Lt. Col. Rob Bailey, product manager for infantry combat equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said the wear tests will be conducted during scheduled training. Marines at the Jungle Warfare Training Center rappel from steep cliffs, carry mock casualties through fields of mud, trek through brown waters, cross rope bridges and complete endurance courses — all while the jungle canopy sends humidity levels soaring.
Tropical utility uniforms
ReadyOne, a military garment manufacturer based in El Paso, Texas, provided the uniforms for the wear test. The company used various combinations of nine materials for different utility uniforms. Marines will test them all to determine which is lightest, quickest to dry, and able to withstand the rigors of jungle operations.
Cpl. Kevin Kusler crawls over a stone wall during the jungle endurance course at Camp Gonsalves, Japan. Marines training at the Corps' jungle warfare center will test new tropical lightweight uniforms and boots this summer.
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Diamond Peden/Marine Corps
ReadyOne, a military garment manufacturer based in El Paso, Texas, provided the uniforms. The company used various combinations of nine materials to identify the best solution — one that will be lighter to carry, quicker to dry, and able to withstand the rigors of jungle operations.
The materials were also used to create variations of Army combat shirts to be worn as part of the evaluation, O'Connor said.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has pushed for a better boot in December, and the Corps soon joined forces with Army contractors, who have been working the issue for nearly two years.
Both the Marine Corps and Army wanted lighter boots that dry faster than the current combat boot. The call for prototypes stated that the boots' length could range from 6 to 9 inches. Ankle support will be carefully monitored, and it must be easy to remove mud and other debris, officials said. The goal is a pair of boots that weigh 1.7 pounds; the threshold is 2.3 pounds.
Belleville Boot Company couched its submission as a modern version of the Vietnam-era jungle boot. A waterproof combination of breathable 1000 Denier nylon and flesh-out leather sits atop a high-traction rubber VIBRAM Panama II outsole, said Glen Becker, chief sales officer. Components are connected by double and triple stitched seams for enhanced durability. Two drainage perforations aid in dry time. Unlike the jungle boots of old, this is centered on a highly cushioned, shock absorbent midsole that is "hydrolysis resistant," which means constant saturation won't cause it to break down. The insole includes a molded removable insert. The boot is 10.25 inches in height and a pair weighs 3.9 pounds.
Original Footwear and Rocky Boots did not respond to questions from Marine Corps Times about the specs of their boots.
Becker said the Army requested a puncture-resistant capability, which the Marine Corps didn't request. Belleville used a textile-based insole board to achieve that requirement.
The Army also requested two different lacing configurations: One that features eyelets only, which is the same boot tested by the Corps. The other has a traditional speed lacing configuration.
The uniform changes come as more Marines and soldiers are deploying to the Asia-Pacific region.
A Marine watches and waits for a signal from the point man as they search for the enemy during a three-day field training exercise in Okinawa, Japan.
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Carl King/Marine Corps
The Pentagon in early December $309 million for the first phase of a Guam construction project needed to move 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents from Okinawa. Congress has approved nearly $9 billion for the relocation, and Japan has already put up more than $1 billion. The move from Okinawa is scheduled to run from 2021 to 2023.
When the dust settles, the Marine Corps plans to have MAGTFs or better in Australia, Guam, Hawaii, and Okinawa to provide regional security and response, with an eye toward a Chinese military that is expanding by the day.
The Army's Pacific Pathways program, which started in 2014, sends soldiers to places like Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. Soldiers are also training with foreign troops in places like Hawaii and Alaska.
Navy wear tests participants described the fabric as cooler — sailors could feel the breeze blowing through the uniform, and some found air-conditioned computer spaces to be chilly. But thinner did not equate to weaker in the Navy tests, as the lightweight NWUs withstood the typical snags in passageways and deck operations. They are made with the same wrinkle-free nylon/cotton twill used with the Type I NWU, but a treatment added to the fabric prior to its manufacture makes it more breathable.
Lance M. Bacon is senior reporter for Marine Corps Times. He covers Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Marine Corps Forces Command, personnel / career issues, Marine Corps Logistics Command, II MEF, and Marine Forces North. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.