UPDATE 2002: Lax marines design web gear that fails in Afghanistan; marines yanked before they get themselves killed!

In the web page below, written over 4 years ago, we warned that simple marines designed MOLLE 1 web gear and its a disaster waiting to happen. Then someone said MOLLE 2 would fix this (see his letter at the bottom) however in Afghanistan, lax gyrenes running around without helmets on found their gear---THE USMC DESIGNED--- "MOLLE 2" FAILURES even though they were not doing much except hang out at air bases. This gear is MARINE-DESIGNED, its their failure not someone else's. In the future, marines should not be allowed to design web gear for themselves much less anyone else. The next disaster will be marines shot dead by "friendly" fire wearing their new pattern camouflage uniforms that are totally unlike what other U.S. forces wear---just in order so they can look "different" and feel "superior" now that the U.S. Army looks better than them wearing black berets.

Defense News February 25 - March 3, 2002

Dishonorably discharged: the second version of the marine corps' MOLLE backpack is breaking under pressure, say U.S. marines.

New Equipment Fails Troops in Afghanistan

C. Mark Brinkley and Gorden Lubold, Washington Rob Curtis, Kandahar

U.S. marine corps officials who were sent back to the drawing board after creating a new backpack for combat Soldiers have disappointed troops once more.

The new version, called MOLLE 2, crumbled after less than two months of combat. Officials have been sent back to the drawing board -- again.

The marine corps' latest modular, lightweight, load-bearing backpack is a nightmare, according to Maj. Timothy Maxwell, who was interviewed in Afghanistan.

"We're discovering that the MOLLE is not holding up under pressure," said Maxwell, one of 27 marines sent to Afghanistan as part of a combat assessment team from the marine corps combat development command at Quantico, VA. His job is to search out the good and the bad in the marines' operations there.

The Corps' new pack is not the only personal gear item getting a combat fitness test in Afghanistan.

Load-Bearing Vest

When the load-bearing vest was part of the initial MOLLE issue in 1999, it featured a complex probe-and-socket system that connected the vest to the pack and was supposed to help distribute weight to a Soldier's hips. marines hated it almost immediately, claiming it retained heat and was hard to use.

That vest was dumped, as was the socket system, and a new load--bearing vest was issued with Molle 2. The redesigned vest no longer attaches to the pack, but still is not faring much better.

"Most of Battalion 3/6 doesn't even wear the vest," said Maj. Timothy Maxwell, a member of the combat assessment team.

"They hate the vest. They attach the canteens and all of the magazine pouches and everything directly to the flak jacket, because the vest is just added weight."

However, the flak jacket is supposed to be worn underneath the vest, not replace it. Using the armor as a load-bearing system has its drawbacks, particularly for marines riding in tightly packed amphibious tracked vehicles or Light Armored Vehicles.

"Now you can't shed the gear and just wear the flak, and that's important when you're crawling around on the inside of an amtrac," Maxwell said.

The new body armor that replaced the old-style flak jacket fared well in Afghanistan, possibly because of its insulating qualities.

"Generally, the flak was fairly well-accepted," Maxwell said. "It probably had something to do with the fact the it was cold here."

The only complaint Maxwell heard about the armor came from a large marine, who said the flak jacket collar choked him.

"He's got like an 18-inch neck, and he said he went from a large to an extra large to an extra-extra large, and he said the neck size seemed to be the same," Maxwell said.


Some marines found fault with the personal hydration system that comes with the MOLLE system, often referred to by its brand name, CamelBak.

"The CamelBaks all are leaking," Maxwell said. "They're leaking from the valve, and they all want a shut-off valve."

Many marines complained of awakening to a wet sleeping bag or soaked gear after the hydration systems slowly leaked water all night, he said.

An official with CamelBak Maximum Gear, Petaluma, Calif., said such problems could be attributed to use of older systems, or Soldiers accidentally applying pressure that activates the system, rather than from simple leakage.

"The early systems were shipped with just a bite valve that can be inadvertently actuated. But every valve shipped since June 2001 includes a HydroLock that give a redundant valve system and a positive way to shut off the flow," said Chuck Hunter, vice president of CamelBak's military division.

Maxwell also said the marines learned the value of a backup hydration system. "If any part breaks, you're out of luck. There's no way to get any resupply, and of course, things break when you walk the desert," he said.


