Army Gives GIs Gear Many Had Been Buying Themselves
Army Now Equipping GIs With Gear Many Had Been Buying For Themselves (Stars and Stripes)
About 3,700 soldiers in Europe have walked out of a green warehouse building at a remote Army depot this month and come away with savings. Those savings arenÃ¢€™t necessarily green, but desert camouflage. To keep troops from spending what the Army found was an average of $300 per year on equipment, the service is now issuing troops everything from improved helmets to seasonal boots. The service plans to issue the gear to every soldier headed to Afghanistan, and to as many troops as possible serving in Iraq.
Ã¢€œWhen we initially went down we didnÃ¢€™t have any fielding like this,Ã¢€ said Sgt. Carl Johnson with the 29th Support Group, based in Kaiserslautern. Johnson was on his way to Afghanistan but had previously served in Iraq. He said he could have used both cold-weather and hot-weather boots there, despite the regionÃ¢€™s reputation as a hotbox. It rains and gets muddy in winter.
Ã¢€œSo that definitely helps,Ã¢€ Johnson said of the winter-issue boots. Ã¢€œTheyÃ¢€™re Gore-Tex.Ã¢€
The troops who lined up for gear and to get quick lessons on how to wear the new-style helmets were on the business end of the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the ArmyÃ¢€™s plan to give soldiers the gear they generally tended to buy themselves or that the Army has determined the troops need downrange. All troops would get better helmets and boots. Troops with brigade combat teams would get the extra kit, such as grappling hooks, door rams, battle axes and fiber-optic viewers.
Ã¢€œNone of this is rocket science, but IÃ¢€™ve had soldiers say to me, Ã¢€˜If my feet are cold, IÃ¢€™m not combat effective,Ã¢€™Ã¢€ said Chuck Fick, spokesman for the Army Materiel Command Field Support Brigade-Europe.
This is obviously good news. Bureaucracies are generally very slow to adapt and large bureaucracies, like the Army, are even slower.
I would note, though, that soldiers purchasing their own nice-to-have gear has been the norm for generations. When I was in, I purchased Gore-Tex boots, gloves, and raingear, polypropelene long underwear, and other commercial gear to enhance my own comfort and various gadgets such as Leatherman’s tools, Ironman watches, and wrist compasses to make my life a bit easier. Special Forces soldiers have been buying their own lighter/warmer-than-issue sleeping bags since time immemorial. Enterprising soldiers have long bought duplicate sets of their TA-50 so that they have a pretty set for inspections and guard duty and a regular set for field use.
That the Army is issuing this gear faster now is great. My guess, though, is that soldiers will continue to figure out a way to spend $300 a year on nice-to-have supplements to their issued gear. That’s not a sign of malfeasance on the part of their superiors, just an indication that soldiering is tough duty and that troops are perfectly willing to spend a few bucks to make it just a wee bit more comfortable.