Insider’s Tips on Clearing CIF

Part I


                The information you’re about to read is one of 4 articles on clearing CIF:  The future articles I will write will address the following issues:  1.) CIF standards 2.)  How to read your clothing records.  3.)  I will also provide you tips on cleaning your TA-50.  The information below is intended to make you more prepared for the day when you will need to clear CIF. 

- Keep in mind that CIF is a Business:  Not only is it a business, the CIF industry probably deals with figures that encompasses hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.  Like any other business I’m sure CIF strives to maximize their efficiency, effectiveness, revenue or any other key performance indicators that’s important to their organization.  In contrast, the average soldier only wants to out process without it costing them dearly.  Unfortunately the average soldier is not overly prepared for in-processing or out-processing.  With this in mind, the more proactive you are as a professional soldier the less likely it will cost you money.

- Be Proactive While In-Processing CIF:  The whole CIF experience begins before any TA-50 exchanges hands.  Keep in mind that many soldiers who in-process or out-process CIF insist their clothing records are less than accurate.  This is especially true when a 1 for 1 exchange for TA-50 takes place overseas.  If you are wise you will take any exchange of TA-50 very seriously.

- Perform Research:  Speak with other soldiers about the CIF issuing process.  You can also go on line to gather more information.  Ask yourself what does the average soldier experience when they received their TA-50?  What should you expect when you go to CIF?  

- Form a Game Plan:  Based on the information you receive you should form a game plan.  Keep in mind that the CIF issuing process is often very hectic, loud and confusing.  This only increases your need to remain focused on what you need to do.

- Learn How to Read Your Clothing Records:  Clothing records use many forms of acronyms, codes, numbers, and industry jargon.  It’s confusing even for senior NCOs or industry experts such as myself.  You can go on line to find information about clothing records.  Some sources include pictures of TA-50 items to clarify the facts.  Later in this series of articles I will go into further detail about how to decipher your clothing record’s information.

- Learn what is considered CIF Clearable:  Ideally, you want to ensure you’re not issued unserviceable equipment, you want to ensure you receive everything that’s on your clothing record, and you will eventually want to do everything possible to clear CIF on your first attempt when the day comes.  Knowing CIF’s standards will only make this outcome more likely.  As we progress into this series of articles I will discuss some of CIF’s standards on various issues.

- Be Alert:  As you are issued your clothing and equipment look for obvious deficiencies or signs that your gear is unserviceable.  You will not be allowed to hold up the line, so a detailed inspection will not be permitted, but you can address obvious problems immediately.  You can also ensure you receive what everyone else is being issued.  It’s wise to keep your eyes open and remain alert.  

- Inspect What You Have Been Issued:  After you receive all of your issue, you will be asked to sign your clothing record.  Before you sign any statements you should inspect your TA-50. The military establishment has created a system where soldiers are quickly rushed in and out of CIF.  The environment at CIF is often chaotic.  Typically there’s little or no time allowed to ask questions or to express your concerns about what you’re receiving.  Nonetheless, make time to perform an inspection as quickly as possible.  Theoretically you will be allowed to inspect what you have been issued.  If not, take the first opportunity to look over what you have been issued.  Remember it’s not uncommon for soldiers to complain they were never issued an item, or they complain that they received an unserviceable piece of equipment.  With this in mind, inspect everything that’s on your clothing record, and ensure it’s in good condition before signing any paperwork.

- Safeguard Your Documentation:   After you sign your clothing record you will receive a copy of this documentation.  Make sure you secure this information.  Although you can always request another copy, it’s wise to keep your clothing record safely tucked away.

- Inspect Your TA-50 Again:  Once you return to your room use attention to detail and closely inspect your equipment again.  Make sure you have received everything, and it’s in perfect working order.  Perhaps it’s wise to make a video recording of this inspection process.  If you were shortchanged any piece of equipment you will want to address it immediately.  The average person is apt to believe you’re telling the truth if you speak up sooner rather than later.

- Send a Copy of Your Clothing Records to a Loved One:  After you are sure you have received everything on your clothing record make a second copy of this information.  You should keep one copy filed away for yourself, and send another copy to your family.  Ask your parents or spouse to safeguard this information.

- Perform Regular TA-50 Inspections:  After training exercises and deployments be sure to inspect your TA-50 for accountability.  Your chain of command will require you to do this, but it’s smart to perform your own inspections well in advance.  Never wait till the last minute to act.

- Dummy Cord Items:  When I was a soldier my chain of command required soldiers to “dummy cord” high dollar items or equipment that’s easily lost.  This slang simply means you should tie down valuable TA-50 items using 550 cord.  This process is simple and very effective.

