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PEO Soldier

MultiCam Gets Some Bang Bang

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Last night’s ABC national news had some really well done segments on current operations in Afghanistan. I guess the network wanted to introduce Diane Sawyer as their new nightly news anchor with a high profile embed…and they sure got what they asked for.

Sawyer had some revealing interviews with Gen. McChrystal, who answered her forthright questions with honesty and just enough emotion that you could tell he wasn’t a spec ops cyborg, but not so much that he came across as fake or a wimp. I strongly recommend watching the interviews.

McChrystal had argued to Obama last year that without a quick infusion of U.S. troops the chances of a victory in Afghanistan would be lost. Obama authorized 30,000 troops and the flow of fresh forces is just underway, but McChrystal said it has already blunted Taliban momentum and is turning the tide against the insurgents.

The general said he believes he is making good on his promise of a “quantum shift” on the battlefield.

“I believe we’re doing that now. I believe that we have changed the way we operate in Afghanistan. We changed some of our structures and I believe that we are on the way to convincing the Afghan people that we are here to protect them,” he told Sawyer.

“We’ve been at this for about seven months now and I believe we’ve made progress. It’s not a completed mission yet,” he said.

McChrystal cited as evidence a meeting he recently held in a river valley in Helmand province, an area where the Taliban has been strong and was one of the first targets of the American offensive.

“When I sit in an area that the Taliban controlled only seven months ago and now you meet with a shura of elders and they describe with considerable optimism the future, you sense the tide is turning,” he said.

But the best part was their embed boy Bill Weir who linked up with a company from Army 2/12 in the Pech valley and got into some bang bang when they were patrolling. If you remember, 2–12 is the battalion that received the MultiCam uniforms and this is the first time we’ve seen video of the Joes wearing the new duds against their environmental backgrounds and in combat.

Watch the video HERE.

You’ll notice some of the guys are wearing ACU and some are wearing MC…some have MC helmet covers, some don’t. I couldn’t see anyone wearing MC plate carriers, so those must not have gotten to them yet (you can tell they’re at a pretty remote outpost in this video HERE with Sawyer chatting with embed boy about his week with the troops). But you can see a real difference in the green and brown backgrounds with MultiCam as opposed to the ACU.

Interesting…

– Christian

Camo Delays and Assessment Team Gouge

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

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.

(more…)

Who’s Gonna Get the Army’s New Combat Pant?

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

 

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

Afghanistan Experimental Camo — Photos from the Field

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

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

UPDATED (The Whole Story): Army to Field New Pack for Afghan Ops

Monday, December 21st, 2009

new-afghan-packBLOG

The Army is set to field a new combat backpack that meets the emerging needs of Soldiers fighting in the steep terrain and remote outposts of Afghanistan.

The so-called “medium ruck” uses technology from today’s mountaineering equipment and tactical packs and combines it with the specific needs of Soldiers doing rotations of up to three days at observation posts, long patrols or helicopter assaults where a trip back to the forward operating base may not happen for up to 72 hours.

The new 3,000 cubic inch-capacity backpack will offer Joes a better option for missions that don’t require the 5,000 cubic inch-capacity modular lightweight load bearing equipment, or MOLLE, ruck or the 2,000 cubic inch “assault pack.”

“We talked to the Infantry Center and they were starting to get some rumblings about needing something in between for Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Mike Sloane, the product manager for Soldier clothing and individual equipment with PEO Soldier. “Before, a lot of those missions were being conducted by special operations forces and certain light units that had specialized equipment. But now you’re having some of the ‘Big Army’ moving in and they need something to accommodate this capability gap.”

Officials at PEO Soldier told Military​.com in a wide-ranging interview at their Fort Belvoir, Va., headquarters that the service’s equipment engineers began looking into developing a mid-range pack in February after talking to Joes from the 173rd Airborne Brigade who said they had a “void to fill” when it came to carrying their loads into combat.

News of the new pack comes on the heels of comments from senior Pentagon leadership, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, that some of the Army’s current equipment may not be suitable for Afghanistan and could be contributing to Soldier fatigue and injuries.

“In Iraq, people weren’t carrying a lot of rucksacks, they were carried on the vehicle,” said John Kirk, the lead engineer for MOLLE systems at Natick Soldier Systems Center, Mass. “But now [in Afghanistan] they’re carrying a lot of loads on their back and the MOLLE large is a little bit too big.”

Natick later surveyed a “focus group” of 17 Soldiers from the 173rd and asked them to show engineers the packs they used most in combat. Natick officials were stunned to see that out of 17 packs displayed only two used the MOLLE, and the remaining 15 were made by 11 different manufacturers.

