Procurement: June 28, 2003

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The Iraq campaign has kept troops living under field conditions (no showers, laundry or much else for extended periods) far longer than is the case during peacetime training. This has made it obvious to the troops that some changes are needed in what they wear. Some soldiers have already bought the new stuff on their own. CoolMax underwear is popular, especially with all that heat. The same troops who have discovered CoolMax, also mentioned Thermasilk undies for cold weather, and boots with GoreTex liners to keep the water out, and let sweaty feet stay dry. Another common complaint with the government issue boots is poor ankle support. Thinsulate (or other high tech fabric) socks go great with the GoreTex boots. The troops know about the superior outdoor clothing because many used it before they joined the army. Thinsulate and similar fabrics have been around since the 1980s and are very popular with people who spend a lot of time outdoors (for business or pleasure.) The army resists this stuff because of the cost, or because some of these materials don't last as long as more traditional stuff, are more flammable or shrink when put in a dryer. But the troops are willing to work around these shortcomings. For combat troops, these materials can be a matter of life and death. For Winter wear, they want stuff that's not too bulky (thus the popularity of Thinsulate).For Summer wear, they want clothing that will better handle the heat.  While the army has some GoreTex items, there are often design flaws that could have been easily fixed. The GoreTex parka, for example, has a hood that comes loose too easily. Some troops recommend Velcro straps. And most troops would like to see the Field Jacket finally go (generations of troops have loathed this abomination) and replaced  with some layered clothing and a GoreTex shell. Troops have long sought out clothing and equipment that serves them better than the stuff they are issued. But since the Internet appeared, the word is getting around among the troops more quickly when someone discovers, and field tests, a new product. This is putting more pressure on the services (especially the army and marines, who "camp out" more than everyone else) to adopt the superior civilian products. The army, to its credit, is responding quickly (for a military organization, anyway.) The Marine Corps responds a bit more slowly, because they have less money than the Army.

 


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