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Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment wait to recieve new equipment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment wait to recieve new equipment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment wait to recieve new equipment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment wait to recieve new equipment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Staff Sgt. Keith Bolden, left, and Pfc. Arthur Waddle of Company C, 2nd Forward Support Battalion discuss the advantages of the Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment vest at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Staff Sgt. Keith Bolden, left, and Pfc. Arthur Waddle of Company C, 2nd Forward Support Battalion discuss the advantages of the Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment vest at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Seth Robson / S&S)

A soldier from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment tries on a pair of Wiley X sunglasses issued to him at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

A soldier from 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment tries on a pair of Wiley X sunglasses issued to him at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Christmas came early last week for 2nd Infantry Division soldiers in the Middle East.

The soldiers, en route to Iraq with the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team — the “Strike Force” — each got $1,400 or more worth of state-of-the-art equipment as part of the Army’s Rapid Fielding Initiative, which gives soldiers the latest in battle clothing and fighting gear.

Maj. Kevin Korcheck, of the Nevada Army National Guard, played Santa. He handed out the gear but did not bother dressing up in a red suit, something that would have been foolish in the 110-degree F heat at Camp Buehring, where the Strike Force is preparing for its Iraq mission.

The equipment issued to each soldier included two pairs of boots (for winter and summer), Wiley X sunglasses, goggles, sports bras for the women, T-shirts, gloves, socks, winter underwear, a polar fleece jacket, an advanced combat helmet, a Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment vest and a Gerber multitool.

Some soldiers got additional specialized equipment such as telescopic sights and flashlights that attach to their weapons.

“It is equipment that is geared toward this theater. It is stuff soldiers normally buy for themselves,” Korcheck said.

Pfc. Adrian Cedillo of Company B, 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment had his arms full of new gear as he stood with other soldiers collecting equipment in a tent at Camp Buehring on Saturday morning.

His favorite new piece of equipment is the “ACOG,” or Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, for his M-4 rifle, he said.

“It doesn’t use batteries like my old sight and it is four times as powerful,” he said.

The soldiers said many of them bought their own sights before they came to the desert.

Andrew Mizera of Company C, 2nd Forward Support Battalion, bought his own NC-Star telescopic sight for his M-16 before he left South Korea.

The sight cost $100 from johnmason.com, he said.

“I can hit a target out to 500 yards away with this. Without it, my range is only 300 yards,” he said.

Another 2nd FSB soldier, Pfc. Sacarra Pusey, said the new Kevlar helmet, which features a reversible cover that changes from green to tan, is her favorite piece of new equipment.

“It is much lighter and more comfortable than my old helmet,” she said.

Pfc. Arthur Waddle, a mechanic with 2nd FSB, preferred the Gerber, which is the third multitool the young soldier has owned. The first was a Leatherman, he said.

“I broke that pretty quick,” he said.

Next came his first Gerber that survived being run over by a truck but got lost.

Waddle plans to put his new multitool to good use.

“You can do a lot of stuff with it. You can take apart a HMWV (High Mobility Wheeled Vehicle) with a Gerber,” he claimed.

Pvt. Jacob Hinds, also of 2nd FSB, said the new equipment is the sort of items, along with portable DVD players and lap-top computers, that many soldiers might have spent their last paycheck on in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to get the winter clothing, given the hot conditions in the Middle East.

“It must get cold where we are going,” he said.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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