The Post-911 Soldier

Given that Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I thought it would be cool for Kit Up! to examine what the ensuing conflict since the attacks has meant for the development of gear that a Soldier carries. Much of what we look at here can be translated to the Marine Corps and Air Force (at least the ground side) as well — and that’s not to mention the special operating forces. Think of how much their gear has changed over the last decade.

First we have the Soldier of September 10, 2001. He’s wearing a heavy as hell Kevlar helmet, he just got the Interceptor body armor vest (maybe) but he probably doesn’t have SAPI plates — and if he does, he’s got one for the front. He’s draping Vietnam-era web gear over the vest and he just got an M4 — if he’s lucky. When he’s shooting, he’s looking through iron sights and Picatinny rail systems with grips, lasers and lights were well out of reach.

Fast forward 10 years and here’s what Joe looks like today…

He’s sporting a lightweight helmet with a low profile cut; he’s got a streamlined plate carrier or he’s wearing body armor that can be configured for the mission. All his web gear is gone and in its place is a wide assortment of pouches and pockets to fit any manner of ammo and gear attached directly to his armor. He’s wearing a “combat shirt” that’s fire resistant, instead of a ripstop jacket and he’s ditched the woodland camo in favor of a pattern that was previously only available to special ops troops. His rifle has a laser, an IR beam and a white light attached to it and he’s aiming through an optic that helps him hit his target with both eyes open. He’s even wearing boots that used to be the the kind of kit used for high-end mountaineering rather than soldiering.

In short, while 9-11 was horrific and the conflicts that came after were costly, the rapid evolution of snuffy has been incredible. What once looked more like a Vietnam castoff has transformed into a Starship Troopers warrior from the future — and that’s just for regular infantrymen, not the Tier guys.

Sure the DoD could do better. Sure there’s waste and abuse. But I’d much rather go to war with the Soldier’s kit of today than that of a decade ago.

73 Comments on "The Post-911 Soldier"

  1. Christian,

    As noticable as the changes are for you, imagine how we old soldiers feel when we see the current kit.

    I served in the "old" black boot Army in the 70's and 80's with the same VN era or older web gear, OD perma press fatigues, steel pots for helmets, M-113 APCs, nylon flak jackets, LAWs, Dragons, and M-16s. Todays soldier looks like something we only saw in sci-fi movies back then, and it's a good thing to see.

    Now if we could just get the bugs worked out of those personal force field generators we could finally get some weight relief on the body armor. ; )


  2. When you say this is what Joe looks like, I take it you mean the door kickers and the spec ops guys. If I were loaded out like that I'd be laughed all the way home.

  3. Hell, in '04 I looked closer to the first guy when I was in Afghanistan than I did the second guy. I was still using a woodland interceptor vest, although we did get both plates, and I was high speed and attached pouches to the vest, rather than putting an LBV over it.

    I had an old Colt M16A2 (lower once was an A1) but it happened to be the most accurate rifle I've ever been issued. I miss that rifle.

  4. I've said this before to my friends, but I'll say it again: this is the age of attachments.
    With M4/M16 flat top uppers, ACOGS/EOTechs/Aimpoints, RIS rails, MOLLE FLC carriers, etc there was an explosion/emphasis in modular gear in the last 10 years

  5. Another thing: gloves that are dexterious enough to allow shooting and maniplation without having to cut off the fingers.

  6. I jumped into Iraq in March of '03. In April of '04 when I left 90% of my web gear had changed out of my own pocket. First to go was that useless 40mm grenade vest. I'm happy to see the guys now getting issued gear that works, and commanders who have figured out that making every soldier set up their Nam era LCE exactly uniform is a bad idea.

  7. Hell I STILL have an M16A2, NO body armor (not even an empty vest), or working comms gear. The comms issue was great when working with the Hurricane Irene relief efforts here in the state the last two weeks.

  8. Don't get me wrong, technology is cool. Body armor that works has had an extremely significant impact (everything from maintaining the nation's will to fight because of less casualties to making troops more aggressive in a given situation).

    One thing stays the same, the soldier.

    He gets it done with or without Gucci gear. All too often we as Americans get enthralled with technology and forget its the training that really differentiates our army from every other one in the world.

  9. Posts the price tag comparison. What we ended up spending for outfitting the military and intel is the greatest fleecing of American taxpayer money and needs to be told. Look at all the new "corporate" bldg's around DC. DHS has the biggest gov't facility now and solutions company like SAIC, Gen Dyn, BAE, made out like bandits.

