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Marine Corps Systems Command Awarded the Navy Unit Commendation
Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England visited Marine Corps Base,
Quantico, Va., on July 29 to present Marine Corps Systems Command with the
Navy Unit Commendation. The award was given for meritorious achievement in
the performance of planning, acquisition and fielding of essential
warfighting equipment and assets for Marine Corps operating forces in
support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from Sept. 1, 2003, to April 1, 2004.
"I am keenly aware of what Marine Corps Systems Command does," said
Secretary England. "We could not do the job that we do if everyone of you
did not do your job well. For the Marines in Iraq, I thank you." He also
commented that he had met several Marines at aid stations in Iraq whose
lives were saved by equipment provided by MARCORSYSCOM.
For the award presentation, MARCORSYSCOM displayed much of the equipment
that the command provides to Marines as well as equipment under development
for deployment in the near future. Equipment displayed included
armor-hardened vehicles, nonlethal weapons, antitank weapons, the unit
operations center and other equipment.
--Bruce N. Scott
Editor's note: Mr. Scott is a writer and editor in the Communications
Directorate at MARCORSYSCOM.
Story by W. G. Ford
The urgent needs of Marines heavily committed to combat operations in Iraq
or Afghanistan thousands of miles from supply sources are driving fellow
leathernecks at Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) to not only
research, improve, acquire and deliver specifically requested field items,
but to do it quickly and in large numbers. The Commandant of the Marine
Corps gave them their mission of serving as the "principal agent for
equipping the operating forces to accomplish their warfighting mission,"
and they take it very seriously.
Improved packs, tougher body armor, lighter helmets and new and improved
eye protection are some of the items Marines who have been under fire in
the war on terror say they need. Marines, Department of Defense civilians
and the defense contractors at MARCORSYSCOM who work in direct support have
made those requests the highest priority and are leaving no stone unturned
in order to deliver the goods.
Commanded by Brigadier General William D. Catto, MARCORSYSCOM is
headquartered at Hospital Point aboard the Marine Corps base at Quantico,
Va. Previous to assuming command of MARCORSYSCOM in July 2002, BGen Catto
served concurrently as Commanding General, Marine Corps Warfighting
Laboratory and Vice Chief of Naval Research, Office of Naval Research.
While command of the warfighting lab provided insights into innovation,
testing and evaluation, BGen Catto's roots remain in the operating forces
where, after qualification as a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot, he spent the next
13 years, including a stint as regimental air officer for the Seventh
The scope of MARCORSYSCOM's mission is, indeed, very broad. The equipment
in this article that is being developed or fielded is the fruit of the
command?s Infantry Combat Equipment (ICE) program management office of the
Combat Equipment and Support Systems product group. They are specifically
tasked to "research, develop, and procure clothing, and individual and
organizational equipment to improve survivability, mobility,
sustainability, and quality of life for the individual Marine."
Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE)
Marines are pretty particular about their packs, and the Modular
Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment, or MOLLE, system just was not standing
up under combat demands. True to its mission, MARCORSYSCOM developers went
to battle stations to obtain a pack or load bearing system that met the
needs of the individual Marine. As a result, the new improved load bearing
equipment (ILBE) is being fielded.
The ILBE consists of a 4,500-cubic-inch main ruck or pack, a
1,500-cubic-inch assault pack and a 100-ounce CamelBak hydration system.
Taking advantage of what?s good in the commercial marketplace is becoming
more and more the norm, and Marines are seeing and feeling the positive
results. In this case, the main pack is a modified commercial,
off-the-shelf Arc-teryx Bora 95 pack.
The highest priorities for fielding of the ILBE are the Corps? Training
Command sites, specifically the Schools of Infantry and Infantry Officer
Course, while concurrently fielding to the I Marine Expeditionary Force,
which is the higher headquarters for Marine forces in Operation Iraqi
Freedom II. Introducing the new packs at Training Command schools first is
a lesson learned from the fielding of MOLLE. It ensures all new Marines are
introduced to the gear they will eventually see and rapidly deploy with in
the operating forces.
