Does the Military Let You Keep Your Equipment?

If you are a soldier and planning to resign or about to retire, you already know that you can retain some items but must return others for the next soldier to use. However, this decision is dependent on the unit under which the soldier serves and the circumstances leading to the end of your career, as we shall see. Thus, whatever the situation, soldiers need to ensure they do not lose your gear or allow it to be stolen through recklessness during your service.

So, does the military let you keep your equipment? The military allows you to keep your uniform as the first equipment after service. Besides the uniform, other military equipment you can retain will include some general accessories or tools useful in executing military missions. The equipment you may keep includes your undergarments, night vision goggles, tactical vests, general-purpose masks, extended climate clothing, and badges.

Military equipment helps soldiers survive life-threatening situations while on the battlefield. While you will be allowed to keep some of this equipment, you will need to adhere to specific guidelines and protocols while away from the military. Read on to know which military equipment you can keep and the circumstances under which this is possible.

Do Soldiers Keep Their Uniforms?

Soldiers generally can keep their uniforms for three months after an honorable discharge subject to military regulations. Otherwise soldiers must return their uniforms back to the military. Other clothing worn under the uniform may be kept by soldiers.

Uniforms include undergarments, gloves, goggles, socks, boots, patrol hats, fire neck hoods, and berets. The military issues the uniform to a new soldier upon deployment. To ensure the uniform remains in good condition during service, the soldier will require a personal clothing record to track their clothes' replacement. The military will then finance this replacement through annual allowances or as per the records.

The personal clothing record also specifies the items the soldier can keep upon permanent change of station (PCS) or discharge. Generally, the exterior protective clothing is non-retainable, while all the other garments in direct contact with the skin are retainable.

A soldier may or may not keep their uniform after discharge, depending on whether they were honorably or dishonorably discharged. If one is discharged honorably, they can wear their uniform for up to three months after service. They can show up on special occasions and at home parties for this limited time, after which they will stick to the regulations on wearing the uniform as an ex-soldier.

After retirement, a soldier can keep their uniform and wear it together with the badge depending on their seniority. While doing this, they should check with their veteran department in case of any doubts.

Among the instances requiring a retiree to wear their service uniform will include formal events, military courses such as military celebrations, and where the presidential regulations permit them to be in their uniform.

While you can put on your uniform as a discharged or retired military member, you also need to know the prohibitions concerning wearing your uniform. For instance, you cannot wear your military uniform in anti-government meetings or demonstrations or appearing before a court of law. If you are attending a private or commercial interest meeting, you should also not wear your uniform to avoid influencing or dictating decisions based on the outfit.

For you to use your retained uniform after discharge, you will need to remove distinctive military markings. These markings include unit patches, badges, and the US army tape if you are an ex-soldier in the US army.

The label should then be marked to be considered legitimate. Finally, whichever the circumstance you wear your uniform, you should follow your department's regulations and observe grooming rules when in your uniform.

What Are Basic Military Equipment That I May Be Issued After Deployment?

When you get to your assigned duty station, you will be issued a full set of equipment, including communication equipment and other gadgets you need to do your job. As proof of ownership, your unit will give you receipts. If your equipment gets damaged or lost under legitimate circumstances, your unit will push the paperwork and replace your equipment.

You will need to submit the paperwork evidence upon completion of service. If you lose your equipment due to carelessness or take it to a pawn shop, your unit will not push for paperwork, and you will have to incur the replacement costs.

Like the uniforms, soldiers will also get military equipment such as guns and gas masks. These items are non-retainable. Ideally, these items should be returned every time you transfer to another unit, and you should get new gear in your new unit. This is the essence of the equipment record, which tracks the equipment allocation.

With the changing times, however, soldiers usually keep everything and transfer with their equipment. They then return the equipment once when they complete their term of service. The result is an accumulation of unnecessary stuff that the soldier will not use in the line of duty.

What Happens To the Military Equipment That I Bought for Myself?

While the army supplies each soldier with fully packaged ammunition for the battlefield, soldiers still prefer buying for themselves some equipment. This could be due to personal preferences or because the equipment offers better protection than the one given by their unit.

Before doing this, you need to check up with your department to prevent future disputes. This is usually the case for protective gear like eye protectors and the uniform.

Usually, you will not get into trouble for purchasing some items to ensure maximum comfort while working. This includes bringing in extra jackets and gloves or bringing in a commercial pair of boots instead of the army issued boots. However, you cannot bring tactical equipment, such as personal guns or grenades.

Therefore, if you decide to add to your equipment in the course of duty, your department will not question but will need a receipt as proof that you are the legitimate owner of the specific gear.

When leaving the military, you will need to submit relevant paperwork for your items upon completion of service or due to other reasons. In some instances, without enough proof of ownership, you might be forced to submit personal items, especially tactical equipment, to the army.

What Will Happen if I Do Not Return Non-Retainable Equipment?

Despite the regulations on retainable and non-retainable items, some soldiers still opt to keep some non-retainable items they find useful after service. While some may go unnoticed, this action might result in a statement of charges.

The soldier in this statement will need to declare the items lost or stolen and have their commander sign it and, where applicable, pay for the depreciated or stolen items. You should also note that legitimate stores are keen on what they buy from ex-soldiers lest they face the charge of selling stolen property. Therefore, returning non-retainable items puts you in a safer space as an ex-soldier.

How Should I Return the Equipment?

If used, non-operational or suspended equipment will cause injury to the user, put lives at risk, and increase the probability of unsuccessful missions. To ensure soldiers' safety, armies have a standard labeling system and forms to track their equipment status.

This system aids in allocating functional equipment to ensure the missions run smoothly and every soldier is safe. When returning your equipment upon completion of service, your department will check the gear to ensure it is usable by the next soldier. They will do this by tracking the equipment and demand communication on its condition.

Therefore, when returning your equipment, ensure that it is clean and serviceable in case of damage. If you have damaged gear that cannot be serviced, you should have supporting paperwork showing the cause of the damage. This reason should be legitimate and signed by your commander.


It is easier to keep your uniform as compared to any other military equipment. If you follow the right protocol when purchasing military equipment for yourself, you can keep them, as well. However, you should note that whether or not you will be allowed to keep any equipment, you need to care for them during service to ensure they remain in good shape for use in future missions that you or another soldier may undertake.


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