FORT POLK, La. -- Soldiers with Fort Polk's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division became the first active-component BCT to receive the Army's new MultiCam Army Combat Uniforms when personnel from the Program Executive Office Soldier began issuing the new gear Aug. 16 in preparation for the unit's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard McPherson, PEO Soldier, said the primary goal of the new uniforms was two-fold -- Soldier survivability and lethality. "This new equipment will give our Soldiers a better chance of survival on the battlefield and allow them more freedom of movement so they can fire their weapons better," he said.
McPherson said PEO Soldier's primary mission -- to ensure the combat effectiveness of Soldiers -- means they must survive. "The new camo pattern has a lot to do with survivability," he said. "It gives Soldiers more confidence."
The new uniforms also affect a Soldier's quality of life, he said. "These uniforms are fire resistant so that if a Soldier finds himself in a burning vehicle or house, he has a better chance of escaping without being burned," McPherson said. "It also has built-in insect repellent to keep ticks and other bugs away."
While the new MultiCam ACU pattern has received a lot of press, McPherson said other pieces of new equipment being issued to Soldiers headed to Afghanistan have also proven popular.
"The new tactical assault pack replaces the improved outer tactical vest," he said. "It increases the number of magazines a Soldier can carry from six to 10 and spreads the weight out more evenly over the Soldier's body. It was something our Soldiers asked for."
McPherson said all of the new equipment was asked for by Soldiers. "We are fielding the best equipment to our Soldiers in the history of warfare," he said.
When asked if today's Soldier might be receiving too much equipment, McPherson said that depends on where the person who asked the question was sitting. "Are you in a conference room or on a mountain top in Afghanistan'" he said. "Everything we issue has been field tested. It's all about survivability. Soldiers must be able to operate in any environment. It's very expensive and we thank the taxpayers for their support."
Included with the rapid fielding initiative -- the process by which new equipment is distributed to Soldiers preparing to deploy -- the Soldiers also receive training classes. "The new equipment is sophisticated," McPherson said. "Soldiers must be trained on how to maintain and wear the new uniforms properly. We provide hands-on classes, videos and graphic aids."
McPherson said if the uniforms are not worn or sized properly they won't work. "We fit the Soldiers from head to toe," he said. "Confidence starts there: When you know everything -- vest and helmet included -- fits. That's why we're here -- to make sure everything is done correctly."
Capt. Paul Rothlisberger, commander of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, led his company through the issue point at Fort Polk Army Airfield Aug. 18. He said he was impressed with the new gear.
"I think it will make a significant difference in Afghanistan," he said. "In the end, I believe it will save Soldiers' lives and make them more effective on the battle field."
Sgt. Kyle Hellpap agreed. "It's much better than what we had when we went to Iraq," he said. "The plate carriers are pretty neat. It gives confidence, especially to our younger guys."
Plate carriers hold the protective armor - or plates - worn by Soldiers. The new carriers provide Soldiers with greater comfort and ease of movement.
Spc. Leslie Elliott said he was impressed with the tactical assault pack. "We know it (tactical assault pack) is actually going to work," he said. "It will definitely be easier to get to your equipment while firing."
The new uniform and equipment issue includes the following:
Aca,!Ac Fire-resistant elbow and knee pad sets
Aca,!Ac Combat gloves
Aca,!Ac Winter combat gloves
Aca,!Ac Army combat shirt
Aca,!Ac Cold weather uniform
Aca,!Ac Fire and insect resistant ACU tops and bottoms
Aca,!Ac Mountain boots
Aca,!Ac Combat helmet and cover
The Army National Guard's 34th Infantry Brigade from Iowa became the first brigade to receive the new equipment Aug. 10 at Camp Shelby, Miss. Earlier this summer, a 50-Soldier contingent from Fort Drum, N.Y., also received the new gear.