By mid-July, the Corps had fielded 8,850 or 22 percent of the required ILBE
to I MEF. II MEF, which will assume command of Marine forces in Operation
Iraqi Freedom III in the spring of 2005, also has been receiving the ILBE.
MARCORSYSCOM is planning to have at least II MEF's ground combat element
outfitted by the end of this year. The Corps' estimated cost for fully
fielding ILBE is $60.3 million.
Outer Tactical Vest With SAPI
The old flak jacket is truly a thing of the dinosaur age when it comes to
the new armor protection system being fielded. Centered around an outer
tactical vest (OTV), the body armor system includes a ceramic plate insert
or small-arms protective insert (SAPI, pronounced sap?pee) and an
enhancement system for the vest that includes attachments to protect the
underarms, shoulders and upper arms. There is also a lower extremity system
that protects from the waist to the knees.
Major Wendell B. Leimbach Jr., the equipment team leader for the program
manager of ICE, said that MARCORSYSCOM is pulling out all the stops to get
the best available armor protection to the leathernecks in contact. The new
OTV has been fully fielded to the Marines assigned to I MEF, and in
mid-July it was well over 80 percent fielded to II MEF Marines and almost
80 percent fielded to III MEF leathernecks. All deploying Marines have been
fully equipped with this state-of-the-art armor system regardless of which
MEF they come from. No one is deploying without it.
Photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald
The OTV defeats fragmentation and up to 9 mm rounds. However, with the
SAPI, Maj Leimbach noted it provides 7.62 mm (AK47) and 5.56 mm protection.
The SAPI is already credited with saving lives in Iraq, and Simula Safety
Systems, Armorworks, Ceredyne and Point Blank Body Armor have all
contributed to the Marine Corps' SAPI needs. The money required to fully
field the OTV is $8.6 million, and meeting the SAPI needs adds another $41
Responding to an urgent-needs request from I MEF, MARCORSYSCOM went to work
to field an Armor Protection Enhancement System to extend OTV protection
over additional areas of the body. The enhancement system augments
protection through attachments that cover the underarm, shoulder and lower
extremities. These enhancements do add significant weight to the body armor
system. The lower extremity system will be procured in small quantities
initially and evaluated for further fielding.
The additional personal protection attachments are designed to provide
commanders and Marines the ability to have modular armor components that
they can use depending on the threat they face and the situation. These
important but somewhat heavy enhancements make them ideal for
vehicle-mounted Marines on various missions. The Iraqi insurgents have
developed a fondness for employing improvised explosive devices or IEDs, so
these enhancements will help protect both the upper and the lower
extremities. Point Blank Body Armor produced the systems, and both I and II
MEFs have 100 percent of their requirement. A total of 31,344 arm
protectors have been fielded, and several dozen experimental leg protectors
are being evaluated.
Green Side, Brown Side
on the New Helmet
Also at the unit-issue point is a new lightweight helmet, directly
replacing the standard-issue personal armor system for ground troops
(PASGT) helmet, which was type-classified in the late 1970s and fielded in
the early 1980s.
The old PASGT helmet weighed around 3.6 pounds, and the new helmet comes in
at 3.05 lbs., a half-pound lighter. The comfort, fit, weight and internal
suspension system will reduce stress, fatigue and the occasional headache.
As of mid-July, 28 percent of the I MEF requirement had been fielded, and
Gentex Corporation is producing around 15,000 helmets per quarter to meet
the Corps' needs as quickly as possible. The Corps estimates that $25.5
million is required to field the lightweight helmet.
The helmet cover for the new lightweight helmet will remind Marines of the
old days when the ever-changing "word" or guidance gave birth to the
leatherneck phrase "green side out, brown side out." At one time, the Corps
issued camouflaged shelter halves, ponchos and helmet covers of reversible
material. The "gunny" would direct which pattern to be shown in the field
or in formation. Marines would fall out for formation or pitch their
shelter halves only to have the word changed.
