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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37 Comments on "Why You Should Never Touch His Gear"

  1. I promise I won’t ever touch it again! Lol!

  2. HA, my husband and I had this discussion on this recent PCS move, we went from having a garage for him to store all this crap to living in a townhome in DC, sans garage. To add to it, they issued even MORE crap when we got here…there…is…no…room. He has one of three bedrooms now that is nothing but TA-50 and it's all stuff he's "supposed" to have (and with well pretty well over a decade in, that's a lot of stuff"). One thing we did do was get those vacuum bags and put all the squishy articles of clothing hats, sleeping bags, blankets etc that he hasn't used in years and probably won't for a while in them, then sucked out the air and stuck them under the bed. That way it's there when he needs it but not spilling out of the closet.

  3. HIS gear? Well we always have about five foot lockers in our garage where my wife stores her TA-50 for whatever she cannot store at work cause with her MOS she has a lot of gear.

  4. The only thing that made me though is that you implied that only you are responsible. Which would also mean your spouse no? Get rid of it and you won’t have to worry about paying for its and you’ll have a happier wife.

  5. JillofMostTrades | October 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm |

    In my personal relationship I would have to disagree a little bit. My husband's version of "organized" is throwing his TA-50 into our shed while the shed windows are cracked open a bit. While I do not take anything apart or wash anything, I do keep his uniforms hung up, his bags (including aid bag) hung up neatly, his body kit and helmet (protective stuff) in it's chest, then anything else like his blanket and sleeping rolls and other random things that are not clothes go in another chest.
    Thanks to my organizing he has actually been able to find his stuff when he needs it which includes during our last PCS move when he had to turn some things in.
    Now dont get me wrong. I would assume that most military men are a ton more organized then mine and I do know that there are certain things not to do. Oh, I'm also a seamstress (self taught and not professional, I just like to sew clothes) and I personally sew on a lot of his patches after he has measured them and used fabric glue to stick them where they need to go so all I have to do is stitch.

    So basically he's responsible for the care and appearance of his stuff. I just keep it organized (though not taken apart) and make it so we don't have to spend $5 + getting patches sewn on unless necessary.. Like on his dress blues, I wont touch those things.

    We have been married for 4 years and so far the ONLY time he has ever lost anything was when someone broke into our car….. on post…… right outside his work place….. literally took a screwdriver to the lock (it was an old car).

  6. Stop using the boxes of powdered detergent in the mobility bag. Buy Purex 3 in 1 sheets. They take up less space, weigh less, and wont make a mess of the bag if they open.

    As previously mentioned, space saver bags or in our case food saver bags for smaller items to keep like things together and easily labeled.

    3M hooks on doors and high up on walls can help hang bags and other gear from as well.

  7. I wish I could touch his gear, but he's deployed… I'm going to have to wait to touch his gear when he gets home– so to speak…

    When he is home, I touch his gear all the time.

    I'm sorry, I had to go there– I just can't help myself. The only excuse I have is that I'm approaching 40, and according to Miley Cyrus, I will not be having sex for very much longer, so I have to get my jollies telling dirty jokes.

  8. Amy_Bushatz | October 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

    LOL. Hey admin John, don't delete this one ^ I give it a pass ;-)

  9. gratefulsoldier | October 11, 2013 at 10:38 am |

    Personally the comments was spoken like an officer that doesn't experience the same kind of training as the enlisted because 'they are officers' so they are treated 'differently' I'm sorry but in battle, bullets do not discriminate between ranks.

    Anyway, if it were not for my spouse (now ex) helping me through my toughest courses I'm not sure how I would have made it.

    When I came in with my arms dragging the ground (from push ups and pull ups and countless grass drills), she would wash my clothes, press them, if they got wet from rain dry everything, clean off my boots and put the base coat of wax on them. Then God forbid try to mess with my gear (sleep was truly on my priority list at that time).

    Upon waking the next morning (3 am is that really morning), I would shine my boots to exacting standards, slip into my freshly laundered uniforms, and hit it for another day.

    Maybe she was the exception, while she certainly didn't know what each and every item was called she did a great job keeping me in line and out of trouble so I was able to be a success for both of us.