A U.S. Army patrol moving slowly (less than 1 mph) through the woods wearing PASGT (Personnel Armor System, Ground Troops) kevlar helmets, body armor and new U.S. marine corps designed-MOLLE (MOduLar Lightweight Load-bearing Equipment) rucksacks;

......loaded with over 70 pounds of gear....


A barrage of enemy AK-47 automatic weapons fire cuts into the lead Soldiers, the assault rifle bullets slicing through their soft PASGT "flak" jackets designed to stop shrapnel from an artillery burst in a WWII-style conflict...those not hit and dying cannot return fire because the marine corps-MOLLE rucksack is too long for them to be able to raise their heads from the prone position, so as they struggle to release their rucksacks, the enemy fire intensifies as they gain the upper hand. Pinned down, dying, the unit radios for help. A few Soldiers free of their rucks try to return fire but their PASGT helmet chinstraps don't secure the helmet from drooping over their head as they crawl into firing positions, more are hit as they stumble.

By the time the U.S. Infantry are free of their rucks and with their hands holding up their helmets to see ahead, the enemy has gone "melting away" into the woods and hills.

This isn't 1950 or 1968, its 1998 and we still haven't got our infantry equipment ("TA-50") right. Why?

There are 4 reasons:

"Lowest Common Denominator"(LCD) thinking that uses numbers and statistics to govern gear design instead of common sense;

...closed-minded people in charge of a gear item with "Old-Timer's Attitudes"(OTAs)----who haven't rucked in years who think that if "the item was good enough for them its good enough for the new generation" as if war is a school hazing "rite of passage". Think Dana Carvey's version of the Walter Brennan grumpy old man.

...and "Not Invented Here"(NIHS) syndrome, an unwillingness to incorporate good ideas that come from Soldiers suffering with the bad gear who are viewed as "outsiders" and "low-ranking underlings whose thinking is inferior to us old hands" these upstarts must not be allowed to challenge the blind obedience dictatorship of the bureaucracy.

With the MOLLE (human pack mule system), you add marine corps arrogance and false superiority complexes to hide the fact that the organization lacks a mission in a world that moves by AIR, not "a slow boat to china". The mc desperately wants to LOOK "high-speed" and is willing to spend our tax dollars to do it rather than drop its egotism, trash-talk and learn from others within and outside its ranks to really be "high-speed" since to go fast you have to think fast--or else you hit a wall. (Beirut, 1983 etc.)

The U.S. Army Natick Labs are trying to do the right thing and give Soldiers the best gear possible, but their methods are flawed when they primarily use massed statistics to drive gear design instead of reason and intelligent anticipation of the future battlefield. The soft PASGT flak jacket was designed to stop indirect-fire shrapnel and not bullets despite the fact that in Vietnam more Soldiers were killed by direct-fire small arms (bullets). After Somalia, hard body armor that the Rangers used which can stop bullets was incorporated and an add-on plate for the soft PASGT vest, but only after 18 men died needlessly. Natick has made a web site (www-sscom.army.mil/index.html) describing these items and how to order them, but many unit commanders have the crusty old-timers attitude and will not order them even if they knew how to surf the internet to get to the Natick web site. Soldiers get killed by bullets and shrapnel and the best way to protect them is to deflect bullets away from them with a small shield on the end of their weapons, not just try to stop bullets at the torso which is letting them get too close. The world is urbanizing and enemy fire effects must be defeated not just accepted as a way of life because the old-timers had to accept this.

When questioned about the usmc-designed MOLLE rucksack, U.S. Army Natick officials tried to excuse its prone firing inability as a "trade-off" for a new, larger rucksack that while distributing the load higher for better comfort will only give us more room to overload the Soldier with gear. Maybe they are stuck with MOLLE to appease the jarheads for "political joint-correctness". Though its o.k. for the do-nothing mc to trash talk the other services, since they are a "sacred cow" that can do no wrong. RIGHT. "New" isn't always better, its just spending money---money the corps is eager to spend to try to revamp its image in light of public screw-ups like their joy-riding fliers killing 20 in an Italian cable car, hazing incidents, accidents and "suicides". All that we need is a synthetic rucksack frame instead of the metal frame that breaks for the current ALICE rucksack which can be worn and the head raised to fire while in the prone. This frame already exists commercially from Coleman or DEI and the former just needs to be cut or molded in a shorter size (www.reocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/2116/rucksack.htm"). The MOLLE can be made shorter or curved at the top for prone firing ability, too. Just have straps at the MOLLE ruck top for a sleeping mat or bag that is pliable so the head can be raised up against it for prone fire capability. However, we must learn to live within the volume offered by the current G.I. ALICE rucksack frame by smaller and lighterweight equipment and "doing without" by Soldiers learning Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) skills in recruit training instead of mindless drill & ceremony and hazing (reocities.com/Pentagon/5265/recruit.htm). If we are to gain the 4-7 mph mobility we need to be able to "out-guerrilla the guerrilla", U.S. troops must debark from helicopters, parachutes and armored vehicles a good distance away from the enemy's detection range and be able to close in rapidly (4-7 mph instead of a 1 mph foot-slog) to SURPRISE and overwhelm him with SHOCK effect. Otherwise we will be ambushed again and again as the enemy runs circles around us.

