are generally uplifting.

<strong>Board games</strong> go over well also. However, I'd stick to established favorites, like Chess, Checkers, Risk, Stratego, or Axis&Allies.

<strong>Playing cards</strong> are great too. We spent a lot of time playing spades, hearts, hell, and other such games. <strong>Plastic Poker chips</strong> are a nice addition.

It might be nice to throw in a <strong>newspaper</strong> from home also. I especially liked the comics, but any news was good to hear. Some folks like their news censored where only happy stories are included - I'm not among them.


Food:

Access to food depends on location. Bigger bases have better chow, but even that can get old pretty fast (smaller bases have army cooks, and that usually means weight loss). Importantly, soldiers often miss meal times because of erratic schedules - they have to go on patrols, guard duty, or other assignments at all hours of the day or night, sleeping when they can. Snack food that can keep them going is very important.

Granola bars, peanut-butter crackers, and cheese crackers are wonderful, but just about everyone sends them. Try to be a little original and send <strong>unique food</strong>. Fig Newtons, Cheese-its, Summer Sausage, foreign candy...

Chocolate is usually discouraged because it can melt in transit and stay melted at the high temperatures in Iraq. However, I started to miss it after a while - certain kinds of chocolate often survive (M&Ms, snickers), but it's risky so don't send much, and be careful so that melted chocolate doesn't get all over everything else.

<strong>Microwavable food </strong>was very popular. Believe it or not, most soldiers have access to a microwave. The Iraqis sell them, and a few enterprising souls managed to bring them in their duffle bags. When a unit leaves, the microwaves get passed on to the replacement unit. I had my folks send me stuff to make bean burritos and pizzas. Other people sent prepackaged microwaveable meals of other sorts.

<strong>Drink mixes</strong> are nice to have. We had access to lemon-lime gatoraid while we were deployed, but access to this (or other) types of drink mix may vary.


Phone cards

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend sending phone cards, unless you know they are needed at that particular base. Some bases use commercial payphones that require phone cards. Other bases use military DSN phones that do not. Still others use VoIP phones that run through a computer. Everybody wants to make phone calls home, but a large percentage of bases have ways of doing so that do not involve phone cards.


The locals

<strong>Candy and toys</strong>. I had three churches and numerous individuals sponsoring me while I was over there. I mainly asked them to send us stuff for the Iraqi children, which we regularly gave out on patrols. It always put a huge smile on the kids faces to get something and it put just as big of smiles on ours to give things out. We actually had so much stuff to give out that we set up a special patrol where we loaded up two humvees all the way up with stuff and brought 30 dismounted soldiers to the Yusufiyah marketplace.

<strong>Soccer balls</strong>. This is the national pasttime in Iraq, but the locals often don't have decent balls to play with. We distributed hundreds of balls, and they really helped build goodwill. Don't forget to send a pump to inflate them, also.

<strong>Polaroid camera with film</strong>. The Iraqis almost always got a huge kick out of having their pictures taken. Cameras are rare over there, and they think it somehow makes them special to be in a photograph. If you can take their picture and give them a copy, it goes over HUGE.

"Freaky Freaky" Magazines (anything with a picture of a woman in it, even fully-clothed), soap, shampoo, and shaving cream were great <strong>trading items </strong>with the Iraqi army and police. Unfortunately, they didn't really have anything to trade in return, other than illegal contraband.
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Old 08-15-2008, 01:38   #11
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Other gear

<strong>Moisture-wicking shirts</strong> are VERY popular. The most popular brand is Underarmor, but some of the alternative brands like Coolmax are pretty decent too. The new Nike shirts are supposed to be pretty nice too. Unfortunately, many units in Iraq now ban soldiers from wearing these shirts because the fabric can melt into the skin in case of a fire.

Socks are often in short supply. I'd recommend <strong>military-style bootsocks</strong>, especially the green ones. However, even white cotton socks will be used.

You might also want to consider sending <strong>sealed packages of underwear</strong>. Some soldiers swear by underwear made of the same materials in moisture-wicking T-shirts, but I've never tried them. Any kind of boxers or boxer-briefs would be much appreciated.

<strong>Baby wipes</strong>. Everybody uses them and everybody needs them. They are also included in every care package. I'd include a few, but I probably wouldn't devote the bulk of the package to them, since you have no idea how many other care packages that unit has received.

