Rapid Fielding Milestone at Fort Polk
September 26, 2007
By Jean Dubiel
FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, Sept. 26, 2007) - The Army's Program Executive-Office Soldier outfitted it's one-millionth customer with a Rapid Fielding Initiative kit here Sept. 25.
The Soldier was Pfc. Carlton Speegle of Company D, 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He received a coin from PEO Soldier and a letter from Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, PEO Soldier executive officer.
"The one-millionth Soldier and all of those before and after him represent the best fighting force in history," said Brig. Gen. Brown. "They are the best young men and women the country has to offer, and we owe it to them to make their jobs as easy as possible."
RFI was born in 2002 when Soldiers in Afghanistan recognized the need for improved equipment that was lighter and more durable than standard Army-issue gear, and that would endure the demands of desert, mountain and urban warfare.
RFI delivers the most up-to-date equipment to Soldiers as quickly as possible, and includes gear that enhances combat effectiveness, saves Soldiers' lives and improves quality of life in the field.
Based on lessons learned in Afghanistan, PEO Soldier compiled a list of 15 items, including things Soldiers were purchasing on their own. They were fielded to members of the 82nd Abn. Div. in late 2002.
The list was expanded and refined, and the first full-scale fielding of 49 RFI items took place in December, 2003, when members of the Army National Guard's 81st Enhanced Separate Brigade received their gear in Fort Lewis, Wash.
In 2004 the Army determined that all Soldiers deploying in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom would receive an RFI kit. RFI currently equips about 24,000 Soldiers each month.
Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, said RFI represents a commitment by the Army and the nation to equip Soldiers with the best possible gear.
"When you're sending folks out to fight, you've got to give them the best possible equipment, and to be responsive to their needs in giving them the gear the way they want it and when it's helpful to them," said Maj. Gen. Bolger. "The RFI takes direct feedback from those who are in the fight and gets them what they need. When they come back, their suggestions make RFI better each time.
"I think the emphasis on rapidity, on getting it to the person who's in the fight, is really what has made this such a successful program," he said. "Soldiers are very honest, and they will tell you what works and what doesn't. What's great about this program is that we've cut through a lot of bureaucracy and said: 'If it works, you can have it. If it there's a way to make it work better, we'll fix it, and if it doesn't work, then we won't give it to you.' "
The RFI Kit contains 58 individual and small-unit equipment items, including ballistic eye wear, combat ear protection, a strap cutter for emergency egress from vehicles, cold-weather clothing, an equipment vest and the advanced combat helmet.
Pfc. Speegle said the helmet is the best piece of gear he received.
"The ACP helmet is a lot more comfortable than the old helmets. It's lighter, has better visibility, and is by far the best equipment issued through RFI. We have to carry a lot of stuff, so I'm glad RFI is making changes to the gear to make it more durable, comfortable, lighter and safer."
PEO Soldier is responsible for almost everything Soldiers wear or carry. For more information visit <a href="http://www.peosoldier.army.mil"target=_blank>
(Jean Dubiel works for the Fort Polk Public Affairs Office.)