Here I'll discuss a few improvements to the Army's repertoire that will make a difference in conflicts present and future.
The US Army provides pricey, high-quality night vision goggles to every single combat soldier deployed in the Iraqi and Afghani theaters. The one I have is called the PVS-14, a monocular that clips onto the black metal bracket on the front of my helmet. It swings down in front of my left eye and when turned on, it makes an otherwise black night spring to life in verdant shades of green.
I've had to navigate the dark streets of Ad Dawr behind the wheel of a humvee at night with one of these things, and the parallax combined with the staggered field of view makes it hazardous at a best. I found I was better off just eating lots of carrots during the day and driving without it at night. I've never had to shoot my rifle using one, but I have gazed at the Milky Way on a starry night, and it is spectacular - the light-enhancement feature causes even the dimmest celestial orb to glisten like a Christmas light, allowing an unprecedented sense of galactic perspective.
All the PVS-14 does is enhance what little existing light is bouncing around the sky at the particular moment you turn it on (although it does include a small built-in infra-red flashlight if you have the vast misfortune of patrolling inside a dark building).
The new ENVG, on the other hand, includes thermal-imaging. When combined with the light-enhancing feature, it highlights anything with a temperature higher or lower than its surroundings, like a human body, a warm tank engine, or a cold river. Pretty cool! And a definite improvement - you can see people hiding in the shadows below.
Multi-CamI remember when the new Army ACU uniform came out in 2005. ACU's (the acronym stands for Advanced Combat Uniform, then changed to just Army Combat Uniform) were the first to employ a digital pattern dyed with special low-visibility inks.
At the time of their release, ACU's could be seen side-by-side with BDU's (the jungle-colored pattern) and DCU's (the old desert-colored pattern). By 2007, the Army had phased out DCU's and BDU's completely, leaving only the weird blue-and-gray-colored ACU's. Because they were "new and different", all the soldiers just couldn't wait to be issued the new ACU uniform (a typical mindset in the Army).
Now, it doesn't take 20/20 vision to see that the ACU pattern...well, it doesn't actually blend in with anything. In an effort to be an all-purpose camouflage, it ended up being a no-purpose camouflage. I mean, little squares of blue and gray? Are we invading a Civil War videogame? The justification behind the strange colors was that they were practically invisible to enemies with night vision goggles. Newsflash: our current enemies don't have night vision goggles. Most of our operations occur during the day, anyway. The ACU's might have made sense in Vietnam, if the NVA used night-vision goggles.
So the scorecard reads: "Fighting the Last War": 1, Common Sense: 0.
After 5 years of complaints, the US Army will start issuing the new "Multi-Cam" pattern uniform, which makes a soldier practically indiscernible from the foliage commonly found when hunting deer in the Southern American states. Soldiers are already chomping at the bit to get the cool, "new" camouflage pattern.
The New "Multi-Cam"
Early on during the War on Terror, the US Army issued a memo so loathsome in nature, so vile in content, that you could hear morale drop when released.
What is the name of this infernal writ, this intolerable missive, you ask?
"General Order Number One"
Among other things, General Order Number One prohibits American soldiers from drinking alcohol, viewing adult videos, and pursuing liasons with the opposite sex. In a word, all the things that have traditionally contributed to the mental and emotional well-being of men under the duress of war. Also forbidden: war souvenirs, gambling, and use of personal firearms. If men can't be men in an Army during wartime...just what is it we are fighting for, again? One of the few stress-outlets open to the American soldier is tobacco, and last month the DOD recommended that it be banned as well!
In a final concession to the hordes of battles-stressed men deployed year after year to the Middle East, the Army has allowed Morale Trailers (which I call "Realdoll Brothels", because that's what they are) to run businesses on the larger Army bases.
Kirkuk has one, which I haven't used personally, but I know some guys who have.
Are you familiar with these "Realdolls"? A San Diego company (yay, San Diego!) manufactures life-size dolls of women, fabricated from high-quality plastic composites, that can be dressed up and used for...well, exactly what you think they would be used for.
Condoms must be used, and Bangladeshi & Nepalese workers work the counter and clean the booths after visits. They forbid picture taking inside the trailer, so I can't show you more. As uptight as the American military tends to be, I was shocked when I learned of the Morale Trailer. But apparently it is extremely successful and no one seems to be complaining!