<strong>Bug spray</strong> is sometimes available and it is sometimes not. It is certainly needed though. Avoid aerosol cans. Either wipes or pushbottles work.

<strong>Tobacco products</strong> are always in very high demand. Soldiers want their personal favorite brands of cigarettes and dip and they want it as fresh as possible. Tobacco for sale in military shoppettes is often stale and marked "for military use only" (because more preservatives are added, I think). However, I never asked anyone to send any since I didn't use the stuff. Copenhagen dip was probably in the highest demand.

<strong>Hygeine products</strong> are really hit-or-miss. We got a ton of toothbrushes and shampoo (we have no hair!), but nobody ever sent us deoderant or toothpaste. We gave what we didn't need to the Iraqi army. Iraqis seem to go nuts over any kind of hygeine stuff (just watch Iraqi TV sometime).

<strong>Batteries</strong> are always needed, particularly AA, though AAA, CR123A, C, D, and 9volt are all sometimes needed to a lesser degree. Military supply systems SHOULD be issuing these for all military equipment, although that is sometimes not the case... Soldiers are expected to provide their own batteries for personal items.

<strong>Ballistic glasses</strong> are issued, but they often become scratched and unuseable (or lost/stolen) Simple safety glasses are pretty cheap, but they work well if you stick a few in there. Make sure they are impact-resistent rated! Right now, the most popular sunglasses are Oakleys, which can be purchased at steep discounts (to military personnel only) at usstandardissue.com . These are especially popular with soldiers wearing CVC helmets (in vehicles) or other helmet-mounted radio gear, because they don't dig into the ears. I'm also partial to Uvex XC glasses, which can be purchased for about $16 each online. Both clear (night-time or urban) and tinted (daytime) lenses are needed. Only ballistic glasses are approved for wear, so make sure you get one of the right brands/models.

<strong>Real sheets, lightweight blankets, and memory-foam pillows </strong>were also highly sought-after.


Unique low-volume items (if you want to spend some extra $$ and need ideas):

Sporting goods equipment. A church sent me a <strong>basketball goal, inflatible basketball, and air pump</strong>. A family friend mailed <strong>ping pong balls, paddles, and net</strong> (I built my own table). We also had some <strong>footballs, soccer balls, and frisbies</strong>.

<strong>Wireless routers </strong>are very desireable. We all played video games, but we needed a wireless router to be able to play against eachother.

<strong>220v to 110v power converters</strong> are often needed to convert 220v power outlets in the barracks for 110v appliances (MP3 players, laptops, etc.) brought from home. These aren't always needed since some barracks already have 110v outlets, but they often are. Also, if you end up sending these, include lots of different plug types, since the outlets in the barracks aren't always the same type.

<strong>12v or 24v vehicle power inverters</strong> (depending on the vehicle) make life a whole lot easier for those soldiers that go out on patrol. Also, I'd recommend throwing in a few fans to cool things off (very few vehicles have airconditioning). Fans that can work on both 110v and 220v are best, since the electrical outlets inside the barracks can be either voltage.

A <strong>snowcone maker</strong>. Yes, I installed a snowcone maker in my tank. It wasn't all that practical, since I needed to keep mixing up the syrup, but we had plenty of ice at least.

Some folks back home sent things like <strong>flags and stickers </strong>of favorite sports teams. We also flew a pirate flag from our tank for a while. I kept trying to get one of my friends to send me a school flag to take a picture with and send back to him (to hang at the fraternity house), but he'd never do it.

Every soldier wants a <strong>digital camera </strong>to take pictures. It doesn't have to be the highest quality, but it should be durable. A <strong>compact camera case</strong> would also come in handy. Note that a camera can also have military applications on patrol (to document evidence against captured insurgents, document damage to a bridge, record graphiti on walls, etc.)

Most of us tried to find <strong>external hard drives </strong>to store all the music, video games, and photos that we shared.

<strong>USB memory sticks </strong>are also valuable for transfering files (movies, games, music, etc.).

<strong>Blank DVDs</strong> are nice for sending files (such as pictures) back home.

A lot of soldiers always carried really nice <strong>fixed-blade knives and small pocketknives</strong>. I'm partial to the short pocketknives that clip to pockets and have a blade that is part-serated and part-normal. Some soldiers also carry (issued) bandage-shears for first-aid purposes or (issued) seatbelt cutters in case of a roll-over into a canal.