    Guess who found UBL, one case officer, a handful of analysts, cell phone tracking and a take down team, so do we really need all this big BS? Nope. Too much gear that just costs a whole lot, if you ask me.

  10. I would be curious to see the price tag comparison per soldier as well. I can't imagine that the tricked-out M4's today can possibly be less expensive than the M16's of 10 years ago. Not that I'd begrudge those in uniform the better body armor and gear, but it'd be nice to get some sense of value for the money. If nothing else, seeing value for money might silence those who argue reflexively that all of it is a waste and cite extremely specific examples as justification.

  11. I like how you pulled your whole argument from that stupid show. Major Rod has excellent points (more than likely from experience), whereas you watch one "public" media presentation and ZOMFG!MILITARY'SARIPOFF!

    Do yourself a favor before popping off after watching near-political propaganda: do further research. Yes, the intelligence agencies and industry around it needs reigning in to perform better. Yes, big mistakes have been made that have cost money and lives. No, it's not our troops fault. Before you start raging in your blissful ignorance against the protection of our troops and the methods at which they're missions are accomplished, listen to someone like Major Rod and do your damn homework.

    And stop following American Public Media.

  12. I really don't understand all the hate towards paintball players and airsofters, so they (esp. the airsofters) like to dress up like Spec Ops types and soldier & Marines, where's the harm in that? What's so wrong about admiring our brave men & women in the military and wanting to dress like them while doing something they enjoy? As long as they don't actually try to pass themselves off as real members of the military then where's the harm? Plus, have you stopped to consider that maybe not all of these people are "wannabes" and are real life military, police, or PSCs doing this stuff because they think it's fun?

  13. I served wearing both sets of kit and I have favorites in both. All in all this new gucci gear is one hell of an improvement from that heavy sh*t we used to wear.

  14. Amen!!!

  15. What is the deal with the trolls? @ XL6, Hates Larps, and usma '02- I have said this once and I'll say it again. Christian does an amazing job at giving us the latest in military kit news as well as bringing up great topics for discussion. If you can't stay on topic then you don't need to be here. It's ridiculous comments that make actual BTDT's stay away from the comments section, which in turn hurts the blog overall.

  16. Notice how I mentioned the comms gear being the issue not weapons or body armor with the hurricane relief. Read the comment before replying.

  17. No they don't. They're just stinkin up the place. They sound like repressed milfreak geeks to be honest, and change the subject to something completely irrelevant. And that's before even mentioning the prepubescent trash talk on a group of people who likely don't even read this blog.

    I'm starting to think this blog needs stricter moderation, and I hate that.

  18. JEEEZZZ!!! Relax folks. The topic was the improved gear since 9/11/01, unless I was mistaken…I,too was a 19D10 (Scout) in the late 70's. the equipment is WAAAYYY better today…I'd need complete re-training to operate this new stuff. HOWEVER…if your GPS takes a crap, and all you got is a 1/50000 TopoMap and a lensatic compass and need help shooting a back-azimuth, let me know (heh). Seriously, we would've happily killed to get the goodies these Soldiers and Marines have today. And Major Rod? If anything, these youngsters are better than we were…and I have to swallow my pride to admit that. Well done, Lads!

  19. "Guess who found UBL, one case officer, a handful of analysts, cell phone tracking and a take down team, so do we really need all this big BS? Nope. Too much gear that just costs a whole lot, if you ask me."

    What did satellites, two stealth hawks, 2 MH47s, a sentinel UAV, all the Gucci gear DevGru has, a base in Jalalabad, an aircraft carrier task force cost and all the overhead, maintenance, R&D and ?

    Specifically which "dodads" mentioned would you deem as unecessary and consider a waste of money? Are you saying BAE fleeced us on the Bradley, Gen Dynamics on the M1/Stryker and the upgrades on these systems to make them more survivable against the current threat? Trying to understand your rant about the "military industrial complex" but the link between the companies you mentioned and the story is tenuous.

    Should we price what it costs to outfit aWWII paratrooper and Roman Legionaire while we are at it?

  20. If you think this is cool then just google the 2020 future soldier

  21. You ever think that service members play them too? I know of 6 bases that have paintball/airsoft fields. I'm in the military and I play them too.

  22. Wow, I come from a military family and joined up when I turned 18, it's amazing to see the difference side by side.

  23. So much copy/paste!

    I bet half these off topic posts are made by one person!

