26 September 2011

Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission In Review: Issued Kit

Days after we remember a day that changed a lot of our careers, I spend my last days on active duty from the latest deployment. From start to finish, this has been the most rewarding deployment I have ever been a part of. I made some new lifelong friends, worked with some very interesting folks, spent the majority of that time teaching, and shot an incredible amount of ammunition. What follows is simply a deployment the way I saw it. Mostly about the kit and the shooting because of OPSEC/PERSEC.

So here I sit, nearly 10 months after suiting up for deployment. I am worn out, tired of Arabic, but I could do the whole thing over again right now. It is not often in a career that one gets to do the things I just got done doing. My team and I were afforded the opportunity to teach, train with, and shoot tens of thousands of rounds with a foreign military. There are some specifics within our military who get to do this as their mission, we're just not typically one of those specialties. Fortunately for me, I have been an instructor since 2007, and some of my team even longer. In those guys I witnessed some real true blue teaching like I never expected to see out of them. These guys came from all walks of life, from every place one could imagine within the military. Some of those noteworthy guys include: 1LT Jake S. - OIC, SSG Dan J. - Combat Arms Instructor, TSG Tyler E. - SWAT Officer, SSG George R. - Regional Training Center Instructor, SSG Keith G. - TACOM Instructor, and SA Sashi Y. - PSO Instructor. All of the guys I had were awesome to work with, but the fore mentioned guys have been teaching long before this deployment and it showed greatly. Also deserving some serious honorable mention were our three Iraqi instructors who by the end of our training operations were able to run the whole course by themselves with us standing by to advise. Those guys include SGT Hussian A., CPL Tariq A., and CPL Amer G. These 3 truly understood our intentions and drank the Kool Aid from DOT 1. I would like to give huge thanks to 3 good dudes from TF Raptor. Without their help with ranges, ammo, and curriculum development, this thing would not have been successful.

Taking a step back now, we rewind back to the beginning. Before any of our deployments, it is a mandatory thing for us to head out to some desert for spin-up training. The luck of the draw for us this time was El Paso, TX and Fort Bliss. More specifically, Desert Defender Regional Training Center, which took place at a number of the Fort Bliss annexes. If someone would have told me that El Paso was cold in December and January, I would have called "bullshit" and still took what I took. It turns out that it is cold there and hot weather attire is only good for part of the day...my bad!

For most of us attending RTC, the whole thing was a basic refresher for those of us that had been down range in our careers. For my newbies, it was sort of a culture shock for them. Yes, everyone has been through Basic Training and the follow on schools, but for the new guys, humping your kit from sun up to sun set was a new world...and then doing it at night was even more so. That said, we were blessed with newbies who were capable of closing their mouths and opening their ears which made for a great learning experience for everyone.

For the most part, the flavor of the day on departure for this deployment was issued kit. There were some small add-on's to my kit, which included my 215 Gear sling and CSM Gear dump pouch. But for the most part, we ran issued. For those of you who have ran an issued IBA with side SAPI carriers...they still suck in every single way imaginable. Our fighting load and sustainment pack were the DFLCS Kit from Garrett Container Systems, as made by London Bridge Trading Company. It is an OK kit and did what we asked of it to do, but the quality was definitely better when Eagle Industries was manufacturing it for us.

As I mentioned previous, we did run mostly issued kit. This carried over to our uniform items as well. Our base layering system was actually pretty great. We were issued the entire DriFire undergarment system which ran from undershirts and boxer shorts, to extreme cold weather undergarments. DriFire's material is unlike the other FR clothing manufacturers in that they are really very soft and comfortable next to the skin. That is not to say Massif's and XGO's garments are uncomfortable, I'm simply stating that I was surprised at the comfort...especially because it was issued to us. At the end of the day, I didn't need almost all of the DriFire system because we were headed to 100+ degrees. I wore a mixed bag of DriFire, Massif, and XGO undershirts the entire deployment, all of which performed admirably. The DriFire T-shirts had a problem with the neck line sagging real bad once you got rolling for the day, but they were soft. The Massif shirts are cut perfect for an athletic body type, but can chafe in the arm pits. Sherry Lyons from XGO sent me several different types of undershirts and were by far my favorites in 130 degrees.

And finally, in the world of clothing, the Massif ABU

In conclusion, we have focused primarily on issued kit. If you'll notice, not one set of issued boots were mentioned here. What will follow this TNSA entry will focus on the non-issued kit used over the course of this deployment. I will also include all the good gun stuff in that article as I had a few non-issued items stuck on there, as well as non-issued AK-47 action. Look for that real soon!

So, here we sit...tons of issued kit and no verdict. Everything mentioned in this entry fit into about 3/4 of an "A" Bag. There was much much more, but what has been mentioned was about all of it I used. The other 1/4 of this bag collected dust, along with the other full one, and the big roll away. It was time consuming and cumbersome lugging all of that mandatory kit, so most of it found its way into foot lockers and ultimately to the post office.

So onto the verdict. Issued kit sucks....or....it used to. In today's day and age of huge companies, with lots of money, jockeying for DOD contracts, it is clear to me that things in the world of issued kit has changed. It seems to me that companies are having to spend more money on technologically in an effort to move ahead of the competition and get the contracts. On a scale of 5 stars, I give the issued kit (as a whole) a 3 star rating. 3 stars you ask? There is one singular "X Factor" here that made the whole package lose its 4th star. That "X Factor" lies solely with my issued IBA. That thing has always been, and continues to be, a piece of crap. It is the least functional and uncomfortable body armor vest I have ever worn.

3 out of 5, not bad. That said, the rest of this issued kit should put a little peer pressure on the body armor to get its 4th star back.

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