On the other side of Bdg 4 are jump school towers

Even when Natick Labs are in total agreement on how to fix a gear item---they have a new 3 point suspension chinstrap ready to replace current chinstraps as they wear out for the PASGT kevlar helmet; they can be over-ruled by "old-timers" in charge of this gear item at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia who think the "issue chinstrap is alright as it is" even though they need only look out their Building 4 window and see helmets falling off Airborne school students jumping from the 34 foot towers across the street and the Soldiers hurt during actual jumps at Martin Army hospital down the road. These guys need only don a kevlar helmet and do an Expert Infantryman's Badge (EIB) test "react to direct-fire" lane the next time a Ft. Benning unit conducts EIB testing and they would see the helmet with its current chinstrap constantly sags over the eyes during (low-crawl, high crawl etc.) individual movement techniques. But they already have their EIBs or CIBs and jump wings. "Let the younger guys suffer like we did". Who needs enemies with attitudes like this? Our NATO allies have 3-point helmet suspension systems, and they parachute without head injuries and see to shoot in a rough and tumble fight, why not us?

Other Armies can get it "right" with their Soldier equipment: the Israeli, British, and German (as far back as WWII!) armies come to mind. We need to make Soldier mobility and function the number #1 driving force that cannot be over-ruled by easily manipulated statistics, old timer and NIHS attitudes by replacing the 2 mile sports run of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) with a 6 mile battle speed march in full TA-50 to "shake-down" the entire U.S. Army and make battle mobility a priority in all that it does. A simple acronym called "DROP" (Decide mobility level needed Reduce un-necessary gear Organize transport means Police the ranks) in the Service Support planning steps of the 5 paragraph operations order can stress mobility during real world missions.

Why can't we get it right? We can. We must. We have to "get it right" so the sacrifices of past Soldiers who have died, did not die in vain. You can help this process by writing or e-mailing Natick Labs and help "weight" their statistics to counter those standing in the way of progress with their old-timer, NIHS and marine corps inferiority/superiority complex attitudes. The U.S. Army with its vast combat experience pre-dating even the founding of this great nation needs to lead the way, not accept second-hand gear and thinking.

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command
1600 Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01670
E-mail: hotline@natick-amed02.army.mil


1st TSG (A) gets dressed down? by a combat veteran or is he giving us an OTA "tap dance"?:

"You missed the mark on the MOLLE. Completely. The U.S. Army has been observing and testing the MOLLE (in one form or the other) for the past 10 years. It was set to be fielded last year, but there were more modifications necessary. There were so many modifications done to the MOLLE that the Company making it, Specialty Defense, has renamed it, MOLLE II, and it is not anything like the original. This MOLLE marks the longest test and evaluation of any piece of equipment, in the history of the United States.

As of these date, it will take another two years to adopt the MOLLE system. By the way, these items that are evaluated and modified come directly from the grunts that use them, not old NCOs, or testers at NATICK, just grunts. Also, make a note that the Army did buy the 3 point harness, just not the one you have pictures, but has to use the existing supply of the old ones before issuing the new one. On that same note, there is about a 10-17 year supply of ALICE gear, some someone won't be getting the new MOLLE until they retire. You may not understand the complexities of what the evolutionary process of equipment is and how it relates to the overall personally of the military. Since 1993 the Army as basically eased all restrictions on the Soldiers to find their own equipment to test and evaluate. Over 200 items/modifications have sprain up because the 'Army' is finally listing. And there are the largest numbers of ongoing test and evaluations in the History of NATICK! There is so much going on that they have hired almost twice as many people as they had in the 80's.

By the way, I am SOCOM retired, I fought in every conflict since Vietnam, to include Somalia, plus allot that no one knows able, I have five ruptured disc from using a parachute as a means of delivery, and I am very tired.

