Aug 23, 2010
Posted : Sunday Aug 22, 2010
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — A new Army Combat Uniform — boasting nearly a dozen improvements — was unveiled here Aug. 10, and received the quick approval of roughly 3,600 Iowa National Guard soldiers headed to the ’Stan.
The attention-getting ACUs were one of a dozen changes made to improve the safety, comfort and functionality of the Army combat uniform and combat load. Each soldier received 22 new or improved items, all of which were fielded in the Army’s new MultiCam pattern — what the Army calls OCP, which stands for Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern.
The upgrades, driven largely by soldier input, went from idea to issue in only nine months — a turnaround the Army’s top NCO characterized as “pretty phenomenal.”
“The OCP allows soldiers to get far closer to the enemy before being observed, and I believe [the uniform is] safer,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said. “And we’ve never issued equipment faster than we are now.”
The new gear will be issued to the two brigade combat teams deploying to Afghanistan each month. In addition, a phased approach for troops with at least 120 days left in theater will begin in December and is expected to last no more than eight months.
While the MultiCam pattern is exclusive to Afghanistan, all improvements will also be implemented in the Universal Camouflage Pattern ACUs, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Office Soldier.
When soldiers will see the new ACUs depends on a few factors. Topping the list is the need to first issue the existing stock to ensure the Army doesn’t get stuck with that bill. But Fuller said the transition should begin “within a matter of months.”
Soldiers can expect a uniform that breathes and wears better, yet provides better flame resistance, Fuller said. The collars are better, the crotches are stronger and there is less Velcro.
The new and improved ACUs include the following upgrades:
• The MultiCam pattern. This is the result of in-depth analysis that started with 57 camouflage patterns. It provided the best concealment in a variety of tests in Afghanistan, and is especially proficient in the rugged terrain near the Pakistani border, service officials said.
• A better collar. Less Velcro and a new design keep it from crumpling up for a more comfortable wear.
• Infrared patches. These are sewn onto a hideaway tab instead of outside the pockets for greater durability. This is to ensure the patches don’t get destroyed through regular wear and tear.
• Buttons on cargo pockets: It’s back to buttons, as Velcro proved too problematic for soldiers trying to carry myriad gear.
• Extended pockets. The Army has added a special “extender button” to the trouser cargo pockets for easier access and expanded carrying capability.
• Stronger crotches. The crotch has been reinforced to reduce the rips that had become all too common.
• Fire resistant. The uniform provides four seconds of flame resistance — time to evade or egress without suffering third-degree burns. The protection also will keep second-degree burns to less than 30 percent. Such protection almost ensures a 100 percent recovery, according to studies by the burn center in San Antonio.
• Insect resistant. The days of treating your own uniforms are over as the preshrunk uniforms will have permethrine treatments before they are issued. The treatments will last for 50 washings, which should more than cover the 120 days this uniform is designed to last.
Four other “Tier 2” MultiCam items are expected to make their way to the troops by February, officials said. They are the aircrew combat uniform, aircrew coveralls, aviation life support gear and fire-resistant environmental ensemble.
Aug 21, 2010
Posted : Friday Aug 20, 2010
7 Advise and Assist Brigades, made up of troops from BCTs, still in Iraq.
As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq.
Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.
So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades.
Compared with the 49,000 soldiers in Iraq, there are close to 67,000 in Afghanistan and another 9,700 in Kuwait, according to the latest Army chart on global commitments dated Aug. 17. Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff.
Aug 19, 2010
Posted : Wednesday Aug 18, 2010
The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was officially designated the last combat brigade to leave Iraq under President Obama’s plan to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31. Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana joined the troops on their final journey out of the country.
KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait — As their convoy reached the barbed wire at the border crossing out of Iraq on Wednesday, the soldiers whooped and cheered. Then they scrambled out of their stifling hot armored vehicles, unfurled an American flag and posed for group photos.
For these troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.
When 18-year-old Spc. Luke Dill first rolled into Iraq as part of the U.S. invasion, his Humvee was so vulnerable to bombs that the troops lined its floor with flak jackets.
Now 25 and a staff sergeant after two tours of duty, he rode out of Iraq this week in a Stryker, an eight-wheeled behemoth encrusted with armor and add-ons to ward off grenades and other projectiles.
“It’s something I’m going to be proud of for the rest of my life — the fact that I came in on the initial push and now I’m leaving with the last of the combat units,” he said.
He remembered three straight days of mortar attacks outside the city of Najaf in 2003, so noisy that after the firing ended, the silence kept him awake at nights. He recalled the night skies over the northern city of Mosul being lit up by tracer bullets from almost every direction.
Now, waiting for him back in Olympia, Wash., is the “Big Boy” Harley-Davidson he purchased from one of the motorcycle company’s dealerships at U.S. bases in Iraq — a vivid illustration of how embedded the American presence has become since the invasion of March 20, 2003.
That presence is far from over. Scatterings of combat troops still await departure, and some 50,000 will stay another year in what is designated as a noncombat role. They will carry weapons to defend themselves and accompany Iraqi troops on missions, but only if asked. Special forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists.
The U.S. death toll — at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday — is yet final.
The Stryker brigade, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and named for the vehicle that delivers troops into and out of battle, has lost 34 soldiers in Iraq. It was at the forefront of many of the fiercest battles, including operations in eastern Baghdad and Diyala province, an epicenter of the insurgency, during the surge of 2007. It evacuated troops at the battle of Tarmiyah, an outpost where 28 out of 34 soldiers were wounded holding off insurgents.
Before the Aug. 31 deadline, about half the brigade’s 4,000 soldiers flew out like most of the others leaving Iraq, but its leadership volunteered to have the remainder depart overland. That decision allowed the unit to keep 360 Strykers in the country for an extra three weeks.
