After years of wandering around training areas and foreign countries complaining aloud about what officer approved the cumbersome, impractical piece of equipment currently acting as the bane of your existence, the Corps has answered. Officers in charge of standards and approval requirements for new equipment, specifically body armor and personal gear will themselves be required to perform in said gear.
We’ve all been there, during deployment or training, wearing a sometimes absurd amount of equipment, to the point where operational capability is hindered; magazines that jam consistently; body armor that prevents you from fully raising your arms; assault bags whose straps get caught on the plethora of equipment you’re required to carry; non-integrated knee and elbow pads.
Granted, things such as requiring additional personal armor components are usually done with good intentions, but often fall short in real life application. Consider the differences in standard load-out between your standard infantryman and a Force Recon Marine, FAST, and MARSOC teams currently deployed; conventional units are mandated by either Corps-wide directives or unit initiative to wear additional armor such as deltoid protection, some units mandate the wear of standard issue knee and elbow pads, gloves, or neck collar attachments, any number of ridiculous supplementary components for helmet systems; a MARSOC team on the other hand will have a plate carrier and a helmet, and possibly Crye gear with integrated knee and elbow pads. Granted, the MARSOC guys are “special” but that doesn’t mean that their choices in protection should be, any regular infantryman requires a similar amount of mobility while conducting operations.
Last month at Marine Corps Base Quantico, the officers responsible for setting standard requirements for personal protective equipment ran an obstacle course in currently fielded gear with the goal of understanding the load Marines currently carry into combat. Improved mobility standards are to be written for gear fielded in the future based off the experience of these officers.
The obstacle course was first designed in 2012 as part of the Marine Corps Load Assessment Program. The program itself was initially developed to attempt to lighten the combat load of Marines, who regularly carry more than 100 lbs of equipment on their person.
I’m not at all saying that we need to do away with body armor all together, but the fact that leaders who, let’s face it, haven’t worn armor in years will now have to test it first-hand will undoubtedly lead to improvements to gear fielded in the future.
It’s a good sign that senior leadership is starting to think beyond the parameters of their offices and are attempting to understand some of the challenges faced by today’s warfighter.