Things Military Members in the Desert Want

This post is going to be my perspective on what the average military person loves to get whilst deployed. Particularly, those deployed to vacation spots like Afghanistan and Kuwait (cause, well, this is where I’ve been deployed.)

First and foremost, anything you send in a care package is treasured and valued. Minus breaking the rules (i.e. – alcohol), you CANNOT go wrong when you send anything. The truth is that if we get something we don’t chose to eat or keep, we share it. It’s like a mini trick or treat day whenever someone gets a care package and we are freaking heroes when we bring in stuff to share. Don’t stress about what to send. Sending a care package is the epitome of “it’s the thought that counts”.

Next, I must get squishy for a moment – this post is inspired by my racing team, Illuminati Racing, and my family. My team got together and coordinated with each other to send me a care package a week. So between them and my family, I have been here a month and already gotten five care packages.  It is such a wonderful feeling.

I have been asked several times what I’d like or need. I’ve had a hard time answering. To be honest, I do not do well taking things from people. I get embarrassed when people put time and effort on something for me or spend money on me. I don’t know why, but that’s just part of who I am. So I have never really answered that question. But yesterday I got a package from a team-mate I have never met. In it included a note that said I was an inspiration. Partner that with the hand written cards and notes from my team mates children, the hilarious notes from those who know me the best, and the box of GOODIES my Mom sent (Mom, I had resee pieces and cheeze its for dinner the other night….and it was glorious), I realized that a blog post with some information could be helpful. I am humbled and honored to be kept in the thoughts of so many people. I have never thought of myself as an inspiration, far from it. But darn it, if I do inspire people to do happy and good things, then I darn well better live up to that reputation. From the bottom of my slightly sandy heart, thank you to everyone who has been a part of keeping in touch during the craziness that has been this deployment.

Back to the meat of this blog….stuff we love to get in the desert.

Personal Care: Yes, most areas have PX’s or Exchanges (think of a mini-Walgreens), where we can get soap and shampoo and the like.  I have seen several blog posts say “they can get that stuff, you don’t need to send it.”  I humbly disagree.  1) The walk to the PX is usually at least a mile each way.  In the heat.  Yuck.  After a marathon shift, it is a pain to go there.  Yup, sometimes we are that lazy.  It’s just the truth.  2) The selection sucks.  You usually have a choice of one type of shampoo (PERT!) and maybe two soap options.  3) Some of us work the entire time the PX is open.  So, we do love getting personal care items such as the below items.

  • Shampoo and Conditioner (hotel travel sizes are AMAZING!!!!) –  Allows us to have some variety and it is easy to carry back and forth during the usually half mile walk to and from the shower area.
  • Nice hand soap (In the pump) – We put nice bottles of hand soap in our internal bathrooms (the one’s with running water) for all to use.  It really is just a nice touch that can make the day even a tiny bit better.
  • Lotion – I can’t speak for the guys, but us gals love pretty smelling lotion.  I currently have a  bottle of eucalypts lotion that I rub on my hands at bed (I sleep with my hands near my face) and it helps me relax.  Again, hotel travel sizes are great because we can have some different smells and they are easily transportable.  Plus, it is hot and dry and gross out here.  Lotion is good for that.  (And even us tough girl types like girlie things every once in a while.)
  • Dental Floss – Just because we like well cared for teeth.
  • Baby wipes – we won’t get into the details.  But baby wipes are great.  Those little packs that fit into your pocket are gold as well….you haven’t lived until you’ve been stuck in a porta-potty with no TP.

