Marines from infantry units across the Marine Corps will soon be going to the field with a new pack to see if it will measure up to their expectations.
The effort that began last summer with the online load bearing survey has culminated with two pack designs for further evaluation in the first half of 2003.
One pack was designed by Gregory Mountain Products and the other by Arc'teryx Equipment Inc.
"We tried not to develop this in a vacuum," said Capt. Dave Pinion, Improved Load Bearing System Project officer. "Systems Command solicited input from each Marine Division at every point in the decision making process, from writing the initial requirement to the final selection process."
"Some of the features of the new pack were taken directly off the web survey," said Pinion.
These features include:
* The ability to carry 60 and 81 mm mortar rounds outside the main pack.
* The ability to carry 120 pounds.
* Pack size to be no larger than 6000 cubic inches.
* Must have a detachable patrol pack.
Both packs feature internal frames and are somewhat lighter and have a much more simple designs than the Corps' present MOLLE pack. The Arc'teryx weighs eight pounds four ounces and carries 5,000 cubic inches and the Gregory weighs nine pounds 10 ounces and carries 4,520 cubic inches.
The test plan originally called for a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and a conventional unit on each coast, a unit at 29 Palms, and a unit executing a winter training package at Bridgeport Calif., to evaluate the packs, but operational commitments of these units required a change.
"It's still going to be a very comprehensive test," said Pinion. "We are still going to test it in the desert, in cold weather, in a MEU (SOC) shipboard environment, and in the jungle."
The intent of the long evaluation period is to let Marines use the two new packs alongside the present MOLLE pack to find the ideal load bearing system that will meet the infantry Marine's needs. The pack is also being tested with different reconnaissance units to evaluate if the pack will satisfy their specific mission profile as well.
Units that will evaluate the pack include 1st Marines in Camp Pendleton, Calif., 7th Marines from the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms, Calif., 3rd Marines in Hawaii and 4th Marines in Okinawa.
The packs will also be tested in the biomechanics lab at US Army Soldier Systems in Natick Mass to measure muscle fatigue and joint stress while wearing the pack. The field test will end in June and a fielding decision will be made during July. The Schools of Infantry should begin receiving the first packs in January 2004.
"These packs won't need a video or an MCI to put together," said Pinion, who is an infantry officer that deployed previously with the MOLLE.