View Full Version : Iraq Dispatches (2): Boots, Helmets and Morale

05-05-04, 04:53 AM

Iraq Dispatches (2): Boots, Helmets and Morale

By Wayne Hommer

I’d like to begin this dispatch by thanking those of you who emailed me with words of support and encouragement. Your continued support means a great deal to us over here. Thank you.

This has been a good week for our soldiers. Mostly because it’s been fairly quiet, relatively speaking, but also due to some small events that have meant a lot to us here. Over this past week, we’ve received our first flight of soldiers from the states, we’ve moved into our new Headquarters building, and we’ve received our Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) issue.

As we deployed to Iraq, our Division left numerous soldiers back at home station for a number of reasons. Many of those soldiers have now rejoined their units here in Iraq. Our modern Army is so lean that every one of those soldiers brings a critical skill to the fight. Their return has had an immediate impact on their various units.

One of the major missions being conducted by our Construction Engineer Battalions is the construction of Headquarters buildings. Our headquarters building was completed this past week. It is a wooden structure, with a metal roof. The building came complete with fans and ECU’s in every room. While the walls are unfinished, and the floor is actually just the cement slab, our new building is much nicer then our headquarters building back home.

We have been able to allocate our soldiers a Morale Welfare and Recreation section in the building, where they’ll have Internet access, and can watch satellite television or play movies. That should go a long ways towards shorting the year we’re going to spend here.

The Rapid Fielding Initiative is a program sponsored by Project Manager Soldier (PM Soldier). As the Army’s operational tempo increased following 9/11, it became apparent that a lot of our individual soldier equipment was a generation behind what was available commercially off the shelf (COTS). In order to catch up, PM Soldier sponsored the Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), which supplies Soldiers with COTS equipment to augment their Central Issue Facility (CIF) issue.

The two biggest items we received were two new pair of boots, and the new Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). The fact that we received two new sets of boots is really a reflection on the boots we were issued just a few short months ago. I don’t think I’d buy stock in Altama, the manufacturer of our standard issue desert boots. While my pair was holding up all right, the soles of my boots were wearing very quickly, and I’ve seen a couple soldiers with boots that have totally fallen apart already.

The new Bellevi lles, and Danners are very comfortable; in fact, they feel more like Cross Training shoes, than they do combat boots. The ACH helmet has been needed for years. The old Kevlar left a lot to be desired. Besides being too heavy, its suspension system was poorly designed, its chinstrap was obsolete by World War II standards, and its cut prevented a soldier from firing in the prone.

As a guestimation, the new ACH feels about three-fourths of the weight of the old K-Pot. Its greatest selling point though is its new suspension system. The ACH’s suspension is composed of a special foam pad that conforms to the soldier’s head. Oregon Aero offers a similar, if not identical suspension system. In addition to a significantly improved suspension system, the ACH employs a four-point chinstrap.

The four-point chinstrap could have, and should have been adopted 20 years ago. By bracing the back of the helmet to a soldier’s head, the Kevlar is prevented from pivoting forward during a hard stop or fall.

After having my teeth bashed in several years ago when my HMMWV dropped into a tank position during a night movement, I set out to find a solution to the K-Pot’s chinstrap, and found it offered, again, by Oregon Aero. The new ACH’s chinstrap is a similar design, and fits the new helmet perfectly. The new ACH is also cut higher in the back and sides.

The higher cut allows a soldier in full Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) to fire from the prone. When firing from the prone with IBA on, with the old K-Pot, your body armor and Kevlar fought for position, ultimately the Kevlar lost, and ended up over your eyes. In addition to new boots and the ACH, we also received under armor t-shirts, aviator gloves, and a fleece top. You might laugh at the fleece top, but it can get
awfully cold here.

Our soldiers’ morale remains high. The new equipment and facilities go a long ways towards improving the individual soldier’s living conditions. We look forward to the situation here improving, as we’re able to get in equipment, and invest time and effort into the continued construction of new facilities.

Please continue to pray for the safety of our soldiers, and the decision-making of our leaders.

(Editor’s Note: Also see “Iraq Dispatches: The Road to Baghdad,” DefenseWatch, Apr. 20, 2004.)

Capt. Wayne Hommer USA is the pen name of a U.S. Army officer serving on active duty in Iraq. He can be reached at CPTWayneHommer@Hotmail.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.



05-05-04, 09:20 PM
I've had my Vibram combat boots (tan) since boot camp, last August, and except for some of the leather getting rubbed off, they are still a perfectly good pair of boots.