Why are Some US Troops Stuck Buying Their Own Gear?

 In Military

Why Are Some US Troops Stuck Buying Their Own Gear?

Though experiences may vary, medical supplies, body armor, special helmets… some U.S. Troops are paying their own hard-earned money to get items they need for a deployment. From Special Forces Operators to U.S. Marines, to National Guardsmen and Reservists, they are buying gear and supplies themselves.

We wanted to know why the problem, and whether the news reports from Stripes and others were accurate, so we reached out to TroopsDirect in an effort to understand what was happening.

Aaron Negherbon (pronounced “near bon”) founded the company in 2010 in response to to a US Marine who needed basic supplies. Since then he has received requests from units across the board- but not just for basics like toothbrushes. They have supplied everything from helmets to tourniquets, sharps containers, generators, speed loaders, defibrillators to gorilla tape… basically everything you can imagine.

Why is this occurring?

Aaron told us that there were many reasons for the breakdown in the supply chain. Troops have been told there is ‘no money in the budget to acquire the equipment,’ or that ‘your unit does not rate for the equipment requested,’  or they are told that the equipment is ordered and on its way but no one knows what happened to it. Then there is the issue of the equipment they do send is sometimes not ‘mission compatible.’

 us troops

Does the U.S. Military get all the equipment they need? The answer is a disheartening “NO”

Ask for it – not getting it?

With the current Marine Corps shift to a maritime footing, equipment for the desert environment isn’t compatible to the needs of Marines on a ship.  A unit tasked with jumping out of airplanes needs the kind of equipment that makes those jumps possible- but if they are not “rated” for the equipment, then they won’t receive it.

There appears to be a giant disconnect between supplies and deployment information…or a disconnect from the lower ranks to the higher ones that are more worried about their promotions than the needs of their men.

Aaron said that Marines he spoke to from 2004 stated that if they needed something, they got it. That isn’t the case anymore. He has spoken to high-ranking officers who had no idea what was occurring on the “lower” levels in the field.


Medics/Corpsman in the field need medical supplies that are often not available

Spending their own hard-earned money

Deploying troops and their families are spending thousands of dollars on equipment. One woman, Pene Palifka, the mother of a National Guard soldier, spent $1,100 of her own money on an armored vest for her son.

The military is now requiring troops to leave those vests behind when they go home, as there are not enough vests to go around, particularly for Guard and Reserve troops.

“[By] purchasing something for my son, then that means hopefully somewhere down the line somebody else that’s overseas will have adequate equipment.” Pene Palifka

One Marine wrote that organizations like TroopsDirect are the only answer to a rigid and inflexible “machine” that fails to supply what is needed. And sometimes the supplies only arrive after the unit’s deployment is over, so they end up being used by the next forces.

“I have written this in hopes of shining some light on the gap between perception and reality when it comes to supplying the men and women of our armed forces.  I say this because while it is clear the intention of our government is to supply us with the latest and greatest, too often it is not and what we actually need or desire cannot be supplied in time or is not part of the program of record.  I have spent 20 years in the military and fought in every theater we have had during that time. Too often we had supply chains that could not get us gear for months or at all because it is not designed to be flexible and agile.”  USMC O-4

Stars and Stripes reported,

Sean Matson, who recently left active-duty as a Navy SEAL, said the military measured his head four times – each time before deployment – with plans to provide him a more advanced ballistic helmet.

But the new helmet never materialized. During a deployment in Africa, Matson and six of his fellow SEALs each shelled out about $900 for updated helmets that held the lights, communications devices and batteries needed for their missions.

People tend to assume that our nations’ military operators have the best equipment all of the time (after all, we have DARPA, right?). But that’s not the case, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are beginning to take notice.

Troops reportedly often have to purchase their own medical equipment, EOD equipment, helmets, or GPS devices, and in some cases even sniper supplies… or basics such as batteries.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-CA) a Marine Combat veteran, says people have been complaining to his office about supply chain issues.


Jamie Farr played Max Klinger on M.A.S.H. – who was always doing back door deals to get supplies.

TroopsDirect – Better than Klinger from M.A.S.H.

Let’s look at a couple of the requests that this organization has received:

“…my guys and I came out here so support special forces but there were installations here in XXXXX that did not have EOD so they did not have any emergency response support for explosive hazards.  Some of the people in my higher command did some back door deals now we are out here pulling emergency response for people who don’t support us and we are without these items that play a big role in how we operate. So in short we were failed at higher levels and left to fend for ourselves. Since we are not supporting the people that we work for my guys and I have zero funding…” 

Then there’s this one:

“… As of now we have been training ano[sic] unfortunately some of our equipment as broken and there is no resource here willing to fix it since we are not permeant[sic]party. All the equipment we packed was sent to our Company that is already forward. We have been told the supply routes are not set up for us to get our gear from the containers to us. We have been buying batteries so we can do night training…”

Or this one,

“The Unit sent us out the door with 3 completely slick m4s for the younger soldiers telling us that we would fall in on equipment when we got here..not knowing that our platoons mission would be redirected we have nothing to fall in on…”

TroopsDirect is a nonprofit organization that runs on donations. Aaron told us that when people call “B.S.” on the lack of proper equipment stories, all he has to do is show them the requests and the receipt for shipping it to the military addresses and they shut up. Without them at this point in time, the shortfalls could be deadly for our deploying troops. They cut through the red tape to assist troops with important needs.

We can ask our legislators to move on this issue, but while they attempt to turn around this lumbering, out of touch government, let’s help TroopsDirect do what they want to do – help our U.S. Military.

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