Infantry: December 21, 2003


After a quarter century of complaints, the U.S. Army recently replaced the All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) rucksack with the Modular Lightweight Load Bearing Equipment (MOLLE) rucksacks. Years of research and testing went into the development of the new equipment. The marines were so impressed that they adopted MOLLE as well. Then everyone went off to Iraq with MOLLE and used the gear in combat. Somehow, flaws that do not appear in the most strenuous peacetime training, jump out at you in combat. The marines were so dissatisfied with their newly acquired MOLLE that they decided to chuck it and replace it with civilian gear. Army troops had also been singing the praises of civilian gear from firms like London Bridge, Blackhawk and Tactical Tailor. The civilian "combat rucksacks" were developed by talking to the troops and dispensing with the vast bureaucracy the army employs to develop equipment. So while the marines will get rucksacks that work, the army decided to stick with MOLLE and attempt to fix the flaws. The troops are not pleased. Many are scrounging old ALICE gear which, for all its flaws, performs better than the new MOLLE equipment. Either that, or they are buying civilian rucksacks with their own money. An uncomfortable and inefficient rucksack can be a matter of life and death on the battlefield, a point the army procurement bureaucrats appear to have overlooked. 


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