  24. Riceball, apologize for some of the blatant racism out here. Uncalled for. Personally I don't have an issue with airsofters but that community has two annoying qualities. First arguing with those that have been there on strategy, tactics & equipment. Discussion is fine. Telling someone that's been there "that _______ is better" is going to get someone rightfully angry. Second, an almost obsessive fascination with equipment and gadgets. Otherwise I think that that military enthusiasts that occassionally break a sweat is cool. Better than American Idol & Jersey Shore fans.

    USMA '02, ever heard of Shinseki? Class of '65. Puerto Rican CIB '85 grad here.

  25. Don't know what you mean ALICE gear is still in use for men here in the US and for base personnel over seas only front line infantry got new LBR gear. MOLLE gear sucks and falls off too easily im glad there leaving that. Only digital wood/desert works ACU in service now sucks and woodland is in use in SOCOM and Navy still. M-16A2s are in service in all branches of the Military. The USMC has A4s now and front line Army units use M-4s that's only change out there every one else has a A2. Which is fine I found them better balanced and more accurate than a smaller M-4. Longer 20 inch guns do better in combat in the afghan war. A2s arnt going away for many years to come Navy USAF and Coast Guard units have them and have no plans to replace them.

    Im not saying ACOGs AIMPOINTs lasers and better armor isnt better they help alot in front line combat. But im saying not all that much has changed. And most back line units still have pre9/11/01 gear and with cuts coming doubt it will change any time soon.

  26. yeah they will still have same gear as now with some minor new modifications.

  27. Read an article somewhere (PS, PM or Scientific America etc') that said that the plasma around the inner sphere of the some what comman Tesla ball that you can buy could possibly be expanded as real plasma shields. However before that we either need better power storage or a portable power generator, I read an article in PM about how to build a generator into a back-back that gets its energy from the natural up-down movment of a person walking, I think it was quit a bit of energy, used strapes and bunjee cords attatched to a generator, I think.

  28. I'm asian, I do airsoft, because I don't want to lose the muscle memory of carrying and handling a rifle and pistol when I'm deployed. Since I am a support troop and my service is not exactly "small arms" focused I don't get enough training time with guns (although I get plenty operating some big, cool and vital vehicles). I have a hertiage that includes swinging a real sword. I exist to challenge stereotypes from ignorant shits like you. You can completely kiss my Asian ass sir.

  29. They are forgoing marriage because they have other choices, like.. go to school and get a job? Sorta like how white people started getting married later when a larger percentage of women hit the workforce. If you're in the military I'm embarrassed to serve with you.

  30. Ballistic sunglasses and Camelbaks weren't even allowed in a lot of units then. Too "faddish". You want a flashlight on your rifle? A laser, for chrissakes? What do you think you are, Delta? It's nice to see that for the most part, practicality has won out. Now, when you throw in the aftermarket on top of what's issued, the array of gear available can make your head spin.

  31. If that's the only thing you take, then you better be prepared to run! Because that's not going to do anything for you.

  32. Strange guys I know of men in basic training last year who have ALICE gear and I know of some Guard and reserve units and back base personnel in Iraq who have ALICE gear at least the Y spenders and Mag pouch. Ive seen them in pictures up close already.

    I also read reports that the USMCs choice and navy's choice of M-16s where better in hits and accuracy in a fire fight at afghans long ranges. Short barrels don't work past 300+ meters as well.

  33. Mohammad Qureshi | September 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Reply

    I really love the new gear, it looks so cool and it also encourages me to join, and we as America should be proud of ourselves, I lived in Pakistan and saw their soldiers and they are still using M1 steel pots, we are even leaving behind so many nations in Europe when it comes to war. Security is the most paramount of all priorities, and no money can be enough when it comes to new technologies.

    I think the US soldier looks bad ass as hell, but I wish he had a bit more form like the Russians do and the British, it just looks really good. We had some gorgeous uniforms in the war of 1812 and many others I wish we could expand on them.

  34. No, in fact I can't remember ever playing with any Asians. Mostly white people.

  35. No, actually born and bred in the USA, if you must know. Not that I think that'll change your dumb-ass mind if you really think the Chinese are going to deploy a cyber-agent to ask for information like that from a web comment in a public forum. Thanks very much "Uncle Sam" for reminding me again why I shouldn't waste my time with the comments.

  36. How about the 'price tag' of a dead soldier? Following your logic then we just need to equip them with 1 rifle and some magazines, thats enough!

