Two Letters Re: A Combat Gear Primer

CPT Rawles:
I have had the privilege to wear all three of the Army uniforms mentioned in this article. Here are a few notes on durability:I wore BDU’s in Basic, AIT, and a rotation at NTC (National Training Center). Nothing beats this uniform. They took a beating and always looked sharp. If you happen to get a tear in your uniform, any dull color patch or thread will hardly be noticed in the overall pattern. This uniform utilizes buttons exclusively, which is durable, convenient, and easy to fix with a needle and thread. BDUs come in two different styles, Winter and Summer. Obviously, Summer BDU’s are much lighter and thinner than Winters. Winters are hardy and extremely hard to damage.

I spent 15 months in Iraq wearing ACUs. While the material itself is up to the challenge of every day use, the colors fade extremely fast. The colors themselves didn’t actually conceal us very well either. We just looked like white dots on a tan background. The jacket uses a zipper which gave only minimal problems; however, the velcro that was used on all the pockets was a disaster. After a month of use, the pockets would not reseal. Plus, if you ever needed something in your pocket, nothing gives away your position like a nice big “riiiip.” 

In Afghanistan, I used the new Multicam. The colors are terrific for concealment and do not fade very much at all. The trouser cargo pockets returned to button fasteners and some clothing engineer finally fixed the velcro problem for the breast pockets. They are still noisy, but you should have body armor on during a tactical situation so the breast pockets shouldn’t be an issue. The biggest problem with this style is the fabric durability. Every single set I own has a belt loop missing and numerous other tears. I was issued a new style of adhesive patch, but they never stayed and I ended up replacing them every couple weeks.
If you do not plan on using the uniform daily, I recommend the Multicam for it’s color and general ease of use. If you are looking for a day in and day out uniform, there is nothing better than a good old set of BDUs.
Hope this helps. – Mark P.

This article pointed out a lot of good options, but some statements were not quite correct. The older BDU woodland pattern was continued with some elements of the military up until this year. The Navy NECC/NCF is in the process of switching over to a new digital woodland pattern now, so expect an influx of surplus BDUs on the market relatively soon.

Most of the grunts and Seabees I work with will agree, the older all leather non steel toe combat boots set the bar for top notch service. I have the same set I’ve had for 12 years now, and they are still going strong after a couple hundred long distance marches, and even a tour in the desert when my desert jungle boots gave up the ghost. For a long-lasting boot try and find a set, and break them in, better than running shoes.

ALICE gear is still used by most of the NECC (Naval Expeditionary Combat Command) units as well. Its older, but the old school ALICE pack with the frame holds up to long term use better than the MOLLE I had when I was in the Corps. Combine a MOLLE LBV with an extra large ALICE ruck with frame and you’ll have a combination that will last for years of hard use.

Regarding helmets: Although the standard PASGT does impede your field of view in the prone, adding an improved suspension system helps greatly preventing the helmet from falling down over your eyes, not to mention it improves the comfort over extended wear periods. Thanks for posting Andrew A,’s great article! – M.K., USN