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Af-Cam

We’ll be producing a long-form video once we return CONUS, but until then we wanted to give you a little taste of what we’ve been doing during our embed with ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Here’s the insert portion of an air assault we did against the village of Ateh Khanek, a suspected Taliban supply station in eastern Paktika province. Cue “Ride of the Valkyries” …

– Ward Carroll

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A pretty dramatic photo of Soldiers from 2–12 in their MultiCam duds — everything from full on plate carriers and combat shirts to helmet covers.

When you first look at the pic, which was posted by PEO Soldier the Army on its Flikr page, you can obviously see two Joes. And just with that, it’s clear that the MultiCam blends in well with the varied environment they’re traversing. But look a little closer and you can see there are at least two more in the frame.

I mean, I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s getting a bit too crowded on the Crye bandwagon and might be time for me to jump off, but I must say, in such diverse backgrounds (water, wood, grass, rock, sand, dirt) that MultiCam sure does blend in.

(Gouge: Thanks Tipsters)

– Christian

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Just now posting a story to Military​.com on the death of one of the most influential defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill ever.

I’ve had my beefs with Rep. Jack Murtha in the past, but I truly am shocked and saddened by his death. He was a tireless advocate for Pentagon programs he believed in and forced them down a left-leaning Congress in years where defense spending was less than a priority. And despite our sometimes butting heads over the Haditha incident, he and his staff have always treated me with respect and professionalism.

We’ll slice and dice his record tomorrow, but today, let’s offer his family and staff our condolences and take a moment of silence to honor the decorated Vietnam vet and Marine officer/public servant.

– Christian

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Unable to resist the draw of cool new camouflage patterns, I was drawn like from a Death Star tractor beam to the small setup belonging to a company called Special Operations Department — an inartful name, for sure, until you meet the product technical manager Max Valente and realize his company is Italian.

Max showed me an interesting pattern his company developed for the Italian special operations forces called Vegicam. He wouldn’t let me take a pic of the scheme and the only reason he talked about it was because I was snooping around his display and pulled a shirt in the Top Secret camo out of his duffel bag.

The camo was basically like a digitized multicam, but Valente said his camo is deployed to Afghanistan and “works much better than the MultiCam.” I asked him how he could say that and he just said photosimulation tests have proven it. Sorry I can’t provide a photo, but suffice it to say the camos I’m seeing here emulate the Crye colors, but veer away from the organic shapes.

Valente also pointed out his Desertico scheme, which is pictured above, and his intriguing Hybrid Coyote Sage solid color that he said spec ops and gendarmerie units wanted as an alternative to blatantly military patterns, particularly for PSD missions and semi-covert operations in town. All materials are Nomex FR.

 

Maybe some of the secret squirrel US types “shopping” here will be interested in this gear.

– Christian

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From today’s headlines on Military​.com:

The Army is close to fielding all the uniforms and accessories it planned to outfit Soldiers in as part of its crash program to develop a new camouflage scheme for operations in Afghanistan.

About half of the body armor carriers on the popular MultiCam pattern have yet to be fielded.  The manufacture of MultiCam uniforms on a fire-resistant fabric was delayed, as well.

“We got ahead and we started looking at some fabrics to make sure that we would meet all the requirements that operational forces in theater needed and that we weren’t going to give them any less capability,” said Lt. Col. Mike Sloane, program manager for Soldier equipment. “We would not give up on FR capability. That was non-negotiable.”

Sloane told Military​.com in a recent interview at his Fort Belvoir headquarters that about 500 MultiCam plate carriers were on their way to Afghanistan and that about 500 more had already been delivered.

“There could be 200–300 Soldiers that have everything that they need except for the MultiCam plate carrier,” Sloane added.

The so-called “immediate action” experiment to field 1,000 MultiCam uniforms and accessories to Afghanistan alongside 1,000 ensembles of an Army-developed camo dubbed “Universal Camouflage Pattern-Delta” stemmed from congressional criticism that the current UCP pattern wasn’t adequately concealing Soldiers in the varied terrain of Afghanistan.

The Army pledged to field the alternate patterns to two battalion-sized units in Afghanistan by the end of October but has struggled to get the full complement of gear to Joes by that deadline.

According to Sloane, all of the items patterned in UCP-D have been sent to Afghanistan, and Soldiers are patrolling in their new duds. The MultiCam Joes — Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment — are already wearing some of their new uniforms but without the accessories patterned in the sought-after scheme.

Sloane said part of the reason why Soldiers aren’t sporting their pouches, helmet covers and armor covers in the experimental patterns might have something to do with the difficulty of swapping well-worn accessories for new ones. With the helmet cover, for example, it’s difficult to detach the night vision goggle bracket and other lights and holders from the Kevlar lid, install a new cover, then re-attach it all. That hassle might have kept some Joes from making the switch, but Sloane says it’s got to be done.

“I have seen photos of Soldiers and leaders in theater in UCP-Delta walking around with a UCP helmet, and I’m like ‘what the heck?’ ” Sloane said. “I’m not sure if it was ‘hey, we’ve got a mission, put on the uniforms and we’ll get to that later.’ … It’s in theater, they have it and they should be wearing it.”

Sloane had recently returned from a brief deployment to Afghanistan with a nine-man specialized team — Soldiers and one Sailor — tasked with accumulating data for the second stage of Army research into a new camo scheme.

