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Iowa Troops Get New Afganistan-Specific Camouflage

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - About 3,600 soldiers at south Mississippi's Camp Shelby have been fitted for and received the latest in Army equipment.

After years of testing and months after being announced, a new uniform was introduced to soldiers during a training and fitting session Tuesday.

The equipment was presented to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division of the Iowa National Guard.

This division of Iowa's National Guard, including some 100 soldiers from Nebraska, is the first in the nation to receive the Army's newest full suit of Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern clothing and individual equipment.

Commanding Sgt. Maj. Steve Wayman of the Iowa National Guard said while the former uniform's pattern was specific to at least 170 terrains worldwide, the Army's latest camouflage design is more targeted at the terrains soldiers in Afghanistan are in every day.

"This pattern is specific to 12 or 15 terrains in Afghanistan," Wayman said. "Everyone is very excited. A National Guard unit was actually issued equipment before the Army."

With large units moving through Camp Shelby for training, the Army decided to begin equipping service men and women with its latest, most effective combat protective gear.

"We're giving the soldiers everything they need, and everything should be in this pattern," said Master Sgt. Cedrick Harris. "They can tailor their outfit to the mission they're going out on."

Army Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston said the changes to the equipment were derived from soldiers' requests after serving in Afghanistan and will be instrumental in protecting lives.

"When you look at the detection of the camouflage pattern, a lot of the soldiers got close to the enemy before being detected. Yes, I think it's safer," Preston said.

Some of the changes made to the Army's gear were considered major improvements for the comfort and safety of service men and women on duty in Afghanistan. For example, the newest plate carrier, which acts as a form of body armor for soldiers, is now almost 20 pounds lighter, Wayman said.

But many alterations that will be convenient for soldiers are so subtle that civilians wouldn't know what to look for.

Among those smaller changes buttons on the cargo pants. Harris said many soldiers have missed the buttons since the Army switched to Velcro on cargo pockets.

"There are a number of changes the soldiers like," Lt. Col. Dave Updergraff said. "Buttons seem like a small idea, but they really like (that change.)"

Maj. John Bryan, assistant product manager of Cold Weather Clothing Systems, said the new boot design with a higher heel than the current combat boots being worn allows soldiers to maintain better footing while taking on Afghanistan's terrain.

"We think the mountain boot is going to pass everyone's expectations," Bryan said.

Twenty-seven pieces of equipment showcased were only given to soldiers working in extreme conditions such as subfreezing temperatures and high-elevation work in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, all soldiers received 31 general, non-theater-specific pieces to be worn every day in any environment.

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