“It wasn’t even like we could say ‘this particular brand A meets their needs,’ ” Kirk said.

So Natick engineers set to work on putting together the perfect midsized ruck – call it the Af-Pack – that combined some of the most appealing features of the commercial packs Soldiers actually used and matched them with emerging requirements coming from the infantry gurus at Fort Benning, Ga.

Three prototypes have been developed so far, but engineers have yet to settle on a particular frame to help stabilize the pack’s load. The medium ruck will have two separate horizontally-aligned pockets on the front, each with separate pockets and dividers inside. The sides of the pack sport MOLLE webbing to accommodate add-on pouches and accessories and the bulk of the pack is comprised of one main, top-loading compartment.

Engineers are still evaluating whether the pack should have a hybrid suspension system that uses a rigid backing – one that is just foam and another that actually has a cavity built into it to fit better on a combat-loaded Soldier.

“We’re trying to look at being compatible with that rear plate of the body armor,” Kirk said. “The rear plate needs to be cradled in this suspension system.”

Engineers want to deploy the three prototypes to the 173rd in Afghanistan for testing and select a final design by the fall of 2010, Sloane said. He’s working with the Infantry Center to finalize a requirement for the pack and if all comes together, Joes could see their new pack before next winter.

“With the recent concern about this gap, we said ‘hey, we’ve got this solution’ and so we’re looking to accelerate the evaluation of these rucksacks,” Sloane said.

And if everything comes together like officials hope, “we may be able to pull a couple months out of there,” Sloane added.

– Christian

New Army Camo First Shots and New Brit Pattern

Monday, December 21st, 2009

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

BREAK-BREAK: Units to Get New Camo Revealed

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

new-afghanistan-camo-units

I’m set to post a new story on Military​.com with exclusive details on which units have received the two different camo patterned uniforms the Army is experimenting with in Afghanistan.

Defense Tech is the first site to reveal this information, which comes from a quick interview this morning with PEO Soldier’s Col. Bill Cole.

According to Cole, the 3rd Squadron of the 61st Cavalry Regiment has already been issued the UCP-Delta duds, including a new chest rig developed for Natick and patterned in the UCP-D. And if you’re one of the lucky Joes in the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, you’ll be getting a whole ensemble of the U.S. military’s  most popular camo pattern: MultiCam.

Cole said the service used rapid equipping force funds to purchase plate carriers in MultiCam and each Soldier will be issued molle gear patterned in Crye’s colors.

Both battalions operate in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province.

You can read more details this afternoon on Military​.com, but I thought I’d go ahead and spill the beans here for our faithful followers.

(Picture is of  a Soldier from the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment…notice the MultiCam Camelbak)

– Christian

Stitching a Stretchy Crotch

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

ACU-improvements

Our good friends at Soldier Systems have an interesting post on PEO Soldier’s latest improvement program for the fire-resistent ACU pant. It looks as if PEO is going all Gucci on Joes here with high speed knee pads, space-age fabrics and more dip pockets than you can pack a can with.

Originally called the Army Combat Pant and for a short period referred to as the Fire Resistant Ruggedized Pant, the program has transformed into the FR ACU Trouser Product Improvement Program. Ultimately, what this means is that PEO-Soldier is working hard to transform the FR ACU into an even more combat focused garment rather than developing yet another garment.

We reported here and at Military​.com a couple years ago on gripes from the field about the durability of the new ACUs, particularly with the crotch construction and the knees. During a sit down with reporters a few weeks ago, PEO officials talked up their most recent enhancements, including buttons on the trouser pockets instead of Velcro, a better collar, smaller Velcro on the zipper flap of the blouse, better IR tape placement and new cuffs.

But it looks like their also developing a way more tricked out version as well:

Massif Mountain Gear and Crye Precision collaborated on the next step, which resulted in the Massif Army Combat Pant Version 4.0A, which employed various weights of Defender M fabric and Defender M stretch fabric to make the seat and crotch more durable. At the same time, Crye Precision’s adjustable-height, integrated hard-shell knee pad design greatly improved the durability of the knee, providing greater protection to the Soldier. This feature in particular has been the most important solution in the project. External knee pads require constant adjustment and lightweight pads slipped into the knee pad slot of the trouser result in extra abrasion and worn knees.

Crye is wracking up the coups here, with the camo evaluation in Afghanistan (MultiCam) and now this. And I must say I’m a big fan of Massif, which makes the Army’s combat shirt. They hooked me with some FR gear for my last Iraq embed to evaluate and they were great to work with (though I didn’t much like their FR fleece).

Be sure to keep an eye on Soldier Systems for updates to this story. We’ll also have more here at DT on the great camo battle going on in Afghanistan.

– Christian