CAMP STANLEY, South Korea — Prior to May 1, waiting until the last minute to ship belongings during a transfer to a new station meant living without a television for a couple of weeks upon arrival.

Now, a soldier might face an angry sergeant wanting to know where the soldier’s helmet is for the field exercise they’re having the next day.

The reason is a new Army-wide policy that is changing both the way soldiers pack for their next duty station and how commands spend money and distribute gear.

Soldiers changing duty stations are now told to keep their helmets and at least 40 other pieces of gear, instead of turning it all in to their closest central issuing facility.

The total amount of gear kept ultimately depends on the soldier’s job and the nature of the unit. However, all soldiers are taking dozens of new items with them for the rest of their careers.

The equipment rule applies only to MTOE units — modification table of organization and equipment units — or those most likely to go into battle, officials explained. Troops serving in U.S. Army Japan, for example, don’t fall under the new regulation, according to an Army spokesman at Camp Zama.

The benefit of the new policy is that it will "reduce required stocks in issue facilities as well as create a sense of ownership for soldiers," according to Lt. Col. Lee M. Packnett, a spokesman with the Army’s media relations division.

He added that the soldiers should ship their gear "through freight" if they know they’ll deploy with a new command before their household goods shipment is to arrive.

Because there is no freight shipping available in South Korea, soldiers are being urged to pack their gear with their unaccompanied, or "express," baggage. Installation Management Command Korea officials say unaccompanied baggage should arrive at a soldier’s next duty station within 14 days; however, soldiers say it sometimes takes longer.

That’s why logistics officials are telling soldiers to schedule their unaccompanied baggage appointments at least 10 days before they leave. That will be a big change for soldiers used to having their possessions as long as possible.

"Now if he or she waits until the last day, they may arrive there without [gear] for a significant amount of time," said Maj. Jake Swantkowski, head of the 2nd Infantry Division’s G-4 logistics section.

The professional gear does not count toward the weight allowances for personal goods, officials said.

If a soldier is deploying to a combat zone within days of arriving at a new duty station, it’s up to the deploying unit to notify the South Korea unit and arrange for gear delivery, said Olivette Hooks, logistics director for Installation Management Command-Korea.

The changes for soldiers also mean Army supply shops will have to keep pace with depleted stocks of gear.

To assist, the Army’s central management office has been tasked with redistributing gear among facilities to ensure there aren’t supply shortages, Packnett said.

Of the thousands of soldiers that arrive in the 2nd Infantry Division every year for one-year tours, about half are arriving from advanced individual training to their first duty station.

That means that U.S. Army Garrison-Red Cloud, also known as Area I, will be issuing a lot more gear than it gets back.

While the real impact won’t be felt until a year from now, when this month’s newly arrived soldiers leave for their second duty stations, the budgeting and procurement considerations can’t wait.

Some pieces of gear may require as much as nine months of lead time to acquire, officials at Camp Stanley’s issuing facility in Area I said.

"We are engaged in ongoing coordination … to increase funding allocations and to increase stockage objectives to support the arrival of new soldiers," Hooks said.

A command spokesman said they hadn’t settled on a final figure for their budget request.

Word of the new policy is filtering through supply sergeants and logistics heads in South Korea’s Army units, said Dale Rafield, Camp Stanley’s central issue facility manager.

Nearly all the soldiers know they’re supposed to keep gear, though many aren’t sure exactly what to keep, Rafield said.

Soldiers at Yongsan Garrison seemed, for the most part, unhappy with the change.

"It’s going to suck," said Pfc. Douglas Jackson, 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment. "Especially going back home."

He said he’d feel compelled to pack and carry the pricey gear with him, rather than leaving it in the care of movers and sending it with his unaccompanied baggage.

"It’s a lot to pack," said Capt. Ha Tran, 121st Combat Support Hospital. "I’d rather get a new issue at my next duty station."

But not everyone thought keeping their gear with them throughout their career was a bad thing.

"It’s a good idea," said Staff Sgt. Sean Gillespie, 121st CSH. "It makes out-processing a lot quicker and keeping your gear, you’re likely to be accountable for it."

He said waiting for movers to bring the equipment with a soldier’s unaccompanied baggage probably wouldn’t be problematic because it’s a common practice to take leave between duty stations.

"And if your unit is going to the field right away, someone will make sure you have TA-50," he said.

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