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How to Shop for a Soldier

Updated on September 27, 2010

Let me start this article by laying out a few credentials for those of you who wonder; “Who is this guy to tell me how shop for my Son/Daughter/Husband/Wife/Hunny Bunny- Soldier? Let me elaborate.

I served in the US Army for a little more than 22 years, during the course of my service I spent a little more than 14 years overseas, including two wars, and if you add the 3-4 month exercise deployments, you can add another 4 years away from home station. More recently, I spent 4 years and 8 months in Iraq serving on Forward Operating Bases in the Morale Welfare and Recreation Department for most of the time and for about 5 months in the Joint Military Mail Terminal – Joint Base Balad. I think I have a pretty unique handle of what troops want and how to get it there. I should also mention that the list below was emailed home by a deployed soldier now serving in Afghanistan. I received it because of work I do with my American Legion Post.

All that being said, I want you to know, that I know the best support and the biggest smile comes when your Soldier, Airman, Marine, Sailor gets support from the ones that know and love him. But some of the things you may not know may make a difference in the things you send. So let me start by saying that what and how much of it they need is often determined by the different installations they may work out of.

Camps are fairly large usually have an Airfield or are next to one they probably have a well stocked PX and access to hot and cold running water, showers etc (Though they may be in a separate Tent or Trailer). Morale Welfare and Recreation Services (MWR), Dining Facility (DFAC), Amenity Shops like Burger King, Green Beans Coffee (Think PX equivalent of Starbucs), Internet Café’s or even personal internet service they can subscribe to.

Forward Operating Base (FOB) are smaller than Camps and may or may not have similar amenities but on a smaller scale as the Camps. They vary in size depending on the number of units assigned to it and usually provide support to the outposts. PX’s usually start out being run by the Military; carry the essentials and small stocks of nice to have stuff, as the population grows the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) picks up this service and the stocked items will increase.

Combat Outpost (COP) These are the tough assignments. COPs are small posts (maybe as small as one building) in the units assigned area of patrol and operations. May/may not have running water, indoor plumbing etc. These are the posts that made such a difference in Iraq by putting the units in the neighborhoods. Troops there are generally on their own for entertainment and recreation and may not have a lot of time for either. They may or may not get regular deliveries of Hot Chow, or prepared meals.

The FOBS and COPS are the modern day equivalent of the front lines in previous wars. It is not unusual for a Soldiers Company and Battalion HQ’s to be on a Camp or a FOB with responsibility for several COPS and rotate their troops in and out of the COPs as the tactical situation requires.

I think it wise here to mention that you should not automatically equate the size or type of installation with an arbitrary danger level. Some COPs are in quiet areas and some Camps and FOBs are in High Threat areas. There are no places in either Iraq or Afghanistan that you can call safe, (meaning immune to attack) within our normal meaning of the word.

-Sewing kits

-Nasal Spray/Drops

-Tea bags


(Cajun seasoning)


Garlic salt

Honey packs

Hot sauce





Salad dressings


Salt/pepper, sugar packets


Sweet N Low

-Zip Lock Bags & Plastic lock containers

-Pillow with pillowcase

-Pocket Size First-Aid Kit

-Hats, bandanna; Socks – white for PT; black/green for

everyday wear with uniform

-T-shirts and underwear (all sizes)

-BROWN or GREEN colors for the T-SHIRT if



-Plastic bowls, spoons, forks, knives

-Magazines (sports, cars, etc.)

BIGGEST REQUEST-COOKIES! Home made are best! Bake in the Love!!

Liquid or gooey items should be packed in Zip Lock Bags.

What They Need

Here is the list as promised. This unit recently deployed to Afghanistan and will be conducting training operations with the Afghan Security Forces. They will be spending most of their time out on the COPs. Copy and Paste this list to a new document and take it shopping with you. Or use the link provided below and you can shop on line and have the items sent directly to your soldier. Notes in Italic are mine.

Advil, Tylenol, Cold/Cough drops, Sinus Meds

-Antibiotic Cream (Neosporin)


-Blankets for cooler weather

-Chap stick

-Clothes Pins/Line

-Contact Lens Cleaner

-Cotton Balls

-Dental Floss


-Eye Drops

-Eyeglass Kit

-Face Soap

-Foot Inserts for boots

-Foot/Boot Powder

-Insect Repellent Wipes/ non aerosol spray

with Deet

-Crystal Light


-Juice boxes


-Propel, etc.

-instant coffee

-Greeting cards to send back home

-hand held fans

-Water guns, haha. You can’t send these through the mail, anything that looks like a weapon (yes even a water gun) will be confiscated, all mail is screened going to and from the war zones so substitute Water Balloon kits instead (available at Wal Mart)

During deployments the Military Spouse may be pressed hard for time to accomplish this sort of shopping, although it is a fun project to do occasionally with the kids. But with the need to hold a job and raise the kids alone, time is a critical issue for our Home Front Heroes. So in the interest of saving you some here are some links that you can use to shop for these items without leaving the house, and you can do it in the quiet of the evening when the kids are in bed. Hope they help…

Wal Great selection Low prices.

Save on Rollback Specials at!

These are the essentials you can see more links and ideas at The Jam Shop


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    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Rich - Thanks for your service and your Nephews! Thanks to for stopping by my friend! Glad you enjoyed the read and found it helpful..GBY

    • NamVetRich profile image

      NamVetRich 7 years ago from Springfield Oregon

      My good friend Mega1 told me about you - this is the first of your hubs I've read - I just want to say thanks to you for all the great info and especially as relates to supporting servicemen. This is a special service you are providing people. My nephew is in Afghanistan now - so bless you HmrJmr.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Thank You Ma'am I'll take that as gospel coming from you. God Bless...

    • Army Infantry Mom profile image

      Army Infantry Mom 8 years ago

      You are absolutly right about really needing to know whether the soldier they are sending things to are on a camp, base or outpost. Great information !!!!