Why You Should Never Touch His Gear

When I read the post about the military wife who reorganized all her soldier's gear, I thought I had to speak up -- especially since I just had a tiff with my own wife.

As an Army Judge Advocate, and a prior enlisted Soldier with his fair share of TA-50 cluttering up the house, I just have to lay down the law on this one.

If you were inspired by that post to go through your own servicemember’s gear there are a few things you need to know:

Servicemembers are financially responsible for their gear. Periodically we are required to turn stuff in. If stuff is missing or damaged, they are stuck with the bill. This even applies to really old or obsolete stuff. The Army has a really long memory when it comes to stuff servicemembers sign for, and the prices of even the obsolete stuff is very high. I've reviewed the reports that generate debts for such things (called “FLIPLs”) that cost retiring soldiers $3,000. While I really hate to see it, that happens a lot.

We are evaluated based on having the stuff when needed. At any time, we may have to show up with it in serviceable condition. Failure means public humiliation, negative career outcomes, and even punishment. It also means that we are bad Soldiers. It would be like inviting the neighbors over and having them find dirty laundry on the coffee table … if your neighbors could impose a fine and make you do calisthenics until you pass out.

These are the tools of our trade and profession. Sometimes, more frequently and realistically for some, lives and health depend on that stuff.

Like it or not, the gear issue is important to us. But that doesn’t mean you have to live surrounded by seemingly useless camo-colored items.

Want to make living with gear as painless as possible?

Here are a few steps:

1. Once a year or when PCSing, have your husband load EVERYTHING into his car and take it the central issue facility. Have him print out a clothing and equipment record with all the stuff he is supposed to have. He can turn in the obsolete gear.

2.  Determine if he has a government-provided storage space at his unit. If so, have him keep his stuff there. That will limit his liability for the equipment and keep the clutter somewhere you don’t need to see it.

3. Agree on a place where he will keep his gear that is safe, dry, and accessible. And then…

4. Never ever ever touch his gear again. Ever. If it is outside of that location, simply tell him to fix it. If he doesn't, leave a note. ONLY if that does not work, carefully place it in his trunk, on his bed, or in that agreed upon location.

Really, it’s just best for your relationship if the servicemember has no one to blame but himself if the gear is lost or broken.

Captain Matthew “Matt” Reid, is an Army Judge Advocate currently acting as the full time Legal Assistance Officer in Rhode Island. Prior to direct commissioning into the JAG Corps, he served as an enlisted intelligence analyst for 10 years.  He is most proud, however, of his beautiful daughter Sophia and his wonderful Army-wife Yana who he loves despite her constantly messing up his uniform items , particularly those darn Velcro patches.

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