  10. As the military wife who reorganized my spouse's gear, it's worked for us so far. Of course I made sure he was ok with it first, obsessively labeled all containers and I have enough experience with the joys of CIF to understand which items could be packed to the back and which he will need during his frequent field problems. But I'm sure that method doesn't work for all couples, so hopefully service members are able to communicate enough with their significant others to figure out which option will work best for them.

  11. I organized my husbands gear WITH him. We have large plastic containers with things like “field clothing” “hot weather” “cold weather” “old stuff” and so on labeled on them. Much easier that way, I flex my organizational skills and he sets his gear the way he wants it and it stays clean! One closet, not a big deal.

  12. Liam Babington | October 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm |

    I am retired, still have some gear, I have put it away and some things I picked up along the way by purchase, my Beloved never touches my gear….EVER!! But we do have an arrangement of where I keep my old gear!! Some things Guys n Gals are hard to part with!! Call me crazy, but an arrangement is a good thing! keeps peace of mind in the home!!

  13. I have learned to keep what is only needed for any particular base or ship. Usually it is the same stuff. My wife washed my work uniforms (dress stuff went to a cleaners), I would iron them, polished my work boots. When leaving a duty station, I turned in all non necessary gear. It kept the peace at home and a lot less to deal with.

  14. My now ex wife knew not to touch my crap. I ended up having to pay for those dumb suspenders that we have to have but never use. Yes they are only 5 bucks but I made her pay for them because she moved my stuff and they got lost. Lesson learned. I told her next time I will move her purses and happen too loose one of her coach bags that she has to have. Again lesson learned. DON’T TOUCH MY CRAP!!!

  15. Why would you want to do that?
    My husband was a Navy officer as was my father and I was a line officer.
    There was not a lot of gear, but had there been I frankly would have had no interest
    It would have been his to stow and take care of PERIOD.
    Keep it stowed when at home and we're good
    That is pretty much the way mom was too.
    These women who feel need to rifle through their husband's gear need to get a life

  16. Hey folks, whether you like it or not, YOUR ACTIVE DUTY OR RESERVE SPOUSE is responsible for that gear and not you, so HANDS OFF. The old school story to the teacher that the dog ate it will not hold.

  17. That's right! I don't touch my husband's gear and he doesn't touch mine!

  18. I touch his gear all the time, I know where everything is, because I organized it. I always get that phone call, babe can you find such and such and bring, or mail to me? Its not that he is unorganized its that I hated those phone calls, now I don't mind. Plus I was in the military and I never lost anything. As a matter of fact both or our gear is lined up!

  19. I’m the only in our house who puts away, stores or organizes my husbands gear! If left up to him it all sits in the spare bedroom all over and he’ll only tidy it up once or twice a month. I never toss anything (he even has a set of old BDUs) I keep everything in storage totes and the larger things and things not used much stay in the garage. My husband has NEVER said a word about me moving his things, if he can’t seem to locate something when needed he’ll ask me and we look together, nothing has ever been missing or lost. I’m pretty sure my husband appreciates what I do for him when it comes to his gear, as he always compliments me on finding space for everything that is out of sight :)

  20. John A. Milani | October 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm |

    As Clarence Darrow once said, "The trouble withe the law is lawyers."
    Take a look at the LT who just received twenty years for protecting his soldiers,

  21. My gear can't be found any more!

  22. I have to disagree. My husband's idea of "organized" gear is throwing everything into a closet/corner of the garage/cardboard box left over from our last move. Then when he needs something it suddenly becomes my job to find it. No more. The last time we PCS'd I went through everything with him. If it needed to be repaired, replaced, or cleaned, it got done. Everything is now either neatly folded or otherwise organized in Tuff boxes. Each box is labeled with exactly what's inside, and they are all stacked neatly on shelves in the garage (which I built myself thank you very much :-)). Now when he needs something it's all easy to find. I realize my husband is probably the exception, but for those of us who have husbands who don't have an organized bone in their body, it's really better for our own sanity and their career, to help them organize it and keep it organized. I liked the tip on taking everything to CIF once a year though…will have to see if I can get mine to actually do that!

