29 August 2008

Free Stuff!

Okay - that might not be entirely accurate. Crap the Army gives me is not, I suppose, technically "free." You've paid for it, and, with only a one-year exception, so have I.

But I got a big bag of cool stuff, and I didn't have to fork over any cash, so that's good enough for me. We call it RFI - Rapid Fielding Initiative.

The long and short of it is - all the cool stuff that's out there that hasn't had time to filter through the Army's procurement and distribution process is simply handed to us during mobilization.

We kicked the old ALICE pack and frame to the curb, and got this adorable pair.

Aren't they cute? On the right we have the Great Big MOLLE Rucksack. Beats the heck out of the old metaland-pipe frame on the ALICE packs we were using. It's also supposedly a big improvement on the briefly-attempted plastic ALICE frame that seems to have crashed and burned shortly after release. One the left we have the companion assault pack, which can be attached to Giant Ruck or carried separately.

For carrying stuff one might want faster access to, they really hooked us by providing this year's premiere ensemble - the MOLLE Rifleman's Kit.

Although I'm not sure entirely why we were issued eight zillion rifle magazine pouches, it's a nice setup. However, experience in an M1114 teaches valuable lessons, and so the interesting part is minimizing the "pieces of flair" to keep one's sides and back more or less clear. I have a much easier time envisioning a requirement to unass my truck at a high rate of speed without hanging up than I do envisioning a situation in which I need 360 rounds and can't get to a fellow soldier or my vehicle.

We also have a Giant Pile of Extreme Cold Weather clothing, but that picture didn't turn out very well, and who wants to look at a giant heap of long underoos?

My personal highlight was the part where we chicks each got four desert tan Patagonia sports bras. That's one item we know the supply sergeant won't want back when we come home!

This is a dramatic improvement in issued gear over what I received when I did this in 2005. If we didn't want to use woodland ALICE gear clipped awkwardly to our DCU IBA that time, we had to go out and buy our own stuff. That sucked, and I'm glad we're not doing it any more. They're giving us what we need, at the beginning of the process so we can train with it, and everything matches.

Of course, there are more supply issue evolutions ahead of us, so we'll see how much crap we finally end up with. But if it continues to progress as well as the RFI did, I am prepared to be happily impressed.