Thursday, May 25, 2006

Advice for Iraq (update)

Each year I do an update on this list, so this is my current version with new things added as technology gets more advanced. This list is geared towards the RAMF guy. If I were in the front lines living out of a bag, I wouldn't be carrying around a 10th of this gear. This is just general advice.

You don't know how much you miss music till all you hear is the local stuff all the time (sounds like circus music). Bring an MP3 player and a way to charge it, good headphones will pay themselves off fairly quick.

If you actually work out of an office and can afford it buy a laptop, half of the people out here have them. Mark it, put stickers all over it and use a password. A laptop is an endless source of entertainment, you can play games, write all of your emails off line, watch movies or make them. Lots of fun to be had, just make sure you have all of your programs installed before you make it to the sand box, some games you need to register online before you can play and you might not be able to hook up the laptop out here. Be careful of the heat, if it's hot for you, don't even turn it on also don't use them during dust storms.

Bring a thumb drive to transfer files back and forth between your laptop and the world at large.

My old external hard drive was worth it's weight in gold, I came home from my last trip with more music and videos then I'll ever be able to watch or listen too. I bought a new one for this trip and I plugged it in and it let out a cloud of smoke, sigh. Remember technology is touchy.

Nothing is as important in life as a good pillow.

Write and call home often, you're afraid that people might forget you, well it might happen if you never call home.

If you like writing, start a blog, like taking pictures, start a photo page, there are a lot of people that enjoy this stuff, families back home will love you for it. Make sure you tell your command if you want to avoid trouble, there's rules for different services on how they handle blog writing.

If you get care packages, share, don't be a hog.

Be nice to everyone, remember everyone is armed, if someone wigs out and goes postal, an asshole makes a much better target then the nice guy.

Baby wipes can be used for anything, dusting, wiping down toilet seats, cleaning weapons, throwing at people, etc. It's also a common item in care packages so don't bring more then a box or two with you (they also sell them at the PX).

LED headlights are the bomb, if you forget everything else, don't forget this, they last 10 times as long on the same batteries and don't burn out, you'll probably get better deals in the states then you will out here. Bring two in case one breaks.

Always have a leatherman.

If you hear something go BOOM it's always best to duck and look foolish then have the second mortar take off your head.

You know you're used to the heat when it's 110 outside and you think it's a cool day. Whatever you do, drink water, even if you're not thirsty, you don't know if you're going to be running to some emergency 10 seconds from now.

It's always best to have more gear then too little unless you have to hump it, then it's the other way around.

If it's important to you, put it in a ziplock bag, if you're going somewhere, lock it up and if you want to get it back if it's lost or stolen, mark it.

Don't smoke next to the tent and if your tent catches fire, no matter what anyone says, unless you're about to be burned to death, grab at least one uniform, your computer and weapon before leaving, most everything in a tent fire is history.

DON'T send all of your uniforms at once to the laundry mat.

Stay on your toes, if you see someone, who is not an American, doing something strange, accost him or her, it's better to look foolish then to have a bomb explode outside of a tent full of people, no need to be rude, just take a look at his badge check out what he's doing. Plus, if you're right and the character was going to do something evil like and you calling him out stopped him. You are hearbye known as a hero, just because you were paying attention. You have just saved X amount X amount of lives and chances are there's a medal involved without having to go through all of the angst of a firefight, dodging bullets and use of that posthumous word in your award (hopefully).

If you have a something wrong with you, get seen by medical, it's free.

This trip is as bad as you make it, whatever your situation, someone out here has it worse (hopefully you're not that guy).

Don't shoot people that piss you off.

Clean your weapon daily.

Check the power requirements before you plug anything in, remember most of the power out here is 220 while in the states it's 110, plug something 110 into a 220 plug and it's toast. Almost all laptops, external hard drives, portable DVD players and chargers for cameras and camcorders can take both but check it first. Power converters don't work that well so it's best to buy something that can handle both voltages before coming out here.

Sleep while you can, but don't sleep when you're needed.

If you feel like you're about to wig out or really mad, give your weapon to somebody else to hold, sometimes having a loaded weapon isn't the best thing to have when you think the world is out to get you. Step back and remember that the most important thing about being out here is getting home.

Sign up to some of these find support sites on my sidebar. You won't regret it unless you or someone else signs you up to all of them. You'll have more care packages then you know what to do with and when you get them, write these people back and let them know that you appreciate what they gave you.

Remember, stay calm. Find a routine and think of things that keep you happy, when you think of them, write them down so you can remember later. If it's material, tell some of these support site people about it and they might send it your way. If it's a person, call them or write, talk to people around you and try to take this trip one day at a time. If you think about how long you're going to be out here, counting the days off, it will compound your homesickness and make you miserable.

This trip is what you make of it, it's definitely not the end of the world (for most of us).

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