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Posted: 12/30/2003 3:44:34 AM EDT
Marines dig deep for upcoming-deployment gear
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story Identification Number: 20031223173029
Story by Cpl. Jeremy M. Vought


Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David W. McCarter, corpsman with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, shops at a local tactical gear retailer in Oceanside. With Marines returning to Iraq for a second deployment, many are flocking to these off-base stores to buy gear they want and need - gear the Marine Corps doesn't provide.
Photo 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."
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 4:36:54 AM EDT
the marines should be paid enough so that purchases like this do not drain their resources, or be given the equipment
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 4:40:15 AM EDT
Originally Posted By avengeusa: the marines should be paid enough so that purchases like this do not drain their resources, or be given the equipment
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Agreed. However, I've had to dig into my own pocket for stuff my job wouldn't buy. It happens. For me, it was to keep doing what I'm doing and keep the money rolling in. If I were in the Marines, and I could purchase something that would make me safer or more comfortable, I'd do it.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 4:44:43 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2003 4:45:48 AM EDT by reconBYfire]
All branches of the service have to do it.... edit: for years we wore gortex...then it became an issue item...then we wore camelbacks, now an issue item...so on and so on. It all takes time
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 4:50:06 AM EDT
That's pretty goddamn disgusting.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 4:51:40 AM EDT
RBF is right. this is not unusual. mechanics have to buy their own tools. so does the military man, and dont feel bad that they make little money. enlisted military are paid quite well past their first enlistment. for instance....an E-5 with 6 years and 1 dependant would have to make $50k in the civilian world to equal his bring-home pay from his $24k "base salary". these guys arent hurting. its a priority issue. to many guys, and myself when iw as in their shoes, its worth it to shell out for 3rd party equipment to make yourself more comfortable/efficient in the field.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 5:03:43 AM EDT
Originally Posted By osprey21: That's pretty goddamn disgusting.
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As a "former" Engineer for the Military Industry it's even more disgusting from the inside!! But we MUST have that friggen V-22 OSPREY....right? What a piece of crap!
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 5:48:29 AM EDT
They should be given a yearly or just a pre-deployment "Gear Allowance" akin to a Uniform Allowance. Give them tax waivers and have them turn in their receipts for accountability so some of the goofy ones do not squander the funds. Our guys should have the best and not have to sacrifice money I am sure their families need.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:06:23 AM EDT
Each unit commander ought to collect the receipts for this equipment and start sending bills (duns, not legislation) to the Congress, with CC's to the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:07:47 AM EDT
Just a thought here, but a lot of these guys may be buying this stuff not so much because they need it, but because they are gear sluts. I know I sure was/am. I was in a National Guard air defense unit wearing a Blackhawk Omega vest and a Safariland 6004 holster. Not because I needed them mind you, just because I have way more money than brains. These guys definitely need camelbaks and whatnot, but they are probably also picking up a lot of awesome stuff just because it is awesome stuff, you know?
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:10:14 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2003 5:30:07 PM EDT by QUIB]
Originally Posted By reconBYfire: All branches of the service have to do it.... edit: for years we wore gortex...then it became an issue item...then we wore camelbacks, now an issue item...so on and so on. It all takes time
View Quote
True! When I read this article Gortex boots and jackets were the first thing that came to mind. We forked out our own money to upgrade our equipment, then those items became issue items.....oh well. As far as the money goes, when I was deployed to Desert Storm I was making damn good money! Tax free income, hazzard duty pay ect...ect... forking out a few extra bucks back then didn't bother me a bit......it was my ass I was keeping safe!
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:23:24 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2003 6:27:42 AM EDT by FiveO]
Originally Posted By AvengeR15: Just a thought here, but a lot of these guys may be buying this stuff not so much because they need it, but because they are gear sluts. I know I sure was/am. I was in a National Guard air defense unit wearing a Blackhawk Omega vest and a Safariland 6004 holster. Not because I needed them mind you, just because I have way more money than brains. These guys definitely need camelbaks and whatnot, but they are probably also picking up a lot of awesome stuff just because it is awesome stuff, you know?
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Yea but is the "gear slut" and the guy with the "awesome gear" not freguently more effecient, even more comfortable and therefore more effective and capable due to the well designed gear he may select? Just because one guy recognizes the value of a good load bearing vest over an issue LBG does not make him a "Gear Slut."
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:45:27 AM EDT
That is what I am talking about FiveOh. Yes, it may certainly make you more efficient changing mags, or carrying a your combat load more comfortably, etc., but that doesn't necessarily mean that the USMC is doing their men and women a great disservice by not issuing Tactical Taylor Coyote brown vests, and whatnot. If the individual Marine wants something not issued to him, he can certainly buy it on his own.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:50:43 AM EDT
Originally Posted By FiveO: They should be given a yearly or just a pre-deployment "Gear Allowance" akin to a Uniform Allowance. Give them tax waivers and have them turn in their receipts for accountability so some of the goofy ones do not squander the funds. Our guys should have the best and not have to sacrifice money I am sure their families need.
View Quote
That's a good idea. THough the uniform allowance does a pretty good job and I rarely end up in the hole maintaining my uniforms with it. There's only been once or twice that I think I've come close to spending the whole allowance in a year.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 6:53:20 AM EDT
It happens in the cop shop too. The vest they issued was a IIA, I bought my own IIIA.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 9:54:39 AM EDT
Although some of it is make your life easier gear, allot of it is "shiny stuff" gear. It nice to have but in many cases not required. We get allot higher speed gear issued these days than when I first came in and in general you have what you need.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 10:42:23 AM EDT
Originally Posted By osprey21: That's pretty goddamn disgusting.
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Not really. You CAN get by with what you're issued. The stuff they are buying is NOT necessary to their survival. It's just extras that make their lives a bit easier. Been there, done that, did NOT resent the Army for not providing me with the "cool" stuff free.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 10:55:54 AM EDT
Where are the articles about the teachers who have to buy classroom supplies out of their own pocket, hmmm?
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 11:24:54 AM EDT
raven: I guess some teachers in some inner city schools have to provide not only provide their own supplies, such as pens, pencils, & paper etc; but they have to buy their own IIIA "bullet-proof vests." Sorry, couldn't help that, just being facetious. If I were going to a combat zone, I too would surely bring stuff that was not issued to me or extremely hard to get to make life a bit more comfortable while away from the USA, like binoculars, blades, batteries, etc or what nots.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 11:33:44 AM EDT
as a matter of fact, i'm here researching optics to buy for a leatherneck friend of mine who's leaving for n. carolina this weekend... back to work...
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 12:22:47 PM EDT
I dunno. On one hand I have to buy ALL of my own tools out of my own pocket. On the other hand it pisses me off that these guys are having to spend their own money on gear that maybe should be govt. issue while at the same time that sorry bitch up the street from me gets a check every month from the govt to smoke crack and pop out another unit every nine months. I'm all for diverting more funds to the ONE thing that the government does well; the military and national defense.
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