Desert Storm: Packing for War

I went out to a trip to California last year, and I just took a carry on bag with about three shirts and three pairs of pants in it.  I was definitely more lightweight than some of the people at the airport, who had giant suitcases.  Sometimes we pack way too much for short trips.

But with the deploying to Desert Storm, we packed everything we would need, and it would be quite a lot because we were going to be living there for an unspecified time.  Unlike going to a vacation or travel spot, we probably wouldn’t be able to buy what we needed if we forgot something.  And, some of those items could be life-saving, like the gas mask.

Our leadership distributed copies of the packing list to us.  We would be taking two duffel bags and the ruck sack (like a back pack), labeled A, B, and C.

Packing the duffel bags was a challenge because it was a lot of stuff, and everything had to fit.  A pair of uniform pants was folded in half, and then rolled up tight from the bottom hem.  I used blousing rubbers to keep them from unrolling.  Some of the other soldiers excelled at getting the clothing rolled very tight, but I’d sometimes see soldiers climb into the duffel bag and mash everything down!  I always had trouble getting the rolls tight enough so everything was fit.  I’d get to the end of packing and couldn’t close the bag to lock it.

Does this sound like I did a lot of packing and repacking?

Well …

Everything had to match each bag.  If it didn’t fit, I couldn’t move it from Bag A to Bag B.  Our squad leaders had just take everything out so they could inspect it and make sure everything was in it.  Invariable, one squad leader would do a random inspection, find a sock pair out of place, and that would trigger an inspection for everyone.

In hindsight, the multiple inspections showed the fear all our sergeants had because no one really know what was going on.  Packing was something they could control, but I don’t think they understood that their fear was filtering down to us.  After a point, it was hard to say it was military mentality.  Constant unpacking and repacking meant items got in the wrong place or that bottle of aftershave ended up broken.

Packing and repacking also kept putting war right in our faces and reminding us over and over that we were going.

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