- Always Secure Your TA-50:  Theft is a very real problem in the military.  This is especially true for TA-50 items.  Never allow your equipment to lay about unsecured.  If you allow your equipment to remain unsecured it will most likely cost you dearly.  Remember your high tech TA-50 that’s made of Gore-Tex, Nomex, and Kevlar are very expensive items.

- Never Write on Your TA-50:  If you write on a piece of TA-50 with a permanent pen you have just bought it.  CIF will not accept clothing and equipment with writing on it.  If you want be able to identify your equipment use nametags or other removable methods.

- Never Loan Your Equipment to Others:  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard soldiers say “I lend my equipment to a battle buddy, and he’s now out of the Army.”  Remember if you loan out your gear it could cost you big bucks.   

- Stock Pile Key Equipment:  When I was a soldier I maintained 2 complete sets of TA-50.  One set I purchased for myself, and I only used it for inspection purposes.  The other set was only for field use.  I thought this was a clever strategy.  I never had to dedicate an excessive amount of time preparing for any time consuming TA-50 inspections.  Although this approach saves many hours of needless work, today’s TA-50 is so expensive that this strategy may no longer be a realistic option.  Nonetheless, you can save up and create a back stock on key field items.  In this process you still can avoid or reduce hours of inspection work while taking long term steps to clear CIF.

- Missing Equipment:  When I was in the Army I used the gathering time before formation to spread messages amongst the troops.  I would openly state that I needed a poncho or E-Tool, and I would express how much I was willing to pay.  Perhaps I was simply buying back the equipment that was stolen from me, but this approach substantially costs less money than a statement of charges.  I also went to various surplus stores off post to find good deals.  Based on my life’s experiences, if you take the time to look for less expensive alternatives you will always find them.  As many thrifty civilian shoppers state “You should never pay full price.”

- DX Equipment When Necessary:  CIF allows for reasonable wear and tear.  If any of your TA-50 becomes damaged or excessively worn it’s wise to speak with your chain of command and set up an appointment at CIF to perform a direct exchange or DX.  In other words, you can exchange your damaged clothing and equipment for serviceable TA-50.  Never wait till the last minute to address damaged TA-50.  Keep in mind that some units will not allow you to DX items shortly before out processing.

- Request a Field Loss, Damage Statement, or Report of Survey if it’s Appropriate:  If your wall locker is physically broken into, an RPG round strikes your connex, or you experience an event that’s beyond your control you may not be held liable for missng or damaged TA-50.  Speak to your chain of command immediately about such situations.

- Be Proactive About Out-Processing:  Since I have over emphasized this point during the in-processing phase it makes perfect sense that I would also suggest the same advice before out-processing.  Perform your own layout inspection, review your own clothing records, and clean your TA-50 to the highest level possible.  This will only increase the probability that you will clear CIF on the first attempt.  (*Note:  Later in this series of articles I will provide you tips on cleaning your TA-50.)

- Can Quarter Master Help You?  I have been told that on many military posts a branch of the Quarter Master Corps is willing to clean your TA-50 equipment at no expense to soldiers.  They will also provide you with a receipt that your TA-50 was cleaned.  Some say CIF will fully accept this information as proof that your TA-50 is clean, and others say this is a myth.  Regardless of the truth on this issue, if anyone is willing to clean your TA-50 for free it’s an opportunity worth exploring.  As an “old school” soldier, I wish I had such opportunities when I served in the military, so use any help that’s offered to you.  


- You Attract More Flies With Honey Rather than Vinegar.  I would image that working at CIF can be very stressful.  If you think it’s unpleasant to clear CIF as a soldier, can you image what it’s like to work there every day?  With this in mind be courteous to CIF workers.  Remain calm, reasonable and professional.  If you do this you will be more likely to attract the same attributes as you are projecting.  Keep in mind that you can attract more flies (or empathy) with honey.  Regardless of what takes place at CIF never lose your cool.



Summarized Thoughts: 

The best piece of advice I can offer you is to try to get in front of the game, and strive to become more knowledge about the CIF establishment.  Always seek to be proactive rather than reactive, and ensure you all of your equipment is secure and well protected.  Before you clear CIF, ensure your TA-50 is cleaned with the highest attention to detail, and don’t wait till the last minute.  Simply reacting to events is the fatal flaw that many soldiers make.  It’s also lends itself to many of the scary stories that’s commonly told about CIF.  In my next articles about clearing CIF I will discuss CIF’s standards, how to read your clothing records, and I will offer you tips on cleaning your TA-50.  All of the information I’m offering to you in this series of articles is very valuable to the average soldier who will one day need to out-process CIF.  





William G. McKinney

Bradley’s Military Enterprises



-          Tips on forming a CIF clearing strategy.          (Click here to go to the top of the article)

-          Tips on understanding CIF’s standards.

-          Tips on understanding your clothing records. 

-          Tips on cleaning your TA-50