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Quick-drying cammies, skivvies in the works

But will the Corps have to share them?

Jun. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Jungle warfare training tests mettle of Marines, s
Marines climb out of the pit and pond during an endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves on Okinawa, Japan. The Corps is looking to develop new quick-drying uniforms and underwear for Marines deploying to muggy locales in the Pacific. (Pfc. Codey Underwood / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps' next-generation boots are being developed alongside an array of quick-drying gear that includes a new, lightweight tropical uniform ensemble.

The Marine Corps' next-generation boots are being developed alongside an array of quick-drying gear that includes a new, lightweight tropical uniform ensemble.

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The Marine Corps’ next-generation boots are being developed alongside an array of quick-drying gear that includes a new, lightweight tropical uniform ensemble.

Officials with Marine Corps Systems Command plan to launch that effort in earnest early in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, when they detail for the defense industry precisely what they want for the Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform. Early indications are that the new clothing set will include socks, T-shirts, underwear, blouses and trousers — all designed with hot, humid, wet environments in mind.

Fabrics used in Marines’ cammies and flame-resistant combat uniforms “do not dry out sufficiently in tropical environments,” Marine officials said in January, when they first reached out to manufacturers in search of information about products and technology that could inform the procurement effort. The tropical uniforms and skivvies will look similar to current uniform items, they said, but will help combat the growth of fungus, most likely by using commercially available materials that wick moisture and dry quickly.

Uniforms and footwear that retain water can result in heat-related casualties and bacteria growth that can attack a Marine’s feet and sideline him with injuries. To that end, the new hot-weather boots will incorporate nylon, which dries faster than leather, and have less padding to soak up moisture.

Between these two initiatives, Marines deploying to jungle climates will be outfitted from head to toe with gear meant to make their missions more comfortable.

SECNAV: Sharing is OK

It’s conceivable that troops in other services could wind up wearing the same — or similar — gear.

Today, there are 10 styles of combat uniform used across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps — and more are in development. But members of Congress have advanced a proposal that would require the military to share uniforms and camouflage patterns. They argue that too much money has been spent developing unique designs, and that the time has come to prohibit the services from adopting a new combat uniform unless it will be shared by all.

Within the military, there’s already pushback against that idea. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett, for instance, issued a statement June 7 saying the Corps’ proprietary Marine Pattern design, largely viewed as the U.S. military’s premier camouflage, is integral to Marines’ identity, culture and morale while providing psychological advantages on the battlefield.

But while speaking to media June 13 in Washington, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was supportive of the push to cut the number of combat uniforms in the services.

“The notion that we’ve got all this camouflage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” he said. “I think it’s worthwhile to see if we can shrink the numbers here.”

Other services have expressed interest in MARPAT. The Navy has fielded new digital woodland and desert uniforms whose color schemes bear striking similarities to the Corps’, and the Army has researched MARPAT as it looks to replace its utility uniform, which has proven ineffective.

When asked if he thinks Marines would protest giving up their iconic MARPAT design, Mabus said it may be all right to have more than one uniform for all of the services.

“Whether you go to one or two or three,” he said, “it’s still progress.”

Jacqueline Klimas contributed to this report.

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