U.S. commanders say it was the brigade’s idea, not an order from on high. The intent was to keep additional firepower handy through the “period of angst” that followed Iraq’s inconclusive March 7 election, said brigade chief, Col. John Norris.
It took months of preparation to move the troops and armor across more than 300 miles of desert highway through potentially hostile territory.
The Strykers left the Baghdad area in separate convoys over a four-day period, traveling at night because the U.S.-Iraq security pact — and security worries — limit troop movements by day.
Along the way, phalanxes of American military Humvees sat at overpasses, soldiers patrolled the highways for roadside bombs, and Apache attack helicopters circled overhead as the Strykers refueled alongside the highway.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gus McKinney, a brigade intelligence officer, acknowledged that moving the convoys overland put soldiers at risk, but said the danger was less than in past.
The biggest threat was roadside bombs planted by Shiite extremist groups who have a strong foothold in the south, McKinney said.
But except for camels straying into the road, and breakdowns that required some vehicles to be towed, there were no incidents.
The worst of the ride was conditions inside the Strykers — sitting for hours in a cramped space — and the temperatures outside that reached 120 degrees.
The driver’s compartment is called the “hellhole” because it sits over the engine and becomes almost unbearably hot. The vehicle commander and gunner can sit up in hatches to see the outside world. At the tail end are hatches for two gunners. Eight passengers — an infantry squad in combat conditions — can squeeze in the back.
Riding as a passenger felt a bit like being in a World War II-era submarine — a tight fit and no windows. The air conditioning was switched off to save fuel on the long ride south to Kuwait. Men dozed or listened to music on earphones.
When the convoy finally reached the sandy border, two soldiers, armed and helmeted, jumped off their vehicle and raced each other into Kuwait.
Once out of Iraq, there was still work to be done. Vehicles had to be stripped of ammunition and spare tires, and eventually washed and packed for shipment home.
Meanwhile, to the north, insurgents kept up a relentless campaign against the country’s institutions and security forces, killing five Iraqi government employees in roadside bombings and other attacks Wednesday. Coming a day after a suicide bomber killed 61 army recruits in central Baghdad, the latest violence highlighted the shaky reality left by the departing U.S. combat force and five months of stalemate over forming Iraq’s next government.
For Dill, who reached Kuwait with an earlier convoy, the withdrawal engendered feelings of relief. His mission — to get his squad safely out of Iraq — was accomplished.
Standing alongside a hulking Stryker, his shirt stained with sweat, he acknowledged the men who weren’t there to experience the day with him.
“I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot, to finally see us getting out of here,” he said.
Aug 15, 2010
Aug 10, 2010
Posted : Monday Aug 9, 2010
New one-piece system consolidates gear
By early 2011, Marines deploying to Afghanistan will likely be outfitted with new chest rigs that will allow them to quickly and easily transfer equipment from one body armor system to another.
The Marine Corps plans to buy up to nearly 410,000 chest rigs that hold equipment in a single one-piece system rather than in individual pouches.
The concept was developed by Marine officials this year after operating forces in Afghanistan submitted an urgent statement of need, Marine officials said. The rigs will consolidate rifle magazines, radios, grenades, pyrotechnics and other items so they can be detached from body armor and easily moved to another vest in seconds.
Units deploying to Afghanistan expected to have first priority on a first wave of 108,000 units. The Plans, Policies and Operations division at Marine Corps headquarters will decide which units can field the equipment first, said Bill Johnson-Miles, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, out of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Aug 8, 2010
Posted : Saturday Aug 7, 2010
Marines will now get more in-depth training on treating battlefield casualties with an update to the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.
The revamp of the course’s curriculum will provide Marines with more information on keeping a casualty breathing, stemming blood loss and treating eye injuries.
The changes are summarized in the July 21 Marine administrative message 406/10, and are aimed at standardizing training, while going into a deeper level of detail in certain areas of casualty care.
As before, different levels of proficiency are expected and depend on the role Marines serve in their units. Most Marines will achieve a basic level, while others who are designated combat lifesavers will reach a higher proficiency level. Navy corpsmen will be expected to have the highest proficiency in the TCCC skills set and will continue to train Marines.
In addition to the switch to Combat Gauze as a clotting agent and the replacement of the TK-4 tourniquet with the CAT II tourniquet, the message also formally changes the term for casualty evacuation, or CASEVAC, to tactical evacuation, or TACEVAC.
Those and other changes outlined in the TCCC guidelines are derived from best practices and lessons learned downrange, which are reviewed and incorporated into training as close to real time as possible.
The course is broken down into three sections — care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation care — and changes are reflected in each section.
Aug 3, 2010
Posted : Monday Aug 2, 2010
The Army has issued a notice to the field reminding commands that when soldiers and units are sent to combat areas on training exercises, or in support of non-combat operations, they are not authorized to wear a combat patch, unless those training exercises and operations become combat or combat support missions.
Soldiers and units that are not in compliance with Army policy, as outlined in AR 670-1 and Alaract 055-2007, are ordered to "remove their (combat patches) immediately," according to a June 29 All-Army Activities message from the Office of the Army G1.
Posted : Monday Aug 2, 2010
The newest model unmanned aerial vehicle made by Boeing Co. has a wingspan as long as a C-130, can carry both intelligence sensors and weapons, and is powered by a hydrogen engine that keeps it flying for up to 10 days.
The propeller-driven Phantom Eye is headed to the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for ground tests in September before a test flight in early 2011, said Drew Mallow, the Boeing official overseeing development of the aircraft. The aircraft should be ready to fly by 2013.
Like the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, Phantom Eye can collect intelligence from 65,000 feet, but its loiter time over a target could be four to 10 times longer. It is slower, though, and will hold a smaller payload.