According to USA Today back in 1990, the average soldier deploying to Desert Shield would be carrying a total of 83 pounds. We were probably a little under that, since they listed the soldiers as carrying bayonets. We definitely didn’t have anything like that! Here’s a list of what we would be wearing in Desert Storm on a daily basis:
Uniform: The army uniform was made out of heavy duty cotton and practicality was designed in. Instead of a zipper for the fly, we had buttons. A button is a lot easier to replace than a broken zipper. The pants also had huge cargo pockets, large enough to store a meal pouch or a 2 liter bottle of water — both things we would have to do during Desert Storm.
On the jacket/blouse, the sleeves were designed to be rolled up and rolled down. We normally wore the sleeves down in fall and winter and up in spring and summer. In Desert Storm, the male soldiers wore the sleeves up and the female soldiers wore them down. That was because of Saudi nomads. In some respects, it may have been a good thing for the women since we ended up being exposed to less sun than the men.
On the pants, we tucked those into boots. You could get either blousing rubbers (a piece of stretchable string with two hooks) or a blousing strap (much wider, with velcro) to get the bloused effect. Sometimes I liked the blousing rubbers, but they also left marks in my skin. The blousing strap was more comfortable in some respects and not in others. It was too wide, probably made for someone taller.
Hat: Better known as cover. We had ball caps on the green side, and floppy brimmed boonie hats on the brown side.
T-Shirt: We always wore a brown t-shirt under our uniform jacket/blouse. It was cotton, and a lot of times it would get stretched out or the color would leach out.
Boots: We started out with the basic issue of leather boots. I remember the first time I was issued boots during Basic Training. I stood in line at the clothing issue facility, and the woman behind the counter looked at my feet and gave a pair without me trying anything on. Up until (and long afterward), I’d spent most of my life trying to get any shoes that feet. I had extra wide feet. I was amazed that they fit perfectly with room for my toes!
Prior to Desert Storm, I did purchase on my own the jungle boots. These were supposed to have originated during the Vietnam War, and they had basic leather for the for the shoe part of the boot. The part that covered my leg was green canvas. Later during Desert Storm, the soldiers would ask for these boots, though without the vent holes in it, since sand apparently got into them. I never experienced that.
Socks: The army issue was a basic green — no changes for the desert uniform. The socks were a cheap wool and very scratchy. I brought a softer wool and cotton blend. At the time, we were allowed to make substitutions of some things like socks and boots.
Kevlar with cover: That’s actually the helmet you see all the soldiers wearing. We don’t call it a helmet because the army never calls anything by it’s logical name. Kevlar is the material it was made out of. It came coverless, so we would have to put on a cloth cover that matched our uniform. Ever try putting on plastic bag over something round? Yup, it was a challenge to get on.
It also had an elastic band that fitted around the base — not to hold the cover on the helmet, but as another bit of army practicality. If you were camouflaging yourself, you could stick twigs and leaves in the band. The band was also great for storing paperwork, like your firing range qualification.
Sometimes it was known as the brain bucket.
Body armor: This was far different than the ones you see in the news today. Picture a piece of cardboard with arm holes and you’ve pretty much got the flak vest we wore. It was fitted for men (again!), so way too big on me. When I sat down, the flak vest collar pushed up the back of my helmet. It came in original woodland camouflage, so the army issued a desert camo cover — just like the helmet cover. It had velcro and straps all over and I could turn it this way and that way and could never quite figure out how to get it on.
Suspenders and ammunition belt: Our ammunition pouches, and more importantly, canteens would be mounted to this. The belts were made for men, though. I had the belt on the last notch, and it was still too big. The suspenders were clearly made for a much taller man, so the back of them was always getting twisted all over the place on me.
What we didn’t have: The goggles that you see in pictures of today’s soldiers. The army may have issued some during Desert Shield, but it would have been to the Rangers or Special Forces. The rest of us didn’t rate.
If it sounds like a lot of stuff, it was!