The old gessers at NATICK called me and told me to work out with a MOLLE and I will be surprised. So far I am amazed at how much better the MOLLE II is to the Modified Ruck I have. Hopefully, this old fart NCO from the Old days will be designing the pockets on the Scorpion Uniform which is due in 2020.

One comment for lighting your load. I don't recall seeing you during the 9 days of prelimary reconnaissance at Grenada, where I had to carry everything I needed for the 9 days, plus batteries, radios, etc. etc. (and just one pair of underwear) Or did you do all your humping around Desert Storm, did you have your 9-10 day supply of water on your back? How much ammunition do you really need to expend during a down pilot rescue in Central America and still get the Silver Star (and live to tell about it)

Before you get totally pissed. The answer is that there is no real answer.

The task of the Army is not to cater to everyone's individual needs...Just their own.

Also, you make allot negative comments about people getting killed-in-the-line-of-duty. I seriously doubt that you are a combat veteran and understand what war is really about. It's about dying. Not winning, or losing, or heroics, or equipment, or standards, it's just about killing and dying. It's not even about surviving. You should spend at least a month as a volunteer in a Veterans Hospital. The WWII veterans are dying at about 25,000 per month and they will take with them, their personal wisdom and combat experience. If it were not for the advice of my Korea War Vet Uncle and the countless Vietnam vets, I would not be alive today. If you were a veteran, you would know that war had not changed in over 5000 years. Killing has stayed the same, only the uniforms have changed. AND NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR HAVE, THE CASUALTY RATES STAY THE SAME."

Our reply:

UPDATE 2002: the MOLLE 2 is a failure in Afghanistan, the marines were sent home and the 101st AASLT is doing the hard combat of killing al Queda terrorists and Taliban irregulars.

WAR is about WINNING; if it's not then its immoral and incompetent RACKETEERING. You have a defeatist, blue-collar lemming mentality. You should have went to college, got a degree and became an officer and sought to change the parameters so we WIN. I doubt that you have done much study of war beyond whining over your personal predicaments. That's exactly what the bureaucracy wants. No thanks, this NCO and officer's experience with being shot at tells him to GET IT AND DRIVE ON (GIDO)--not suffer with fuck-it, drive on (FIDO) which simply may not be enough to overcome situations where all the factors being ignored out of victimhood narcissism are too much.


The 1st Tactical Studies Group (Airborne) since 1997 has online;


offered and detailed through U.S. Army official channels; commercial, off-the-shelf and equipment modification solutions to almost every problem listed (and then some like ahumm, SOLVING THE SOLDIER'S LOAD) in the appalling recent U.S. Army Natick Afghanistan Report (which is viewable here). As we also forewarned, the u.s. marine designed "MOLLE" gear has been a COMPLETE and utter failure in Afghanistan service--even for the short time marines made a token ground appearance and fled back to their ships as the U.S. Army dodges the RPGs, mortars and AKM rounds to hunt down and kill the enemy terraists.

The bottom line is, closed-minded and small-minded people (we know all about them, don't we?) are running the Congressionally-mandated and funded Army's Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) which could have PREVENTED this sad state of affairs by some low-cost purchases.

Want to make a suggestion to SEP?

SEP Home Page

Make a Soldier Equipment Improvement suggestion to SEP

The Afghan power points show a number of gear problems that many of us have solved and proposed solutions through SEP and Natick channels mostly for naught. The Brits have a plastic ammo box for their M240-type medium machine guns. We could have upgraded the Kevlar helmet with a better chinstrap and suspension, offered the Nomex flyer's glove with a little insulation and in a black color, ALICE rucksacks could have synthetic frames and quick-release buckles, issued a chest binocular/NVG pouch and provided a toothbrush/shaving razor cartridge attachment point on the end of the MRE spoon years ago. However, the decision makers generally don't act on Soldier inputs. The Afghan gear report is likely going to "whitewash" bureaucratic, systemic failures so this is why we are calling on a Soldier board to be formed and given the money, authority and time to make Soldier gear decisions to prevent recurring failures like experienced in Afghanistan.

Whoever is ruining SEP should be replaced by someone who listens and ACTs on suggestions for improvement by Soldiers instead of pooh-poohing (ignoring) them with words like "dislikes". If a piece of gear doesn't work, gets left behind or gets someone killed it isn't some trivial matter.

