Wednesday, September 13, 1995

Several months ago an irate Colonel wrote to U.S. Army Infantry magazine, calling for us to get rid of Gore-Tex(c) garments like our Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) parkas, since they failed to work for his men in the then 7th Light Infantry Division. An explanation is in order.

Gore-Tex(c) is a lining on the inside of your parka, pants or tent. It is a thin sheet of plastic that is too thin and fragile to stand on its own as an outer rain garment. This is where the problem begins.

Another outer layer is needed and though the rain water will be stopped at the Gore-Tex(c), it may have soaked into the outer layer. The Gore-Tex(c) has micro holes so sweat vapor can escape and rapidly dry the garment but if you are constantly getting soaked you will overwhelm this self-dry capability.

The water repellency of this outer fabric layer needs to be "re-energized" with an iron on a very low heat setting to protect the Gore-Tex(c) membrane. Wash only with DRY detergents.

The last step is to spray Kiwi-brand "Camp Dry(c)" silicon over the outside to make the water bead off. This will insure that only a small amount of water is absorbed for Gore-Tex(c) drying action to occur. Because the outer fabric is a weave, it looks non-functional as the Colonel complained.

You will notice on the front of your ECWCS parka that there is a small tab to attach your rank insignia, like the British battledress jackets have made famous in the Falklands War in 1982. The center of the chest is a good place for rank insignia to be seen since at the collar they are usually overed by LBE. Since the ECWCS parka should be worn over body armor in extreme cold/wet weather since Kevlar(c) loses some of its ballistic protective abilities when wet, this feature makes good sense. This tab is sacrificial in that you can poke holes through it for pin-on rank insignia without having to put holes in your jacket itself. If you actually own your ECWCS parka as they are available from AAFES military clothing sales and surplus stores, go ahead and SEW your subdued rank insignia to the rank tab so there is no chance of a metal pin-on rank insignia losing its clutchback and poking holes in your jacket to cause water to leak in. A short nametape can be sewn to the sleeve pocket flap of the ECWCS parka for name identification without affecting the water repellency of the jacket. The use of sewn-on subdued rank insignia is a tactical and logistical strength of the U.S. Army that needs to be exploited whenever possible.

Your new Gore-Tex ECWCS parka is an amazing garment if you make sure it stays clean and without tears. There is a rank tab in the center of the jacket so if you pin on your rank, only the tab gets holes in it, not the actual jacket which is to keep the rain out. However, years of Army experience has shown that the clutchbacks of metal pin-on insignia fall off and the sharp points can put holes in your jacket.

By Army regulation rank insignia is now to be a cloth slip on over the tab. These can be ordered through the mail from Ranger Joe's of Columbus, Georgia or you can designate someone like the webmaster to obtain these for you. Another option is Military Clothing Sales Stores (MCSS) at Fort Benning or Stewart. Cost is $3.00 each.

Ranger Joe's
325 Farr Rd Suite A or walk-in store 4030 Victory Drive
Columbus, Georgia 31907-6248
1-800-247-4541 or FAX (706) 682-8840

Catalog # and rank/pay grade (click on hyperlink to order online)

6461 PVT E2
6462 PFC E3
6478 SPC E4
6463 CPL E4
6464 SGT E5
6465 SSG E6
6466 SFC E7
6468 1SG E8
6469 SGM E9
6470 CSM E9
6471 2LT O1
6472 1LT O2
6473 CPT O3
6474 MAJ O4
6475 LTC O5
6476 COL O6
6477 BG O7

In my next article, I will describe how to strip down as much excess material from the BDU as possible to make it cooler and so there is less material to soak up water.