Food: We do have pretty good DEFAC’s (dining facilities) but the fact remains that 1) it’s at least a quarter-mile walk each way (see above for lazy comment) 2) the food is not the healthiest, 3) sometimes work gets in the way and you can’t go, and 4) the menu is typically the same week to week.  It can get a little boring.  So, the following are some food tips:

  • Nothing that can melt.  This is really limited to plain chocolate or chocolate covered things (m&m’s do fine, for example).  The fact is that a care package can sit on a pallet outside for a day or so.  It gets to be 100+ here on a regular basis.
  • No alcohol. I know, I know.  But just don’t.
  • Anything that is home-made and can travel for 3-4 weeks and not melt.  One guy here has a grandma that makes these ranch pretzel things that we affectionately call “the crack pretzels”.  Then there are the cookies….Homemade items are typically the thing we always bring into share out of a care package and is usually results in a nice little pow wow moment for the crew.  There is just something about sharing a homemade treat.
  • Beef Jerky – This, along with trail mix, is the go to quick food of the war fighter.
  • Trail mix – This, along with beef jerky, is the go to quick food of the war fighter.
  • Protein Powder – In the packet form (like when you get samples).  We throw it in a water bottle and voila! Sustenance.
  • Probiotic Stuff – There are powders, pills, mixes…you name it.  Sorry to be gross, but when exposed to new germs, different food, stress, and general yuckiness one’s stomach gets TORE UP.  We can’t get the yogurt like back in the states so supplements help….a lot….
  • Nuts that are flavored – for example, I can eat smokehouse Almonds by the pound.  One work mate thinks that caramel peanuts come from heaven.
  • Pistachios in the shell – they are yummy and keep us entertained.  We like to work for our food.
  • Baby food squeeze packs like THIS.  The fruit and veggies types, not the meat types.  I know this sounds weird, but it was a suggestion from my trainer when I bemoaned my concerns about getting enough fruits and veggies and it was a great one.  Squeeze packs, not jars!!
  • Anything that comes in a K-Cup.  I swear that we cannot fight a war anymore without k-cups and power point.  Don’t forget that not everyone drinks coffee (*ahem, me for example).
  • Hot chocolate and tea.  Powdered form that heats with just water is the way to go with hot chocolate.
  • Energy shots/beverages/powders, etc.  We work loooooonnnnnggg hours.  Many work those long hours seven days a week for up to nine months in a row.  They keep us stocked with a steady supply of rip-its and standing rock (energy drink brands I’ve never heard of before deployment), but it’s nice to mix it up with other brands.  (I prefer energy shots like SK or 5-hour energy because they easily fit in a pocket, are super quick to drink, and don’t need to be refrigerated to get it to go down your gullet).
  • Emgergen-C or similar powders/chews/etc. – Our bodies are put under a lot of stress out here.  We are exposed to germs we’ve never known and our bodies can go all wonkey.  Many of us turn to some immune system support boost.  It may be all hooey, but the fact is that even if it is the placebo effect, many of us see good results with things like Emergen-C.

Entertainment: It really depends on the resources that are available, so not everyone can use these tips, so check with your military member first.

  • DVD’s – even in places with Wi-Fi, it is still miserably slow.  There is not enough bandwidth to download or stream movies or tv.  DVD’s are nice when you want to hide in your rack, away from the world.  Just make sure your service member has a way to play it.  (I got a $45 portable DVD player that I love!)
  • Books – There are usually great MWR libraries with more paperbacks than you can count, but it nice to get a new book and most of us then leave it in the library for the next member to enjoy.
  • Notebooks and Pens – This isn’t for everyone.  You need to know your service member.  But I for one love to write down stuff, take notes, etc. and fun notebooks and writing sticks are nice.  This includes regular full size notebooks and notebooks that can fit in a pocket for taking notes.  Most everyone can use pocket sized note pads, no matter what job they have.

Other:

  • Photos, notes, letters, pictures from kids, anything personal.  This type of thing keeps us connected and is nothing short of heartwarming.  A card, not even part of a care package, can make a service members day.

There’s my list – I will probably update it as I think of other things, but this is a start.

Fellow service members or family of service members – PLEASE comment and let me know what I’ve forgotten. 

On behalf of everyone who goes on vacation with the military, thank you for even thinking about putting a care package together.  You keep our morale up and can turn a day around without even knowing it.  Know that a package you send your friend or family member usually brightens the day of at least ten other service members.  THANK YOU.

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