Given that Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I thought it would be cool for Kit Up! to examine what the ensuing conflict since the attacks has meant for the development of gear that a Soldier carries. Much of what we look at here can be translated to the Marine Corps and Air Force (at least the ground side) as well -- and that's not to mention the special operating forces. Think of how much their gear has changed over the last decade.
First we have the Soldier of September 10, 2001. He's wearing a heavy as hell Kevlar helmet, he just got the Interceptor body armor vest (maybe) but he probably doesn't have SAPI plates -- and if he does, he's got one for the front. He's draping Vietnam-era web gear over the vest and he just got an M4 -- if he's lucky. When he's shooting, he's looking through iron sights and Picatinny rail systems with grips, lasers and lights were well out of reach.
Fast forward 10 years and here's what Joe looks like today...
He's sporting a lightweight helmet with a low profile cut; he's got a streamlined plate carrier or he's wearing body armor that can be configured for the mission. All his web gear is gone and in its place is a wide assortment of pouches and pockets to fit any manner of ammo and gear attached directly to his armor. He's wearing a "combat shirt" that's fire resistant, instead of a ripstop jacket and he's ditched the woodland camo in favor of a pattern that was previously only available to special ops troops. His rifle has a laser, an IR beam and a white light attached to it and he's aiming through an optic that helps him hit his target with both eyes open. He's even wearing boots that used to be the the kind of kit used for high-end mountaineering rather than soldiering.
In short, while 9-11 was horrific and the conflicts that came after were costly, the rapid evolution of snuffy has been incredible. What once looked more like a Vietnam castoff has transformed into a Starship Troopers warrior from the future -- and that's just for regular infantrymen, not the Tier guys.
Sure the DoD could do better. Sure there's waste and abuse. But I'd much rather go to war with the Soldier's kit of today than that of a decade ago.