We all know clothing is as is important as it is frequently misused (think of the Spandex/Lycra you see on big girls, or too-tight BDUs on mall ninjas). Nowhere is this more important than in the field. If you’ve done any time hunting bad guys over the horizon, you know damn well how often crotches get blown out (one of our friends in a Marine Reconnaissance unit’s trousers blew out after just two weeks on the ground in Helmand – same as the rest of his guys…they were glad they last that long). Remember this? Things haven't changed much.
Seriously, uniform manufacturers might as well not even put a crotch in, save the fabric, thread and labor. It’ll sort of be like fighting Scottish-fashion, with your boys hanging free…what could go wrong there?
Anyway, one of our other friends, an EOD Tech, sent us a rant we’ll pass along. Maybe somewhere will listen.
Let me make something completely clear:
Flame-retardant uniforms DO. NOT. PROTECT YOU FROM IEDs.
I've seen this repeated so many times amongst the gear sites and it's driving me crazy.
An IED contains explosives. Many IEDs are made with conventional military ordnance (for example, a 105mm artillery shell) as the main charge, though home made explosives are very common as well. The two main wounding mechanisms in an explosion are primary fragmentation (frag from the ordnance item itself, if it produces it) and blast overpressure. The former can have a very long range, the latter has a greatly reduced range. You also have significant danger from secondary fragmentation (sticks, stones, and bones, as it were).
Explosions produce heat. But burns are not the primary cause of wounds from IED blasts. In many cases, if you're close enough to get burned you're also caught in the blast overpressure, and you've got bigger problems. IEDs are not any more likely to set you on fire than a conventional munition.
You can find videos of ANA soldiers stepping on IEDs in Afghanistan. They're often badly burned, but that's after the blast rips their clothing away. Flame retardant cheese cloth like Defender-M will do little, if anything, to mitigate this, in my opinion.
Now, does this mean that flame retardant uniforms are worthless? Not at all. Many, many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been severely burned. In most cases it's due to a vehicle being hit and catching on fire. This is the same reason tankers and aircrew have been wearing flame retardant uniforms for years. A flame retardant uniform can provide an additional level of protection when you're actually at risk of being in a fire.
However, many gear blogs make it seem like that they think that IEDs produce big fireballs, and having an FR uniform will protect you.
They need to pay attention.
I'd have rather had a set of good ol', 50/50 NYCO fatigues when I was in Afghanistan, than the OCPs I was issued. The OCPs, made by Propper of Tencate Defender-M fabric, were poorly made. Specifically, the Propper OCPs issued circa 2011 are junk. There’s no other way to say it. The material is about as durable as a hotel bath towel. Let’s not forget that flame retardant properties are diminished if the uniform has holes in it—one would think, then, we’d want FR uniforms that are somewhat resistant to holes.
FR isn’t the only consideration. I saw a young Lieutenant blow out his crotch getting out of a Chinook, starting off a four day operation in December. He commented that he was happy he wore underwear that time, otherwise his bits would've frozen off (it was below freezing at night). He repaired his pants with duct tape and carried on.
My issue OCPs came from the factory looking faded, and the color washed out very quickly with only a few washings (to the point where a couple pairs of my pants looked like a new Multicam uniform turned inside out). The buttons routinely came off. The Velcro fuzz wore bare. I saw many soldiers with crotches blown out. The Velcro on the chest pockets is so crappy it takes two hands to get them open,and consequently no-one uses the chest pockets.
To be fair, the combat shirts are made of a different material and held their color a lot better.
There has got to be a better solution to this.
I'm all for flame retardant combat uniforms. But surely they can come up with one that won't fall apart halfway through a six-month deployment, if not far far sooner?
He brings up a great point. General Scales pointed out something similar to this in his book Yellow Smoke. All our craft, engineering and technical prowess goes to the cool stuff rather than the guys with boots on the ground. We can power an aircraft carrier with nuclear energy and fly remote control airplanes halfway around the world to snoop around and chastise the naughty with missiles, but we can’t give Joe a pair of pants that will keep his nuts covered up?
If this was happening to professional football players or the cops protecting the Halls of Congress they’d have fixed it already. Feinstein doesn't want to see anybody's balls, especially if they're carring a gun.
Mad Duo Clear!
About the Authors: Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore and Jake “Slim” Call are the HMFICs at Breach-Bang-Clear (breachbangclear.com). They write for current and former military, LEOs, contractors and trained and educated responsible armed citizens. They are the most door-kickingest, trigger-pullingest action figures in the tactically operational tactical operator world. Subscribe
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