June 19, 2013 -- CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa - Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force and personnel with Marine Corps Systems Command tested four materials for use in tropical or jungle uniforms June 11-30 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves.
Material performance was tested in several key areas. All materials used the existing woodland Marine pattern camouflage.
“We have four prototype uniforms and two current uniforms. Each Marine wears each uniform for a total of 48 hours,” said Mark Richter, the director of the Marine expeditionary rifle squad program, Marine Corps Systems Command. “We continuously measure the Marine’s core temperature, heart rate, skin temperature and respiration rate through a physiological status monitor. We also monitor the moisture content of the uniform at different points while we are out patrolling and doing other tasks.”
The physiological status monitors, worn under the uniform during the training, maintained a chronological and continuous log of the Marines’ vital information. The testers also employed infrared thermometers to measure surface temperatures at several locations on the uniform and collected feedback from the Marines throughout the test.
“The Marines are patrolling, testing different jungle skills, and establishing patrol bases,” said Richter. “They are basically doing the typical things we do in the jungle to test them. The exertion is representative of operations in a jungle environment.”
The testing aimed to identify materials that could potentially perform better than those used in the current uniform.
“People in the Infantry Combat Equipment Group, Marine Corps Systems Command, have done laboratory testing to select these materials … and we are trying to answer questions like: ‘Is there a prototype material that keeps a Marine dryer than the current uniforms?’ and ‘Do any of the new materials potentially keep the Marine cooler than our current uniforms?’” said Richter. “We are also looking at durability and user satisfaction.”
The notion of identifying improved materials originated at JWTC almost a year ago.
“This really came about from the commandant’s visit to JWTC last August, when Marines told him that during their time here, their uniforms rarely dried out,” said Richter.
A uniform material that dried rapidly would help Marines maintain their psychological and physical edge in the jungle, according to Cpl. Brian M. Ashworth, a JWTC instructor.
“If you look at any publication about jungle warfare it will tell you that morale is the biggest killer in the jungle,” said Ashworth. “It is always humid and raining. When the Marines are hot and miserable is when they could forget to do their five and 25-meter security checks.
“Or when they don’t see where enemy rounds came from during an ambush because they had their head down, looking at the ground, instead of looking up maintaining situational awareness … so the health and morale aspects are the biggest parts of this,” said Ashworth.
The testing is part of an ongoing process by the Marine expeditionary rifle squad program to expand the capabilities of Marine riflemen by taking an all-inclusive approach to improving Marine tactics along with the equipment and materials they use.
Specific requirements or fielding details for a tropical uniform have not been finalized. In the event of the adoption of new materials, commanders will decide which equipment Marines use in combat operations based on a variety of factors including the environment and threat, according to Barbara L. Hamby, a public affairs specialist with Marine Corps Systems Command.