FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — More than 800 Hawaii-based soldiers this month have donned the Army’s newest uniform prototype for hot-weather combat that boasts lighter weight and quicker drying time.
They’ll put the uniforms immediately through the rigors of the 25th Infantry Division’s jungle warfare school in the mountains outside Schofield Barracks.
They’ll also wear them to several exercises that are part of this year’s Pacific Pathways, which kicks off in February with Cobra Gold in the jungles of Thailand. A Pathways exercise will also be conducted in the Philippines later in the spring.
About 700 Hawaii soldiers are also field testing five prototypes of a jungle combat boot.
“Schofield Barracks and the jungle training center there in Hawaii provide an ideal training environment for all-things jungle,” said Ron Lee, a spokesman for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, the Army office that develops and fields attire for soldiers.
More test uniforms will be fielded in March, he said.
The uniforms are part of the Army’s continual quest to utilize new technologies as fresh challenges crop up.
“Because it worked in 1984, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in 2004, let alone 2018,” Lee said. “As an Army of evolving soldiers — younger soldiers, more athletic soldiers, different missions — the Army has to evolve and modernize equipment. It’s a part of our ongoing modernization effort. The uniform and the jungle combat boots are just a part of that process.”
The Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier will begin collecting feedback from soldiers in March, Daniel Ferenczy, a product manager for the office, said in an Army news release last month.
The new version of jungle uniform is more breathable and lightweight because excess heat- and moisture-locking layers and seams have been eliminated, Ferenczy said.
The uniform can dry within an hour — 30 minutes faster than the jungle uniform now being used, he said.
Among the other changes are the elimination of the upright and snug-fitting collar; shoulder pockets that open from top rather than sides; buttons replacing zipper closures; removal of breast and back trouser pockets; improved crotch gusset; and greater maneuverability in the knee.
The goal is to have a final version of the uniform worked out during the 2019 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Lee said.
The jungle boots being tested now are five variants of a prototype tested by soldiers last year. Soldiers wearing those said they wanted a boot that was lighter, more flexible and with a thinner sole, the Army said.
The five versions now being tested in Hawaii — produced by five manufacturers — meet those feedback demands, Ferenczy said.
The boots are also designed for better traction in mud, resistance to punctures and quick drying time.
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