Here’s All The Sweet Gear Soldiers Will Rock Downrange In 2018

A Soldier with C Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) fires the new M17 or Modular Handgun System at the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) indoor range, Nov. 28.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen

2017 was a big, big year for military fashion, from the end of the Army’s legendary gray PT uniform to the embarrassing $94 million in forest camo that Uncle Sam ordered up for Afghan soldiers in largely forest-free Afghanistan. But with the Army’s latest four-year uniform transition period now winding down, 2018 will be an even bigger year for soldiers as the branch fields its latest gear and weapons upgrades.

So what will be the things they carried in 2018? Here’s a brief guide to all the swag headed downrange next year

New guns

After a turbulent year, the Army finally began fielding the M17 and M18 pistols picked up for the new Modular Handgun System program at the beginning of 2017. The branch rolled out the new sidearms to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Nov. 28, with plans to issue the weapon Army-wide over the next 10 months, beginning with team leaders.

But it’s not just new pistols rolling out to soldiers. A spokesman for the Army’s Project Executive Office Soldier told Task & Purpose that the branch has upgraded a total of 241,361 M4s to M4A1s, half of the roughly 483,000 upgrades envisioned under the service’s M4 Product Improvement Program. The Army plans to have all those upgrades completed by the end of 2018. (No word yet on when the branch’s new 5.56mm body-armor-defeating ammo will be ready to go, though.)

The Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD (Block I)) kit was developed by United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and consists of a number of components, allowing the M4A1 to be highly customizable depending on specific mission requirements.Chart via DoD

The Army has also approved 1,111 M3E1 recoilless rifles as a lighter replacement for the standard 84mm M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MMAAWS) — better known as the M3 Carl Gustaf — after more than a year of tests for the upgraded bazooka.

New uniforms

Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii tackle obstacles in February 2017, while evaluating a new, lighter-weight uniform.Photo via DoD

The Army announced in October that it planned on fielding the lightweight Improved Hot Weather Army Combat Uniform “within a year.” The first lucky soldiers to break in the uniform — which sacrifices extra fabric and pockets for an airy feel — will be in the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, which has also been testing 30,000 pairs of New Army jungle boots since March. (Read more on those kicks down below.)

Officials plan to issue 65,000 pairs of the new (four sets to each soldier)  to the rest of the 25th ID by January, but the IHWU won’t just be reserved for jungle deployments: According to PEO Soldier’s Brig. Gen. Brian P. Cummings, the branch wants to make the new uniform available for purchase by all troops through military retail outlets.

New boots

The Army selected Belleville Boot Company and Rocky Boots back in December 2016 to produce more than 36,000 pairs of the branch’s new-pattern Jungle Combat Boots. After service fielded 9,000 pairs of the boot’s first iteration to the 25th ID’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams for testing between March and August, the branch started testing updated designs in August with the intent of rolling them out to troops alongside the IHWU in January 2018.

New protective gear

The Army's new torso and extremity protection (TEP) system, including the Modular Scalable VestPhoto via PEO Soldier

As of November, Army officials planned on rolling out the new Modular Scalable Vest (MSV), a major component of the next-generation Soldier Protection System, by summer 2018.  

The MSV is part of a torso and extremity protection system (TEP) comes with a scalable vest, ballistic combat shirt, pelvic protection system, and battle belt; altogether, the MSV is a whole 5 pounds lighter than the current improved outer tactical vest — and it’s more adjustable to new mission requirements.

The Army is still working on an Integrated Head Protection System to replace the existing Enhanced Combat Helmet — it and likely will be until 2020 at the earliest. But the branch did unveil spiffy new eyewear: Transition Combat Eye Protection, glasses that automatically switch to a darker or brighter tint, depending on light levels.

New night vision?

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III on display during a media demonstration at Fort Belvoir, Virginia on July 27, 2017Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

As Task & Purpose reported in July, the Army expects to have 47,000 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III kits as early as the third quarter of fiscal 2018, to gift soldiers with improved visibility in low-light settings and poor weather conditions. When will those goggles actually make it onto the faces of troops downrange? It remains to be seen.

New dress uniforms!

Pink and greens, spotted in the wild!U.S. Army/Twitter

Everyone and their mother lost their minds when a handful of soldiers were spotted rocking these brand new uniforms, reminiscent of the branch’s World War II-era “pink and green” service dress, at the  Association of the U.S. Army’s October conference in Washington. Prototypes got tested in December, and it’s likely the branch will start doling out the new dress uniforms to lucky soldiers sooner, rather than later — especially given Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s enthusiasm for the new duds.  

New ... Iron Man armor?

DoD photo.

Lol, no. U.S. Special Operations Command said in February that it planned on actually testing the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), a 21st century suit of electronic armor lovingly referred to as the “Iron Man suit.” But given the DoD’s track record with futuristic moon-shot projects, chances are the only next-gen suit soldiers will don in 2018 will be the pink-and-greens.


Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.

The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.

Read More Show Less
Arizona Army National Guard soldiers with the 160th and 159th Financial Management Support Detachments qualify with the M249 squad automatic weapon at the Florence Military Reservation firing range on March 8, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Laura Bauer)

The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."

That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.

When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.

"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.

Read More Show Less

According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.

"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."

Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."

Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."

Read More Show Less

If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.

The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.

But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.

Read More Show Less

As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.

And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.

Read More Show Less