  37. Shinseki – Not too crazy about the beret decision but yes, the same and only General to follow his conscience and state we needed 400,000 troops to do Iraq right and was subsequently made a lame duck in reprisal by Rumsfeld. I'm not really impressed with generals even ones with four stars but the bronze star w/"V" & two oak leaf clusters, three combat tours in Nam (not typical in that time) and even after losing half his foot has to say something about that soldier of Japanese descent.

    I'd stop digging if I were you. That hole you're standing in is well over 6' deep.

  38. I am pretty sure he is referring to kit given to troops in the middle east, more specifically combat troops like infantry and specops.

  39. Quit squinting and open your eyes. Asians serve in all branches of service. We are as patriotic as the guy or gal next to us. We are Grunts, Techs, SpecOps operators, and everything else. All we ask is to serve and be treated as equals. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Just to be clear, I presume from your tag of USMA '02, you are of that class. Your attitude towards Asians is unbecoming of a USMA graduate.

    I have served as a 0311 Marine Rifleman and was serving before you were born!!! Today, I have a nephew who is an 0311 Marine Rifleman and has recently returned from Afghanistan. I am a American born Chinese.

    Anything else?? Bring it!!!

  40. Exactly! Without the ability to train on even the latest greatest gear, all that crap will sit in the connex and stuff will get done the old school way. We may have the best gear, and OFTEN it can help with the mission, but the old skills are where these skills/training should be focused first. GPS is great, but if you still don't know how to find north on a compass, or even without a compass, you have a problem. Same with almost every piece of equipment we use. Using your head can take you farther than most people can believe.

  41. That may be, but having these resources at hand is what sets our military apart from a bunch of kids running around with a gun. that's what you sound like you want them to do. I am in the Army now, and as much as I hate running around with my gear, I would rather have a portable radio system that has encryption on the net, my m4 with all the cool gadgets I got, my body armor that weighs less than it did a few years ago and is better ergonomically and at it's protection levels, and knowing that when I get back to the FOB, whatever problems I have been through can be dealt with in a way that will help me reduce my risk of killing myself.

  42. you've watched 300 a few times.

  43. Riceball wins!!!

  44. It worked for the VC and Talibans in the sense that they are able to fight but compare their casualties to the US casualties. There is obviously a huge difference that is due to US military training and equipment. If you get rid of one and keep the other then the US would have more casualties. As the US has an all volunteer force higher casualties isn't really a smart thing to go for in order to lower costs not to mention that if they are killed or wounded than all their training and experience is useless and the money put into them is then wasted and then their medical bills or life insurance has to be paid.

    The Alamo scouts and OSS agents can't really be compared to regular infantry. They are trained and used for completely different missions. They need to be a much lighter force, compared to infantry, and have less gear. Although for the time I'm sure the scouts had about the same amount of gear as infantry. Now in my opinion you can't really compare the amount of gear from WWII to the gear now though as even when they had all the gear that infantry had, it was much less than what was available now. So while they had minimal gear compared to the soldiers of today but for the time they probably had about all that was available. The scouts anyway, I doubt a OSS agent could carry much in the way of infantry gear due to them being alone and their mission style.

  45. lemme ask u this…. if u had a loved one in the army…. would u prefer he be suited up with the best protection? or still using vietnam era stuff?

  46. Education and philosophy are wonderful things, but unless you're an office clerk, you're still going to need a gun, professor.

  47. Exactly, this was a huge issue when I was in Group as well. Commanders were asking the question, with valid reasoning in many cases, of why we need to go to vender schools and why SF soldiers whose primary job is to train foreign troops, can't even train themselves? The answer is multifaceted of course…I'm going to think about this a little bit and then I will do a write up on it and we will see what people think.

  48. The gear is great but it is double edge sword. There is a fine line between cool gear that is useful and too much that just becomes a liability just because you have a space on your chest rig/ plate carrier or vest doesn't mean you should place a pouch there the same for the ruck sack. Trust me I have been there and done that.I think the problem is to much stuff. I think the gear needs to be streamed line. REMEMBER METT-TC. The M16 serise is just fine why can't we just take a M4 lower and slap on a A4 upper when needed all you need to do is change the buffer and spring and there you have a modular system. But I think Canada has done that already. I remember when you where high speed when you had a strobe light,fanny pack,gore tex rain gear and a mini mag flashlight with the red filter and Danner Go Devil boots or OD green jungle boots LMAO.JUST MY 2 CENTS

  49. "I'm starting to think this blog needs stricter moderation…"

    Agreed. Racism, conspiracy theories; it's become ridiculous.

  50. Grunt – I didn't but '02 was commenting about asians he knew so I was trying to stay current. Disturbing comments coming from an officer. Can only hope he isn't/wasn't combat arms. The mods have deleted the worst comments. Stiil dion't know where they came from!