  23. His gear! Oh, how far behind the times you are! I had my own TA-50 and gear to deal with. I took the time to store and organize my gear, and so did he. As an MP and LI, we probably have gear you wouldn't have thought of in our quarters. You wouldn't leave your garage looking like a junkyard, park your car, truck, Harley, any old which way, or leave your weapon out unsecured. Take responsibility for yourself , and maybe your spouse won't have to pick up after you as though you were a child.

  24. skuld_the_norn | October 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

    “Have him” do this, “Have him” do that? How about he acts like a grown man and decides for himself? I didn’t marry a little boy who has to be told where to store his things and how to transport them. Furthermore, if I’m cleaning and something is in the way, it’s being moved. Don’t like it? Put it away! I’m so glad I’m married to man and I’m a Navy wife. We work as a team the way married people should. It sounds like the author is a mama’s boy who probably has more than one ex-wife.

  25. My husband and I have been having disputes over his gear for a while. I had 15 totes sitting in my home, some with old worn out items or things that don’t fit him anymore. And everytime he needed something specific the gear would be thrown all over. I understand he may be asked to turn in stuff periodically, but I am a bit OCD on organization and everything must be put away in its designated place, soooo…. I TOUCHED HIS GEAR! I dumped all the totes into a pile and organized and inventoried his stuff. Now each tote has a list on the outside with what’s inside, the NSN number, the size and the quantity. When he needs something, he can find it easily, when he done with it, he can put it back into the right tote or ask me to do it, and I don’t have to stare at it for days! My opinion, sometimes our spouses need a little extra help.

  26. I agree with you on never touching the gear. When my husband and I first got married I told him that did not want him getting mad at me for anything missing or damaged so I was not in anyway going to touch it. Now I have had to put a few items in his closet because he keeps leaving it out for one reason or another. Heck, I won’t even iron his uniform. I do wash, dry,and hangup his camos and take what uniform needs to go to cleaners but as for keeping up with his gear and military cloths. That is his alone responsibility, and works out fine for us.
    As for the comments about the sexist, really people! Do we really need to be PC about everything? It’s a plain and known fact that “he” and “she” in articales on this site do not really go only for one sex orthe other. There are men amd wemon servicemembers, use your common sence and stop being critically PC about everything.

  27. I think this entire article is pointless. I know for a fact that me organizing all of my husbands stuff is the ONLY way he finds anything that he needs….. Now I will admit he has not accumulated nearly as much as others have being that he is fairly new to the Army, he still wouldn’t have a clue where anything is without me orginizing it for him. So in conclusion I understand the importance of a soldier keeping track of his gear but, that shouldn’t mean that if have to live in a house that is a disaster.

  28. Lmao sorry but in out house that doesn’t fly. He likes how I organize and actually ASKS me to keep it together. When he needs something he knows where it is because we actually communicate. If I move something I let him know as soon as he is home where I moved it to so there is no confusion. Plus I printed a list of what items are in which locker. Just makes sense to us… I mean even a soldier can forget where he placed something.

  29. Every wife I know "does" gear. The only reaction I've ever seen from the men is hugs, kisses and "thank you, babe". Couldn't relate to this at all.

  30. sabrinacking | October 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |

    I only ever attempted to help my husband with his gear one time. While doing so I noticed a card of paper with among other things his blood type up in the webbing of his Kevlar (it's different now there are foam pads, but we are THAT old). When I asked why it had his bloodtype and he responded, that was the last time I wanted anything to do with touching any of his gear. It's not camping equipment, it's life safety equipment, and I wasn't prepared to be the person who did anything to it that might harm him in any way. So I get this post on a fundamental level all too well.

  31. If I, like many of the posters here, didn't organize my Soldier's TA-50 it would be sitting in the front hallway of my house still in the duffel bags that the stuff got carried home in from CIF. Instead, it is well organized in storage totes in a room in the basement used for storage. These totes are organized by season as well as making sure all parts of a piece of equipment are stored together. Things that need to be hung up or items that are used on a regular basis are kept upstairs in the closet of one of our spare bedrooms for easier access.
    The most common conversation in my house before deployment/field problem/tdy will sound very familiar to many of you:
    Him…"Honey, have you seen my (random piece of equipment)
    Me…"Yes, it's in one of the totes with the rest of the crap"
    Him 5 minutes later…"Found it. Thanks!"
    Me…"No problem."
    Off topic but will amuse some of you. Most often heard sentence after deployment/field problem/tdy referring to anything but uniforms: "Don't even THINK of putting that crap in my washing machine."