The enemy terrorists got away from our Operation ANACONDA cordon & search operation while we were bogged down with equipment, a lot of it bad, so this is not a small matter. Details:



Solution: Soldier TA-50 Board


I think you see we are furious, and rightfully so. Here is THE ultimate solution.

We've just learned that its a "Council of Colonels" that meets to decide gear for us grunts for the SEP program to "type classify" (tested to "perfection" to be declared Army kosher) when it should be the lower-ranking gear gurus who are actually humping (carrying) the machine guns, rockets and mortars from every Army command representing their specific climes/places/missons. This is why a lot of our gear sucks. Most Colonels we've run into are concerned more with form than function and are not technotactically oriented and candid. SGTs, LTs and CPTs should decide on our new gear.

The expertise of the natural "gear gurus" should be tapped and have them designated as a "Master TA-50 Specialist"---an additional skill identifier (ASI). These gear experts would go to Natick Labs and be school trained on the proper fit and wear of ALL Army equipment and have field living (survival skills) taught to them so they can advise Commanders that a hot weather desert boot is NOT a mountain boot and how to properly size Soldiers for body armor so a bullet doesn't sneak by and kill them. The Army's Master TA-50 Specialists would also train the Soldiers in their companies how to wear and maintain their TA-50 as well as be pro-active about getting better gear. The Army is strangely an organization that goes "camping" yet hasn't trained itself how to "camp". Lay on top the need for combat mobility 4-7 mph which requires smart loading and constantly improved equipment, its clear that a Soldier from every Company in the Army should go to "gear school" to become a Master TA-50 Expert. To fund this we should cancel the un-needed LAV-III/Stryker deathtrap armored car purchases and upgrade superior tracked M113A3 Gavins into IAVs for the IBCTs. Call them tracked IBCTs or "Gavin Brigades".

An Army bureaucrat informs us that Company Commanders can buy with unit funds whatever gear they need for their men from the GSA Catalog and CTA 5900 (not Army "type classified" but available for purchase: "good enough" using Army funds) but this is something that's not pro-actively done and known about. Have you ever heard about this? GSA catalog is on CDs Supply Sergeants have so it takes a bit of looking when it should be on the www for all Soldiers to see.

What we need is a Soldier's Board of lower ranking gear experts who will review new gear, get it on the GSA Catalog/CTA 5900 and then publish an annual focused list throughout the Army encouraging Commanders/units/individuals to buy these items. Apparently its ok for units to fund-raise to build up a unit fund or this purpose, too so not having the money is not an obstacle. This list of authorized field gear on GSA/CTA 5900 should be placed on the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) secure web site so any Soldier can see what the Soldier Board recommends they get ASAP.

Every year, every Major Army Division (Airborne, Air Assault, Light, Mechanized, Armored etc.) and separate unit (2nd ACR, 172nd Arctic Brigade, SF, Rangers) has ITS SOLDIERS select by vote a field gear representative who will travel to Fort Benning, Georgia to decide for the rest of the Army what off-the-shelf Soldier gear to buy and what gear to develop. Every unit has at least one "gear guru" right for this job; a pro-active Soldier who studied field gear and on his own tinkers and tests what works and does not. THE CHAIN OF COMMAND DOES NOT SELECT THE GEAR BOARD SOLDIERS. Some out-of-touch Army General does NOT select some political yes-man to be on the board to keep the troops ill-equiped and "in their place". Some DA civilian with a ponytail going through perpetual mid-life crisis does NOT decide what items are bought or developed, THE SOLDIERS DECIDE. No "Council of Colonels". Its the individual Soldier's lives that are at stake not some bureaucrat in a comfy office with one retirement already under his belt longing for the good 'ole days when the equipment they had sucked and everyone liked it. What the Soldier TA-50 Board decides AUTOMATICALLY become AUTHORIZED Soldier optional wear/use items without the current kill-joy, politically correct "uniform board" having one say in their decisions. They do a great job keeping everyone miserable and without esperit de corps during garrison hours; the field Soldier's attire should be guided by FUNCTION decided by the mud-Soldiers. Each year a list of acceptible alternatives will be decided on by the Board for Soldiers to buy/use on their own option. Each year the board will decide on commensurate with the SEP budget what items will be bought/issued to enhance Soldiers immediately. And each year the board will see what industry and Natick Labs have "cooking" and provide feedback.


The Staff
1st TSG (A)

Return to Paratrooper 2000, click on M4 5.56mm Carbine with M203 40mm grenade launcher