Sunday, October 08, 2006

Packing

Saturday 10/7/06

I stayed up very late last night just relaxing and watching TV. This morning I woke up at 0730 but lounged around until 0900 before getting up to go out and do PT. It was a beautiful clear morning, the birds were singing, and it was cool outside – perfect for PT. Afterwards I came inside and showered and got into my day.

I stayed in my room all day with the TV on Fox News, sorting through and organizing my gear. It was kind of novel for me because I almost never watch TV, so having it on in the background while I worked was interesting.

Today I concentrated on the field gear (as opposed to uniforms and personal items).

The first thing I did was put together my M40 protective mask. They issued me a brand new one, still in the box. So I had to take out all the components, read the instructions, and put it all together. The filter canister is still sealed in its original spam can, and I left it there rather than break the seal. I also didn’t bother with the hood since somebody told me the new chemical protective overgarment (of which I have a brand new sealed set, but have never seen) has a hood on the coat. Our training suits at Eighth Army were still the old type, so I’ll have to get my hands on one of the new suits and make sure I know how they are configured. But my mask is all set up and ready to go – all I have to do is open the filter and screw it in. (They finally went to NATO standard filters in about 1998).

After I finished the mask, I set up my armored vest. This new style vest is designed to replace web gear of all types. It is completely covered with MOLLE attachment points. I had bought some additional pouches for it, and wanted to set it up before packing it. One pouch I bought, based on a recommendation from someone I met at TSIRT who has been over there before, was a replacement first aid pouch. This one is slightly larger, and has a red strap on it to designate it as containing medical supplies. I transferred the contents of the first aid kit into this pouch, and then attached the original pouch next to it for general storage. I also attached the two double magazine pouches I had bought, and a compass/GPS pouch. I also attached the neck and throat guard to it, which I had not done before. I didn’t put in the ballistic plates, as I thought those would be better packed separately, allowing the vest to bend and conform to the inside of the duffel bag (the vest alone without the plates is supposed to defeat anything up to 9mm; with the plates it can defeat 7.62mm (.30 cal.) They are mega-heavy. I’m not especially happy with the holster they issued me – I thought it would be OK, but after seeing what some of the other people bought and talking to people who had been there, I think I’ll probably go ahead and buy the kind of holster they had. Too bad I didn’t get it when the 641st ASG/MTC would have paid for it. Oh well, live and learn.


After the vest, I put my helmet back together. The new helmet has a pretty complicated suspension system, plus attachment points for night vision devices and sun/sand goggles. I had to put these on and replace the cover (which I had taken off to have my rank insignia sewn onto), and then adjust everything. I found out over the past few days that the straps continually slip and loosen up, so once I had everything where I wanted it I secured it with brown tape. (Yes, the old green 100mph tape is now available in brown….). Finally, I got out the sun and sand goggles, set them up with the dark lens, and adjusted them to fit on the helmet.

Finally, I set up the ALICE pack on the frame. I am still a little ambivalent about taking this, but I believe I will unless I absolutely cannot fit it in once I have everything packed. I would only need it if I was sent forward into Iraq or Afghanistan, but I have to be prepared for that possibility.

After this I dumped out all the field gear and sorted out the things I am definitely not taking. Then I packed the remaining stuff into a duffel bag, as carefully and densely as I could. I managed to get it all into one bag, except for the ALICE pack (which is exactly what I was hoping for). So now I have one fully-packed duffel bag, and two more allowed (well, three, but my footlocker counts as one).

With respect to the uniforms, I unpacked the ACUs they issued with the intention of taking two sets and leaving two behind. But it turns out that the ones they issued and the two sets I had bought for myself earlier are not the same. The four sets they issued have an additional label in them: “Bug Off”, and some additional instructions. They have been treated with permethrin, an insecticide. Apparently with proper laundering, this treatment is permanent. Although they did issue some permethrin spray with which I could treat my other two uniforms, I decided just to take these four new ones and leave my other two behind instead.

So now the bed is piled up on one side with the uniform items they issued, and the duffel bag I brought from home is still packed and waiting to be opened up and consolidated.

Funny how all this minutiae consumes so much time and energy. But I’m really glad I have the time to take care of it all now at my leisure, rather than being under time pressure like some of the people I was going through the process with. I feel like I should be pretty organized when I get over there so I can get right to work.

I got done with all this around 1600 or so, and once I looked around, I felt pretty good about it and decided that was enough for one day. Time to come to Panera Bread at Lenox Square for my internet fix!


Mood: Confident
Music: Dragonforce - Through the Fire and Flames

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