    Bottom line is that if it wasn't for me, my husband would deploy naked and we would have paid $100,000.00 to CIF over the years.

  32. Matt (The Author) | October 16, 2013 at 10:49 am |

    I hate to post in response to my own article, but I think that I do have to weigh in on a few matters.
    1) A lot of posts have dealt with spouses cooperative efforts to police up gear. I applaud those wholeheartedly. Indeed, I wish that I had considered that option more. If you are working with your spouse to find a solution, that is GREAT. This way the Soldier still has control over his/her gear. I really wanted to emphasize three points:
    A) This gear is really important and expensive for us Soldiers
    B) There are some ways that it can be minimized
    C) It is best if a Soldier has only himself/herself to blame if his/her equipment cannot be found.
    I am thrilled to see ways that other Mil Families have done it far better than I have at my home.

    2) The whole sexist language thing. First, I get it, women serve too; there are lots of Male Army-Husbands, MILSOS, etc. I am perfectly aware of that. Both my immediate superior and immediate subordinate are female. I see and work with female Soldiers every day. More than that, I hope my daughter will grow up to be a Soldier like her daddy. That said, I cannot correct centuries of English Usage.

    I think you all should know that I wrestled with the gendered language question. I even asked Spousebuzz if I should add the standard disclaimer language about gendered pronouns. I also considered if I should use "his/her-own" language. Finally, I considered changing up the genders from time to time. In the end, I decided to take the risk that people would understand that my use of single gender pronouns was a concession to colloquial language. If you were offended by that choice, I am sorry.

    My intent was to ensure that people really know that this gear is expensive and exactly how important it is to Soldiers that it be there when they need it. I also wanted people to know (something that lots of Soldiers don't consider) that a lot of it can be turned back in and that there are other ways to minimize the problem. Finally, my end-point is that a strong emotional reaction to this stuff being moved is not as irrational as it must appear and that if both Soldier and spouse make accomodations the friction can be managed.

  33. I'm disagreeing with this as well. If it weren't for me organizing his things, we'd have an army clothing blowout all over the garage (which is what used to happen). I was sick of searching through piles of random clothing and gear when he called and needed a canteen or glove, etc. Now that it's sorted and organized, packing his bags is much less chaotic and he gets it done much faster, which means more time spent with us. He's made 4 PCS moves and has never had to buy/replace an item. He always, ALWAYS says it's thanks to that time I organized it all put it all in labeled bins. 10 years worth of Army clothing with an 11b MOS is now neatly organized in bins on a home made storage shelf that travels with us to each duty station.

  34. Yeah, I have to agree with this article for some people. I generally know where all the gear goes and what is what so it's a non issue in my house. We have a room with shelves and clear bins for all the extra that can't fit in the trunks. If anything is left out for too long I just yell at him, lol. Does the trick. It's not like the room is soooooo far away from the front door of the house, where he just loves to drop it when it is all muddy. Care and store, if you can't do it, you get your ear chewed off and might go to work in soggy ACU's, because I just might "forget" to put them in the dryer the night before, I'm just sayin. ;)

  35. You know guy I was all for your little rant but I disagree. Here's what you do TEACH your wife what the stuff is. We just moved in into quarters and he received PCS orders. We never had time to unpack. So here we are two weeks before we move and who is in the garage looking for a little strap that goes on the whatever. Yea that's me. After looking for the 2nd stupid strap guaranteed I hauled every piece of everything in and it's on the front room floor now.

  36. Angle Straightening | January 23, 2014 at 5:05 am |

    I can make toast without worrying about butter/peanut butter/etc. getting all over the insides, and also use it to cook things that are too small to use the regular oven for! Plus it heats up so quickly.

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