One side of the cover for the improved helmet is the new MARPAT (Marine
pattern) woodland camouflage, and the other side is the desert camouflage.
The cover is of the same computer-generated digital, pixilated pattern
material as today?s combat utility uniform pattern. MARPAT has a design
patent and is a trademark of the Marine Corps. In essence, one cover
replaces what used to take two items.
Some might think that glasses or goggles are a small thing and not worthy
of a great deal of attention -- at least someone who has not experienced the
bright desert sun or the brilliant reflection bouncing off white snow, or
felt the abrasive prop wash of sand and small rocks while trying to bring a
CH-53E Super Stallion into the landing zone.
For Marines, ballistic eye protection is a big deal, and the program
manager for ICE has ensured that eye protection is not given short shrift.
To obtain the desired variety of eye protection from sunglasses to dust
goggles, MARCORSYSCOM has once again gone the commercial, off-the-shelf
Wiley-X and Eye Safety Systems Inc. are two of the major sources of
ballistic eye protection for the Corps. To rapidly get the goggles and
glasses out to I MEF, the Corps met 100 percent of the need by shipping
them directly to the MEF in Iraq.
Of continuing concern for MARCORSYSCOM is ensuring that Marines requiring
prescription eyewear are taken care of with goggles and glasses. No single
solution has yet been determined, but using gas mask prescription lens
inserts and purchasing larger goggle types have been examined as possible
solutions to this challenge.
Barrel Bags and Tarps
Leave it to the old gunny to take care of some of those important but less
than "Cadillac" items. In the case of two small but important pieces of
gear, it was a retired gunny, Gunnery Sergeant Marvin Walker, who always
says he was too poor to have a middle name, who took up the challenge.
In 1999, M249 squad automatic weapons gunners reported problems with the
spare barrel bag. When the barrel overheated and the gunners went for their
spare, the bag?s metal zipper was jamming or breaking. Also, the bag was
not water-resistant, the material melted when a smoking hot barrel was
crammed inside, and the color of the interior of the bag needed to be
Photo by Cpl. Nicholas Tremblay
Going to work with U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass., and
NISH of Jamestown, N.Y. (formerly the National Industries for the Severely
Handicapped), the MARCORSYSCOM team, with GySgt Walker in the lead, fielded
a new barrel bag of heat- and water-resistant material that can carry a hot
or cold barrel and keep it dry. Fastec quick release buckles afford the
gunner quick access. The bag has been fully fielded.
GySgt Walker is also working on a program that will gain leathernecks a new
field tarpaulin or tarp. Marines currently use their poncho as a ground
cover or hasty shelter. The new field tarp will replace the current poncho
on a one-for-one basis and can be used for a wide variety of valuable
functions, including protection from rain or the sun, as a field litter,
and for covering gear. Manufacturing will probably be done by NISH,
Brownsville, Texas, where the current poncho is produced. In field tests,
91 percent of the leathernecks involved preferred the field tarp to the
The infantry combat equipment team at MARCORSYSCOM is always surveying the
field by getting out and speaking with Marines and their commanders. Focus
groups are held and opinions and facts heard. In early August, a focus
group examined the combat utility design for female Marines. The focus
group looked at widening the circumference at the bottom of the blouse,
shortening the shoulder length, reducing the waistline and other complaints
from the field. Focus groups and feedback in other areas will continue.
For the MARCORSYSCOM acquisition team, there is never a shout of "end of
mission." After meeting one need from the field, the team moves on to
continue its mission to "research, develop, and procure clothing,
individual and organizational equipment to improve survivability, mobility,
sustainability, and quality of life for the individual Marine."
Editor's note: Leatherneck appreciates the support of Sanford "Mack"
McLaurin, director of communications, MARCORSYSCOM, Cpl Anthony F. Mattioni
of SYSCOM's Financial Management Dept., and the members of the ICE team,
particularly LtCol Gabe Patricio, Maj Wendell Leimbach, retired GySgt
Marvin Walker and Ms. Shakinta M. Johnston, a member of the Battelle