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Care Package and Equipment
Suggestions for Deployed Military

Support Our Troops - Freedom Is Never Free - click for larger high resolution version of this imageI have been asked by many family members and others what items our deployed servicemen and women would find useful and appropriate for a "Care Package" or as better-than-issued equipment. With extensive deployed operations expected to continue for the foreseeable future, our troops will require, and deserve, continued support from those of us for whom they are fighting. Regardless of your position on any particular mission, these men and women are doing their duty to you and our country, going in harm's way and sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice. They deserve our unwavering support.

I should first note that some media reports have sometimes included confusing and incorrect information with regards to shipment of care packages to forward deployed troops. The Department of Defense has issued a news release on March 22, 2003 which requested that "the general public is urged not to send unsolicited mail, care packages or donations to service members forward deployed unless you are a family member, loved one or personal friend." (Click on the linked text for the complete press release) However, if you know someone who is deployed well enough to contact their family, this may provide an avenue for you to send a care package or contribute to one they are sending.

If you want to send a care package to a particular service member, but haven't the time or resources to assemble and ship it yourself, there are numerous commercial nd non-profit operations that will do so for a fee, offering a variety of standard or custom assembled care packages. To locate these services, click here to search on the term "military care package" using Google. Please note that some of these business and organizations may not be legitimate and you should carefully check out any organization before committing your funds. One site that we have received positive feedback about is It provides both collection of items for soldiers as well as care packages. The USO operates "Operation USO Care Package" which takes your $25 donation and sends a care package and your personal note to a randomly selected deployed service member.

Those who would like to simply send a message of support to a randomly selected deployed service member may do so via Operation Dear Abby.

What To Send In A Care Package

I have solicited input from service members I know and what follows is a consolidated and annotated list from those who have "been there and done that." (Thanks to all who contributed to this list.) This is hardly an all encompassing list and at the end is a link to larger lists, but this list is field tested and will "win huge" for anyone who sends from it. (Some needs change over time and this list will be updated as we receive updated suggestions from our sources.)

Family members will probably have some other items that they know their loved one will like. One of my contributors explained that, "being in the field is kind of like being in prison in that bargaining items are extremely important. If you have what others want, you will be able to get what you need. The list provided will ensure that even if the military member doesn't like all the items, they will want for nothing. If this stuff was sent to a "new guy" in the unit who had few friends...he or she would suddenly discover more friends than he ever knew he had."

Equipment Suggestions

Answering The Call To Defend FreedomWhile most U.S. military issue gear and equipment is capable and adequate, some items in particular offer room for improvement for someone who is willing to spend a bit to ensure their loved one is as well equipped as possible.

What follows are some suggestions that cover the most frequently requested items that people have written me about, along with the price you may expect to pay if purchasing via the Internet. Some of these are sole source, others are more commonly available and worth shopping around for the best price. Always check with the service member first before sending unsolicited gear. Some units have restrictions, or they may have already upgraded, or they may want a specific item.

There are literally hundreds of good knives available; I have just listed a few which almost any service member would be happy to own and upon which they can rely and trust their life. (Click for information about knives on Equipped To Survive.)

Utility Fixed Blade Knives:

Folding (Pocket) Knives:

For those that prefer a Swiss Army knife:

Multi-purpose Tools are extremely popular and very useful:

Survival Gear

Fact is, most of the survival gear provided to service members is pretty good. Pilots and aircrew are usually reasonably well outfitted for combat survival and special operations forces are generally very well equipped. A lot of infantry, however, are not issued specific survival gear. In large part this is because for the most part they are far less likely to find themselves stranded behind enemy lines and in need of it, and they already carry most of what they'd need anyway. But, stuff happens and soldiers can be separated from their units. At this point, signaling becomes the priority. For infantry, in most combat operations, the most essential piece of survival gear is going to be a signal mirror. U.S. or coalition aircraft are going to own the skies and a signal mirror to signal overflying aircraft is probably the only truly critical piece of survival equipment they need and it has other uses as well. This should be carried on their person in a BDU pocket. (Click for information about Signal Mirrors on Equipped To Survive.)

By the same token, a good survival kit could be a life saver and even many aircrew prefer to carry their own small kit in their flight suit, irrespective of what else they are issued. Given all that the modern warrior is loaded down with, it needs to be small and there's no sense buying anything that doesn't contain the highest quality gear. (For those with the time and interest, we encourage them to build one themselves and this site has plenty of information on the subject to get you started and The Survival Forum is a veritable fount of enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject.) Right now, there's only two commercially available compact pocket size kits that are worthy of consideration for military operations. You can find more information about these kits here on ETS.

Unity Ribbon - - In memory of those lost on 9/11/2001 If the above does not answer your questions, Doug Ritter offers limited free consulting to active U.S. military service members on the topic of survival gear. Click here for more information on consulting assistance.

What Not To Send in a Care Package

Support Our TroopsFinally, DO NOT SEND:

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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
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First Published on ETS: March 27, 2003
Revision: 10 July 20, 2007
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