You move to an OCONUS location and — yeah — you’re flipping tired and a little unsure of what day it is, you’ll admit it. Then, the fog starts to lift and you’re all, “What? I’m in [fill in your host nation], that…is…awesome. I’m ready to explore!” But, hang on there, explorer, you need to get your ducks in a row on base just as much as you need to listen to your wanderlust. Part of being ready for anything at your OCONUS location is completing your Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) paperwork and packing your military Go Bag.
So, you print your NEO packet — stopping halfway through to reload printer paper, cause hot-damn that’s a lot of pages. You procrastinate filling it out, potentially spill some coffee on it while it pushes permanent-residency status on your desk, but you eventually fill it out after several gentle reminders (read: nagging nudges from your service member and your service member’s command).
Then it comes time to pack the Military Go Bag, but you stomp your feet and throw your fists in protest at the idea of having to make room for one more thing in your closet. Seriously, have you seen the average square footage of OCONUS closet space? But, you are running out of excuses for why you haven’t packed it yet, and if you pull the “Oh, right — I totally forgot!” one more time, your spouse may seriously walk you down to medical.
Bottom line: It’s intimidating, all of it. You’re packing for an absolute worst-case scenario. In the event of a NEO situation, you and your kids are getting out and most likely your service member is hanging back. No part of that says, “Oh, this will be delightful!” But, together, you and this handy, yet relatable article are going to get it done. You’ll be more prepared than a Boy Scout; this looming task will be off your plate and out of sight somewhere in your closet, and — most likely — you’ll forget all about it until it’s time to start that pre-PCS purge.
What’s a Military Go Bag
Fair question — to spare you the Google search that will return results for Go Bags, Bail-Out Bags, and Bug-Out-Bags, we’ll just lay it out here. Your Military Go Bag is the one thing that you will grab when it is time to go, like right now. If you really must Google it, just know that you’re going to see packing lists that apply to everything from the zombie apocalypse to doomsday to an approaching wildfire.
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You do not need to pack an arsenal. You do not need flares, iodine tablets, or a flotation device. You aren’t in survival mode; you aren’t going to be living in a bunker; you aren’t being dropped into a third-world country. You’re just evacuating from a potentially dangerous place to a much safer place. In fact, depending on what address you wrote on your NEO paperwork, you’re probably just going to your parents’ house or the house of another relative. You know mama isn’t going to let you starve — she’ll be so glad to see you and her grandbabies that she’ll cook you anything you want.
OK, So What Does Go in My Military Go Bag
You know what not to pack, but let’s make packing this thing as easy as possible. Here’s what you need in your Go Bag:
- Identification documents — Not sure where to store that stack of completed NEO paperwork? Put it in your Go Bag. You might also include copies of passports, marriage and birth certificates, IDs, and anything else you would typically put in your PCS binder. Ideally, you’ll have original passports and IDs with you, but you just never know.
- Recent photos of your kids — This is just a safety net. We know you’re not letting those babies out of your sight during the evacuation. If nothing else, you can let grandma have them when you arrive.
- Cash — Keep roughly $100 USD and about the same amount in the currency of your host nation. It’s not like Social Security; you can pull from it if you need to pay for the pizza delivery guy. Just remember to replenish. You don’t want to evacuate with a bag full of handwritten IOU Post-Its.
- A couple of bottles of water for the trip — No, you do not need gallons upon gallons. Remember you’re carrying this bag, probably your kids’ bags, and — if we’re being real — probably an actual kid or two.
- Non-perishable snacks for the trip — You don’t need MREs, just raid the snack aisle at the commissary. When you end up not needing them, just eat them on your PCS Patriot Express flight back to the states in a few years. If you have a baby or toddler, those baby food pouches are clutch. Heck, you can eat them too.
- Diapers and wipes — Speaking of traveling with babies, you’ll be glad you stashed these away after that first blowout diaper in the back of a C-130. Be sure to up the sizes as your kiddo grows.
- Basic first-aid supplies — You just know your kid is going to fall and require a princess Band-Aid at some point in the evacuation. If you would carry it in your mom bag normally or pack it for vacation, bring it — tummy medicine and Motrin, yes, defibrillator, no.
- Travel-sized toiletries — Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste for everyone, maybe a little soap, and some hand wipes.
- Three or four layered outfits for each family member — Don’t forget the undies and socks. If your kids are old enough to actually carry their own bag, then pack their clothes separately — just keep it all in one spot.
- Chargers — If you can spare a phone charger, throw one in there; you know it’s the one thing that is easiest to forget when you’re packing in a rush.
In an ideal evacuation (oxymoron, maybe), you would have time to grab your own toothbrush, makeup, the supplies necessary to tame your mane, and your kids’ favorite lovey, but you can make do without it if you need to.
Just Do It
See, that little ten-item list wasn’t so scary, was it? The more you overthink it, the more intimidating it becomes. Just pack it and forget about it — you’ll free up all kinds of mental space to overthink all kinds of other things!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Disaster Prep: 8 Things to Have on Hand
Photo Credits: Nerissa Alford