WASHINGTON -- All Soldiers in Iraq will be issued fourteen pieces of new Army equipment from the Rapid Fielding Initiative.
Additional RFI equipment is provided for Brigade Combat Teams based on their missions.
Not all Soldiers in Iraq have been equipped with RFI, but Program Executive Office Soldier, anticipate by the end of fiscal year 2004 all deployed Soldiers to Iraq will be wearing RFI.
We are doing everything we can to make that goal a reality said Charles Rash, acting Deputy of PEO Soldier. Next our objective is to finish equipping the remainder of the operational Army with RFI by the end of FY07.
RFI is a system set up by PEO. Responsibilities to the Army include testing and fielding improved equipment and gear. Since 2002, it has received a total of $1.2 billion in funding.
Thanks to the development of RFI, Soldiers no longer have to purchase or face long delays before receiving new equipment. Rash said the turn-around time has also improved, to provide Soldiers with state-of-the-art weapons, clothing and equipment before they leave for operational deployment.
Before RFI was established, Soldiers could expect a wait of up to five years to get new boots. Today, RFI has drastically reduced this wait so Solders will receive their boots in one year and ten months from when they put in the request. RFI is about making things happen a lot faster and it has been very successful with that, said Rash.
RFI is fielding a total of 49 state-of-the-art equipment types in the categories of force protection/mobility, lethality, soldier mission essential equipment, and individual weapons/optics. Some of the RFI equipment issued to all Soldiers includes:
--The Advanced Combat Helmet, or ACH, has replaced the old Kevlar helmet. The ACH is 3.5 lbs lighter then the old model and is cushioned on the inside, which sits more comfortably on a Soldiers head. It also has a different suspension system inside which allows a Soldier to fight more effectively when wearing body armor.
--The Infantry Combat Boot Type II have replaced the older model boots, and are designed to be much more comfortable and durable. The boots are available only through RFI and do not need to be polished.
--Wiley X Goggles is a popular item among Soldiers according to officials. They do a good job of keeping the dust out of my eyes and work as sunglasses too said 2nd Lt. Aaron Fegley, Maintenance Platoon Leader, 15th Forward Support Battalion, 1st Calvary Division, now serving in West Baghdad.
Some new equipment not under RFI includes the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), which, according to PEO Soldier, the outer tactical vest of the IBA stops fragmentation, as well as handgun rounds.
After I got used to wearing it, it made me feel pretty comfortable knowing that it made me that much safer. I also like how I can attach a lot of different items I need right to the vest, said Fegley.
Although the M4 has replaced 10 percent of the M16s in the Army so far, there are no plans to completely replace the M16. The advantage is the M4 Carbine is smaller and more compact, said Col. Michael J. Smith, project manager of Soldier Weapons.
Just about anyone carrying an M16 would rather be carrying an M4. Its smaller and lighter and is better for shooting out of vehicles, said Fegley. Also given that you have to carry your weapon wherever you go, its easier to carry an M4 than an M16.
New weapons in the testing stage include a Remote Operated Weapon Station to be installed inside the humvees. These new weapon stations will allow Soldiers to fire at targets without exposing themselves.
With help from those who were serving in Afghanistan, the RFI program was able to get input from Soldiers based on what improvements were needed on equipment and what equipment should be issued to each Soldier for an increased combative effectiveness said Rash.
When RFI found that their Wiley X goggles were not lasting as long as expected, Soldiers suggested issuing them a hard case instead of soft cases to store the goggles in.
They have very good ideas and input to help us with, said Rash. As a result the goggles are lasting longer.
A main concern when fielding new products is to reduce the weight Soldiers must carry, yet provide them with the capability they need, said Rash.
All requests for RFI equipment are funneled through the Infantry School. It tests the product, gets feedback from the Army and eventually make the decision if a product should be included in RFI or not.
RFI has set up a section on their Web site where Soldiers can go to make comments or suggestions on equipment. As well as a team that travels to the units to gather feedback and suggestions. We have had great feedback from the Soldiers, said Rash.
For more information on new equipment check out the PEO Soldier Web site https://peosoldier.army.mil/default.asp