U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: September 17, 2002
Anaconda veterans speak at Soldier Systems Center
NATICK, Mass. -- Chunks of shrapnel from exploded ordnance that pierced arms and legs never came close to penetrating the Interceptor Body Armor worn by U.S. infantrymen fighting in Afghanistan.
Body armor and the Kevlar helmet were among the pieces of soldier equipment 1st Sgt. Rudy Romero called "beautiful" as he along with 1st Sgt. Stephen Carnahan and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Nye from 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry at Fort Campbell spoke about their combat experiences to a full crowd at the Soldier Systems Center Conference Center Sept. 5.
The three senior noncommissioned officers, who deployed with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and fought in Operation Enduring Freedom's first major ground battle, Operation Anaconda, were invited to speak about lessons learned on their equipment and tour the installation.
It was a rare opportunity for the users of rations and gear to travel to meet the people who research and develop the equipment. Employees asked plenty of questions as the soldiers flipped through their slide presentation outlining problems and recommendations, even in areas outside the mission of the Soldier Systems Center, to give a complete picture of what they faced.
All the apparent negative criticism caused one audience member to ask what worked well.
"None of the equipment failed. It's good stuff," responded Romero, who drew laughter when he continued, "We're just up here complaining."
The capstone "complaint" was weight. Light infantrymen fully loaded carry from 80-150 pounds. Romero said many high-tech gadgets don't make it into battle because of the weight penalty. Their packing lists are prioritized, and items such as the Interceptor Body Armor's neck and groin protector or excess Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) components are left behind.
"We have a lot of stuff we'd like to bring every time, but we have to make a decision. We hate to do that," Romero said.
The NCOs have nearly 50 years of Army experience between them and have served in previous military operations around the world. Romero said he had much of the same gear he used during Desert Storm, and they learned that policy and funding have kept some items from being modernized over the last decade.
"You'd be surprised at all the places we go to buy gear," Romero said. "We don't use some of the stuff the Army is giving us."
Nye said many soldiers were spending $200 or more of their own pay on items including portable navigation systems, gloves, socks and assault packs before deploying.
Solutions to many of the shortcomings discovered on the job exist now, such as the new Modular Integrated Communications Helmet that's lighter and doesn't rub against the body armor, a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol ration that's lighter weight, and boots with removable insulation liners to speed drying and help keep feet warm.
None of the three liked the standard black utility gloves, which don't keep the hands warm or dry. Although not used in Afghanistan, Nye said many of his soldiers wished for face paint that's easier on the skin. Uniforms were also discussed, and Carnahan believed the Army should have a rugged version of the Battle Dress Uniform just for the field.
"Let's concentrate on a kill-people uniform and a look-pretty uniform," he said.
Food was another item that took a swipe.
"The only reason we eat MREs is because we have to," Romero said, drawing a response from the Combat Feeding Program members. In reality, all of them agreed it is a good product. "I continue to be impressed with the quality and variety," Carnahan said. "I know you'll never please all of us, but you're sure pleasing most of us."
Generally, on their dream sheet is more interoperability and multifunctionality of gear. They also wanted more individual equipment tailored to specific groups, such as mechanized and light infantry.
The NCOs continued their full-day visit with briefings on some of what the Soldier Systems Center has in mind for warfighters, including Objective Force Warrior. They may not see this combat ensemble in their careers, but they can't complain about the weight. Objective Force Warrior plans on dropping the combat load to 40 pounds.
The Soldier Systems Center is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Center, please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.
[Products] [Programs] [Services] [Facilities] [Bus.Ops.] [Hooah]