Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll
Believe me, I was nervous, and I rarely get nervous.Once you get out to the combat zone, you better have everything you need with you, or you’re screwed. In the same breath, you better not bring too much, or you’re equally screwed.
So I compiled a list of everything I brought, and why I brought it.
— At least five pairs of good, cushy, wicking boot socks. You want cushy because you’re going to walk everywhere, for miles (and miles). You want wicking because you’re definitely going to sweat, and there’s nothing worse than walking around in a soggy sock (keep walking in them, and eventually you’ll realise they’re also soggy because your wet feet have been bleeding into them).
Same goes for underwear, at least five pairs of the higher-end, athletic kinds, that wick away moisture. Nothing like a knot of wet underwear balled up downstairs to make getting shot at a whole lot more uncomfortable.
— Black T-Shirts. I always wanted to wear a T-shirt in combat, and I always hated having long sleeves when I was deployed as an active duty Marine. I wore T-shirts, but you can get long sleeves of varying protection (flame retardant, etc.).
I also brought a shemaug, or an Afghan scarf. It helps with the dust and the cold at night, and believe it or not, will keep you cool during the day.
— Camera gear in a pelican case. You’re in Afghanistan, you’ve got thousands of dollars of camera gear, protect it. Also, I rented a $5,000 satellite in order to access internet and a computer and hard drives; all of which need to be protected. In the end though, I didn’t use the satellite, since there’s internet pretty much on every base and combat outpost.
Make sure you bring two of every charger: there is no Apple Store in Kabul.
— Sleeping gear: this consists of a cold weather sleeping bag, thick and likely black or green. Also do not forget your combat pillow — a pillow about a quarter the size of a regular pillow. If you buy one at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it’s a travel pillow, but if you buy it from a military website, it’s a combat pillow.
— Two six-inch blades. Insurance stipulates that I cannot be a combatant, nature stipulates that I can neither be a victim. I can’t carry a rifle or a pistol, so I opted for knives. If the Talibs are going to take me and throw me in a terrorist YouTube video, I want to have given at least one of them a reason to get stitches.
— A couple pairs of 511 operator’s pants. They’re tough, resilient, and they don’t trap heat. Covered in pockets for your various tools and trinkets. I highly recommend.
— Two pairs of boots. Emphasis: two, as in, four total boots. If you ruin a set, you’ll need another. It should go without saying.
— A headlamp. Yes, you read right. In Afghanistan, even in Kabul, electricity is not a guarantee, and when it gets dark, it’s really really dark. A headlamp will make sure you don’t go falling into a hole.
— PPE: Personal Protective Equipment. You wouldn’t believe it, but some journalists show up without any. You cannot embed with the U.S. military and have no PPE. It consists of: A Kevlar helmet, a vest, and ceramic plates (certified to stop an AK-47 round).
I opted with a plate carrier and some ballistic plates I ordered from this nice little old lady in Israel.
Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll
Also, don’t forget ballistics glasses. They look like regular sunglasses, but will stop small bits of shrapnel from ruining one or both of your eyes.— Travel hygiene kit. should include: small toothbrush, shaving kit, soap (small, liquid soaps), fingernail clipper, body powder, shower shoes and headache medicine. I say again, headache medicine: if you get one in the middle of the Afghan mountains, you’ll really wish you brought some medicine.
— Water proof bag, compression sack and Bivvy sack. You want the waterproof bag for the stuff you can’t, or don’t want to get wet. The compression sack is for your sleeping gear. Rather than a compression sack, you could also opt for compression straps. Either way, you’ll want to reduce the volume of your rolled up sleeping bag.
A bivvy sack is helpful when sleeping in mud or rain. It’ll keep you relatively protected from the elements.
— A good hiking bag, something you can bear a load with for a while. This is as essential as any piece of gear you bring. I brought what I call an “old-Corps” Alice pack. Small, light, durable, good frame, and it rests along the small of your back.
With that, and a little bit of chutzpah (which can’t be bought online), you’re pretty much set.
Oh, and I also brought a few books:
–Up in the Old Hotel: Joseph Miller
–The Forever War: Joe Haldeman
–The Great Gatsby: F.Scott Fitzgerald
–Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee
–The Demolished Man: Alfred Bester
–The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Heinlein
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