Marines dig deep for upcoming-deployment gear
Marine Corps News
Release Date: 12/23/2003
Story by Cpl. Jeremy M. Vought
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(December 23, 2003) -- Ka-Bar knives run about $75. Flashlights are about $10 a piece. It seems like nickel-and-dime purchases here and there, but gearing up for a possible re-deployment to Iraq is costing some Marines hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets.
With Camp Pendleton based Marines and sailors being tapped once again for a deployment to Iraq, many are flocking to off-base retailers and online stores to buy the gear they want and think they need to complete their mission.
Flashlights, slings, knives, sunglasses and hydration systems are at the tops of many Marines' shopping lists and the bills are adding up. They're all pieces of gear the Marine Corps doesn't offer through the supply system and Marines want to make their jobs a little easier while deployed.
The result is Marines are taking matters into their own hands and that's taking money from their own pockets.
"Many Marines come in and spend two to three hundred dollars without even batting an eyelash," said Marianne E. Jimenez, manager of Tactical Assault Gear in Oceanside.
"It doesn't really bother me, but for a young Pfc. or lance corporal, it's a pretty big chunk out of their paycheck," said Sgt. Tony K. Guerrero, an 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit embark noncommissioned officer.
"I don't mind too much," said Lance Cpl. Scot Kotecki, an 11th MEU combat photographer. "It's like saying my work is 45 miles away and asking how I feel about buying a car."
Still, some Marines are searching out items not issed to Marines. They're not required pieces of gear for the mission, but some Marines want to add them to their own packing lists. For them, it's a matter of buying gear that gives them the comfort they're seeking.
Guerrero was looking to buy himself a 3-point sling, a piece of gear he said would make his job easier when it comes to carrying his rifle. The 3-point sling offers a different way to sling the rifle over the body, moving it out of the way when not needed, but keeping it close at hand.
Guerrero paid $38 for his 3-point sling at a shop off base. he said it's an investment he felt was worth the cost.
"The standard sling has to go," he said. "It's good for the rifle range, but out in the field in a tactical situation, it's cumbersome to do any work.
With Marines buying extra and improved gear for deployments, off-base retailers' businesses are doing great, Jimenez explained.
"The announcement of a second deployment was absolutely the biggest boom to business," she said. "Business has definitely picked up."
Still, the jump in sales comes with mixed emotions for Jimenez. She knows the Marines are spending money on gear they'd rather be spending elsewhere.
"I do feel bad, that's why we try to keep prices low and even have a loyalty program," Jimenez said.
"I'm a military spouse myself and many wives and girlfriends come in with their Marine and say 'I can't believe you're spending this much," he said.
According to Jimenez and other Marines, the bulk of products bought are CamelBaks, flashlights, 3-point slings, pouches for packs, specialized t-shirts, gloves, helmet liners, insoles, sunglasses and knives.
"A lot of that stuff is for personal use but it also helps Marines function more efficiently in the field," Guerrero said.
"I don't absolutely need this stuff, it just makes me more comfortable," Kotecki said.
"But, overall comfort is somewhat tied in with mission success," he added.
"They want exactly what they want," Jimenez explained. "And they want what they feel they need."
Jimenez explained why she thinks many Marines buy much of their own gear.
"If you don't feel comfortable with what you have then sometimes it's worth spending your own money," she said.
According to Jimenez, many Camp Pendleton units pull from their unit funds and make mass orders on gear from their shop to give to their Marines.
"I think that's great that they're willing to pay for some of their Marines' gear," she said. "It's nice that their budget allows for a little extra gear for their guys."
Guerrero said he hopes the Marine Corps takes notice of the trends in gear Marines are buying and start to issue them through the supply system.
"The Marine Corps is going in the right direction; just see what the Marines are buying and get something very similar," Guerrero said.
"If a Marine is willing to pay for gear out of their own pocket than it's got to be worth something."
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