U.S. SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE
By Scott Gourley
“…We don’t want to continue to treat a Soldier like a Christmas tree – – where we just hang more things on them. Instead, we have been making a deliberate effort to integrate these technologies together to provide a capability that we put onto the Soldier…” – Statement by Brigadier General (P) Peter N. Fuller, [former] Program Executive Officer Soldier (PEO Soldier), before the Tactical Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, 17 March 2011
In his mid-March 2011 testimony before the Tactical Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, former PEO Soldier Brigadier General (P) Peter N. Fuller offered the infamous “Christmas tree” analogy against a summarized background of recent accomplishments in fielding new technology to individual U.S. warfighters by PEO Soldier [Note: Major General Fuller was reassigned and deployed to Afghanistan during the summer of 2011].
The background structure of Fuller’s remarks focused on Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, who recently received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his selfless actions on October 25, 2007 while operating with his squad, an element of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
“In November of 2006, SSG Giunta and his fellow Soldiers received numerous pieces of designated equipment to ensure that they were lethal, survivable and able to operate in the environments of Afghanistan,” Fuller began. “Their lethality gear included the M4 carbine, 40mm grenade launchers, and rifle optics, to name a few. Their survivability gear included the Army Combat Uniform, the Army Combat Helmet, Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) soft body armor with Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPI) hard plates, and ballistic eye protection. We know that SSG Giunta’s body armor worked as intended, since his body armor stopped enemy bullets twice, allowing him to continue his mission. His unit also had equipment that included the AN/PVS-14 Night Vision Device, a rucksack, climbing gear, cold weather gear and a variety of other items to assist them in accomplishing the mission in the Afghanistan operating environment.”
“If SSG Giunta were to deploy to Afghanistan today, he would barely recognize some of the equipment we are providing,” Fuller continued. “Currently, a Soldier going into Afghanistan will still deploy with the M4, but now he takes ammo designed for better performance and less visual signature, the M855A1. We have also deployed lighter body armor in the Improved OTV (IOTV) which is not only weighs less but provides a better fit through side adjustments.; in addition, we designed and deployed a hard body armor plate carrier that weighs about 15 pounds less than what SSG Giunta wore during his deployment. This lighter weight system provides field commanders with the ability to select the level of body armor needed to support the specific mission. Soldiers going to Afghanistan are now deployed with fire resistant combat uniforms and combat shirts, pre-treated with insect repellant, and in an appropriate camouflage pattern for Afghanistan; two pairs of mountain combat boots; and a machine gun that is 9 pounds lighter, just to name a few items. Many of these improvements were made because of Soldiers like SSG Giunta providing us feedback on what needed to be improved to be able to conduct their mission — to ensure that they are lethal, survivable and can operate in any environment.”
The realities behind Fuller’s observations might come as a surprise to believe that U.S. ‘Soldier System’ efforts focus only on programs like the U.S. Army’s Land Warrior. But the fact is that the broader sense of Soldier System activities comprises a range of efforts stretching from the ongoing Soldier modernization noted above to a spectrum of “Soldier Warrior” products like Land Warrior, Nett Warrior (formerly Ground Soldier), Mounted Soldier and Air Warrior.
Land Warrior, for e