Deploying: New York Marines discuss gear they can and can't do without

14 May 2004 | Cpl. Beth Zimmerman

Marines from New York took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom last year -and some may head back for Operation Iraqi Freedom II this year. Some of the New York Marines who deployed last year share what they learned during their time overseas, including what gear was unnecessary once they got to the desert, and what they depended on the most.Extra Weight"The second time around I would bring less stuff," said Cpl. Hector Serrano, a 22-year-old reservist from Brooklyn. Serrano and other Marines from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines in Garden City, N.Y. were authorized to carry recommended personal items in addition to their required issued items. They said that once they were actually in the Middle East, some of the Marines realized they had over-packed. "We lived mostly out of our alice packs," said Sgt. Edward Chatterton, a reservist with 2/25. The Marines from 2/25 spent March through August of last year deployed in the Middle East. Chatterton said they didn't open their additional seabags after they arrived in the desert. "We didn't even see (the extra gear) until we were ready to go back stateside.""We could have just brought essentials," said Lance Cpl. Gayber Guzman, a reservist also from 2/25. "I brought books," the 23-year-old student and reservist said. "But, we didn't have any time to read them.""I brought a tape recorder," said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Fisher, who is stationed at 6th Communication Battalion in Brooklyn. "I don't even know what I was going to use it for anyway," said the Columbus, Ohio, native. "But I never used it."Appreciated Load Some of the extra gear the Marines carried came in handy. "We were there before they had (post exchanges) set up," said Serrano. He said extra soap and razors -along with any other extra hygiene items- came in handy. "Baby wipes were vital," said Chatterton. "There's so much sand and dust, it just gets everywhere," said the 36-year-old Brooklyn native. "They were great for us, but also for cleaning our rifles." Some of the heaviest gear was also the Marines' most important. "All the protection you can get, like your flak jacket and Kevlar..." said Guzman. "That's what you really need."Adaptation and Improvisation "I had someone send me a paintball mask," said Cpl. Joseph Hyonas, a reservist with 2/25. The 23-year-old from Staten Island spent most of his time firing a machine gun from the top of a vehicle. "I was really glad to have something to keep the sand out of my face." Other Marines reinforced their issued combat gear. "Some of the Marines from law enforcement brought their own bullet-proof vests," said Chatterton. Redeployment Suggestions There are some pieces of gear New York Marines would make sure to bring with them in case they deploy again. "I would definitely bring a pair of goggles for the sandstorms," said Serrano. On the same train of thought, Fisher would take wrap-around sunglasses or tinted goggles. "Your eyes would dry up without them," he said. "And there's a really bad glare from the sun reflecting off of the sand." Fisher also suggested a digital still camera. "You can store photos on it, and then bring it back with you in your pack." Fisher said it's much more reliable than bringing a camcorder, which he did last year. He said it takes less time to snap a photo than it does to try to videotape something. "I didn't really use (the camcorder) much." Finally, Chatterton had an impractical, but wishful, suggestion. "What about an air conditioner?" More seriously, he stressed the importance of sharing the knowledge he and other Marines learned on deployment with Marines deploying for the first time this year. "We know what to bring and not to bring," he said. "That should make things easier for Marines heading into Iraq this year."
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