[Continue reading…]

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Trolling through the latest uploads from the military PAOs in Afghanistan, I spotted this one of some Joes from 2–12 Infantry patrolling in Kunar province.

You’ll notice the OTV, helmet cover and pouches aren’t in MultiCam, but I have the explanation so stay tuned to Military​.com for an article tomorrow on the latest Af-Cam distribution and testing.

– Christian

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We posted a story a while back on a new combat pant the Army was spinning off as part of its look into better fire resistant ACUs. Thanks to our friends at Soldier Systems we got some good gouge on the development, but I’m here to update you on the latest fielding schedule.

In our long conversation Dec. 18, Lt. Col. Mike Sloane of PEO Soldier told Defense Tech that the lucky testers will be a brigade from the 101st Airborne heading to Afghanistan next month. PEO plans to issue 7,000 pairs of the combat pant, which incorporates stretchy fabric, integrated knee pads and FR fabric that’s more durable than the FR Rayon in today’s FR-ACU.

And it’s made by guess who? The Army’s new uniform darlings (and the Brits), Crye Precision. The above photo is from Crye’s Web site.

I went ahead and made an audio clip of this part of our interview for your listening pleasure. Mike Sloane can explain the whole evolution better than I can. But suffice it to say, some very happy airborne troopers are going into the zone with some pretty high-tech duds.

LISTEN HERE

– Christian

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Defense Tech has the first exclusive look at some Joes wearing Natick’s own Universal Camouflage Pattern — Delta in the field in Afghanistan.

Below is a trooper from the 3rd Squadron of the 61st Cav wearing the UCP-D while teaching Afghan troops how to break down an M-16.

UCP-D-in-afghanistan1

Now, the next two photos is where DT is breaking some news. Take a look at this one:

UCP-D-afghanistan2

Notice the patches …these are not troopers from the 3rd of the 61st, are they? In fact, the caption reads they are from the 5th SBCT 2nd Battalion of the 508th PIR down in Kandahar province. Hmmm, funny. We were told the UCP-D was going to the 3rd of the 61st and MultiCam was going to the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment (still haven’t seen any photos of them in action).

We pinged PEO Soldier on this discrepancy and learned that while 1,200 UCP-D ensembles were sent to the AO, the 3rd of the 61st has far fewer than 1,200 Soldiers. While accounting for spares and all, “a significant number of UCP-D uniforms were left over,” officials told us last night. So Combined Joint Task Force-82, the US command there, made a decision to field the remaining uniforms to other units, which obviously included some troops in the 508th.

Here’s a shot of a 5th SBCT Joe wearing the tactical accessory pouch in UCP-D:

UCP-D-TAP-afghanistan3

All Soldiers who were issued the UCP-D uniforms (and the MC ones for that matter) will be required to submit feedback on the effectiveness of the pattern in their AO. So now it looks as if the Army is getting a lot more bang for its buck on their Af-Cam evaluation that they might have planned.

– Christian

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Okay Okay…I hear you!

Lots of people hitting me on the tipline about the Brits’ new cammo…Whoa! Caleb Crye is about to become a rich man, huh? Can’t wait to see what his booth looks like at SHOT Show (hopefully he’ll do a better job of talking to reporters this time since lots of Gov money is heading his way).

Anyway, BBC is reporting that the British Army has adopted a UK version of MultiCam MultiCam to replace its 40 y/o woodland Disruptive Pattern Material. That’s freaking HUGE!

The new uniform looks as if it has the distinctive traits of Brit duds: the vertical pockets with buttons, large belt loops, tuck in styling. Seems that they built their own uniform out of a customized MultiCam material.

It’s just amazing to me that the Brits did this — and seemingly so suddenly. I wonder how this will affect the Army’s camo wrangling? Is it possible to how two major allies with the same (or very similar) camo scheme? I know there are a lot of 3rd world armies with BDUs, but having US and UK troops operating side-by-side with nearly the same camo would be amazing. Maybe this will weigh the Army against adopting MultiCam for its new UCP.

And on that note, I spent three hours at PEO Soldier on Friday afternoon discuss a couple gear issues with officials there, including the latest on the Afghanistan camo experimentation. I’ll roll out what I learned over the next couple days (so keep tuning in over the Christmas break) but I thought I’d post a video from CNN where my good friend Barbara Starr seems not to know what she’s got.

Doing a package on Taliban arms and fighter smuggling, she never realized the troops she was filming (or if she knew, she didn’t say anything) were from the 3rd of the 61st — the unit which was sent the UCP-D uniforms. The irony here was she was at the briefing at the Pentagon with us when the Army announced the experiment with UCP-D and MultiCam. She waltzed in there late, demanded a few on camera questions for her package — interrupting our good friend from Army Times Matt Cox, who delivered her a “I’m still getting my question clarified, thank you!” response.

Babs left in a huff, demanding from Army PAOs her own mini-briefing so the all-important CNN could get their big new break of the day.

After all those hystrionics, at least as far as I can tell, there’s no notice from CNN that what they caught was the first known footage of Soldiers wearing a never before worn camo pattern in Afghanistan.

And it looks pretty darned good, I must say.

I’ll have more about this issue in the coming days, including why you’ll probably notice that the Joes don’t have the UCP-D helmet covers on their lids (nor UCP-D chest rig).

(Gouge: PEO Soldier)

– Christian

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