Morrison Industries (another small veteran-owned business, by the way) recently posted this op-ed about the evolution of gear (or lack thereof). It's the very first post from their new website and is a hell of a debut...promises great things to come. I thought it brought up some damn interesting points, and although I would maybe argue just couple of things (possibly just semantics) I think it's worth spreading the word. That's why it's posted here. No one can argue the point that gear is frequently misused and/or over-carried. Nor (in my opinion) can it be argued that some kit isn't actually built to solve problems that don't exist (lots of it obviously is). That said, I personally think we have seem some great evolution in gear, we've just seen some horrible regression in implementation and use - again, that may be just a semantics issue, not a contradiction to what the author (presumably Nathanial Morrison) posits below.
Somebody should make the brass read this Morrison Industries blog post thoroughly...and the six points he brings up should be taught to every new troop by his NCOs.
I would certainly rather have to go to war today with the equipment available than what we had in the desert storm days...I just wish our military was practical, even ruthlessly pragmatic, in its use and requirement. More of a Rhodesian philosophy maybe. DR
Morrison Industries is also on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MorrisonIndustriesLTD)
Nov 25, 2012
Has Gear Evolved? Or Did It Just Change?
Back in my day… My goodness, I’m officially old enough to say that! How time flies! But seriously, back in my day we used the ALICE gear. ALICE web kit, ALICE pack, etc… It was good kit. We were training for those long-range missions and flirting hard with CQB. It all fit together and with a few mods it worked very well everywhere we went.
Modifications did happen. I used to have a sewing machine and I modified my gear and ended up doing a good bit for the other guys on the team. The first thing that came out was velcro. A bunch of use did a number of uniforms in velcro. But it was so damn loud that we abandoned it. We also found that it attracted dirt and leaves like a magnet and that clogged it so bad that it didn’t work at all. We also found that it sucked when wet, especially in salt water. Freefall speeds tended to rip things open as well. I will never forget a day at Camp MacKall when we took contact. We dropped and slithered backwards down the slope we were on. Every one of us with velcro on our LBE had lost the contents of our pouches and the velcro was so clogged with leaves and sand that we had to tape the pouches shut for the next 2 days. After that I had the velcro removed and sailing snaps installed. I have viewed velcro as largely worthless since that day. Granted, in some applications it is genius. But the trick is understanding where those applications are.
When Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off the old garrison Army rules were shredded and overnight we started running chest rigs. Chest rigs are fine of you are carrying a mountaineering pack. If you load the front of the torso with no counterweight you instantly induce massive amounts of strain to the entire back, especially the low back. So if you wear a proper pack this is OK. But most do not. So it is impossible to call this progress from a human performance perspective.
Then came Operation Iraqi Freedom and the demand by the brass to wear bodyarmor. This is where the real trouble began. Body armor reduced lung capacity by no less than 40%. Cumberbund style armor is exponentially worse. On top of that we are ordered to carry insane amounts of weight on it. So, with scapula pressed into the back plate and stomach pressed into the front plate, MASSIVE low back problems present themselves. This is perhaps the single most destructive thing the military has ever done to the soldier. From a human performance perspective this is nothing short of an epic disaster for our armed forces. One might go so far as to say it is criminally negligent. The ability to maneuver is obliterated with body armor and all the ridiculous gear stratted to it. Then add in temperature, environment, altitude, fitness levels, etc… and you have the perfect storm.
Then came the tactical wanna-be… The Airsoft and Paintball crowd almost overnight took over the market for all things tactical. Worthless kit flooded the market and Privates started buying it up as fast as they could while old NCOs like me looked on in a state of shock. These days the market is so choked with “stuff” it makes things difficult for even the informed to make the right choices.
Here at Morrison Industries we use a 6-part checklist to evaluate equipment.
1. What are your actual requirements? For example, a PJ or CCT has to be able to jump and dive all of his equipment. He also needs to be able to climb with it. That makes things very challenging. There is no greater moment of clarity for a guy as that when he discovers he cannot get his parachute on over his cool looking kit.
2. What do you NEED? As in the real world NEEDS. Not what you want or looks cool. What do you really need? Do you actually need that “Admin Pouch” or is the old method of carrying that stuff in your pocket the better way to go? Have you thought about what it will do to your ability to climb or lay in the prone? Does it affect weapons handling? You get the idea.
3. What products address this need in the most simple and KISS way possible? Bells and whistles do not make the gear better. Always use the minimalist approach. Most things are unnecessary, some are essential. I carry an MSR Reactor stove because it works everywhere, it’s fast and the benefits outweight the size for me in most environments. Especially the higher and colder it gets.
4. What do you ACTUALLY KNOW about the needs, the items and the details? This is huge. Did you know that Gore-Tex is the leading cause of blisters and athletes foot because it traps moisture in most situations? So is Gore-Tex the devil? No. In Seattle or New England in the Spring is is essential! If you don’t know, get educated and remember the advertisers are trying to get you to buy their stuff.
5. Have you tested it in EVERY way conceivable and solicited at least 5 other opinions? To that end, the negative opinions are the most important. Are they right and you’re wrong? You have to be open to that possibility. You should ask around first, especially to the most experienced guys you can find before wasting your money. Combat vets of multiple deployments are a great place to start.
6. Does it have to cost that much? If it is a Berry Ammendment Compliant item you can be assured the profit margins are barely there. If it’s made overseas, most large companies are making a killing on it. But beware because depending on what factory made it, the quality may be equal to US products or significantly less. If the price is too good to be true, you are about to be let down.
Those checkpoints should help you to narrow the field on what is good for you and appropriate for your needs. If all else fails, send us an e-mail and we’ll try to help you out as best we can. One of the best ways to get other opinions is to post on our Facebook page. There are a number of very knowledgable folks there who can help out.
In conclusion, it is my professional opinion that military gear has actually regressed rather than evolved. I see it as my job to bring the best of it to one central portal for you the customer. Anything that I sell either enhances human performance in combat or has a neutral effect. I look forward to your participation in the search and manufacturing of the best equipment and performance.
Note: Morrsion Industries is also running a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale (10%) using discount code Black_Friday_2012