Skip to comments.INFANTRY: The Growth of Mail Order Equipment
Posted on 08/02/2004 3:57:17 PM PDT by Cannoneer No. 4
With the growth of professional infantry over the last three decades, there has been, not unexpectedly, a growth in companies that supply equipment for the troops. That is, gear that is demonstrably superior to what the troops were being issued by the government. This is not an entirely new phenomenon. American professional soldiers had long purchased superior gear from commercial firms. But after World War II, with a large peace time army and marine corps, better pay for the career soldiers, and a growing industry supplying new products for hunters, campers and police, it was only natural that many of the mail order catalogs for these firms should show up in the mailboxes of infantry NCOs and officers.
When the army became all-volunteer in the early 1970s, the new recruits, over the next decade, began to assume the same professional attitudes as the career NCOs and officers that led them. It became common for the troops to buy the same commercial gear (better sleeping bags, rifle cleaning gear, cold weather gear, Etc.) as the career NCOs had long done. But the commercial companies began producing more and more stuff that was suitable for professional infantrymen. Part of this was due to the growing popularity of paramilitary SWAT teams in police departments. But part of it had to do with the growth of paint ball combat as a sport. There was also an explosive growth in camping and hiking, as well as continued popularity of hunting. All these leisure time activities required equipment that was also useful for infantry. The commercial firms noted this, and began designing and manufacturing gear especially for the military market. Some foreign firms got into the act. Companies in Israel and South Africa produced superior military gear, and sold it to an international market.
A lot of the equipment troops were willing to buy with their own money was pretty mundane. Load bearing equipment (for carrying extra ammo, grenades, flashlights and whatnot) was popular, as were better backpacks, underwear and socks. Better boots were also popular. The army and marine unit commanders did not go along with all this non-standard stuff, and having their favorite gear banned was another of those uncertainties an infantryman had to worry about when he got a new commanding officer. The army organizations that designed and authorized the official gear also noted the competition, and the reaction of the troops. Eventually, the military bureaucrats decided to, for the most part, cooperate with the commercial firms rather than constantly be at war with the troops they were supposed to be serving. One reason for the change in attitude was the arrival of the Internet in the mid 1990s. This began putting all the troops in constant touch with each other, and forming a block of public opinion that bureaucrats did not want to tangle with.
As a result of all this, combat troops today have better gear than ever before. But its no accident, and a lot of people unwittingly played a part in making it happen.
Yeah, they made a killin' off of me for 25 years, especially the first 10. Had to buy my own jungle fatigues and patrol cap for the Ranger Course in 75. Thank God for Ranger Joe's.
Just what are you allowed to have from private suppliers?
It seems mostly "keep warm under the uniform" stuff.
IIRC, Ranger Joe's wasn't much years ago, and most Rangers got a lot of stuff at an outdoors store next to the Service Merchandise across Macon Road from Columbus Square Mall. Can't remember the name of that store.
Before the BDU's came out, that POS was the only authorized fatigue uniform headgear in Korea from October to April. You had to fold it up to look like a half fast state troopers hat and pin your rank on the front. Looked dumb. A lot of people bought BDU's who weren't yet required to have them just to get out of wearing that stupid hat.
They still use that thing as a helmet liner.
My artillery unit had them and insisted we use them.
We used what we could to avoid that thing like the plague.
That thing has some horrific memories associated with it.
It was designed to button to teh M65 field jacket's top front button, but we were never allowed to do that.
No matter how cold it got.
Oh, and our ECWS was 'restricted' to 'certain weather' conditions..
Yeah, I know which one you're referring to. Can't remeber the name either. I used to live in a subdivision just off Macon Road. Country's Barbeque is nearby- Tuesday night all you can eat barbeque chicken. I was a regular. I went there last summer after my son graduated from Airborne School. The place hasn't changed much.
I was in Country's about 18 months ago. A real blast from the past. Doesn't seem to have changed a bit since 1981.
My Bn Cdr thought my fishnet long johns were obscene.
Sometimes it seemed the hierarchy was merely being sadistic.
Depends on what line of work you're in and who you work for, but yeah, most of it falls in the accessory category. The Army was flat on its a$$ in 75. They just didn't have the money (or the equipment- our M16 handguards were wired together with baling wire to keep them from falling apart) to issue us OD jungles and boots for a course that pretty much required them. The old cotton two piece (and later, permanent press)fatigue was a lousy field uniform. I shelled out most of my pocket money to get what I needed in downtown Columbus at Ranger Joe's. I think I still had $1.50 in my pocket after cab fare when I reported into 3rd Rgr Co (not that it mattered at that point).
LOL! Back before Goretex and polypro, I used to stay warm and (relatively)dry with my legs covered in vaseline and a pair of nylons under my jungles while walking patrol with students in the swamps of the Yellow River. I was a hellavu lot more comfortable than they were.
I never could develop a taste for martinis.
I did like Nuc Mam, Ba Me Ba, Suntory
What! No Silver Fox or Berkleys?
"Sir, it is the sad duty of this lab to inform you
your horse has bad kidneys.
Suntory, put away a lot of that.
Still use Nuc today. Hard to find the "Good" stuff.
Not to mention that all of Blackhawk's SWAT and soldier gear is made by virtual slave labor in communist China.
Never tried the vaseline, not in that application anyway.
I've ordered outdoor stuff from some of these companies. Besides what I ordered, it got me mail offers for all sorts of stuff worthy of a member of a death squad in a Latin American banana republic. Like a book dealing with how to dispose of dead bodies, for example. Or plans for making my own home workshop full auto submachine gun complete with silencer. If Total Information Awareness ever gets off the ground, I'll probably be getting a midnight knock on the door, and all because I wanted some mosquito netting.
Thanks for the supplier list.
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