We’ve talked more than once about the uniforms in the Army.

When you first enlist in the Army, one of the very first things that happens, just about right after the haircut, is the issuing of uniforms.* Four sets of ACUs, two pair of boots, underwear, t-shirts, belts, socks (but not Sox) and various and sundry stuff. All the uniform items every soldier is required to maintain at all times. After that “initial issue” each soldier is responsible for replacing items as they wear out.

But that’s just the basic uniform stuff. Given the wide array of places the Army serves, and the huge array of roles and missions various units fill, specialized clothing and equipment is issued a little differently. For instance, someone working in a recruiting station only needs the basic uniform items prescribed for all soldiers. They don’t need body armor, load carrying equipment, and a helmet.1 So the Army doesn’t issue that stuff to them.

Clothing and equipment issued according to what unit you are assigned to is known in the Army as Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment. Since allocation of these items is under Table of Allowances TA-50, it is also very often referred to as “TA-50”, particularly individual equipment like load carrying equipment. 2

One oddity is that Organizational Clothing generally isn’t managed at the organizational level. Very roughly, “organizational level” in the Army equals “battalion.”  But instead of making each battalion manage this stuff (especially when there may be as many as 30 or 40 different battalions on a post), the fort will have a single warehouse to manage this stuff for the units. Since this facility is centralized, and issues this stuff, it came to be know as the “Central Issue Facility” or CIF. 3 Some of the staff at CIF usually came from the division support battalion, but most of the folks were civilians hired by Department of the Army. Think DMV workers with less motivation. And less compassion.

As an individual soldier going through CIF, you’d go through a line, and they’d issue you whatever it was your normal outfit of equipment would be, based on whatever unit you were assigned to. Sometimes you’d get new equipment, but most of the time, you’d get some used piece of equipment some previous troop had turned in. At the end of the line, you’d have to sign a “hand receipt” basically acknowledging that you had the equipment, and you were responsible for it. You lose it, you bought it.

Now, you might think this is a tidy little contract between you, the individual soldier, and the CIF. Ah… not so. Your equipment is subject to frequent inspection by your NCOs, your platoon leader, your company commander, and even on rare occasions by the battalion commander. Prepping and displaying TA-50 for inventory and inspection by the various poobahs is, of course, time consuming and tedious. Some senior NCOs worry more about the presentation of how the layout of gear looks than whether the equipment is serviceable. Others, more wisely, spend their inspection time making sure that everything is present and works.

If you’ve got a piece of equipment that, through normal wear and tear, has become unserviceable, you can “DX” it through CIF. That is, a direct exchange. One example. My first unit, the 25th ID, issued two pair of jungle boots as OCIE to all soldiers in the division. I almost always wore them to the field (rather than my basic leather combat boots) as a matter of comfort and personal choice. But the unit commander mandated that when we deployed to the Big Island, ALL troops would wear jungle boots, and not the leather combat boot. The reason was, the volcanic rock of the Big Island would destroy a pair of boots in only a week or two. Since jungle boots could be DX’d, at no cost to the soldier, that was a better deal than having PFC Schmuckatelly ruin a pair of leather boots he’d be required to replace on his own dime.  I think I ended up going through about 10 pair of boots in 19 months in Hawaii.4

So far, so good. But eventually, your tour at any given base comes to an end. And when that happens, you have to give back all the goodies the CIF gave you. When CIF issues you a piece of equipment that looks to be in worse shape than a piece of month old Texas roadkill, they insist it’s serviceable. But when you try to turn in damn near anything not still in its wrapper, they insist that it is suddenly it’s too dirty, and needs to be cleaned. And given that they do DX, why do they get prissy about turning in unserviceable stuff when you’re leaving post? I never figured that out. The problem is, until you have successfully turned in all your TA-50, you can’t clear post and leave. Eventually, you get fed up trying to satisfy the sadists at CIF, go to the post Clothing Sales store, and buy a brand new example of whatever that last piece of equipment is that they’re hassling you about, turn that in (and even then, I’ve had a CIF staff give me grief) and get the heck out of there.

I suspect there’s a line in Heaven where CIF issues new stuff with no hand receipts. Of course, there’s also a turn-in line in Hell. You can imagine how that one works.


*Actually, they hold off a while on the dress uniforms. Your body is going to undergo at least some change during basic. No sense issuing tailored uniforms until those changes are mostly done.

1. There were times when Gary, IN challenged that notion.

2. In the Marines, this stuff is also known as “782 gear” for similar reasons.

3. I presume it is still called that. Though I wouldn’t be the least surprised to learn CIF has succumbed to the mania for renaming in stilted jargon every institution known far and wide through the Army, which is then referred to by  the old name by everyone in the Army.

4. Jungle boots were also a happy exception to the rule about mostly being issued used stuff. Every pair issued were brand new. And you could DX them when they wore out. You had to turn in the old ones when you did that. But that was mostly to make sure you weren’t building a huge collection of jungle boots for sale at surplus stores. When you left the post, you didn’t have to turn in your jungle boots, but could instead keep them, and of course, wear them at your new duty station. See, while in Hawaii, they were OCIE, everywhere else, they were an optional piece of equipment that you could wear, or buy on your own dime. The trick was to replace worn out jungle boots at the last possible moment in Hawaii, which if I recall was something like 30 days before you were scheduled to depart the station.

6 thoughts on “OCIE and CIF”

  1. It’s still CIF. Since the war started they have by necessity become more compassionate. I was shocked when I retired by the amount of things that I was signed for that they either didn’t care about or want.

    Like you I once attempted to turn an item back in one time when I was PCSing that I had never taken out of its wrapper only to be told it was dirty.

    1. I think it was the Duffel Blog had a gag about one Marine getting a conviction for stealing, and the entire Corps wrote off every missing piece of gear as his fault.

      My battalion in Germany had an M113 burn to the torsion bars once. By the time all the “stuff on board” was accounted for, it must have weighed more than an M1.

  2. Actually, in an amazing fit of common sense, you now PCS with the bulk of your CIF issue, and just draw specific extra stuff such as nomex when necessary. Much better.

  3. A lot of the hassle dealing with CIF can be mitigated if your S4 office is on the ball.

    When I was a battalion S4 at FT Stewart we declared ourselves at war with CIF (and a lot fo the other DOL sections as well). We went out of our way to smooth out the rough edges. When newbies to the unit headed to CIF, regardless of rank, the groupo was escorted through by my Battalion Supply Sergeant. SFC Velasquez was a terror….we called him the Puerto Rican Godfather. He would argue on behalf of the soldier with any of the turds behind the line. Our battalion commander backed us up on this and even downgraded the readiness of the unit on our monthly USR because of the shape of TA-50.

    When I became Brigade S4 I instituted the same policy for drawing and turning in TA-50…and the brigade CSM went along with my Brigade supply sergeant to CIF.

    Nobody screwed with The Rock!

  4. The only time I had trouble with CIF was when I was outprocessing from the Army. And it was because I couldn’t find my lensatic compass. I had only ever used it at PLDC, but it was simply lost when I was gathering my TA-50. So, off to the PX goes I. I get a brand new one and turn that in. Two days after I was out, I found the issued one. :/

    As for this:
    “And given that they do DX, why do they get prissy about turning in unserviceable stuff when you’re leaving post? I never figured that out.”

    I think you answered your own question:
    “Eventually, you get fed up trying to satisfy the sadists at CIF, go to the post Clothing Sales store, and buy a brand new example of whatever that last piece of equipment is that they’re hassling you about, turn that in (and even then, I’ve had a CIF staff give me grief) and get the heck out of there. “

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