Everybody needs a <strong>multitool</strong>, and I think most units now issue them. Name-brands like Gerber and Leatherman are preferred (but don't send unless requested).

Most soldiers try to acquire an <strong>MP3 player </strong>and a <strong>portable DVD player</strong> at some point, and <strong>handheld gaming systems </strong>are highly popular.

It was a real pain to get <strong>gamepads or joysticks </strong>for soldiers that wanted to play certain types of computer games.

<strong>Nice compact flashlights </strong>are almost impossible to find over there, so if yours breaks, it's very difficult to find a replacement. I stocked up on a lot of the little Inova single-AA flashlights for about $25 each. They're bright, durable, and have long battery life. Surefire-brand, whether weapon-mounted, hand-held, or helmet-mounted (such as the Surefire z71 with Molle Clip) are very popular but very pricey. White light (non-tactical environment), blue light (semi-tactical environment, such as map reading inside a vehicle), and red light (tactical environment) are all useful for different purposes.

My folks bought me a <strong>small magnetic reading lamp</strong>, which saw a lot of use not only for reading, but also for stumbling around in the dark when getting ready to go to guard duty or getting back from patrol.

<strong>Caribiners</strong> are very useful little items and many soldiers put one on their vests. It can be used to carry a rifle, drag a wounded soldier, or create an improvised sling-load (to lift something by helocopter), as well as any of a hundred other tasks. I prefer the type that are actually rated for climbing, but even the cheapo ones have some utility. For tactical environments, non-shiny would be preferred, but even the shiny stuff is useful around the base.

<strong>Silly string</strong> is a good way to identify tripwires and booby traps, for those soldiers that do a lot of urban operations.


Contraband:

<strong>Porn</strong> - it's a UCMJ violation to possess pornography in certain countries, including Iraq. Almost everybody has some, though, and very few leader-types will object. Still, it's probably not a good idea to send porn.

<strong>Alcohol</strong> - Alcohol is prohibited to all U.S. soldiers, even though civilian contractors and soldiers from every other country are allowed to drink. Even the Iraqi Army is often intoxicated. This is a common contraband item, often hidden deep inside shampoo and mouthwash bottles or inside other types of containers because of the slim possibility that a box could be searched or accidently opened in front of a senior NCO/officer. Don't send alcohol, ESPECIALLY if it isn't expected on the other end. Your soldier could (worst-case) lose rank, lose pay, or have to perform extra duties. One guy last tour was court-martialled for being publicly intoxicated.

Edit: added a note about moisture-wicking t-shirts.

Last edited by Biscuitsjam; 08-15-2008 at 10:16..
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Old 08-15-2008, 02:57   #12
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Update: The moisture-wicking shirts (Underarmor etc) are no longer allowed outside the wire just about anywhere that I'm aware of, from guys just coming back from downrange. The Marines started it but now everybody appears to have that rule.
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Old 08-15-2008, 07:51   #13
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Update: The moisture-wicking shirts (Underarmor etc) are no longer allowed outside the wire just about anywhere that I'm aware of, from guys just coming back from downrange. The Marines started it but now everybody appears to have that rule.
It's because they are NASTY when they burn....They melt to the skin...The Army has something similar coming out called the Army Combat Shirt (they stole the design from Cyre) that is moisture wicking, but does not have the same burn risk as the Under-Armor stuff...

Quote:
$60 Ops-Core Head-Loc helmet harness
Is this better than the MICH helmet system?




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Old 08-15-2008, 10:12   #14
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Is this better than the MICH helmet system?
The Special Forces guys we were training with bought the Ops-Core harness out of their own pockets to put on the MICH helmet. They were very enthusiastic about it.
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Old 08-15-2008, 15:42   #15
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DRink mix, underarmor shorts, porn, and smokes
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Old 08-17-2008, 12:51   #16
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You put a snowcone maker in a TANK!?!?!

HA, dude!!! That's AWSOME!!!!
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Old 08-17-2008, 14:26   #17
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Massage, wink wink, nod nod, with a "PROFESSIONAL"
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Old 08-17-2008, 15:12   #18
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DRink mix, underarmor shorts, porn, and smokes
I'd be careful with the porn. You don't want to send a soldier anything that would put him in violation of General Order #1.
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