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17th public affairs detachment news release (Nov. 8, 2004): Army initiative provides latest equipment to deployed soldiers.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan -- As the battlefield of the 21st century evolves, so does the equipment that keeps soldiers in the fight. In response to the rapid deployments of the past few years, the U.S. Army leaders have created the Rapid Fielding Initiative, known as RFI, which aims to ensure that soldiers are issued the most technologically advanced equipment available to them.

The initiative team issues a variety of equipment, from boots and gloves to sunglasses and improved helmets. Most units receive a rapid fielding initiative issue before deploying. But in a time of no-notice or last-minute deployment orders, there are some soldiers who are missed. In this case, the RFI team will travel to the field to get equipment to soldiers, said Sgt. 1st Class James Mical, Army Test and Evaluation Command RFI consultant.

"With technology changing so fast, and soldiers rapidly deploying, it is necessary to have a flexible solution to get equipment to the soldiers," said Philip Whitlock, initiative team member.

The advantages of Rapid Fielding Initiative are numerous, Whitlock said. Because the team can travel throughout the world, they are able to bring equipment to soldiers whose units did not have the opportunity to receive the equipment at their home station.

"We go where the soldiers are," said Whitlock.

Once the members of the team visit the soldiers in Iraq, they send the measurements and sizes back to a warehouse in Kuwait. There, a duffel bag is filled with each soldier's gear based on his or her sizes. The bag is then sent back to the individual's unit for issue. This process can have the gear back to the soldier in about 15 days.

Emphasis on the soldier is one reason why the initiative is gaining in popularity within the Army, said Whitlock. Not only do members of the team pay close attention to customer service, but the equipment they issue keeps them popular, Whitlock said.

The items issued vary by the type of unit a soldier is in, but most get improved T-shirts, belts and socks, along with silk-weight long underwear, goggles, hydration systems, improved knee pads, fleece jackets, and bib overalls.

Some soldiers are even issued multi-function tools and other tools they use as part of their military occupational specialty. Combat soldiers are also issued modular lightweight load-carrying equipment, known as MOLLE gear.

On Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, in Afghanistan, the initiative team came to properly size soldiers for the Advanced Combat Helmet. The unit, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, was issued a majority of their RFI items before deploying, but the advanced helmet was a supplemental item.

The ACH is an improvement over the traditional helmet because of its advanced design, said Luis Samuel, RFI team member. "It is designed to work better with interceptor body armor," he continued. "It is easier to shoot from the prone position with these new helmets."

The ACH is also one-and-a-half pounds lighter than the traditional Kevlar helmet and has a four-point chin strap system for a better fit. It also provides a better fit because each helmet has rotating pads that fit to different sized heads.

Each ACH comes with a night vision mount, helmet cover that is reversible with either desert or woodland pattern, movable pads, and the four-point chin strap retaining system. It can also be fitted with a communications system.

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While the ACH is just now being issued to many soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom, Spc. Edgar Salas of the battalion's Company C wore the ACH when he was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Salas said he was very satisfied with the helmet during the months he used it in Iraq.

"It fits so well, and it is so much lighter that you sometimes forget you have it on," said Salas. "It really helps lessen neck and shoulder fatigue on long missions."

Spc. Dan Maulsby, another Company C soldier, said he likes RFI for a few different reasons.

"It feels good because it feels like the Army is going out of its way to get us the best equipment they can," said Maulsby.

The piece of equipment that has been most useful is the MOLLE vest, said Maulsby.

"These vests are comfortable and practical," he said. "It makes sense because each person can put the pockets in different positions. This is better, because with the different weapon systems, each person can put ammo where it is most efficient."

Both Maulsby and Salas said all the equipment they have received from RFI has been very useful and that they would likely have purchased some of the items themselves if they weren't issued them.

This is a common response heard by the Rapid Fielding Initiative team, and it has become one of the most rewarding aspects of their jobs.

"These are all items soldiers were buying anyway, We were just giving them something they can use," said Samuel. "This just cuts down on [unnecessary] cost to the individual soldier."

Sgt. Frank Magni, USA
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:In the News
Author:Magni, Frank
Publication:Defense AT & L
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:842
Previous Article:Air Force print news (Nov. 12, 2004): Air Force's future 'invented' at Research Lab.
Next Article:Air Force print news (Nov. 2, 2004): leaders unveil updated utility uniform colors, pattern.
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