When I was getting ready for this, my first deployment, I looked for some good ideas on things to bring with me to Afghanistan, and I found a few good lists online. Here's my take on things I'm glad I brought or that people have sent me that really make life better out here:
- My Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Through all the abuse of training and deployment, this beast is unfazed. It's versatile, well designed and its Indiglo feature is effective yet tactical. Also, I've trained myself to snap out of bed, Pavlov style, when its unique alarm goes off. No more 2 hour snooze-fests for me.
- Extremely bright flashlight. My Fenix P3D is awesome: 215 max lumins and multiple settings, all for only around $70. Best nonlethal defense/deterrent to getting jacked on base. As my CO likes to say: be the hard target. Get a Picatinny rail adapter for it, too, and rechargeable batteries.
- Pistol holster, if you're getting issued a pistol. I'm not saying what kind to get - that's personal preference. Just saying figure out your preference and invest accordingly before you get here. Same for mag pouches. And on a related note, lots of people invest in MagPul M16/M4 mags - I'd look into improved M9 mags too. The followers on the 9 mil issued mags are equally crappy.
- iPod Touch. It's compact, holds tons of music, and works with Kindle books (free app). I take it everywhere. Preload a few good books. Be sure to invest in a good case and the clear screen covers to protect it from moon dust and abuse.
- Along with the iPod, buy a recharger. My Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800 is great: highly durable, fast recharge of my gizmos and can recharge them multiple times on one charge (of its own).
- Moisturizer. I never use the stuff back home but out here, between the dry heat and the dust it's a must. Trust.
- Gillette Fusion Power. I was a Mach 3 man for over 10 years. One day at TBS I lost my Mach and my backup Mach. I decided to try the power Gillette. It was a religious experience. If you have sensitive skin or hate shaving like I do, I think you'll find it's the most comfortable close shave there is. Alas, the disposable blades are a metric fortune. Damn you, capitalism.
- Baby wipes. Everyone knows this one. Q-tips too - remember to bring enough of both for weapons cleaning.
- Powdered drink packets. All potable water here is bottled water (don't tell the environmentalists). I drink probably 8-10 bottles a day. Crystal Lite and Hawaiian Punch make several good sugar-free flavors.
- Laptop: I recommend a Thinkpad. They're the most durable laptops you can get without jumping into the toughbook category...and paying accordingly.
- Socks: I'm a big fan of Thorlo Combat Boot Socks. They also make Extreme Winter Hunter Socks or something like that (found them. You can get them for less. I paid about $11/pair at 29stumps). Very warm and comfortable.
- Skivvies and cammies: At least 10 sets of the former, four of the latter. Spare cover.
- Bedding: two sets. Obviously this one is for fobbits. Bring your own pillow.
old-timers might know this creature as the REMF
- Good ear pro: I like the wax stuff best. For eye pro issued gear is fine but you should know about USStandardIssue from Oakley if you don't already.
- Camera. A combat deployment is not an everyday thing. Take pics. Just keep OpSec in mind.
more Bob on the Fob