  51. I've been hoping to see a write up on kitup about the issue. SF probably understands the problem better than most because its our job to be the best trainers in the world. With that said, I know your write up is going to be on point. I'm looking forward to it Jack.

  52. Why does everyone always say oh infantry does all the work or de ops does all the work. You know forward observers have to go out with ever convoy. And if you dismount then you have to have two FO's. One with the trucks, one with the dismounts.

  53. I remember being cool with 4 M-16 ammo pouches and butt pack and M-1956 butt pack suspenders! Boy, have we changed!

  54. Maybe you haven't gotten the gear because

    A) You're not a rapid deploying unit
    B) You don't need it (i.e a POG)
    C) You're not Active Duty

    Guarantee you fall in 1 of the 3 of those

  55. Molle gear falls off? AHAHA it's damn near impossible for MOLLE to fall off if you fasten it PROPERLY. ALICE is still in use? Where, maybe national guard or reserves. I haven't seen it on AD since 2007.

    M4 can shoot out to 500yds, anything longer with a standard rifle is asking for a miracle.

    And alot has changed. I've been in since 2004, and it's a COMPLETELY new army. Too many people on here saying stuff they don't know.

  56. It's basic training man that's why they still use alice gear,

  57. Yeah, correct me if I'm wrong, but, in our current war, aren't the worst we're facing simply technicals and bunkers? LAWs can do the job easily

  58. in mob station and still have an m16

  59. I think it would be kind of cool to post a price comparison of a WWII Soldier, Soldier in the Cold War, and a modern Soldier… Not to be offensive or anything just think it would be interesting.

  60. I ended up here linked from a 'gadget' site. Read on to find the fascinating comments take an odd turn to gaming, then terribly, into bigotry. As someone with no military experience, my only thought is that of humble gratitude to every American that has served. Thank you All, whatever your color or faith may be, for serving our nation with valor and honor, I thank you.

  61. I'd differ when you say "the military's training is so far behind the power curve is largely because of risk assessments and other red tape." Maybe in the special ops level but not military wide. From my experience the most important factor impacting the quality of training is the quality of the leadership. I've seen the best training done innovativly, economically but most importantly addressed individual/unit's needs in priority when quality leaders were present.

    Invest in QUALITY leaders and everything else works out. They create effective training regimens/techniques, find the resources to get it done and execute to standard,

  62. it my brithday today im in the army serving my frist year

  63. Your ancestors planted rice for a living. The chances that any of them swung swords is incredibly low.

  64. The problem with a fixed stock is that it wasn't designed for somebody wearing body armor. An adjustable stock allows you to keep a comfortable cheek weld and eye relief. As for the hand-to-hand thing, I agree with major.rod, not a big issue. I absolutely do admire how the Corps emphasizes hand-to-hand combat, but a fixed stock won't, or shouldn't, make or break somebody's ability to fight that way.

    Anyways, if you DO have to hit somebody with it and it breaks, look on the bright side; now you've got TWO weapons.

  65. Thanks Jay we all appreciate it.

  66. I recall feeling what is today called "cool" with a BAR and a bandoleer of magazines. Steel pot and all.

    I look at today's young troops and I am amazed at their ability carry all that stuff.

  67. Wow, there are a crap load of people drinking haterade. WTF is wrong with you people?

  68. i think its better they gave them lightweight and hi tech gear, but hi tech stuff needs batterys. if their stuff short circuits or dies. they just have a little spy glass for i scope with no accuracy. they shouldve kept the metal sights in my opinion

  69. Agree, the paper trail IS ridiculous but again it comes to leadership. I've known leaders to say, "WHAT!!! You want me to schedule how far out and submit what?" They of course had commanders that understood and supported them. I feel for the leaders today.

    My last job was deputy for a task force whose mission was to put together a 12 month reset schedule for units coming back to turn them around and get them ready again. Couldn't be done without just going through the motions. We wasted hundreds of hours to create a mountain of paper that wasn't a "real" solution.

    Hate to say it but the only real solution is a catastrophic failure akin to Task Force Smith. Right now senior leaders are doing CYA with a piece of paper, procedures etc. instead of waving a BS flag or putting THEIR butt on the line.

  70. The diffrence is what, about 15 lbs and a scope? For the amount of money spent between Iraq and Afghanistan the past decade these improvements are pathetic. Lousy leadership and spending no matter where you turn.

  71. I really like camel backs.

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