FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- This January, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier's continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.

Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.

"Today's Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment," said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. "[We're] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment."

Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.

In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE COMBAT UNIFORM

To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry time of the current uniform.

In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:

-- mandarin collar eliminated
-- shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides
-- zipper closures replaced by buttons
-- breast and back trouser pockets removed
-- crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts
-- knee articulated for better maneuverability

Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.

Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.

JUNGLE COMBAT BOOT VERSION 2

In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a "Version 2" of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on "Version 1" of the boot Soldiers have already field-tested earlier this year.

After that field testing of Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.

The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.

Come January, the Version 2 boots -- 150 from each of five manufacturers -- will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.