MARINE CORPS SYSTEMS COMMAND, Quantico, Va. -- A new internet-based survey that began July 1 asks Marines what they want from their next load bearing system.
"We have heard the complaints from the fleet loud and clear," said Capt. Dave Pinion, Systems Command load bearing project officer. "Now we need input from the Marines so we can develop a system that will suit their needs. With this survey, the Marines will have a direct (say) on the type of pack that will be on their backs."
During a recent Landing Force Sixth Fleet deployment to the Mediterranean, Pinion, an infantry officer, got first-hand knowledge of the problems associated with the equipment currently used by Marines, the Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment system - commonly called MOLLE.
"The MOLLE is a very complex system," said Pinion. "When used correctly it is effective, but if not, it can cause unnecessary discomfort and muscle fatigue - as with any gear."
Until the survey is complete and the results tallied, the further procurement of the MOLLE system has been suspended, according to Pinion. The results of the survey will allow Marine Corps Systems Command to pursue improvements to the current system or develop the next generation.
The suspension is expected to last 18 months.
"We want to build a pack specifically for infantryman, because if it works for the infantry, it will work for every other community," Pinion said.
To that end, Systems Command is also working with reconnaissance Marines to address the specific needs of their mission profiles.
"I can't simply buy what I perceive to be the best commercial pack out there," said Pinion. "I need detailed performance specifications that the pack must be evaluated against by Marines in the field. Industry can easily tailor a pack for us based on what the Marine Corps determines to be a valid requirement."
Commercial packs are not designed to integrate with body armor and a fighting load carriage system, he said.
The survey can be found at http://www.thewarriorsvoice.com and should take about 15 minutes to complete. The site will be open for comments for a 60-day period and all commanders are requested to encourage their Marines to participate, said Pinion.
Many of the survey questions were generated from the Universal Needs Statement originated from the 1st Marine Division in May 2002, said Pinion. The UNS is the beginning for all improvements or new equipment requests. The survey contains graphics and illustrations of different load bearing systems to better explain the questions.
Current purchase orders will produce an estimated 100,000 MOLLE systems through November, Pinion said. The systems will be fielded across the entire Marine Corps. The schools of infantry will be issued the MOLLE this summer, a move which Pinion said he hopes will provide the proper training to all entry level Marines on how to properly assemble and use it.
A reinforced frame and other innovations will improve the durability and comfort of the current system until a new one can be fielded, Pinion said.