Reservists test new packs for Corps

19 May 2003 | Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander

Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment recently tested two new packs for potential use as Marine Corps gear, enforcing the Corps' commitment to searching for better and smarter ways to accomplish missions.

Two months of testing ended earlier this month and addressed the packs' durability and combat compatibility to accommodate Marines in different situations compared to those experienced with the currently used Modular Lightweight Load Bearing Equipment.

One of the largest problems with the MOLLE pack was its durability.  Marines were occasionally[VGC1] breaking the pack's plastic frame, according to Capt. John I. Nindl II, commanding officer, Weapons Company, 1/25.  The frames of the new packs being tested are constructed of aluminum and are less likely to break. 

"The (aluminum) frame is a lot more durable and comfortable as well," said Sgt. Robert L. Wyckoff, squad leader, 81 mm Mortar Platoon[VGC2], Weapons Company, 1/25.  "Right above the frame there's a recess for the back of your head so you can look up."

Testing established that Marines could quickly adjust both of the new packs in a variety of situations.  All the straps and zippers are larger and easier to get at when wearing gloves, in the dark, or in the extreme cold, said Wyckoff.  The packs also have slots for radio antennas or drinking tubes of[VGC3] hydration systems to easily exit the packs. 

"These packs are just simpler to use," said Maj. John M. Grella, operations officer, 1/25. 

"Marines can figure it out a lot faster than the MOLLE," added Maj. Neil C. Ahearn, executive officer, Headquarters and Service Company, 1/25. 

One of the new packs [VGC4]allows mortarmen to carry their ammunition tubes vertically along the sides of their packs, whereas the MOLLE system did not.  It also allows Marines to strap ammunition to the pack with a reinforced elastic band. 

"During Operation Enduring Freedom, Marines with 81 mm mortar platoons in Afghanistan had problems carrying mortar ammunition in their MOLLE packs," said Nindl.

Testing also addressed compatibility with other pieces of standard equipment.  [VGC5]When wearing the pack on a forced march without "war gear," such as an ammunition harness, web belt with canteens, the packs ride fine, according to Wyckoff.  With all the other combat gear included, however, the pack is hard to seat correctly on the back. 

Additionally, Wyckoff said one of the packs[VGC6] has no designated place to put a sleeping system - which requires Marines to place the sleeping system inside the main pouch, taking up a lot of space. 

Wyckoff also stated that though the MOLLE isn't quite as durable, it has multiple pouches to hold gear for quick access, which neither of tested packs has. 

Though no formal decision has been made whether or not to move beyond the MOLLE, the Marines put the packs to the test.

"These packs have a lot of potential," said Wyckoff.