View Full Version : Marines see latest in combat gear

01-19-06, 06:54 AM
Marines see latest in combat gear
By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
North County Times

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Dressed in his field khakis, the Marine went from booth to booth Wednesday searching for the latest protection from roadside bombs.

Having seen some of the bloodiest battles in the city of Fallujah since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Marine knew what he and other troops from Camp Pendleton needed to survive.

"I want a better helmet with better ballistic protection, and we need new technology for stopping IEDs," he said, referring to the "improvised explosive devices" that are among the most lethal weapons used by the insurgents against U.S. troops in Iraq.

But this was no ordinary Marine attending a show of weaponry and support materials at Camp Pendleton.

"The end-user is the lance corporal that has to work with all this equipment," said Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division who led a six-day assault against insurgents in Fallujah in November 2004, retaking a city that U.S. forces had withdrawn from earlier that year.

"Our Marines and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve the best equipment we can give them, and this is where they can see the latest and talk with the industry representatives," said Natonski, who also led counterinsurgency operations through the Iraqi elections in early 2005.

With about 25,000 Marines and sailors now deploying to the restive Anbar province of Iraq as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, the 14th annual Marine West Military Exposition was filled with many of the troops about to depart again, and many who have been to Iraq two, three and even four times.

In earlier remarks, Natonski said the show brought the industry together with the Marines at the place "where the rubber meets the road."

"The products here are saving lives in the field," Natonski said as he welcomed more than 140 exhibitors, most of whom have contracts with the Defense Department or are on its list of approved vendors.

The products on display included the latest in waterproof paper, full-size Humvee simulators with 360-degree training videos and superflashlights manufactured by a Carlsbad company that can illuminate an enemy 1.5 miles away.

The company, Xenonics, has been in business for about eight years and has sold about 9,000 of its lights to the Marine Corps, Army and Border Patrol. The troops now heading back to Iraq with the I Marine Expeditionary Force bought 465 of the products that range in price from $2,300 to $3,000, said Richard Naughton, the company's chief executive officer.

Sgt. Maj. Trevor Johnson, who has been deployed to Iraq four times, was searching for the latest in fire-retardant clothing.

"The way the insurgents are doing things nowadays, we need clothing that won't burn," Johnson said.

At another display of fire-retardant underwear, Sgt. Maj. Dan Hakala said he, too, was impressed.

"That's what caught my eye because the stuff we're using now will burn the Marine up if it catches fire," Hakala said.

Gunnery Sgt. Alex Cabero looked at a flashlight with camera capabilities manufactured by Camlite of Arizona, a piece of gear that can tie to video screens hundreds or thousands of miles away. Cabero tested the weight of the device, which company officials said was ideal for house searches, and said his biggest concern was the weight.

"We're always looking for the latest gadgets that can benefit us in battle, but you have to look at the weight because you need to have mobility," he said.

Staff Sgt. Jeff Coslow, a motor transport specialist, is due to deploy to Iraq in September and was particularly interested in protective armor and a full-size Humvee simulator set up in a tent outside the main display hall inside Camp Pendleton's noncommissioned officers club. He also was impressed with the flashlight camera, saying "we could have used that in Fallujah" during his stint there in 2004.

At the Humvee simulator display, Cpl. Adam Jaworski, who also spent time in Iraq in 2004, said the training he underwent is nothing like what was being offered by manufacturer MPRI. A mock Humvee with a full-size video allows troops to train in realistic conditions.

"It all seemed so real," Jaworksi said after taking a turn in the simulator. "Things like this are going to do a lot of good for us."

One of the exhibitors explaining the ins and outs of a new $10 million amphibious assault vehicle now being tested was Sgt. Alexander Frederick, who a year ago was assigned to work with manufacturer General Dynamics on the "Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle."

The sea- and land-capable vehicle would replace the current amphibious assault vehicle used by the Marines to assault beachfronts.

The 76,000-pound vehicle can carry 17 fully loaded combat troops along with a crew of three and is much faster in the water and on land, Frederick said.

"This is most definitely the amphibious assault vehicle of the future," he said of the massive machine that can reach speeds of 45 knots on the water, compared to the current vehicle's 8 knots and achieve a land speed of about 50 mph.

The show, which is not open to the general public, continues through this afternoon.

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or mlwalker@nctimes.com. To comment on this story, go to nctimes.com.

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