Current Soldier uniforms are too hot

Carlton Meyer
21st Century Weapons
e-mail May 1998

Whenever Soldiers gather in civilian clothes on a hot day, they wear loose, lightweight, short-sleeve shirts. However, in the field in 120 degree heat, they are expected to wear a T-shirt covered by a light jacket (i.e. utility top). A major complaint in Saudi, in Kuwait, in Somalia, in Haiti, and on ships in the Persian Gulf is: "IT'S HOT!". Officers rarely allow GIs to wear only T-shirts because "it doesn't look military", and fails to protect the neck and upper arm from sunburn. The long-standing attempt to field an all-weather utility top has failed. Rip-stop poly/cotton tops are too heavy for hot weather, and too light to withstand operations in heavy bush.

During World War II, troops wore lightweight shirts made of cool khaki called "Trops". Today's troops need a light, loose, short-sleeve utility shirt to replace the brown T-shirt. The utility shirt would have a woodland or desert camouflage design and made of a thin, comfortable material. Cotton is the coolest fabric, but rayon shirts are also cool and do not wrinkle. To protect against sunburn, the shirt sleeves should extend to the elbow and the collar should be a high, button-down type to protect the neck. No pockets are needed, there is ample pocket space in trousers and on flak or field jackets. The utility shirt would weigh one-quarter of the current T-shirt/utility top combination, and allow much better ventilation. A new long-sleeve durable utility top (made of material now used for Levi jackets), a field jacket, or a flak jacket could be worn over the utility shirt when necessary.

Utility shirts would be extremely popular, field duty would become more bearable, and the number of heat casualties would decline. Less than 10% of GIs "work" in the bush, there is no reason that hardworking sustainment personnel, air wingers, headquarters personnel, and artillerymen must suffer in hot weather. Even infantrymen only need the protection of long-sleeve utility tops while in dense bush.


"Dear Sir,

I have served with the Australian Army Reserve for seventeen years and experienced the change from heavy cotton drill uniforms to light weight poly-cotton uniforms. I also served as a firefighter with the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service for thirteen years. Between these two jobs I have gained a bit of experience in the thorny area of working in the heat.

The Australian Army decided to change its style of uniform during the 80's. The issue "greens" were diabolical in hot weather, like wearing hessian sacking in an oven. The new Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform (DPCU) was decided on in 1987 or 1988 and has been on issue for nearly ten years. The new DPCU pattern is a poly cotton mix and I can testify that this fabric is an improvement over the old greens.

I have been on exercise in temperatures ranging from below zero to greater than 45 degrees celsius, wearing both greens and DPCU patterns. In extreme heat lets face it you are hot and no fibre combination can change that. However the most beneficial quality of the DPCU is that any air movement around the Soldier will aid in cooling him/her down. Even slight breezes. The DPCU jacket is also a fairly loose fit which assists in keeping the Soldier cool.

Wearing combat gear causes the DPCU to be held against the body limiting air movement, which is vital in keeping the body cool at high temperatures. The Australian Army is still thinking about this catch 22 situation but I think that I have an answer.

Under arm ventilation! I know that is not terribly radical, they use this idea in many modern sporting outdoors jackets and shirts. The Germans also used underarm and side body vents in camouflage smocks during WW2. But there is more recent proof concerning the validity of this concept.

Fire departments world wide have found that opening up the sides of a fire fighting tunics after a fire fighter leaves the fire zone greatly increased the cooling of the person wearing the kit. Bear in mind that fire fighters wear the equivalent of a Kelar and Thinsulate quilt no matter what the daily ambient temperature.

I wont take up any more of your time. To sum up your idea of a light weight utility jacket is sound and if it was augmented with side ventilation then the troops could stay in their kit and stay relatively cool.

I like your web site, I hope this has been of interest."


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